An Easy Way to Paint Furniture to Look Like Stain


Hello again, sweet friend.  Today is Furniture Fixer Uppers day again with my talented blogging friends and I’m sharing the makeover of this interesting little storage cabinet and I’m showing you an easy way to paint furniture to look like stain. 

Sound like fun?  Good, let’s get started!

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

This piece was for sale in an antique shop for about $28. 

It had great potential with all those drawers for storage, yet it would fit perfectly even in small spaces because of its narrow design.

*This post contains some affiliate links so you can easily find the products I use and recommend.  Learn more about all of my favorite products and tools for doing DIY projects Here.

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

The first step was to remove all the old hardware.  These were just screwed in with regular screws.

Then the holes were filled with wood filler and left to dry for a few hours.

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

The drawers were sanded over with 220-grit sandpaper – not just the middle where the dried wood filler was, but all over to de-gloss the original paint so the new paint could adhere better.

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

Next I painted everything in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Graphite with my favorite Purdy paintbrush to cover the white and so the base coat would be the same all over.

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

The next step in painting a faux stain finish on furniture is to paint the piece brown – in this case, Chalk Paint in Honfleur. 

Let me tell you, for a long time I wouldn’t try brown paint because I thought it was really odd that someone would paint their furniture brown.  I mean, it was brown wood to start with, so what’s the point of painting it brown?

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

Then I bought Honfleur to use in one of the furniture makeovers for my upcoming book.  It’s actually a project where I paint a midcentury laminate dresser with a faux stain finish, and it’s a more advanced and detailed tutorial than today’s project (this is the cheater version, haha).

Needless to say, I’ve become a fan of using brown paint in some projects like this one.

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

Finally, lightly dry brush the Graphite paint back over the Honfleur for a textured, woodgrain effect.  Keep going until you’re happy, and if you add too much, then dry brush some Honfleur back over it again.  (Here’s more info on dry brushing.)

Since we were having a winter ice storm outside and I was working on this in my kitchen, I didn’t do much sanding between coats.  You can sand as much or as little as you want for a smoother or more textured appearance.

Follow up with a topcoat like Annie Sloan’s black wax for a more aged, rustic finish.

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

Finally: Card catalog drawer pulls!   If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know how I looooooove a good faux card catalog.  And they usually sell pretty well in my booth, so why not? 

The square drawers and the faux stain finish are perfect for this type of furniture makeover.

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

You can buy a pack of these card catalog pulls online Here for quite cheap, and they also come with the little screws you need.

Measure where you want the pulls to go, usually near the center of the drawer.  Then use a nail or long screw to mark the spot through each of the holes, in case you bump the pull then you won’t have to re-measure again.  (Oops!)

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

The screws went in super fast with my cordless drill/driver, plus no arm cramps from turning a screwdriver countless times.

Here’s the finished DIY faux card catalog using an easy way to paint furniture to look like stain:

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

Why would anyone want to paint a faux stain finish instead of actually using stain?  There are a few reasons:

  1. You might not be working in an area where you can get really messy and have strong odors like stain produces.  (Inside the house, no proper ventilation, etc.)
  2. Your furniture might not be real wood, but you want the look of stain.  (Like the dresser makeover I mentioned earlier in my upcoming book.)
  3. You might be nervous to try stain, for fear that it won’t turn out or you just don’t know how to use it.  Truthfully I don’t work with stain much; Guy in the Garage usually handles the stain projects for me.

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

For as easy as this technique is, I think it’s a pretty good fake!

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

Once again you can see the black-and-white glossy Before and the faux stain finish After of this cabinet makeover:

If you want the stained look, but can't have it. Learn how to paint furniture to look like stain. Plus: A card catalog makeover with this faux stain finish! By Girl in the Garage

I don’t typically like redoing something that someone else has already painted, but this was a small simple cabinet that I really wanted to give new life as a faux card catalog.  

