top of page

How to DIY a Shabby Chic Nightstand

Title Image

What is shabby chic? Shabby chic is an interior design style that embraces furniture and furnishing with a worn, aged appearance. Like farmhouse it's loved for its informal and timeworn/eclectic look, and use of layered paint and distressed finishes. Most interpretations of shabby chic feature soft textures, lace, ruffle, and burlap textiles, a pastel color palette, vintage florals, and french provincial or antique furniture.

Farmhouse vs. Shabby Chic

So how is shabby chic different from farmhouse? There is no clear line of distinction but it is more of a subsidiary style. Farmhouse has many variations, and shabby chic is one of them.

I like to think of it as the feminine, cottage version of farmhouse. Ultimately it's highlighting the authentic age of an old piece, and giving a new piece the charm and finish of something pleasantly old. Today we are going to focus on a great DIY plan for a nightstand or side table, but of course these concepts can be applied to any furniture makeover. Check out my Nightstand Pinterest board for inspiration.

Pinterest Board Makeover Ideas | Nightstands and Side Tables

Shabby chic essentials for redesigning furniture:

  • Pieces with soft lines

  • Light, neutral color palette with vintage colored accents

  • Distressing or timeworn look

  • Vintage or vintage inspired hardware

  • Charm

Step 1: Prep Your Furniture

nightstands redesigned (tables before)

Now I am a firm believer in prepping your furniture properly. So how should you prep a piece? Well it depends on the product/s and sometimes the desired finish.

Many chalk-like paint lines suggest a cleaning method but do not require sanding. Some lines suggest a light sanding as well as a thorough cleaning. For me, it's important to read the company’s suggested application method to be certain you will have a lasting finish. Most of the larger boutique paint lines have lots of literature on their websites, as well as ample videos found on YouTube. Annie Sloan has countless videos/tutorials and Miss Mustard Seed writes a wonderful blog addressing the ins and outs of using her paint line.

And since we are talking about prep, it's good to note that when working with existing finishes there will be times when you will not know the complete history of the piece. If products containing silicone dusting powders, oil soaps, or waxes have been previously used on the piece, they may contaminate a new finish and prevent adhesion. Occasionally, a previous wax finish or silicone may be impossible to remove.

Furniture prep supplies:

  • Water

  • Denatured Alcohol

  • Mineral Spirits (when applicable)

  • Ultra Fine Scuff Pads

  • Shop Towels

  • Shellac

  • Bondo

  • Sandpaper: 220 grit

Furniture prep steps:

  1. Remove hardware.

  2. Make any design element modifications if applicable — ie removing any appliques trims moldings etc.

These newer nightstands have great lines, but those wood rails scream 80's. We want an aged look but not dated, so I opted to remove them.

  1. Scrub down with a 50/50 denatured alcohol/water mixture or mineral spirits. If you’re using a solvent-based solution like mineral spirits you will want to follow up with a 50/50 denatured alcohol mixture to remove any residue.

  2. Fill hardware holes and/or repair damage if applicable.

Rail removed and holes filled with Bondo. Tip: When painting, I always use Bondo. It's a two part mix, but it's far superior to wood filler as it is not porous.

  1. Seal filled areas with shellac. You will want to seal the entire surface — for instance, the entire drawer front not just over the spot. Also, if you’re working over a very shiny, smooth surface, you will want to lightly sand with 220-grit sandpaper before you apply shellac. Keep watching for tutorials on how to fill holes like a pro!

Bondo has been sanded and now ready for Shellac. So much better.