DIY Guide to Distressing Furniture for a Vintage Look

Remember all the hand-built pine wood furniture of the 1980s? It was at all the craft shows – nightstands, small tables, coffee tables…..even dining room hutches! Today, I want to share with you a country-style hutch makeover!

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an outdated piece of furniture

We purchased this furniture piece from a thrift store at least ten years ago. It had an orangey/yellow pine finish and I knew I wanted to paint it right away. It also had doors on the upper and lower sections. 

I loved the open shelving look back then and I still do so the doors came off! I actually saved them for another project – I will share that in a future post!

This hutch was going to live in our bedroom and I wanted it to have some contrast so I painted the entire piece in a lovely green using regular latex paint. I can’t remember the exact color – that was years ago but keep reading for a hint of the color!

We decided to add this piece of furniture to our available inventory at Wilderlove when we sold several other large furniture pieces in a span of about two days. Our space was a bit empty and I needed to fill it so I shopped our home ;).

easiest way to distress furniture

Before we delivered the vintage hutch, the paint color was going to have to change. Most of our customers prefer white paint instead of different colors of paint. Even though I love green, I knew it wouldn’t sell.

General Finishes Milk Paint in Linen is one of my go-to colors for furniture paint. General Finishes Milk Paint is an acrylic paint that looks like milk paint.

Neutral paint colors are pretty popular right now. Distressed furniture is also popular. I applied two coats of this water-based paint to the flat surfaces. 

One of the distressing techniques I like to use is easy. Just wrap a scrap piece of sandpaper (220 grit) around a sanding block. Next, lightly go over the edges, corners and any high places on the furniture. 

This is an easy way to distress furniture no matter what kind of paint you use. The distressed look is an easy way to add a vintage look to old furniture.

**As a side note, I have not tried this distressing method on oil-based paints. I only use water-based paints and this technique works perfectly!

creative hardware DIY ideas

You will notice the hardware is a bit unusual. The drawers came with wooden knobs which were kinda plain. I dug around in our hardware stash and found these two solid brass door knob cover plates. They were a great option instead of regular drawer pulls.

Then I  added the wooden knobs using the door knob hole that was already in the cover plate. These drawer pulls are not anything like you will see in your local hardware stores!

This distressed piece of furniture was purchased but the customer wanted it to look different. She loves black, distressed furniture with dark wood tops. We aim to please so the cabinet came back to our place for its third makeover!

easy way to strip furniture paint

First up was to strip the paint down to bare wood on the top of the bottom section. This hutch comes in two pieces so we lifted off the top section and applied Ready-Strip paint stripper to the top of the bottom section.

I love this product for removing layers of paint. It doesn’t have the fumes and smell of traditional paint strippers and is not nearly as messy! It’s one of the easiest ways to remove several types of paint including latex paint and acrylic paint.

Let’s do some prep work to remove the coats of paint I had already applied. It’s a good idea to protect the areas that don’t need the paint stripper. I used newspaper and green Frog Tape

The first step in removing old paint is to use a good paint stripper. Of course there are other different techniques you can use to remove paint. I had a paint stipper on hand so this is the route I chose!

The Ready Strip paint stipper is green and goopy. Any splattering that might occur would not bother the paint underneath the newspaper.

I applied a fairly heavy coat of Ready Strip using even brush strokes on the top of the bottom half of the cabinet and let it sit overnight.

The next day, the paint finish had started to bubble up. So I grabbed my paint scraper. 

After sitting all night, I started to remove the paint layer by carefully pushing the paint scraper away from my body. Be careful when doing this step, especially with pine furniture. Pine is a fairly soft wood and it can be gouged easily. 

If you are uncomfortable using a metal paint scraper, use a plastic one.

Here you can see the two finishes before painting it the Linen color. I still love that green! And take a look at that orangey wood grain I mentioned earlier! That’s not my favorite look.

easy clean up for paint stripper

Here is a tip when scraping off an old paint layer: put a trash can at the opposite end of where you are scraping. Remember I said I scrape away from my body? I scrape right into the trash can which makes clean-up a bit easier! The Ready-Strip dries to a sort of chalky/dry/thick paste so scraping is not too messy!

After the scraping was finished, I wiped down the surface with mineral spirits and a lint-free cloth. Then I went over the surface with a mixture of 50/50 water and denatured alcohol on a shop paper towel to remove the mineral spirits.

sanding furniture with an orbital sander

Next, it was time to sand the flat areas. Most of the paint was removed by the Ready-Strip but a light sanding was still necessary. 

I used my DeWalt Orbital Sander and started out with 100 grit sandpaper. Two sheets of sandpaper later, the rest of the paint and stain was removed. Another option would be to apply one more coat of the paint stripper.

Sanding with a higher grit sandpaper will smooth out the swirls marks. I sanded back to 150 grit and then a light hand sanding using a worn-down sanding sponge in the direction of the grain. 

how to stain wood furniture

Our customer wanted the top of the bottom section stained in a dark walnut. General Finishes Wood Stain is a great way to stain raw wood.. Once it was completely dry,, I applied two coats of General Finishes High Performance top coat in Flat. Using a  flat finish top coat is the easiest way to achieve a hand rubbed look with the durability of polyurethane. 

vintage hutch makeover

The next few steps are missing some pictures but let me tell you how I achieved this unique look for the aged look our client wanted.

