How to Give Old Furniture a Modern Look with Chalk Paint®

Admittedly, I don’t do many modern pieces.  I’m more of a vintage/distressed kinda girl.  I had a friend ask me to paint this piece for her in a more modern or “full coverage” look recently, so I thought I’d share a few tips on how to give old furniture a modern look using one of my favorite, go-to paints, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®.

How To Give Furniture a Modern Look with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

It’s relatively easy to update your furniture by following a few steps.  In this case, I’m updating a dresser, so there are a few extra steps.  If you’re just looking to update a piece of furniture and don’t have to replace any hardware, you can skip to the bottom of the post where I share some painting tips.

Supplies to Modernize FurnitureWhat you’ll need:


epoxy putty

wood filler

sanding sponge (or electric sander)

drawer template (or measuring tape) and pencil

drill and drill bits

new hardware

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®, clear wax, and brushes

.  .  .

Here is a before and after of the piece I worked on.  It was in great condition, but definitely needed some updating.

Create a Modern Finish with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Here’s how to achieve a modern look on your furniture.

1. Remove old hardware with a screwdriver.

2. Following the instructions on the package, fill old hardware holes with epoxy putty.  On a lot of older pieces of furniture, for some reason, they used larger drawer pulls.  The pulls on this piece were 4.5″ wide and it’s hard to find that size these days, so I filled in the holes so I could use new, more modern pulls.

This putty is so cool!  It’s definitely worth having on hand if you ever repair furniture.  When it dries is just as hard as wood, if not harder.  We’ve actually rebuilt part of a leg on a buffet with it!

Fill Old Drawer Pull Holes with Epoxy Putty

3. Fill in any other holes, gashes, or gouges on the piece so that the piece is nice and smooth when you paint.  There were a couple spots from the knobs that I wanted to fill, so I used wood filler on them.  I just put it on with my finger and let it dry.

Fill in Scratches, Divits, etc.

4. After the wood filler and epoxy putty have had time to dry, use a sanding sponge (or electric sander) to sand the drawers smooth.

5. Buy new hardware for your piece and note the size.  This will be important when you drill new holes in your piece.

6. Using a pencil and drawer template (or measuring tape), measure and mark where you want to mount your hardware.  If you have a raised drawer like this, I’d suggest using the template/measuring on the inside of your drawer.  It’s a flat surface, so your measurements will be more accurate.  (I figured the out after I did it this way!)

Measure Holes for New Hardware

7. Grab your drill bits and find one that is a little larger in diameter of the screws that came with your new hardware.  Attach the drill bit to your drill and drill the previously marked holes.  I actually had to use a couple drill bits because I stared out too small, but I’d much rather have to move up a size or two than have a huge hole!

Drilling New Holes in Drawers

Now you’re done with the hardware and it’s time to paint.  (I jumped the gun a little and did a coat of paint early!)

8. Paint your piece with one coat of Chalk Paint® making sure to use long, even strokes to achieve a smooth finish.  Once the first coat is dry, lightly sand all flat surfaces with a fine sanding sponge – probably around a 220 grit.

9. Repeat step 8.

10. If you still have a little bit of wood showing through here and there (which will happen more if you paint a light color on a dark piece or vice versa), pour a little chalk paint into a plastic cup and mix in a bit of water to thin it out.  Paint the whole piece with your watered down paint and smooth out brush strokes.  This step will help you get a nice, clean finish with out globbing on another whole coat of paint.  This is actually my favorite step.  I tried different techniques and this one was my favorite by far.  It gives a really great finished look to your furniture.

11. Very lightly sand the flat surfaces with a fine sanding sponge.

12. Apply a coat of clear wax, making sure not to let it set too long before wiping the excess off.

13. Once the wax has dried for a few hours – or even over night – take a lint free cloth and buff the whole piece to give it a slight sheen.  The more you buff, the more shiny – and modern – your piece will look.

Create a Modern Finish with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Create a Modern Finish with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Create a Modern Finish with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Create a Modern Finish with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Create a Modern Finish with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

A few notes . . .

* I painted this dresser in Cream by ASCP because it was a custom piece, but to get an even more modern look, choose a bold color like Emperor’s Silk, Napoleonic Blue, English Yellow, Antibes Green or Barcelona Orange.

* Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® is very easy to distress.  It also shows faint brush strokes even after sanding.  Those are some of the reasons I love it so much.  This can, however, make it more difficult to achieve a modern finish.  If you really want a super modern look, I would recommend using latex paint in a paint sprayer.  (Make sure to prime first!)

* Finally, I could have made this piece even more updated by filling in the details on the top drawers.  To do that, I would use epoxy putty or wood filler like we did above.  Wait for it dry, then sand it flat.

