Nightstand Makeover

Since we live in a two-bedroom apartment, our small spaces become as multi-functional as possible. Our home office resides in our master bedroom, and Hailey’s nursery functions as our guest bedroom. When in search for a nightstand to not only hold toys and look cute, but also serve as a bedside table for guests, Craigslist was my go-to source. It really is the best place to find quality pieces for cheap, and I’m loving the vintage look of this nightstand I found for $15.


It wasn’t in the best of shape, and I had to do something about the laminate top with marble design… (see the knicks in the surface of the finish below):

Step 1: The Decision. I toyed with the idea of painting the whole nightstand white, but in the end I decided to stain the piece.

Step 2: Strip the finish. I applied stripper to the nightstand, waited 15 minutes, and tried to scrape. I didn’t get much of the finish off (see the picture below), so I reapplied the stripper MUCH thicker (like the consistency of frosting), let it sit, and rescraped. That worked much better.

Step 3: Sand remaining finish down. With a fine grit sandpaper I sanded in the direction of the wood grain to get the remaining finish off the wood. I loved seeing the original wood of the piece in it’s original state. It made me feel like a carpenter or something.

Step 3: Staining. I applied two coats of mahogany stain to the nightstand. I didn’t think I could go wrong with stain, it is very easy to apply with a foam brush and to wipe off with rags (I use old t-shirts cut into squares). However, I did not realize that different woods soak up stain differently. Apparently the best way to avoid uneven stain is to sand it down using finer and finer grits of sandpaper, then to treat it with a wood conditioner. Check out Ask the Builder for complete instructions.

When I wiped off the stain, I had a blotchy mess on the inside of the nightstand.

The outside looked blotchy too, but I thought once the poly went on it might look better, and I was right.

Step 4: Poly the wood. I covered the wood with Minwax Water-Based Polyurethane.

Step 5: Prime the top and inside. One of my original ideas for this nightstand was to paint the inside white. So to cover up the icky stain job, I decided to follow my original instincts and I primed the inside of the nightstand as well as the laminate top, which I had given a light sanding to help the primer to stick.

Step 6: Paint and poly the top and inside. I used more of my Salt Glaze from Behr’s Martha Stewart line, leftover from many previous projects now. Both the inside and the laminate took several coats of paint (as in four) to cover and give it a crisp look. Once it was dry, I coated the white with two coats of poly.

Step 7: Painting feet. I decided to paint the feet white as well. I didn’t poly over them, and just gave them a quick coat of primer and paint since they don’t attract attention to them.

I’m very happy with the result over all!



  1. Anna
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The toys look great tucked underneath, Sarah!

  2. Patsy
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good attempt with that nightstand. In the end it still looks better than the original finish.

    I learned the hard way that you can’t stain “all” wood and hope for a good result. There is a product that is sold that you paint on the wood before applying the stain and it keeps the piece from being blotchy. I’m sorry I do not know the name of the product, but you can google for it or ask anyone at a paint store and they could tell you the name.

    I wish I had known about it the time I tried to stain my pine desk. Ouch, it looked pretty bad when I was finished.

    • Posted September 24, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink | Reply

      Yes, I think it is wood conditioner. I should have done some research before I began – but when I stained my dining room table it worked perfectly so I had some false confidence! 🙂 But in the end I’m happy with how it turned out, even with all the “fixing”.

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