How to make money refinishing vintage furniture

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Milk paint & DIY Wood Stain Vintage Dresser Make Over

It has been awhile since I have refinished a piece of furniture. I love creating and working with my hands it clears my mind. I like to find a good audio book, grab my sander and paint brush, then dive in. I recently acquired a vintage dresser to refinish and sell. 

This is a great way to decorate your own home on a budget or earn some cash, and who couldn’t use extra cash?

My recent single mom predicament has left me inspired. I recently bought a “new to me” car to replace my high mileage truck. I had the misfortune of buying from a not so honest seller, which has left me with a gigantic mechanic bill. So, here I am inspired.

If you could use extra cash or want an eye-catching piece for your own home. Then scavenge Craigslist, thrift stores, and usually the best deals are found at yard sales. If you notice a dresser has been sitting on Craigslist for over 2 weeks send them an email or text, and offer your own price. Often, they are tired of storing it and you will end up with a killer deal. Price greatly depends on area and if it’s an antique.

When buying vintage furniture, inspect it well. Take out all the draws. Does it have all its parts? Are any of the draw tracks missing or broken? Do the draws slide well? All these things can be fixed, but will cost you extra time, money, and sometimes a headache.

This is a vintage dresser from a thrift store. I will list it for $550. Don’t be afraid to reimburse yourself for materials and your time. If you don’t pay yourself for your time and creative genius, what’s the point?

This dresser took me a week to finish, in between everything else. Then you must stage, promote, and I offer delivery. This all costs you time.

Alright now to the fun stuff….




1. Sanding

Well this part I don’t like, but I sanded the top completely to showcase the chunky wood, and a very light sanding on the rest of the dresser, just enough to roughen up the clear coat.


2. DIY Wood Stain

I absolutely love DIY stain, its cheap, easy, and no nasty off-gassing. I have used it everywhere. My daughter’s playhouse porch, outdoor swing, even my wood floors throughout my house.


1 steel wool pad

½ gallon vinegar (I use the cheap white vinegar for $2)

Brew 1+ days (4+ days is quite dark)


The age of the vinegar brew, age of wood, and type of wood all will yield variations in color. Try out a small test area first. My stain was a few weeks old left over from other projects. It typically will have a dark reddish color when applied. If you want a grey or black look, follow with applying brewed tea. I brewed black tea and applied it over the vinegar stain. The longer the vinegar brewed, the more blackened the color will become when it reacts with the tea.

DIY Wood Stain


3. Milk paint

I discovered milk paint when I was pregnant. The hardware stores have low to no VOC paints, but they still have warning labels on the side. I didn’t feel comfortable using these products on the crib or while I was pregnant. Anyhow I fell in love with the stuff. It’s a bit different to work with but not difficult.

I absolutely love its velvety flat finish. It has a timeless look and maintains the elegance of antique pieces. I used Driftwood from the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company. Their paint is the first USDA certified bio-based paint. It is truly non-toxic. It is a historic paint recipe made from milk protein, lime, and earth or mineral pigments. This may sound like a sales pitch, I receive no incentive. Just really love the stuff. It comes in a powder, so you just mix it with water when you’re ready to use it. This is great when you live in cold areas and your paint is ruined by outdoor freezing temperatures.

Since I didn’t sand thoroughly and the surface was still slick I added extra bond. With extra bond milk paint will stick to even laminate. I used it on my laminate kitchen cabinets and it has held up well.

Tip: Mix a batch large enough to finish your product. As mixing more later and doing touch ups can sometimes cause uneven colors and will require painting the entire thing over.


4. Eco-sealer 

I like Safe-Coat Acri-glaze in Matte. It has a flat finish that doesn’t hide the velvety beauty of milk paint. It doesn’t off gas and give me a headache either. I used this sealer on my kitchen cabinets, it’s tough.


5. Black Glaze

Glaze Recipe:

2 tb spoon of black milk paint into about

1/3 cup of tung oil

Apply with lint free rag and go as heavy or light as you want.


I applied it everywhere. This darkened the chunky wood top significantly. This was an after-thought as unfortunately my daughter came by and rubbed the vinegar stain on the draw front. I did not want to repaint, so I wiped it off best I could and camouflaged the oopsie with black glaze. The tung oil did change the finish from velvety flat to a glossy sheen.

Tung Oil


6. Pulls & Knobs

Hardware is pricey, so I often will refinish the knobs too. These were your typical dated looking brass knobs. I refinished with Rustoleum Hammered flat nickel, then applied the tea stain. Followed by a light sanding with 220 grit. The sanding removes the shine if you are after a more aged finish. I don’t like using non-eco products, but unfortunately there’s no silver metallic option with milk paint.



Staging is important. Take a picture with good lighting. Natural light is best, often our house lights especially the fluorescence really distorts color. Most important is don’t have a bunch clutter in the background. Put the piece against a pretty wall in your home, stage it with interesting collectibles. I have been contacted by people wanting to buy the staging items. This is good, it means the photo was eye catching.

Then list it, try different avenues. Craigslist, LetGo, Facebook. We have several furniture consignments but they often take up to 40% of the sale price. I too will deliver as I live out in the country. The more convenient it is for them to buy, the easier and quicker it will sell. This too will cost you time.

Whether it’s for yourself or someone else, have fun and let your creative energy flow. Are you inspired to refinish some furniture and breathe new life into vintage pieces? I would love to hear of your creations or ideas.


Stay inspired

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