How To: 7 Easy Steps to Refinishing Old Furniture Without Sanding Using Eco-Friendly Chalk Paint | Before & After: Old Dresser to Media Center

I may or may not have a barn stall full of hoarded furniture waiting to be re-finished. I can’t help myself! I see pieces at garage sales and can immediately envision how beautiful it could be with a little love in the form of a can of chalk paint.

My favorite way to refinish furniture is with Annie Sloan’s chalk paint. It’s an incredibly quick way to breathe life into an old piece that is relatively foolproof. In fact I can usually completely finish a piece of large furniture in one evening and have it set up in its new home by the next morning!


The beauty of chalk paint is that you don’t need to sand or strip your furniture before you paint. It sticks to nearly any surface. I’ve painted plastic mirror frames, antique wood tables, varnished chairs, and on and on. It has amazing bonding qualities without the chemicals. For the prep, really the only thing you need to do is fill any noticeable holes or dents. I skip over all the tiny nicks because the paint and wax tend to fill them in nicely on their own.

But I should be clear that if you’re looking for a perfectly glossy and smooth piece of refinished furniture in the end then chalk paint is not for you. This is a product that gives you the look of hand painted French furniture with a velvety, matte finish. Until you’ve felt it, it’s hard to explain! Lovely comes to mind. Yes, it’s lovely. Lovely, french inspired, heritage hand painted goodness. Nothing glossy. Nothing mass manufactured.

So! Want to re-create the pretty piece like I did above? Here’s how I re-finish furniture.

1. Preferably, start with something old. My most recent find was this 50 year old dresser from a garage sale. Look for lots of character with a vintage antiquey feel…it’ll paint up beautifully.


I bought this dresser for $30, helped my husband strap it to the trailer then promptly stored it in my barn for a month while I decided on a paint color. Oh, the choices!


See all the nicks in this old dresser? I didn’t fill any of them. There were a few gouges on the top that I filled but that’s it. Chalk paint is so eaaassssy.

2. When you’re ready, grab your paint and paintbrush. I went with Annie Sloan’s Provence. It’s a beautiful turquoisey shade that changes with the light. My absolute favorite! Provençe is based on all those beautiful shutters and doors you’d see in the South of France.

One can of chalk paint is around $50 but it’s true when they tell you this small can will cover a few pieces of furniture. This dresser used 1/3 of the 1L  can. Maybe a little less.


Now, the paintbrush. Don’t spend a lot of money on one. I did the first time…it was a $25 “chalk paint” paintbrush and it shed bristles like crazy. I was so disappointed. My favorite brush that I use now is a $4 synthetic brush from Lowe’s. It never sheds and doesn’t leave crazy brush strokes.

3. Remove the hardware and fill any major nicks/scratches/dents with putty and sand your putty job smooth. Again, I didn’t fill any of the little nicks in this dresser because the paint and wax does a great job of smoothing them out and honestly it’s an old piece of furniture. I don’t mind the extra character at all! I was also re-using the original hardware so I didn’t fill the holes or the dents that the hardware left once removed.

4. Start painting! I was in the groove with my paintbrush, John Mayor and a glass of wine.  Discolored evening iphone pics will have to do  ;)

Top: first coat. Bottom: second (final) coat.

chalk paint 5

“They” say that most furniture will only need one coat of chalk paint. I’ve never had this experience with all the pieces I’ve done…maybe because they’re usually very dark wood to start with and I tend to stick with lighter chalk paint shades? Not sure, but I always have to do two coats. Chalk paint dries within minutes, so by the time you paint the fronts of a few drawers the first one is ready for a second coat. Paint second coat and let it dry for 30 mins or so.  It’ll feel cool to the touch if it’s still wet.

5. Once dry if you notice any deep brush strokes or drips simply (and gently with very little pressure) sand them out with a fine sanding pad. It’ll smooth out really quickly and come off like chalk dust.

chalk paint 66

6.  Waxing time! Wipe off any dust with a soft dry cloth and start smoothing on a thin layer of wax. I use Annie Sloan’s Soft Clear Wax. It has the consistency of soft margarine so it is easy to apply, is completely colourless but it does have a little bit of an odor. In the past I’ve used poly as a protective coat instead of the soft wax and much prefer the wax. The poly yellowed and didn’t protect against stains and wear as well as the wax does. Waxing is pretty straight forward…you don’t need to slather it on really thick, just enough to give it a thin coat. Your paint will darken underneath but don’t freak out, it all comes together in the end. Let the wax dry for 24hrs  then grab a soft dry cloth (like a piece of flannel or old t-shirt) and start buffing out the wax. You’re done when your cloth glides smoothly and you notice a slight sheen. Or when your arms are killing you and you’re sweating from all the buffing. Yay for creating pretty furniture AND getting a workout out of it!


7. Let your piece sit overnight (or longer to be sure) so the wax can cure nice and hard then re-attach the hardware. I’m not good at waiting. I finished this at 10pm and there was a TV sitting on top of it by 9am the next morning.






I’ll share how it looks in my living room as a media center once I get a second coat of white paint on my walls this weekend!

Have you used Chalk Paint before? If not, do you have questions about it? Please let me know in the comments below!


