When Old Furniture Is Made New Again: Distressing an Antique Wardrobe

Every day after high school, I used to come home from school and turn on HGTV. It was so comforting and entertaining to watch people take old furniture and turn it into something beautiful again, and this is where my obsession with re-purposing furniture first began. That is why I am going to be sharing one of my favorite do-it-yourself projects where I sanded down an entire antique wardrobe, painted it, and then distressed it again! Here’s how I got started so that you can see how fun, simple, and rewarding it can be to refresh an old piece of furniture as well! (As I mentioned in my first blog post, this is a prime example of making an old item even better!)

fixer upper GIF

1: Pick Out Your Furniture and Gather Materials

What you will need:

  1. Fine grit 150 sandpaper (you can even purchase sanding gloves)
  2. 10m of sanding paper grit 250 – for smoothing the surface
  3. Paint tray
  4. Paint color (I used a very light pink)
  5. Multiple Paint brushes (whatever kind you prefer)
  6. Tarp to put under the wardrobe while painting
  7. Primer
  8. Paint stick
  9. Wash cloth/ Micro-fiber cloth
  10. Lots of energy!
  11. The perfect antique piece of furniture you will be re-purposing 🙂

Fun fact: ^^^The antique wardrobe I am using used to be my grandparents old wardrobe. It originally didn’t go with my room, so I decided I would paint it to match the style of my bedroom! You can find pieces of furniture like this anywhere: a free gift from your grandparents OR super cheap at your local secondhand shops!

2: Clean All of the Wardrobe’s Surfaces

Next, place your tarp beneath the wardrobe, and remove all of the drawers! Set them aside so they aren’t in the way. Then, you can also remove all of the wardrobe’s hardware like handles and door knobs so they don’t get painted on.

Now, you can properly clean the surface of the wardrobe removing any unwanted substances. I just used warm water and a wash rag! clean up GIF

3: Let The Sanding Begin

After wiping it down, you will sand the entire wardrobe with the fine-grit sandpaper. (I have attached a video below that shows how to do this. It is surprisingly very pleasing to watch, but also informative). Then, wipe away the dust from the sanding with a micro-fiber cloth.

4: Prime(r) Time

After you’ve finished cleaning the wood, you will need to add 2 layers of primer with a medium sized brush. You should allow 24 hours between each coat of paint. Also, between each layer you should sand the primer a bit so you do not have to do as much work at the end! Make sure you apply the primer to all sides of the wardrobe so that the color of paint you choose can be seen over the dark wood!

5: Paint, Paint, Paint

Pour your paint in your paint tray. The paint you use needs to be an oil-based enamel paint. You can then begin to apply the first layer of paint to the wardrobe! I would recommend starting small with the drawers, and then working your way to the larger sides of the wardrobe. You should start at the top and then work your way down so that you can smooth out any paint droplets! Also remember, this layer of paint should be thin!

When the paint dries, you can flip the doors and drawers in order to paint the other sides!

Wait 24 hours. Then, repeat with a thin layer of paint 2-3 more times!

6: Damsel In DISTRESS Mode

So, you aren’t really a damsel in distress! You are actually quite the opposite, but you are definitely in “distress mode” because once your wardrobe is painted, you are able to begin distressing the piece of furniture! When you are sure the paint has dried, you can start sanding down areas of the wardrobe with the fine-grit 150 sandpaper. This will start to peel back some of the layers of paint, and begin exposing some of the beautiful wood underneath. It definitely gives furniture the shabby-chic aesthetic. Keep sanding until you have reached your desired distress level.


7: Add Unique Handles

Reattach the doors and drawers to the wardrobe! And then, put the perfect finishing touch on it by adding your own handles to the drawers! This really makes the piece your own! I picked out my handles from Michael’s craft store! They have a lot of options for whatever style you are going for!

8: Give It A Final Wipe-Down & Admire Your Creation

Run over the entire wardrobe with the damp washcloth again to make sure you have removed all the sanding dust! Then, take a step back and admire your hard work. Personally, I am so glad I mustered up the courage to take on this project! Every time I look at this wardrobe in my room, I am proud that I was able to modernize it and restore it. If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to help!

TA-DA! More Photos of the Finished Wardrobe: 


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