Painting Unfinished Wood Furniture

In a perfect world, every furniture piece I paint would have a dark brown stain to start since it is the perfect first layer for distressing. I really try to avoid already painted pieces mostly for that reason, but how about unfinished pieces? Yeah…don’t usually care for those either. I mean if I can save myself some work, right?

Hello sweet friends! Today I am sharing how I tackled one such unfinished piece. My parents and I used to do craft markets for about 15 years or so, and my Dad made these tables:

My Mom would paint pretty scenes on them and they would sell like hotcakes. They had a few leftover hanging around their attic, and my Mom keeps offering them to me to paint and put in my booth, but ahem they are unfinished…and that requires a little more work.

Well I finally brought a couple home, and here’s how this one turned out:

How to paint unfinished wood to look distressed from

Pretty cute, right?

I honestly don’t know why I resisted for so long. This was the simplest little makeover ever with all those super straight lines.

Now I suppose you could just stain this first to get that perfect base, but stain takes longer to dry, and then would you have to seal it too? Not sure, but I went straight for this black latex paint I had left over from an old project and gave it a good base coat (spray paint works perfectly for this too):

Then I got out the petroleum jelly. I have used this on several pieces to give a distressed look. Paint will not adhere properly in the areas where you apply it. There’s no need to worry about going down too far and revealing unfinished wood, or in the case of a previously painted piece…revealing the paint color beneath, because you only need to lightly sand to smooth the surfaces.

Apply petroleum jelly where you don't want the paint to adhere.

I tried to apply it where it might naturally wear.

You can see the drawer above looks like this now:

Distressing using petroleum jelly from

I painted over the black and the petroleum jelly with two coats of a new white I bought. This is Bit of Sugar by Behr (that I made into DIY chalk paint), and I love it. I usually use Ultra Pure White which I get right off the shelf and requires no mixing, but I wanted something just a touch more muted to try.

Then I sanded lightly all over and the paint just came away from the areas where I used the petroleum jelly. You could also rub it away from those areas with a soft cloth.

Distressing using petroleum jelly from


Distressing using petroleum jelly from

I sealed with Annie Sloan’s clear soft wax.

This little clock face knob I had in my stash that I believe originally came from Hobby Lobby was perfect…


Distressing using petroleum jelly from

I lined the tiny drawer with this pretty fabric:

Distressing using petroleum jelly from


Distressing using petroleum jelly from

There are lots of places you could use a little table like this.

Distressing using petroleum jelly from


How to paint unfinished wood to look distressed from

This also works for those brightly painted pieces you want to paint but don’t want the color to show through when you distress.

If you enjoyed this, you’ll like this one too where I used the same technique:

How to Turn a Spindle Bed into a Bench

And I used it here too to stop the green from showing through:

Thrift Store Plate Rack Update

I’ll be back Thursday with my Décor Enthusiast girls sharing how we are getting ready for Spring using baskets!

Here’s mine:

As always, thanks for stopping by my little corner of the blogosphere! I appreciate you more than you know. 🙂

UPDATE: See how this basket became a sweet centerpiece for my dining room table HERE!



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  1. Hi Christy,
    I just love all your makeovers and DIY projects. I truly don’t know how you make the time! I don’t know if you saw my question on another comment, but I asked if you had painted the sewing cabinet/desk with drawers and yellow underneath, white on top, distressed? I would like to take another look at it.


    • Thank you, Cathy! I stay busy, that’s for sure. As for the sewing cabinet, I was sure I had responded back…so sorry if it did not go though, but that makeover was not one of mine. It does sound very pretty though! I even tried to locate it for you through a Pinterest search with no luck. Hope you are able to find the original source! XO

  2. I love how it turned out. I’ve used Vaseline on one piece and loved how it turned out. I have to say, I forget about it and I just painted a little tiered stand I could have done that with. Rats. Oh well, next time I’ll break out the Vaseline.

    Thanks so much for the reminder.


    • Thanks, Nancy! Honestly, I do that all the time too…I realize it when it’s too late ha ha! XO

  3. Christy, you have the best makeovers ever! I get excited to see what you are always changing. This little table is adorable!

  4. I didn’t know you and your family did markets for 15 years. Wow, being someone who also does markets (have one this weekend) that’s a lot of work and a lot of markets! Your Dad’s sweet handmade desk looks amazing painted white and distressed. I still haven’t tried the petroleum jelly distress technique and this reminded me to dust off that jar sitting on the workshop shelf. Pinning ☺

    • Thanks, Marie!! Yeah, Girl we traveled and everything. My parents had a motor home and I would even take my oldest to every show with us. He was only a few weeks old at his first show. And yes, they are a TON of work! I do love the comradery with the other venders though. I miss that now that I have a booth, and the markets were much more profitable in my opinion. XOXO

  5. Very nice job!! That table had a gorgeous design, too. =) I guess we know where you get your ample talent from! Mind if I ask when the little table was originally made? =o

    • Thank you, Zovesta! Wow…it has probably been at least 10 years since he made this, but probably more…can’t believe it has been that long! XOXO

  6. Marcie Lovett says

    Well, now we know where you get your fabulous painting and building skills from! Don’t resist, Christy – a little table is useful in so many places, and this one turned out great.

    Headboards always remind me of you now. There was a free headboard at my Restore and I thought “What would Christy do with that?” Then I came to my senses and realized it would sit in my basement because I already have too many projects. You inspire me, even if I don’t make anything, and I look forward to your posts every week.

    • Aww thank you, Marcie! Yes, my parents were a huge influence for sure. That’s so funny about the headboards ha ha…and as a matter of fact I just picked another one up yesterday for $15! I love that you show up, cheer me on, and get inspired! Thank you for that! 😀

  7. Kristi Bell says

    Hi there! Darling little table. Does the Vaseline get in your brush and then spread to other parts of the project? Thanks for sharing all you do to make your projects so darn appealing!! xo

    • Hi Kristi! Thank you! No, the Vaseline doesn’t get smudged around at all. You are really only use a very small amount in those areas. 🙂

  8. Christy, I can not believe that you would doubt yourself, you are so talented and good with a paintbrush, and anything else you set your mind to do. This little desk is so cute and you did a great job on it. You come from a talented mom and dad, you all are so blessed and I feel blessed every time you share your work with us. It is so wonderful to learn new techniques or be reminded of a technique you knew, but had forgotten.

    • You are so sweet, Patty, thank you! I was very blessed to get my DIY passion from my parents, and I am equally blessed that I get to share it with amazing people! XOXO

  9. Rose Arroyo says

    It looks great love the lace in the drawer and the knob.

  10. Dorothy O. says

    Hi Christy, love the color of Bit of Sugar. My question is did you buy a gallon of Behr?. I was told the quart sized are only available with primer already in them, which doesn’t work well for the diy chalk receipe. Or maybe it was because I was trying to match to a AS color chart. Love your blog. Thank you.

    • Hi Dorothy and thank you!! I only buy the Ultra Pure White by the gallon, everything else is usually by the quart. I do buy the one in the red can that is paint and primer in one, and it works perfectly as chalk paint. 🙂