About Amanda

Amanda Robinson is the eco-chic, green living, fitness loving mom behind Natural Mommie. Since 2009, Amanda Robinson has been the source for moms to learn how to bring more balanced green beauty, eco-friendly, sustainable, organic products into their homes without being too “crunchy” or “granola”. Amanda is passionate about design, wellness and inspiring moms to make more eco-friendly and healthy choices without having to trade in their stilettos for Birkenstocks. In addition to Natural Mommie, Amanda is also the owner and designer behind Top Knot Style - a beautiful collection of handmade oversized luxury knitwear.

195 thoughts on “How To: 7 Easy Steps to Refinishing Old Furniture Without Sanding Using Eco-Friendly Chalk Paint | Before & After: Old Dresser to Media Center

  1. Sorry for posting twice!! I redid it thinking the first one didn’t go through!

  2. Can I skip sanding and stripping with veneer furniture as well?

  3. Beautiful piece! How well would chalk paint and the wax stand up on a dining table and chairs? Would I need to put a different coat over it? Thanks!

  4. What material was the dresser? I would love to do this to my bed frame but it’s one of those IKEA ones and I’m not sure it’s wood, it’s one of those shiny finish bed frames in black. Would chalk paint work or do you think it will cheap easily or rub off? Thank you!!!

  5. What material was the dresser? I would love to do this to my bed frame but it’s one of those IKEA ones and I’m not sure it’s wood, it’s one of those shiny finish bed frames in black. Would chalk paint work or do you think it will cheap easily or rub off? Thank you!!!

  6. Would I be able to use any chalk paint. I live in Alaska and Annie Sloane paint is not available? Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Thanks for an excellent blog with clear step by step instructions. As I Googled how to paint furniture with chalk, I got quite irritated with people rambling on and on before they got to the ‘how to.’ I’m glad I found your blog! :)

  8. I’m rehabbing an old mobile home. The built-in dressers are formica. Will chalk paint work on Formica?

  9. Just bought a dresser for my kids room at goodwill. It’s solid oak and I’d like to paint it white to match my sons bedding. I’m scared to mess it up though.. Everyone says to sand it first is that true? Will it look good without sanding it and just chalk painting it?

  10. I want to refinish a two year old piece of dark furniture that my husband purchased before we were married. It has slats, groves and pineapples….will the chalk and waxing method work with all the grooves….how would you wipe off the wax?

  11. Have a low table that is painted dark green. Would like to change color and use it outside on a patio. Would the chalk work.? What about protecting it from the elements. Would like your advise.

  12. Can I do this to a dresser in place (ie without moving it)?

    1. In my experience you can paint indoors. I painted my dressers right it my bedroom. To avoid a mess use drop cloth, but chalk paint comes of easily with a wet wash cloth. Also I made my own chalk paint.

  13. First off, great post! I’m getting some furniture for our new place and I have a hard time finding that right shade of espresso to match some of my things so hopefully this will work out for me! I do have a question though, I’m looking on the Home Depot website and they have chalk paint by Rustoleum, (I will leave the link at the bottom of this). My question to you is, is all chalk pain made equal? Or do you think I specifically need to get the one you had? Also, the wax step, is that necessary? Thanks in advance!

  14. Wow, this is absolutely stunning! Yours is the first article I’ve read on refinishing furniture (came up in my search online) and I love the way this paint looks and how easy it seems to be to complete. I have a triple-wide dresser, a tall armoir, and a nightstand I would like to refinish. All solid hardwood, about 32 years old. But oak. It’s lovely, but I want something more fresh and I don’t want to buy new furniture.

    Is it really this easy to do? You make it sound like it takes little skill and voila! You’ve got new furniture. Is the paint durable with the wax finish? And if I want to change the color later, do I have to sand off the wax?

    I’m so excited to research this paint. I may not have to look any further for furniture refinishing info because I’ve landed on something I really like. I love your before/after project. Looks great! Thanks.

  15. Beautiful makeover! I just did my first piece (oak pedestal dining room table $20 on kijiji) and I made my own chalk paint with plaster of paris. Coverage was excellent after 2 coats (antique white). However because this was going to be our main eating table, I needed something more durable than wax for it. I used polycrylic (because it doesn’t yellow and doesn’t stink) and it looks amazing!
    Just wanted other readers to know that there is a difference – not all polys are the same. Happy refinishing, everyone!

  16. I need help. I am new to chalk paint and I have decided to paint my old bedroom furniture. I put two coats of chalk paint on and started to put clear wax on. When I go to buff the wax off all the paint comes off. What am I doing wrong?

  17. Thanks , I’ve recently been searching for info approximately this subject for ages and yours is the greatest I’ve came upon till now. But, what about the bottom line? Are you sure in regards to the supply?|

  18. I have an old dining room set water damage in some spots, I want to keep the top the oak color witch is stained with a poly over it and paint the chairs with annie sloan paint, any suggestions. I do not want to have to do any stripping if possible.

  19. Thank you for the clear instructions and fantastic job, its absolutely beautiful! I have a large wood dresser that had been stored in a garage through one winter. I don’t know what kind of wood is under the existing paint. Also, a lot of that paint is flaking off, should I sand all the old paint off prior to applying the chalk paint?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *