Give Plain Nightstands Rustic Charm With Milk Paint

Give a thrifted vintage bedside table or nightstand the shabby chic look of a French antique with inexpensive milk paint and a few easy faux-finishing tricks.

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Materials Needed:

  • pair of nightstands
  • screwdriver
  • 3 quarts of milk paint (one each: medium blue, light blue/gray and white)
  • milk-paint bonder or bonding agent
  • three plastic cups or containers
  • stir stick (or fork/whisk)
  • petroleum jelly
  • clean cotton rags
  • 2 1/2" angled sash brush
  • wax brush (optional)
  • medium- and fine-grit sanding sponges
  • clear soft furniture wax
  • 1/2" filbert artist's brush (optional)
  • white flat acrylic craft paint (optional)

Prep Nightstands for Painting

Lightly sand surface of nightstands with a medium-grit sanding sponge or sandpaper to give the surface "tooth" (Image 1). Wipe sanded surfaces with a clean cotton cloth to remove dust. Remove hardware with a screwdriver (Image 2). If a stained wood finished top is desired, remove existing finish by sanding or stripping, then apply stain in desired color.

Mix and Apply First Paint Coat

Since traditional milk paint comes in powdered form, it needs to be mixed with water. Pour about a cup of medium-blue milk paint powder into plastic container. Add warm water slowly, stirring with a wooden stir stick (Image 1). Continue adding water until desired consistency is achieved — the mixture should be thinner than modern paints, but not runny. Add more powder if paint is too thin. It's normal for milk paint to be slightly lumpy. To ensure good adhesion, add bonding agent directly to milk paint, following manufacturer's directions. Note: If nightstands are raw wood, bonding agent isn't necessary. Apply first coat of milk paint to nightstands using 2 1/2" angled sash brush (Image 2). Mix more paint if necessary. Tip: To get milk paint creamy and smooth, use an immersion blender or milk frother.

Apply Resist

Once the first coat of paint has fully dried, use your fingertip to apply petroleum jelly in random places on nightstands (Image 1 and 2). This will act as a resist for the second coat of paint. Put petroleum jelly specifically on places where natural wear of paint may occur like around keyholes, knobs, raised trim and edges.

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