Please let me know what you think of this painting technique and this makeover in a comment below.  Plus I’d be so grateful if you’d Pin or share this with a friend!  Thank you!  🙂

Also – check out my friends’ creative projects for Furniture Fixer Uppers day:

Furniture Fixer Uppers

Below are the Before photos – visit the links underneath to see the amazing Afters and to learn how they did it…

Furniture Fixer Uppers - Jan 20191. Confessions of a Serial DIYer
2. The Interior Frugalista
3. Prodigal Pieces
4. Just the Woods
5. Petticoat Junktion

 * Here are a few other faux card catalog makeovers you might like: *

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24 Comments on An Easy Way to Paint Furniture to Look Like Stain

    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      January 24, 2019 at 9:19 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Thanks girl! Can’t beat faux stain indoors during a winter storm. LOL

      Reply
  1. Paula
    January 24, 2019 at 6:35 am (4 weeks ago)

    It really does look like wood! When does your book come out? I know you have been hard at work on it.

    Reply
    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      January 24, 2019 at 9:19 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Thank you Paula! My book will be available in June… still a while away but time’s flying! Can’t wait to see it all together. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Christy James
    January 24, 2019 at 8:51 am (4 weeks ago)

    Looks way better…great technique! Can’t wait for your book! XO

    Reply
  3. Marie Blackburn
    January 24, 2019 at 10:06 am (4 weeks ago)

    Liked it before, LOVE it now! Can’t wait to see your book, Jen 🙂

    Reply
  4. kandice kullmann
    January 24, 2019 at 11:18 am (4 weeks ago)

    I love these little card catalog tab pull things. I need to use them on something lol. Love the update too, it looks more modern now

    Reply
    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      January 24, 2019 at 9:17 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Thanks so much Kandice! I do love those card catalog pulls, obviously! haha xo

      Reply
  5. Debra A Wise
    January 24, 2019 at 4:19 pm (4 weeks ago)

    Wow! Love the makeover. Great job!

    Reply
  6. gwen
    January 24, 2019 at 5:13 pm (4 weeks ago)

    because i have NO imagination, i thought the before looked pretty good – but the after is WAY cuter! i love WOOD and it needs painting to bring back the wood-look, this is the perfect solution! i’ve got to see how cheap those file cabinet pulls are – the previous makeovers with a bunch of those look expensive! thanks for the tutorials! they are always so informative! (and yes, when is your book coming out?)

    Reply
    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      January 24, 2019 at 9:14 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Thanks so much, Gwen! The book will be available in June! I’m going to post an update soon – hopefully next week. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Kaycee
    January 24, 2019 at 5:26 pm (4 weeks ago)

    What a difference a little paint and new hardware makes, I love this piece now!

    Reply
  8. Lizzy Leff
    January 24, 2019 at 8:12 pm (4 weeks ago)

    I first thought the before was the after. The after after is way better and very cool. Brown paint — who knew?

    Reply
    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      January 24, 2019 at 9:12 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Hahaha! That is too funny Lizzy. That’s why I like to put the word “Before” on the before photo… you never know if someone will mistake it for the After. 😉

      Reply
  9. Cathy McKenna
    January 24, 2019 at 8:25 pm (4 weeks ago)

    I love it….and a great “card catalog”!! Where ever did you find this piece….I have been looking for something just like it!

    Reply
    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      January 24, 2019 at 9:11 pm (4 weeks ago)

      Thank you! I think it may have been handmade, or at least upcycled from another piece. If you’re near northwest Indiana it will be available for sale. 🙂

      Reply
      • Cathy McKenna
        January 24, 2019 at 9:39 pm (4 weeks ago)

        OH I wish, but I’m in Southern Arizona

        Reply
  10. Lori
    January 25, 2019 at 8:26 am (4 weeks ago)

    Hi Jen, I want to do a paint job like this one. I have a dark green cabinet and want to dry brush with graphite. I will let you know how it turns out. You did a wonderful job. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      February 3, 2019 at 11:02 pm (3 weeks ago)

      Thank you, Lori – yes please let me know how it turns out! I have seen some gorgeous pieces done with Antibes (green) Chalk Paint and black wax.

      Reply
  11. Sharlene Andrade
    February 4, 2019 at 2:38 am (3 weeks ago)

    It really looks good! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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