DIY Project: Refinishing Furniture with Melanie Stout

by: Melanie Stout

I love to find unique pieces of furniture and refinish and sometimes re-purpose them to add to the cuteness on the planet. I have been refinishing furniture for the better part of 20 years—beginning with the summer of my tenth grade year when I helped refinish a nine piece antique dining set with my mother and aunt. Since then, I have refinished dressers, cabinets, bookcases, chairs and other eccentric home decor items.

For this project, I cajoled my dearest mother out of the vintage green Army Corps trunk she had hiding in the corner of her basement, which was kind of an awesome piece to begin with. We hauled it, all cobwebby and gross, to my car and wrestled it into in the backseat. When I got home my husband looked at me like he thought I’d lost my mind, but after I explained what I was doing with it, he quickly changed his tune and helped me get it prepped for refinishing.

This is what it looked like when we got started, just so you know any starting point is fine:

Here are the materials we used:

1 vintage Army Corps trunk: it is approximately 24wx36lx24h

4 wooden fence post toppers for legs (I chose a rounded design)

4 small blocks of wood approx 2″x 3″ (scrap wood works)

4 washer and bolt sets to fit your chosen legs

Wire brush

Small plastic bucket

Stir stick

Two paintbrushes


1/4+ cup un-sanded grout ( I used biscuit color)


1 quart of Better Homes and Gardens, Charcoal Sketch satin finish

1 quart of Better Homes and Gardens, Antique Lace flat finish

First, I took a wire brush and scrubbed the crazy out of the outside surfaces to remove any rust, dirt, and just overall grossness. Next, dear husband cleaned out the inside, as the lining was torn and musty. He then drilled holes in the corners and installed the wooden legs we picked out at Lowes. The legs were really short fence post tops, but you can use actual furniture legs if you want. Hardware stores usually have a nice selection of shapes and sizes.

Then it was time to paint.  Using a cheap paint brush, I primed the outside of the trunk with a good coat of Kilz and let it sit and dry for a whole day, though you could probably just leave it for an hour or two. I threw that paintbrush away because I never can get Kilz out of the darn things, which is why you want a cheap brush. The following day, we (and by we I mean he, my husband) hauled it out on the back patio and, after some discussion, my husband decided he wanted to do the undercoat of Charcoal Sketch. He put two coats of that paint on the trunk, drying well between each coat. I, of course,  fluttered about giving instructions and stood around looking cute while he painted.

After everything dried, I mixed about half the quart of Antique Lace (white) paint and ¼ cup unsanded grout in a small bucket. MIX WELL. Your mixture should resemble waffle batter when it is mixed. No lumps and smooth but kind of thick.  It is important to use unsanded grout in a base color lightest or nearest to your paint color. Unsanded grout is very fine powder and creates a smooth finish for your paint. Alternatively, you can use Plaster of Paris, but I have had better results with the grout.

Using a dry paint brush, I began painting the trunk. This paint is thick, but it spreads well, so just keep working it with the brush. Also this paint dries fairly quickly, so you need to work efficiently. I mean don’t stop and apply lip gloss or get distracted by your phone during this process. Just get it done.

Apply a second coat after about 20 minutes of drying time.

Allow to dry for at least an hour. Now you can go apply lip gloss or have a glass of wine as a reward. You can even do both if you want. Wine first, then lip gloss.

Finally, after your project is dry, take your sandpaper (fine grit) and begin to sand off the high places to the undercoat of gray. I just distressed the crazy out of my project because I like how it looked. The sanding part is all a matter of personal taste, so just keep going until you get the look you want.






For chalk paint you don’t have to put on a finishing protective coat, but if I were to choose one it would be clear matte spray or clear or white wax formulated for chalk paint projects.

Then we (again I mean he, my husband) moved it into my newly furnished living room. We had a 30 second dance party because it was just so stinking cute. My husband was super impressed and also proud that he gets to claim partial credit for this project. Even though it was my brainchild and my sunburn… whatever. He did do some of the heavy lifting, so I suppose I can share credit with him.



Melanie Stout is a creative force to be reckoned with. In addition to her master’s degree from Arkansas Tech University as a nerdy English major, she loves taking photos, writing, creating original and imaginative works of art, re-purposing antiques, and cooking comfort food. Her bliss is found in helping families capture their most beautiful life’s moments without having to pledge their firstborn in exchange for an excellent mantle-worthy photograph. She is passionate about words: an avid reader, an accomplished writer, and a savvy editor with varied journalistic, technical, and academic writing experience.

J.B. Weisenfels

J.B. Weisenfels is a lifelong resident of the River Valley who serves as Editorial Curator for BSavvy Magazine. She holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing from Spalding University and a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, where she received the Academic Excellence Award for the 2013/2014 academic year. When she is not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, writing, and having long conversations with her two children and all her very excellent friends and family members.

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