Here are a few more projects from around the web that have created a modern finish with chalk paint.

Napoleonic Blue Dresser from Centsational Girl

Napoleonic Blue Dresser from Centsational Girl

Table and Chairs by The Rustic Pig

Table and Chairs from The Rustic Pig

English Yellow Side Table from Annie Sloan Unfolded

English Yellow Side Table from Annie Sloan Unfolded

Cream Nightstand from The Golden Sycamore

Cream Nightstand from The Golden Sycamore

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I hope this post gives you a little encouragement to update your old pieces in a modern way.  And I must say, I’m pretty proud of myself.  I usually ask my hubby for help with drills, but I did this whole project all by myself!  (Pats self on back!)  :)

Interested in more tips using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®?  Check out this post.

To see more pieces I’ve painted, check out my project gallery.

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  1. Margaret Derbyshire says

    Enjoyed reading about your experiences with Annie Sloan paints. Could you please tell me if you have tried to remove wax from furniture so that you can either distress more or paint more? Is there an easy way to do this. I would really appreciate your advice ? Thank you

    • Allison @ The Golden Sycamore says

      Hi Margaret! I’m not sure I totally understand what you’re asking. If you’ve already waxed, you can still distress more. Just add a little more wax to those areas after you distress to protect them again. If you want to paint over wax, you can use ASCP without removing the wax! That’s one of the beauties of this paint! If you want to use a different paint, though, you’ll probably have to remove the wax or at least sand it a bit and then prime it before painting. I’ve sanded wax totally off and it was a total pain. I have heard that you can use mineral spirits to remove it, but haven’t tried it yet. If you try that method, do it in a small, inconspicuous spot to see how it works first. Good luck with your projects!

    • Allison @ The Golden Sycamore says

      Thanks Kirby! You’re so right!! I’m working on another one and cringing at the thought! Tutorials are so rewarding – I love helping people – but they take!! 😉

  2. Linda says

    I just found á cute desk I want to chalk paint a butter creamy white. My problem is the piece is torquiose blue. I’m thinking of distressing ot bit I don’t want the blue to show through. What can I do?

    • Allison @ The Golden Sycamore says

      Linda – you can sand the paint off in the spots you’ll want to later distress – edges, corners, etc. – before you paint so that the turquoise won’t show through. Hope that helps!

  3. Debbie says

    I have just done my first piece of furniture. I came to do a second coat but found the paint rubbing up. Should you always sand before applying a second coat.

    • Allison @ The Golden Sycamore says

      That’s strange, Debbie. Do you just wipe your hand across it and it comes off? You shouldn’t have to sand between coats, but you may want to sand the whole thing before adding a second coat. Sorry that is happening. I’ve never had that problem.

  4. says

    Would like to know why my kitchen cupboards are not coming out smooth. The paint always leaves lines. It seems like the paint sets to fast to level properly. I need help. Also ,do you sand between waxing coats?

    • Allison @ The Golden Sycamore says

      Sorry for the delay, Catherine. I just saw your comment. Try watering the paint down a little. Also, make sure to sand between coats of paint – but NOT between waxing coats. Best of luck!

  5. Lisa says

    Just wondering how durable Chalk paint would be for dining table & chairs or even cupboards… Whatda think?

    • Allison @ The Golden Sycamore says

      Hi Lisa! Chalk paint is very durable, it’s more the finish that you have to worry about. I would probably use a couple coats of polyurethane/polycrylic on a table top, but I’ve used wax on my chalk painted kitchen cabinets and they have held up great.

  6. BlackBird says

    Great tutorial. I bought a little night stand that looks a lot like your orig dresser here, but I want paint it and use it as a stand for my lap top. I’d like to wax most of the piece, but I’m thinking the top should be something else, to stand up to the pc sliding around and the heat it gives up. Does anyone have any experience or thoughts about that?

  7. Yhess says

    Hi I love your project for cream furniture I am trying to do the same on my old furniture and I tried putting the first coat but it seems not to cover the cherry dark wood completely. Like the paint isn’t sticking too well. And I can see see strikes from the brush…..not sure if it’s the type of brush I am using? Could you help me??

    • Yhess says

      And now the top of my desk is leftover with unfinished chalkpaint half way through because I gave up since I wasn’t getting a full cover up and smooth finish. Since the look that I want is modern.
      What can I do .. Should I sand down what I already painted and start all over again…. Or strip the chalk paint?

  8. Jean says

    Just found your site, love your makeovers!
    What color did you use on the table & chairs? I have a tabletop with a deep gouge in it so it will never sand out so I need to look at painting instead of staining the driftwood color I wanted :(

    Thanks for your help!


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