The Dark Night (Stand)


I’ve been on a mission ever since we moved into the house.  And, no, it’s not driving Chris insane with the never-ending list of projects.  Two words (or is it one word? I can never figure it out): Night stands.

The before wasn’t pretty.  So much so that I completely forgot to take pictures of what we had been working with since we got married: an $8 IKEA table (literally, $8).  We seriously walked into IKEA, perused the 5 million square feet building, and found the cheapest, elevated, flat surface to bring home.  Thank you Mr. LACK.

This was a proud moment for Chris- convincing me to walk out with the cheapest table in the store.  While, for me, a very low point.  Mostly because we went with the black-brown option (is black-brown really fooling anyone into thinking it looks like wood??).

My side boasted of a rattan side table passed down from my parents’ attic.  I had used it since my apartment days of college.  It worked fine.  I had two baskets underneath to store all my junk.  Perfect-o.  Well, sum up my horror for the LACK table and it just about equals Chris’ feelings for my night stand.  I think it was mostly due to the fact that Chloe (our cat) used it as her scratching post (hey, better than any of the thousand upholstered chairs we’ve seemed to acquire).

Only one friend could solve our problem.  Craigs List.  But how Craigs List failed me!  After what took months (seriously… months!), I finally stumbled upon a set of low-priced, beat-up night stands that I could wave my magical wand of spray paint and sandpaper at and churn out a handsome set of furniture.  I’m still shocked that we answered the ad because this is the picture we were working from.

A little tone-on-tone wood never deterred me though!  $40 later and the back seat of my car featured these two fellas.

This picture does them a little more justice.  The tops were a little rough- worn varnish, scratches, blue paint splotches, oh my!

And look at those gold drawer pulls!  I couldn’t wait to tear those things off.

But the best part was the bonus prize we found stuffed behind one of the drawers.  From Valentine’s Day cards, to old checks, to trash, we found it all (quickly shredded and disposed of, you’re welcome, sellers).  All except one piece, that is.

Craigs List sellers beware: make sure all your personal items are out of the item you’re selling or your grocery list could end up on some random person’s blog… like this.

Yum, looks good!  I love whatever “salad stuff” is, but seriously, who puts a question mark after wine?  Wine is not a question, people!


There are a lot of outrageously-priced items out there: jeans, a decent cup of coffee, used Hondas, etc. And, apparently, beat up furniture. Julie and I hit Craigslist at least once a day looking for a good deal on used furniture and quite frankly, a fair price is not to be had very often. I blame HGTV for creating a false demand and running up the prices.

Anyway, we finally stumbled across a pair of night stands that we thought might have potential. We both had a certain look in mind that we couldn’t quite describe but we knew it when we saw it, and we finally saw it. A quick jaunt to the other end of town, a bit of shoe-horning into the trunk, and we were merrily on our way home with our latest project.

First things first- cleaning. These things were in sad shape- dog hair, paint stains, trash, you name it. It was hard to get a proper idea of what condition they were really in until we wiped them down a few times and even hit one with a shop vac, but we soon realized that we had some work to do.

Next, we had to strip the old finish for two reasons. One, the tops were incredibly rough and, obviously, we wanted them smooth. Second, there was a high-sheen varnish on them that would need to be stripped in order for the new paint to adhere. We started with a handheld sanding block to roughen the finish enough to paint:

The tops, on the other hand, required the power sander to get through years of abuse, resulting in scraped-off varnish in some places and build-up in others:

After sanding the hell out of them, we still had discoloration in the wood, but whatever- it was smooth, and we were painting over it anyway.

Now for my least favorite part: painting. I hate painting. Whether it’s a brush or a rattle-can, I can’t stand it. It was too cold to spray outside, so I had to spray in the garage and even with a mask on, the fumes were overwhelming.

Anyway, these took quite a bit more paint than I expected. The dark wood didn’t cover as easily as I’d hoped, and I ended up doing three coats, sanding lightly between each one to ensure a smooth finish in the end.

The difference between wood and paint can be seen here:

For tips on spray painting furniture, check out our previous post on that here.

After the first coat:

The drastic difference between one and two coats:

Want to know why I hate painting? Because it makes my hand swell up like a balloon! I told Julie I needed hazard pay from now on.

Finally, I was done painting and Julie could begin “distressing.” The one on the left is painted, the one on the right has been distressed:


As a finishing touch, I decided to apply a coat of urethane to the tops. After all, these were going to be functional and quite frankly, we don’t baby our furniture… and I don’t want to paint them again.

We realized after everything was done that we had forgotten about the handles. After spending what seemed like an eternity in the cabinet hardware aisle at Home Depot (I’d rather paint than be in that stupid aisle) and only to return home empty-handed, I got the idea to just spray the original handles with oil-rubbed-bronze-look spray paint and call it a day. Fortunately, Julie loved the look as it kept the original style of the night stands but also updated the finish. Problem solved!

These night stands turned out so well we were tempted to sell them (as we patted ourselves on the back for such a professional finish), but we assume at the rate we find furniture on Craigslist, a deal like these will come by around the same time we next see Halley’s Comet.



Ah, white distressed.  My favorite.  I’d like to point out right now, that I’ve gone this entire post without using the word “shabby chic.”  Ha!  It can be done.

The bottom space of the night stand was perfectly suited to putting a basket to hide all our books/magazines… I guess I should say “my” books/magazines as Chris’ aversion to reading outdoes his aversion to our cat 10:1.

Oh, and the color we used is Rust-oleum’s Satin Heirloom White spray paint, found at Home Depot.  My new favorite color by far.

Stay tuned for a sneak peek into more of our master bedroom soon (aka the left side of this picture).



Filed under Before & After, Master Bedroom

5 responses to “The Dark Night (Stand)

  1. Charlene

    Very cute – you can go into the furniture refinishing business!!!

  2. Sandra

    Perfect nightstands! This is exactly my cup of tea and knowing how good work you have done all by yourselves must feel incredable aswell. Super!

    • DO or DIY

      Thanks Sandra! I can’t believe it took us this long to start doing this! There’s just something so satisfying in seeing a piece transform so drastically. Thanks for dropping by!
      – Julie

  3. Pingback: Mastering the Master | DO or DIY

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