Painting Over Honey-Coloured Furniture

I often come across people wanting me to give that authentic, distressed look to their Mennonite-made furniture - you know - the solid wood, 90's built honey oak furniture.  I've always denied the ability to do it, because when you distress a piece, you want the dark wood showing through the paint.  With lighter coloured furniture, it just doesn't distress well, because the colour coming through is light and not pretty at all.  
A recent customer asked me to paint her mirror the same colour as a tallboy she had bought from me.  I agreed, thinking I could always just not distress it.  The mirror was in similar style to the mirror pictured above - a light wood. 

So, I gave the piece a light sand, and painted it.  It was a disaster.  It flaked off everywhere.  I didn't want to use the bonding agent, because I find when I do use it, it makes the colour slightly lighter.  So I sanded down the mirror REALLY well, and painted it again.  Once again, the paint flaked off.  Not as bad as the first time, but still not acceptable.  I took my sand paper, and I sanded and sanded - I sanded all the little corners and edges - everything.  Then I painted it a third time.  Even so, when I was finish-sanding the paint, it still came off more than I wanted.

At this point, I started looking at the project as a really good learning opportunity, rather than get frustrated with it.  I knew I needed a base coat on the mirror, one that wouldn't come off if sanded.  Then I had an idea.  I had a can of this Rustoleum spray paint leftover from another project.  Because it's oil-based and has a hammered finish, I thought it would have less chance of being sanded though.  This is what I used:

It worked fantastic!  Once I had the piece spray painted, I let it dry for a full day before I applied a coat of milk paint.  The paint went on smoothly, and after two coats, it was completely covered.

When I went to distress it, the dark colours showed through beautifully - just like it was originally a dark wood piece.

The little knobby things on the side I redid in a silver guilding wax.

I love the texture that shows through.

The spray paint underneath also gives the piece a beautiful sheen.  I may try this again.

Well, that's all.  Just thought I'd share this simple little project.  The projects for this week include: a white tallboy with a stencil on it, an antique buffet - which I might paint yellow or orange, and making and shipping my very first Etsy order!  I sold a custom barnboard sign this week, and I'm very excited about it.  I'd love for my Etsy shop to start having some sales as well - I love doing signs, they are such a nice break from painting furniture.  Can't wait to share these projects on my blog :)


  1. I love this information you are sharing, being a crafter myself,nice work

  2. You are a genius! Just came across your site through The Graphics Fairy. I have a whole bedroom suite in this finish that I'm desperate to do over. Painted the dresser drawer fronts and hated it, now it's sitting like that in my dining room. Ew. Love that rustoleum finish, I use it a lot! May I ask what colour milk paint you used here?

  3. I have to tell you I tried the oil rubbed bronze on several things, AND LOVE IT TOO! I can't remember which site I was on recently, but someone told how they spray painted picture mat boards when they didn't want to purchase new I tried spaying the oil rubbed bronze onto black mat boards that had faded in certain areas where the frame wasn't, and they were kinda faded....They turned out great - a quick spray over that black, and it gave them a nice new fresh look. No photos to show though...I'll have to find that other post to let her know too. Just an fyi....

  4. question for you with your distressing. What grade of sand paper do you use to distress? Do you usually do it by hand or with your palm sander?

    1. I do it by hand. I use 120 first, then 220 to smooth it all over.