Painted Oak Furniture | 80’s Pie Safe Makeover

painted oak furniture

Have you wondered what painted oak furniture looks like?  Today, I want to show you how to transform an oak pie safe from the 1980s and bring it into the 2000s!

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Ready?  Let’s go!

Pinterest graphic showing before and after of oak pie sage makeover

how to update 80s furniture

It was an era of many craftsmen who were eager to get into their workshops and build stuff!  Women from the eighties were filling their homes with handmade country crafts of all sorts and the handmade furniture was definitely in abundance!

But let’s not be too quick to judge the country look of the eighties – remember what I said about how the 80s-90 ushered in the farmhouse style we love so much now?  The colors may have been different but the desired atmosphere of the home was the same as we want in today’s farmhouse style – cozy and comfy for our families!


I’ve gathered some supplies together that I used for this project. Thanks for supporting us by purchasing through our links! There is no additional cost to you!

can oak furniture be painted?

I have a client with grandparents from that era.  His grandfather hand-built this pie safe from scraps he had lying around his workshop!  The craftsmanship is top-notch.

My client just wanted it updated for their new farmhouse-style home.  The yellowing oak just wasn’t going to work in their new home but they wanted to keep the handmade pie safe in the family.

Oak pie sage before being painted in General Finishes Milk Paint in a custom mixed white

pie safe history

I loved the metal detail in the doors.  Back in the day when a piece like this would have been used for pies, the holes in the metal would have allowed air to flow through without the bugs getting to the fresh-baked pies.  

Can you imagine having that many pies in your kitchen??  Homemade and fresh – the smells must have been wonderful!

how to update furniture hardware

The hardware on the cabinet needed to be updated – the hinges were the antique brass that was so popular in the eighties and the knobs needed to be changed as well.

After removing the doors from the cabinet,  I taped off the area surrounding the hinges and used newspaper to protect the rest of the doors while I spray painted the hinges.

Rust-oleum Hammered finishes are my favorite!  I chose Flat Soft Iron for this project.  It is a matte finish in soft black.  This spray paint comes in so many colors and finishes.  I have used this paint on many projects and cannot speak highly enough about it!

how to spray paint furniture hardware

The key to spray painting anything is to not hold the can too close to the project.  This will cause running and dripping.  Keep a safe distance – 10″-12″ away to get a smooth finish.  Also, it is better to do two or three thin coats instead of one heavy coat.  Patience my dear!

close up of Rust-oleum spray paint in flat soft iron charcoal gray color used for hinges on painted oak furniture

painting oak furniture white

The main thing to consider when painting oak furniture white is the original color coming through the final coat of paint. I like to prevent this from happening by using a stain-blocking primer and my go-to is Zinsser Shellac Based Primer in White. I usually apply two coats of primer.

best paint for oak furniture

Honestly, there are many amazing paints on the market for oak furniture. I wanted to use one that did not require a topcoat. Which led me to General Finishes. I already had it on hand plus my client saw a previous piece of furniture that I painted in a custom light color of General Finishes Milk Paint.

In my humble opinion, General Finishes Milk Paint is one of the best paints if you want painted oak furniture.

I used General Finishes Milk Paint in Snow White and Linen in approximately 50/50 of each. I didn’t measure the exact amount, I just knew it would look amazing since I already used this combination in a previous makeover.  

The addition of the Linen Milk Paint knocks off some of the starkness of the Snow White Milk Paint.  The two work together perfectly!

full view of painted oak furniture pie safe staged with candle holder, pink teapot, candles and pitcher filled with dried hydrangeas

how many coats of paint for furniture?

The painted oak furniture piece only needed two coats of paint. If I had not primed it in a white primer, I might have needed to add a third coat of milk paint.

how to update orange stained wood

Our client also wanted the interior of the pie safe updated. After cleaning the interior well, I re-stained it using a richer brown stain, General Finishes Walnut Water Based Stain, to hide some of the orange tones of the cabinet.

