Ask Our Designer: Refinishing Outdated Furniture

Published on

For this blog post we reached out to our Facebook followers and asked them to write to us about their design dilemmas. We always enjoy the chance to chat with you, and of course we love solving a good design conundrum!

This week we heard from Deidre who has a pine armoire and table that she’d like to repaint.


These are great pieces for a refinishing project, they look like they are in good shape, and are solid wood. A bit of elbow grease, time, and some basic materials are all you need. Here are my tips for tackling a refinishing project:

Start with a vision

Deidre, you’re on the right track! Knowing ahead of time what you want the final result to be is key. It’s always a good idea to look for inspiration in magazines or online, and to think about what paint colours you like, and what will work with your decor.

Deirdre Mood Board 1

For Deirdre’s armoire, a soft paint colour in a gloss finish will really dress this piece up. I like White Dove or Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore. It would also be fun and an unexpected twist to line the interior in a fun wallpaper. Take a look for unique options.

For the table, I think black is a great choice to create weight and a bit of elegance- great for a focal piece. Onyx by Benjamin Moore is a nice warmer black with brown undertones.

Prepare the surface

The above mentioned elbow grease starts here! Start with rough quick sand, either with a palm sander or by hand. I use a 100-150 grit sandpaper. Be sure to get in all the little corners. The goal is to rough up the surface so that what you put on next won’t peel off.Deirdre Mood Board 2

Do a scratch test- gently dab a bit of the paint that you’ll be using onto the surface of the piece. Let it air dry completely, then scratch it with your fingernail. If it stays on, great news, you can start priming! If it comes off you are going to have to do more sanding until you remove all of the old varnish before priming.

Use Zinnser BIN Primer to seal any knots. If you skip this step you will have unsightly pine pitch seeping through your paint in a few months. Apply 2-3 coats of primer with a cheap brush, allowing each coat to dry.

Before you start painting, lightly sand over the knots making sure they are smooth, and wipe the piece down so that it’s free of dust.

For Deidre’s armoire, before priming I would take off the curvy baseboard moulding and add a new simple straight base board.

Time to paint!

I have used Benjamin Moore Advance interior paint for furniture and cabinets with great results. It is a very easy paint to use, goes on smoothly with a roller or brush and is self leveling, much like an oil used to be. It is very durable and will cure to a good hard finish in about 4 weeks. You can use your piece before 4 weeks, but be gentler on it until it fully cures. For a nice sheen I tend to use choose the satin finish.

Depending on the look you’re going for, you can roller the paint on to larger areas and use a brush to get into corners or use a brush over the entire piece. If you like the brushed look, invest in a brush with a good sharp edge that will reach into corners and cracks. Apply 2-3 coats of paint giving it a very light sand in between each coat.


Chalk paint has been gaining a lot of momentum lately and there are several places in town and online that offer tips and workshops. My favourites are Rusty Hinge, Front Porch Mercantile, Miss Mustard Seed and Ferpie and Fray.

Add character

If you want a more rustic look, you can lightly sand your piece after you’re done painting. By hand, using a 200 grit sandpaper, gently sand allover then apply extra pressure along edges and around areas where the piece would naturally wear (usually edges and corners, top surfaces). The console below is by henhouse, and you can see where we sanded to give this piece a worn in look.


This part is fun, and takes a bit of an artistic eye. When I’m antiquing a painted piece I always step back and take a look at the overall effect every now and then. I make sure it looks balanced. Don’t worry about messing it up- if you take to much off it’s easy to fix with a bit of paint! Keep working at it until you’re happy with the result.

With this technique, the final step is to apply a wax. I use Annie Sloan’s clear and dark wax. I sometimes mix them together as well. A dark wax will give you a richer patina and a clear wax doesn’t affect the colour, both work well as a sealant.

Add New Hardware

Changing up the hardware is easy and makes a big difference! For a refinishing project, it’s easiest just to use the existing holes and replace the hardware with something new. There are a lot of fun options on the market, and you can add a lot of interest with the right hardware.

For Deidre’s armoire I suggest replacing all of the hinges with a barrel type hinge so that they are mostly concealed. The knobs are easy to remove and replace, there’s lots of great options at Lee Valley.

Thanks again for writing to us Deidre, we hope we helped! If you’re interested in learning more about refinishing stay tuned! I’m about to start work on a piece that will be part of a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. I’ll be sure to post some before and after pictures soon!