In this post: Got dark wood furniture that you’d like to update? These upcycled bedside tables use chalk paint to create modern painted nightstands. ⇒
It was really always inevitable, but it still took me years to decide.
We bought our bedroom set many years ago. Long enough ago that I don’t exactly remember when, along with where my home was at aesthetically. It’s hard to remember a time when I would have wanted dark wood, and particularly a matched set, but nonetheless that’s what we got.
It was from Ethan Allen and is made quite well. It also provides the perfect amount of storage, and therein lies my allegiance to the set.
But my devotion ends there.
For many years now I have pined for a lighter look. While the rest of my home is nearly white, the best I could do in the bedroom was purchase all white bedding. Since we never had a wood headboard, I did get a light colored tufted one, but the dark pieces of furniture still dominated the room.
As I tended to the rest of our home, I would occasionally look at inspiring photos of bedrooms in magazines and on social media. My favorites *always* had light furniture.
This was not a surprise to me. I knew quite clearly what my preference was. So what was holding me back?
For starters, our bedroom set is comprised of 5 pieces – 2 nightstands, 2 tall narrow chests and a large dresser. The second I took a paintbrush to one piece, that meant a commitment to all 5 pieces. It’s not that I would paint them all the same, but the heavy dark wood could never sit comfortably with lighter pieces.
The second obstacle was the knowledge that this was a quality set. Of all the pieces I’ve painted before, only one was real wood and it had belonged to my parents. It was inarguably outdated and was headed for the landfill, as no one wanted it (you can read that story here).
Finally, tied to that same point was the knowledge that once I painted it, it would be hard to restore its original finish, if I – or anyone else – ever decided to. I had visions of my grandchildren stripping the piece to unearth the bare wood underneath.
But when I found myself looking for new nightstands to buy, I knew the time had come.
What was the point of spending money on new pieces and hoping they offered the same storage opportunities, when I had perfectly good furniture that I simply hated the color of?
I realized this is my furniture and it should serve me. It doesn’t matter that there are people out there (perhaps some of you?) who would never paint over wood and who would find the endeavor a travesty.
If the only thing standing between me and a bedroom I love is a can of paint, well that’s one of the easiest problems to tackle. So I vowed that this is the year. I would start with the nightstands and address the other pieces later. They would definitely have different treatments and I chose my color with that in mind.
With the decision made, I prepped the piece. Well, actually, first I prepped my husband who thought the idea was insane. (I’m happy to report he loves the outcome!)
I wiped down the piece to remove dust and debris, removed the drawers and the original hardware, and put a drop cloth of trash bags down to catch any spills.
And that’s all the prep that chalk paint needs.
Next I considered the color and paint technique the piece would get. I opted to paint it flat, something I don’t usually do, but the clean lines of the piece and classic decor in the bedroom called for a more modern approach than the usual antiquing I often do.
And finally I dove in.
The stage you see in the photo above is about the scariest part of the whole process. It’s hard to avoid that “oh my God, what have I done” feeling when the first few strokes hit the piece. As a steady stream of questions ran through my head – will this color be too white? will it take 8000 coats to cover? have I just ruined my furniture? – I knew the only logical direction was forward. I tried to quell the panic and moved full steam ahead.
The color I chose is called Old Linen. It’s a wonderful shade of pale greige that quite accurately captures the color of… well, aged linen. It would work nicely with our linen comforter and offer a slight contrast against the stark white sheets on the bed.
The paint I use is from Pure & Original, a sponsor who supplied the paint. Their Classico chalk paint quality is my favorite for its lush creamy texture and wonderful range of colors. It provides ample coverage and a lovely flat finish.
(I expect to use a darker shade for the tall chests and a lighter shade for the dresser.)
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I also opted to change the hardware on the nightstands, in part because I wasn’t in love with the existing hardware, and additionally to afford more distinction between the various pieces in the set.
I will want the individual pieces to look like they were collected over time from difference sources. They have some variation in detailing so, with different hardware, as well as paint color and technique, I should be able to achieve a reasonable difference in the way the pieces look.
But my goal for this current project was the nightstands alone, so I selected a ring pull in an antique gold and added a bit more gold (with Rub n Buff) to bring out the highs and lows.
Since I was painting the bedside tables in a flat color, I applied 3 coats. I could have gotten by with 2, and would have stopped there if I was doing the dresser or chests, but our nightstands are used quite a lot and I chose to add the extra coat for a bit of additional insurance.
The paint dries quickly, so I did all 3 coats in one day, then let it dry overnight.
Next I added a coat of clear Classico Italian Wax, also from Pure & Original, gave it the full day to dry, then applied a second coat at night for extra durability. In the morning I buffed it lightly and the painting was done.
The final step was the most exciting one, because I still wasn’t sure how the piece would look all put back together. I was looking at a chest with the drawers removed and there was plenty of brown on the interior still visible.
Yet, as I attached the new hardware, removed the drop cloth and slid the drawers back in, I knew it was exactly what I had hoped for.
And of course then I wondered why I waited so long to do it!
The new light nightstands are precisely what I would choose if I purchased new bedside tables today. They fit perfectly with the room’s aesthetic and the new bedding I’ve added to the space.
The green wall paint is still in question and will likely be switched out this year. I truly love the color and the optimism it imparts, but it’s very limiting and after 7 years, it’s probably time for a change.
I am absolutely thrilled with the results of this upcycle and I can’t wait to tackle the other pieces. Then, finally, I will be able to photograph the entire room without feeling like I have to hide the furniture from the camera’s view!
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