It definitely reduced the orange tones that had been used originally!

pie safe after makeover showing the inside of the dark cabinet

how to update 80s furniture

Did you notice the metal inset in the doors of this pie sage? This is one of the details I love about the 80s era of furniture – this galvanized metal look hasn’t gone out of style!

Check out that wheat detail!

Talk about farmhouse style!

close up of punched tin in a wheat design used as insets for cabinet door on painted oak furniture

Our client wanted new knobs and he said that glass knobs would be his preference. We aim to please!

close up of tin punched in wheat design on furniture

how to distress milk paint

General Finishes Milk Paint chips easily with my method.  I use the flat edge of a small chef’s knife and gently, very gently, run the blade over the paint especially on the high areas like the edges.

I also do this type of distressing in areas where everyday use would happen. See the are just above the drawer in the image below? I can imagine that if silverware were stored in the drawer, over time there would be knicks and chips from the silverware being placed in the drawer.

Click the button below to see more about knife distressing:

side view of painted oak furniture with various home decor sitting on top

painted oak furniture before and after

What do you think of this painted oak furniture after? Isn’t it so pretty?

Let’s chat about where and how to use a pie safe in your home.

I can see it in a bedroom used to store clothing, in a bathroom as a linen cabinet, in a craft room for storage or heck, put it back in the kitchen as a small pantry!

Wherever they choose to use this heirloom piece, I am sure they will enjoy it for generations to come!

full view of painted oak furniture pie safe staged with candle holder, pink teapot, candles and pitcher filled with dried hydrangeas

how do you makeover old wood furniture?

Hope you enjoyed this project!  Do you have any pieces from the 1980s that need updating?  Let me know!  I would love to hear about it!

Any questions about the projects you have waiting to be completed?   Please feel free to ask! You can send me an email or hop over to the socials to ask!

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  1. This is beautiful! I love how you laid out every step for people like me who know nothing!

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thank you!! You should pick up a paint brush and start! You got this!! Feel free to ask any questions you have – contact me via email and I can help you!😊

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Isn’t that punched tin so pretty??? It’s one of my favorite details!

  2. Love this makeover so much! Love the wheat tin. Dry hydrangeas stole my heart! Pinned!

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thanks so much Cindy! Those hydrangeas are about 10 years old!

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thanks Elizabeth!

  3. The best transformation, always, but I really love the tin and of course the flowers!

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      I thought you might like the flowers!!

  4. Way to breath new life into this piece! That pink teapot and the vaseline (?) glass pieces are so adorable. You always style your finished products just right.

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thank you for the kind words Marie! The teapot and the green glass are family pieces from my grandmother. They are treasured pieces for sure! Thank you for stopping by!

  5. You did an amazing job on this pie safe. Working with and distressing milk paint is such a great medium. Love what you did! Pinned!

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Isn’t milk paint amazing? Thanks for stopping by Kim!

  6. What an interesting piece! I’ve never even heard of a pie safe. So cool! I love how you refinished it – the gem hardware is great. <3

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Can you imagine making all those pies? It’s kinda funny that there was a special piece of furniture for pies and pastries. Thanks for stopping by Stacey!

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thanks, Jennifer! Our client loved it too!

  7. Sheryl Rae Sable says:

    Absolutely gorgeous…. I do projects, so you just inspired me with an oak desk thdat I have

    1. Yay! I’m so glad you are inspired to give that oak desk a makeover!

  8. I love it Cindy! I just finished painting two end tables with orange stain and I wish I knew about that primer. I have a table coming up next and will surely be using it for the legs. Great post. Love the old pie cabinet. You did a fabulous job as always. Thank you for sharing and celebrating our new link party home imagined. Have a great week.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post. That pie safe was a treasured piece of my clients and we were thrilled to bring it up to date. Good Luck with your next project! And with the new link party! 🥰

  9. Beautiful work! What a lovely way to update this family keepsake – 1000% prettier!

    1. Isn’t it better?? Thanks, Janet! 😊

  10. Such a fabulous transformation! I love the pie safe now! The glass knobs are perfect! I’m sure your client is thrilled! Happy day, Donna

    1. Our client loved it! Thanks for stopping by Donna!