Aged Wood Tutorial

Things with age, character, patina, depth… they’ve so much more to offer.  So much more to tell.  Even if you “fake” it. 😉

Turn flat, lifeless wood into a gorgeous, vintage-looking piece with this easy tutorial!

I started with this little stool from Ikea, and though its finish was sleek and modern, I found the shape charmingly antique.  I couldn’t resist trying the same technique I had used on my old pine box, which I have loved.

Turn flat, lifeless wood into a gorgeous, vintage-looking piece with this easy tutorial!

The process is easy.  You’ll need the following:

  1. a stool (or anything wooden, for that matter)
  2. dark brown stain
  3. vaseline
  4. milk paint* (I used tricycle red by Miss Mustard Seed)
  5. wax (or some other sealant, like polyurethane)

*Milk paint is a unique product.  You can achieve a similar look with other paints (you can seem my tutorial here for achieving the “chippy” look with chalk paint), but milk paint is unique in its vibrant transparency.  Though the color is rich, you can almost see the wood grain peeking through…

Turn flat, lifeless wood into a gorgeous, vintage-looking piece with this easy tutorial!

You begin by staining the wood a dark brown.  In retrospect, I might like the stool even more if I had beaten it up a bit or sanded down some places so they would take the stain and paint differently…  Maybe add a little more texture.  But I can’t complain about the fun of my first staining project with my 3-year-old.  (Don’t you just love kids’ hands?!)

Turn flat, lifeless wood into a gorgeous, vintage-looking piece with this easy tutorial!

Next, add a little vaseline in natural places where the finish would wear: corners, edges, the steps, etc.  Then paint the entire stool with the milk paint.  Finally, use a sanding block or a scraper to lift the paint in places (it should come off wherever you put vaseline, but milk paint has a tendency to chip in other places, too… embrace it!).  Once you like the look, seal the piece with a wax or poly for durability and richness.

Turn flat, lifeless wood into a gorgeous, vintage-looking piece with this easy tutorial!

I love how this kind of finish complements so many types of decor, from traditional to cottage to even sleeker modern (like my file cabinet I did last summer).

Turn flat, lifeless wood into a gorgeous, vintage-looking piece with this easy tutorial!

Since I already had the supplies (I originally bought the milk paint for my husband’s dresser last year), my only cost was the $15 stool.  For an afternoon of fun with my kid and an adorable accent piece (plus a useful way to help my kids wash their hands!), I’d call that a pretty good deal. 😉

Have you made anything new look old?

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  1. wanda ll says:

    What kind of stain did you use that allowed you to work on it the same day? Was it and oil base or water-base?

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Hi Wanda, great question! I used Rustoleum’s stain (in Kona) that says it’s ready for a top coat in 1 hour. It’s oil based, but I figured that if it could take poly in one hour, then paint was probably ok, too. :)

  2. Hi Rachel! I really appreciate this tutorial and am going to feature it on my ‘Weekly Wonders’ blog post tomorrow morning. Thanks so much for sharing! ~Lisa

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Oh Lisa, I’m so honored! So glad you like the tutorial and thank you so much for featuring it!! Hope you have a wonderful week. :)

  3. I love these little stool/steps from Ikea, you have really transformed it. (and everything is better red in my humble opinion!)

  4. Love the red. This turned out really cute! Saying hello from Make it pretty monday!
    leelee @

  5. Just adorable. you did a great job.
    Here from Tweak it…

  6. I have one of these stools that is similar but it’s an old one and very dark wood. I love what you did with this one. Thanks for the inspiration. Linda

  7. Love the red and what you did–Great job!

  8. I love this idea and the stool turned out so pretty. Thanks tons for linking to Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty

  9. So pretty Rachel- I love the way the milk paint looks – such a different feel. I have to try it one of these days!!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thanks, Krista! I do think you’d love milk paint… You’ll have to let me know when you give it a try!

  10. It turned out fabulous – you’d never know it was new from Ikea !!!

  11. This is great, I have this same step and I’ve never done anything with it. It’s still the plain wood and it’s all stained and “dirty” looking. This wood be a great way to do it and looks easy(ish).
    Crafty Chic

  12. I love, love, love, love this stool! I am in love with the colors! LOVE milk paint!

  13. What a beauty! I love the color of red that it ended up being, too. Thanks for sharing at our link it or lump it party!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you so much, Amy! The color is great, isn’t it? Thanks for hosting and for your sweet comment!

  14. So, I have this same ikea step stool for about 6 years and i like it but it so boring. I am definitively going to try this right after I complete the whitewashed curtain rods which I am super excited about. The one probably silly question I have is whether I can stain this stool in its complete form without having to take it apart and put it back together again?


    • Rachel Paxton says:

      It’s not a silly question at all. The only thing about the old stool is that it will likely have various oils from use that have seeped into the wood, so I would suggest a light sanding to prep the surface to take the stain. Sanding is easier on flat surfaces (which you’ll have if you take it apart), but not required. I hope this helps!

  15. Judy Tressler says:

    How do you keep the vaseline out of your paint and paintbrush? When you brush over the vaseline it is going to get in the brush and then in the paint can! I love the color and the stool looks awesome. I just worry about how to keep the vaseline out of my paint and ruining my paint job! Thanks for your time. Judy Tressler

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Great question. :) I generally paint from a disposable cup. With milk paint, in particular, you mix the paint from powder, so you are only working with the amount you will use. Even with other paints, though, I usually pour into a plastic cup to avoid contaminating the can. And the vaseline shouldn’t be too goopy. It’s a thin layer – just enough to keep the paint from sticking. I hope this helps!

  16. sonya tartt says:

    Did you use the poly or wax or both on the stool since it gets used a lot.

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      I just used wax because it was a distressed look anyway, so I wasn’t too worried about wear. It has held up very well for a few years… until I spilled white paint all over it last week. Oops! Otherwise, it was great. 😉


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