  • I applied 3 thin coats of milk paint in the color Typewriter. Milk paint is the best way to achieve the authentic aged-over-time look in my opinion.
  • After the last coat of paint was dry, I used a small piece of 220 grit sandpaper and sanded off some of the paint to reveal the white paint, the green paint, and even the bare wood.
  • When I finished all of the distressed areas of the hutch, I sealed the piece with natural hemp oil. I applied it with a chip brush, allowed it to soak overnight, and then wiped off the excess with a shop paper towel the next day.

And there ya’ have it! A complete refresh of a 1980s country-style hutch! Don’t you love the layers of paint that show through the distressed areas? It really adds to the authenticity of the piece.

Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Typewriter covered the linen color perfectly! MMS Hemp oil adds a gorgeous depth to the chalky paint finish and seals it with an authentic look of vintage furniture.

The vintage door knob cover plates look amazing next to the black!

how to style a vintage hutch

Styling this hutch to look like antique furniture was easy by using ironstone pitchers, vintage books and a handmade, lidded bowl that my hubby reinvented from leftover firewood!

I love the distressing on this piece – see bits of the original wood, green and linen colors??

A Place for Everything

The vintage suitcases on the bottom bring a simple storage solution to this hutch. Store items like linens and even paper products so they can’t be seen!

Isn’t she a beauty?? The milk paint in Typewriter updates this country style perfectly! Gotta say, our customer has excellent taste!

country style hutch makeover furniture

Before we go, let’s chat about different ways to create the layered, distressed finish that so many of us love:

Use dark wax on bare wood and beeswax (or candle wax) as a resist before applying the first coat of paint. The beeswax will make those areas that you applied it on easy to distress.

Use chalky paint and wet distressing to wipe back the paint to reveal the layers beneath the final coat of paint. Use a wet rag to wipe back the paint until you have the results you want.

Apply several different colors of paint to create layers of distressing that will look like it took years to create.

As you can see there are different methods to create an authentic-looking antique furniture piece. I can’t wait to see how you use these ideas to create your next DIY project!

As a bonus, here is a video tutorial that I think you might find helpful! I have several videos on my YouTube channel showing the distressed look of furniture so be sure to join us on YouTube!

Click the image to watch the video!

distressed furniture

This country-style hutch makeover goes to show you can take just about any piece of furniture and bring it into today’s current farmhouse trend with a bit of effort and of course, a little bit of paint!

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Do you have any 1980’s style furniture that needs to be brought into the current farmhouse trend? I would love to hear about what needs a makeover at your house! Let me know in the comments!

You are welcome to follow along our makeover journey on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!

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  1. Okay… I actually love painted white furniture, but this really does look best in black! 😉 Great job, Cindy!

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thanks Julie! I am partial to lighter colors….usually. But the contrast black brings to a room is awesome too!

  2. Wanda Stewart says:

    This Customer was certainly lucky to have found this piece and to have you refinish it…The results are fantastic.

    Awesome job

    Thanks so much for sharing


    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Wanda, I am it puts a smile on my face to know you are pleased with your hutch!! And thanks so much for letting us refinish it for you ?

  3. This is beautiful, Cindy! I still like how black looks on specific pieces, and this hutch indeed wears the color well. I love how the linen and green peak through in the distressed areas. I love the doorknob plate paired with the wooden doorknobs. Such a creative idea! And you tip on scraping right into a trash can – brilliant! I have my grandma’s vintage hutch that I want to do something to. It isn’t painted but has an old shellac finish. I’m wondering if the Ready Strip will work on stripping that off or if it’s just for stripping paint? I’m working on getting my nerve up to paint it.

    On another note – I googled where you are in Deleware, and you’re about 5 hours from us. I mentioned to Pete that it would be fun to take a weekend trip up that way sometime and visit your shop. 🙂

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Hi Kim! Thanks so much for your encouraging words! This was a fun piece to work on and our client is so happy with it! According to (that is the company that makes Ready Strip) it will remove shellac. The site recommends using Ready Strip Plus. I suggest you give this a try. It can be a tough decision to paint a vintage heirloom piece but think how you could enjoy it in a brand new way! And it would be amazing if you came to our shop!! If you ever do, please let me know, I would love to meet you!! Let me know if you have any questions about the piece you want to paint!

  4. Mary Silagy says:

    What a beautiful piece of furniture. I love how you used the brass door knob fixtures as drawer pulls.

    1. We have a little collection of vintage hardware that we like to use up! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today Mary!

  5. Cindy,
    I love how this turned out. The suitcases on the lower shelves is so cute. I’d love to share a link to this tutorial on my Sunday, Dirt Road Adventures. You are so creative.

    1. Feel free to link to any of our posts anytime my friend!😊 Thanks for your kind words!

  6. These piece has great bones! The black totally makes it modern and fresh Cindy!

    1. Black is such a timeless color. Hope you are doing great Marie! Thanks for stopping by🥰

  7. HI Cindy! Gorgeous before and after piece! Pinned!
    I had to reread the post because I thought it was painted navy! Looks beautiful! Love it!

    1. Isn’t the black a gorgeous color? Thanks for pinning Laura!

  8. Wow, Cindy! I love the transformation you did on this piece of furniture! The black color paired with the brass looks fabulous! You did such a great job painting and styling it! I need to try Milk Paint!! Thanks, Donna

    1. You should definatly try milk paint! It’s one of my favorites to work with!