This TikToker DIYed ‘90s-Era Oak Furniture to Look Much More Stylish

published May 18, 2023
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interior with very ambered oak walls, furniture
Credit: Pieter Estersohn/Getty Images

In the ‘90s, eyebrows were thin, the mall was the spot to hang out, and the furniture was orange. Like many trends from decades past, orangey oak furniture is one that we’ll likely not be revisiting any time soon, but it still haunts us to this day. One TikToker showed how she reverses the curse of the orange oak to make ‘90s-era furniture work in a ‘20s-era aesthetic. 

“I feel like 99% of households have some sort of orange-y stained oak furniture,” Lily from @thefurnituredoctor wrote in her caption. “Thankfully, it’s usually really easy to modernize.”

The first step to flipping orange furniture is removing the existing finish. She prefers using sandpaper (use a lower grit for hardwood and a higher grit for veneer), but you could also try using a paint stripper or card scraper. Because that orange finish is decades old, it should come off without needing a lot of elbow grease.

But even after removing the finish, you may still be left with an orange-tinted oak. So, Lily suggests going in with a whitewash to neutralize the warm tones. She uses a 1:1 ratio of white paint and water and applies it to the furniture with a sponge. She then wipes away excess whitewash with a rag in between coats.

Then, when your piece is toned down to the perfect color, you can seal it off with a matte polyurethane to lock in the whitewash and maintain a natural wood finish. 

You can use this technique on tables, chairs, and even outdated kitchen cabinets. Let’s leave that orange oak finish in the ‘90s and bring your fresh oak furniture into the modern era.