Refresh Old Furniture: 11 Painted Furniture DIY Projects With a Contrasting Finish

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Want to add sophisticated drama to a piece of furniture you found at a thrift store (or you've had for awhile)? Create contrast — mix two different finishes in an intentional way on the same sideboard, dresser, desk, table or more — and you'll end up with a customized furniture piece exuding eye-catching tension and style. We've rounded up eleven real-life examples of this look — and tell you how they pulled it off successfully so you can recreate the contrast look yourself.

Pictured above: Add stripes to create a contrasting look like Karrie did to this dresser.

"I decided to patch and repair the body of the dresser and paint it white — the drawer fronts were in great shape so I was able to add a nice white horizontal stripe which allowed the natural wood to show through."

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Keep the outline of the piece in a natural wood color and add a glossy white to the rest of the piece like Sabrina did with this desk.

1. Clean with Murphy's oil soap and #0000 steel wool/scotch brite. Scrape off stickers and general gunk with a paint scraper and flathead screwdriver
2. Remove drawers and hardware
3. Sand everything down to raw wood (start with lower grit and work up to higher grit; 220), wipe down with tack cloth.
4. Fill old cabinet holes with wood filler and sand smooth 200 grit or higher when dry
5. Paint drawer fronts, and inside drawers with white oil paint (2 coats) with bristle brush
6. Oil table with danish oil and wipe after 20 minutes. Let dry for a couple days.
7. Stain with dark walnut, wipe off excess. Let dry for a couple days.
8. Paint the line between the false drawers black
9. Seal with Polyurethane (water based, to prevent yellowing on the white drawers). Let dry for at least 8 hours.
10. Measure, mark, and install new hardware.
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Or make a heavy piece lighter by painting the outline of the piece in white and keeping the rest of it a wood color like Beth did with this storage piece.

A thorough sanding and staining was all that was needed to perk these up again. I used Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic enamel for the white, brushed by hand.

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Just keep one little piece a natural wood color like with this IKEA nightstand.

Since the nightstands are solid pine, I was able to sand off the black finish and stain the drawer fronts in a warm walnut shade. Then I primed and painted the rest of the frames white.

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Use a bold color to create a contrast like Jess and her husband did with this media storage piece.

We used several coats of minwax stain and polyurethane on the drawers as well as a relatively plain flat paint and polyurethane on the frame and base.

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Keep the contrast to just black and white for the ultimate level of drama like Whitney's sideboard.

We had Home Depot cut new doors out of MDF, painted it, and added new brass hardware.

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Create pattern and interest where there wasn't any! Maggie does it with an IKEA Malm dresser.

Maggie used overlays to create contrast on the drawers and, as for those cool knobs, she really went all out.

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Use color, but keep the contrast subtle with a softer hue, like Sarah does with this cute little piece.

The first thing I did was prime the top and sides with Zinsser Primer, followed by three coats of porpoise grey Glidden paint in a semi-gloss finish. A little 8 oz sample size did the job, with extra paint left over. I sanded down the solid wood legs and wood drawers, leaving the detailed pulls in their original dark finish. I applied Howard Restor-a-Finish in Walnut, followed by Howard Feed-N-Wax polish and conditioner.

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A gray stain over the wood part of a white and wood contrasted piece is quite nice as well.

To get that amazing distressed finish, Claire sanded her heart out and then used a grey stain (Minwax Classic Grey) which contrasted beautifully with the dresser's reddish undertones.

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Using a bold color and picking and choosing the design elements to paint on an unusual piece makes quite the statement, like this rocker.

She sanded the seat, arms and back (taking off several layers of skin along with the peeling varnish) and painted them in a quirky neon turquoise (an unexpectedly and fun choice).

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Don't forget about metallic! A hot pink and gold contrast makes these simple stools scream stylish.

I first painted them a raspberry pink color. I created the gold dipped effect by spray painting a taped off portion of each stool leg.The whole project cost about $10 and only took a couple of hours.

More contrast inspiration:

(Image credits: Karrie Franks ; Sabrina; Beth Heim; Joy; Jess Anderson Karas; Whitney; Maggie Overby; Sarah Baumbach; Claire; Lizzie Doe; Heidi Ferguson, Property of Honeybear Lane)