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white-y nighties

Truth be told: I’m watching New Girl right now, it’s a Christmas episode, and all I want to do is write a title for this post about how all is calm and all is bright with my vintage white nightstands. Instead, I mentally ripped myself away from all the light/bright/white Christmastime words that I could use and instead came up with a play on tighty whities, so I think we can all agree that was a good move.

Backing it up a bit: I have been on the lookout for some new nightstands since we moved in to the Rosedale apartment. We had mismatched nightstands- one wonky one from Ikea, one cute-but-too-small one from a West Elm Craigslist purchase. They were screwing up the whole serene and calming thing I was going for in the bedroom. I had an idea of what we needed, but hadn’t seen anything in my price point that I liked enough to buy. So, I was just keeping my eyes peeled for the right ones.

ABA Nightstand Numero Uno
Evidence of nightstand numero uno, which now lives as a side table in the study.

Friday of Labor Day weekend, my favorite place where I can’t afford anything, Uptown Modern, had a surprise sidewalk sale. Before the sale, they posted a tiny picture on Instagram where you could really only make out the shape of the nightstands, but the shape alone told me that it was worth making a trip. I was one of the first people there, immediately saw the nightstands, and fainted over how perfect they were….kind of.

Painted MCM Nightstands | Awfully Big Adventure Blog

So, shape-wise: PERFECT. Size: literally perfect. I needed them to be 30″ wide at a max and they are exactly 30″ wide. Functionality: also perfect. Matt uses his nightstand as a dresser, so having drawers was a necessity. Price: awesome. A great deal for what is essentially two small dressers. But the paint: woof. Not in good shape. It was yellowing, knicked, uneven, and just a general mess. Ultimately, the pros outweighed the cons and I decided a little paint job wasn’t going to hold me back.

Then I remembered I have a dog, a small apartment, and no outdoor space large enough to accommodate a painting project. Luckily, it’s 2015 and there are these wonderful things called dog daycares that can take your energetic two-year old dog out of the apartment so that you can paint your perfect nightstands without fear of paint being tracked everywhere. Also, zero-VOC paints are a thing that are real and perfect for projects like this.

mythic non-toxic paintsAnd now, I present to you: a post within a post!

A Quick and Dirty How-To: Painting and Restoring Vintage Furniture

Seriously though, this is very quick and dirty. There are plenty of people that put a lot more time into restoring pieces than I did, and I’m sure it shows. But if you have a piece that doesn’t require too much TLC, this will get you through it.

What You’ll Need:

  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Lint-free towels
  • 180 grit sandpaper
  • Foam roller
  • Paint
  • Contact paper (optional)

Step 1: Dry dust the wood areas with a lint-free towel.

Step 2: Clean the wood with a vinegar solution.

Painted MCM Nightstands | Awfully Big Adventure

Clean the outside and inside of the wood areas with a vinegar solution. I think distilled white vinegar is probably best, but I’m fancy as hell so all I had handy was white whine vinegar and I used that. I mixed about a tablespoon into a cup of water, dipped the lint free towel into the mixture, and wiped down all the wood surfaces. This helps to gently clean, and can help get that musty smell out of vintage furniture.

Step 2: Sand the painted areas with sandpaper.

Painted MCM Nightstands | Awfully Big Adventure

After sanding, I was able to better see the wood underneath the paint. I gave each piece a light sanding just to help rough up the surface so that it would hold onto the paint a bit better.

Step 3: Clean the dust from the sanded areas.

Wipe that shiz downnn. First, wipe down with a dry, lint-free cloth. Then, wipe down with a damp lint-free cloth to make sure you are pulling all the dust off. If dust is left on the surface, the paint won’t be able to stick to the furniture.

Step 4: Paint the painted areas.

Painted MCM Nightstands | Awfully Big Adventure
Left: before paint | Right: after paint

Now the fun, transformative part: Paint! Use a nice foam-roller if you don’t want brushstrokes. I also used a small foam brush for the crevices I couldn’t get to with the foam roller. I did three coats to ensure good coverage, and I probably would have been fine with two.

Note: if you are painting a piece that was already painted, as mine was, you’ll need to do a test to see if it was latex or oil-based paint that was used. Once you know that, you’ll be able to decide what type of paint to buy to paint over it and whether you’ll need a primer or not.

Step 5: Apply contact paper within the drawers. (Optional)

Painted MCM Nightstands | Awfully Big Adventure

So, you obviously don’t have to do this, but I like to because it gives you a smooth, wipeable surface and helps make the piece feel new.

Painted MCM Nightstands | Awfully Big Adventure

They look a million times better after getting a little love! I’m really happy with the simple, bright white and how smoothly the paint applied. They fit the space just perfectly. The paint job only took a couple of hours, which makes me very glad that I didn’t let the project scare me away from what were otherwise the perfect nightstands.

Painted MCM Nightstands | Awfully Big Adventure

If this post has you at all interested in buying some vintage furniture, but you’re like “There’s no way any of that shiz would ever fit in my car!” then I have some good news for you. The nice folks at Buddytruk reached out to tell me about their service, which is basically like Uber except you get a person and a truck to tote around your furniture. It’s an awesome idea and would be perfect for quick trips from vintage shops, estate sales, garage sales, etc.- especially since most of those places want you to haul away your purchases ASAP. Awfully Big Adventure readers can use the code MOLLY20 for 20% off their next Buddytruk. Yay!

What do you think? Would a project hold you back from buying the otherwise perfect piece? Or are you willing to put in some TLC for a great find? Do you read your furniture bedtime stories? I mean…wait…what?



  1. Those really do look fantastic. It think they work because you see the possibility. You know what you’re looking for, and how to make things work.

    Tougher for us without vision, but I can definitely take inspiration from yours.


      Kind words from Big Jim. Thank you 🙂

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