If you enjoy giving old furniture new life, check out what we did to this workbench. This is a furniture makeover for the ages, and here’s how we did it!
There are so many titles I could’ve given this post like, “How To Clean Old Furniture” or, “How To Sand Vintage Wood.” Or even, “A Guide For Husbands: How To Deal With A Thrift-Crazed Wife.” 😂
But those just didn’t convey my delight with this project!
Furniture Makeover Ideas Can Come At Random Times
There’s a local thrift store in Dallas that I love. They post their new items on their Facebook page so you can glance through them. Then if you see something you love, drop everything and run to the store before someone else grabs it.
Not long ago, Scott and I were in the car leaving Home Depot (where else?) and I happened to be doing a search through the thrift shop’s album on Facebook.
At first, I was half paying attention to Facebook and talking to Scott when all of a sudden, my eyes focused and widened and I stopped mid-sentence. “TURN RIGHT! TURN RIGHT!” I shrieked.
Poor Scott. Thank goodness he’s so patient and always up for going along with my wild whims.
As we headed to the thrift store, I explained that I had found a vintage workbench for sale in their album for a steal. Scott, being the practical one asked, “What will you do with it?”
“Scott,” I said, staring at him in disbelief. “What wouldn’t you do with a vintage workbench? We could put it in the pantry or in the kitchen in the empty corner, or in the guest room, or if nothing else, it can be a workbench in the garage, duh!”
When we arrived, the sweet-looking teenager working the counter probably thought I was crazy when I burst in and said between gasps, “Workbench?!” She directed me to the back of the store.
There it was.
Scott wasn’t as sure, but he was willing. We paid for it and made arrangements to pick it up later in the week. I remembered to take measurements so I could start planning where to put the new star of our house. I believed in that bench.
A few days later, we went back to pick up the bench, took it home, and carried it up the driveway (no easy feat!).
The Greatest Of All Our Furniture Makeovers Begins
Have you ever started a project and thought, “OMG I’m a genius,” and then about halfway through you’re thinking, “Why why why?!”
I have. And this project is just one example.
Here’s how we did it.
This thing was really vintage with tons of spider webs, dirt, and dust. It took us a good hour of cleaning to get it cleaned off.
Then, we used sandpaper to smooth out the top and bottom surfaces.
While I did the sanding, Scott was busy removing all the random pieces attached to it that we didn’t want. Then we had to clean it off (again.)
But check out this gorgeous distressed wood… it got prettier and prettier as we worked!
We’re both totally smitten with the awesome vintage clamp, so we decided to keep that on.
Next, just to be sure, we sanded the workbench even more. Just keep on sanding, even when it feels like your arms are falling off.
Yep, furniture makeover projects like this one require elbow grease. 😉
The top and bottom were too beautiful and rustic for that ugly tan color of the metal legs, so I wanted to spray paint them to give our furniture makeover a very clean and finished look.
Luckily, I had a can of matte black spray paint from Rust-Oleum handy and decided to use that for the table legs.
Funny enough, spider webs were nothing compared to the planning, time, and effort it took us to figure out how to protect all the wood pieces from spray paint. 😂
That took about two hours of work. After wrapping, taping, and flipping the piece upside down and right-side up, it was spray-painting time!
Luckily, the actual spray painting part itself wasn’t so bad.
I highly recommend grabbing one of these comfort grips for your spray can like we used. It makes big spray paint jobs less stressful on your hands and fingers!
After about 3 coats of coverage, I called it quits.
Then I waited about 30 minutes before very carefully pulling off all the tape and plastic wrap so I could work on the top and bottom wooden shelf.
Don’t those legs look amazing?
We chose to use shellac to coat the top and bottom to finish our furniture makeover. It took three thin layers on each, with about 30 minutes to dry in between coats.
Shellac is non-toxic when it’s dry. I love using it on our furniture because I feel much better about having a food-safe top in our home.
We let the shellac dry another couple of hours, and then I couldn’t wait any longer!
It gave our workbench a gorgeous, rich, slightly glossy finish that I absolutely love!
Finding The Perfect Spot For Our Furniture Makeover Final Product
Initially, I wanted to put the workbench in the butler’s pantry, but it was far too big for that space.
Plan B was to put it in the random empty corner in our kitchen that I can never figure out what to do with.
First, we tried it under the shelves we had added a few months ago.
It looked good, but I was worried it obstructed the walking path too much.
And, I love how we left the clamp on for this furniture makeover, but I didn’t like how it was something I would most likely run into a few times a day in this spot. 😉
So, I crossed my fingers real tight and told Scott I wanted to try it under the window—just to see. And what do you know?
It fit like a glove.
I am SO HAPPY with this furniture makeover project.
This is now our new favorite piece of furniture in the house. The wood is so gorgeously distressed and we have a new functional piece for our kitchen!
We have already used it a ton: for cutting veggies (we still use a cutting board, of course!), folding laundry, unloading groceries, and as a backdrop for photos.
It could even function as a desk if we need it to!
I’ve even had a few smart Instagram followers notice the wood and wonder what it was. Now you all know.
I love how the wood and concrete countertops look together. I also love how perfectly the floors go with the workbench.
This was the best DIY furniture makeover project ever! There was definitely a point in the middle where I thought I was out of my mind, but in the end, it was 100% worth it.
Let’s look at one more before-and-after just for fun!
Isn’t it pretty? I could stare at it all day.
Have you all ever started a project and wanted to quit? Did you? I certainly have. But I’m glad I didn’t on this one!
Furniture Makeover FAQs
Here are a few questions that I’ve seen readers frequently ask about a furniture makeover project like this one. If you have a question and don’t see it answered below, please leave it in the comments!
If you don’t have shellac or don’t intend to use your furniture makeover final product in your kitchen, a water-based polyurethane could be a great alternative.
We always start with coarse sandpaper, such as a 60 grit, with an item as rough as this was.
After going over it and stripping off the old finish, we used 120 grit to remove small imperfections and begin smoothing it out.
Finally, we finished our sanding job with 400 grit to give our workbench a beautifully smooth finish.
More Wood Furniture Makeover DIYs
Tania Griffis is an accomplished writer, blogger, and interior designer with a Journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. She started her popular blog, Run to Radiance, in 2011, demonstrating her design expertise through the personal remodeling of six houses to millions of readers across the globe.
Tania also owns The Creative Wheelhouse, a respected ghostwriting agency for bloggers, further showcasing her talent for creating engaging and informative content.