How to Repurpose Furniture

I cannot think of a better way to start off my blog than by talking about what I am most passionate about Repurposing furniture. A few of my friends, and even a few strangers, have asked me for tutorials on some of my furniture pieces, so I figured why not have a central source rather than sputtering of “how to’s” every time. What better way to share my projects? Here goes nothing! 🙂

It seems these days, that everyone is either “repurposing” a dresser or selling a “shabby chic” coffee table (Can we please collectively agree how ridiculous the term “shabby chic” is? Not into it). The thing is, just about everyone who does this sort of thing, does it differently. Everyone has their “special technique”. With that, I want to state that my technique may not necessarily be the “right way”, but I am in love with the end product, so I doubt I will ever switch to anything different. First things first…


  • Electric Sander – Oh what would I do without this amazing tool? I highly recommend investing in one of these beauties.
  • Sand Paper – I use anything from 80 grit to 120 grit to 220 grit on each piece. I recommend having a few of each on hand. (Make sure that if you have an electric sander, you are buying sandpaper made specifically for that sander.)
  • Wood Stain – You can use your stain color of choice.
  • Protective Sealant
  • Painters Tape
  • Paint Primers
  • Knee Pads
  • Lots and lots of rags
  • Latex gloves (unless you prefer stains under your fingernails for weeks at a time)

Pick Your Piece

For this example, I will use an end table that has been in our garage. I love the potential! Remember, it is best to use furniture pieces that are 100% wood. If they have laminate tops, you will not be able to sand them down and stain them.


Now you need to decide how you want to “repurpose” your piece. Do you want to paint the entire piece or paint the bottom and stain the top? Both are gorgeous! For this example, I will be painting and distressing the bottom portion and staining the top. You will see this look all over my house; I am in love!

Don’t forget to take your “before” picture!

Alright, sanding comes first—the most important (and easiest!) part. It literally requires no skill! I usually start out with 80 grit sandpaper on the top. Since I will be staining the top, I want to make sure that I sand it well down to the original coloring of the wood. We want to make sure that the stain will stick! On the bottom portion, where I will just be painting, I still use 80 grit, but I am not as harsh as I was on the top of the table. It is not necessary to get down to the original coloring of the wood, you just want to sand off the top layer of “shine” so that the paint will stick.

Once sanding is complete, it is time to clean. Grab some damp rags and clean that sucker ‘til there is no dust in sight. I even break out my vacuum and clean out the drawers. Needless to say, you want to make sure it is completely clean so that there is no dust in your paint.

Next up, stain! Staining wood could be one of my all-time favorite things to do. To me, there aren’t too many things in this world prettier than stained wood. Ok, maybe that’s a tad dramatic, but what can I say, I love it! Don’t forget to use your latex gloves for this part; it definitely gets messy. You will want to grab a clean rag (or brush, but I find rags are easier), and dip it into your wood stain. Rub the stain-filled rag into the wood. You want to make sure you are rubbing the stain along with the grain of the wood so that it looks more natural.

Alrighty, now it is time to paint! I have always used interior satin paint on my wood pieces, and it turns out great. I think satin paint is the perfect mix between shiny and dull. This part takes no explanation, paint away! Generally, I have to do 2-3 coats of paint to get it just right.

While my paint dries, I like to do a second coat of stain on the top. Now we wait—the longest part of any project. I like to give my pieces at least half of a day to dry before I start distressing.

Once your piece is completely dry, it’s officially time to distress! This is the best part of any project. I distress my pieces in two stages. For stage 1, you will want to use a grit anywhere from 120-220 on your sander. You will have to feel it out and decide which grit is best for your piece. It’s always best to start light (220) and if you need to go heavier you can. Now, when distressing furniture, you want to make sure it looks “natural”. When I say that, I just mean to distress the piece in places that would typically get bumped or nicked over time (corners, edges, etc.). I use my sander lightly and go very slow. You want to remain in control. I believe it is easiest to eye it out and distress as you go, instead of planning specific distressed areas. It is completely your preference.

Once you are done distressing your piece, you will want to clean off the dust once again. After it is clean, we will start stage 2 of distressing. Go ahead and grab your latex gloves and wood stain again. You will also need 2 clean rags. Take one of your rags and dip a small portion into the stain. Make sure to have another clean rag in the opposite hand. Take the stain-dipped rag and rub it into part of the piece that has been distressed. Quickly use the clean rag in your other hand and wipe the stain off. It will leave somewhat of a brown stain on the white paint, but it gives it a more “vintage” feel. You will be doing this technique over all of the distressed parts of your piece. If your clean rag gets too dirty, grab another. You don’t want to be rubbing more stain onto it when you want to get the stain off.

Once both stages of distressing are complete, we are almost done! Since I repurposed an end table today, I am going to use a poly seal on the top, to ensure it stays nice. I think that a protective coat is needed on items that will be used regularly. I typically only seal the top, as it is the most vulnerable part of a piece. Apply the seal with a paintbrush, trying your best to not leave any air bubbles behind. After the seal has dried, lightly sand (220 grit) out any leftover air bubbles. Then finish with one more coat.

Once the protective coat has dried, we are officially done! Your beautiful, “new” furniture piece is complete! Don’t forget to take an after picture so you can see how much your piece has transformed. If you have any questions, please ask away!