A Set of Maple Nightstands Gets a China Blue Milk Paint Makeover!

China Blue is one of the newer colors in the General Finishes Milk Paint line that I recently brought into my inventory.

China Blue Milk Paint Color Chip

It’s brighter and more vibrant than its darker cousin, Coastal Blue.

Coastal Blue Milk Paint Color Chip

When this pair of maple nightstands came to my workshop, it was time to crack open a can of this vibrant shade of blue!

Pair of nightstands salvaged from a vintage desk
Pair of maple nightstands painted in China Blue Milk Paint by General Finishes

Salvaging Nightstands from a Vintage Kneehole Style Desk

Pairs of nightstands are very hard for me to find in my area. If I do find a set, they’re either from the 1980’s ad dated or too expensive to refinish and resell. To work around that problem, I often look for kneehole style desks and vintage vanities instead. I split them in half to make a pair of nightstands!

Here are a few that have left my workshop in 2020. These were all created from desks.

Nightstands in Typewriter by Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint
Nightstands painted in Brushable White Enamel tinted to Antique White, Van Dyke Brown Glaze Effects, General Finishes, Satin, High Performance Topcoat, Eight Hundred Furniture, Antique Walnut
Nightstands in Antique White Milk Paint by General Finishes with VanDyke Brown Glaze
Side view of Nightstands in Empire Gray Milk Paint, Ash Gray Gel Stain, Van Dyke Brown Glaze Effects by General Finishes, Eight Hundred Furniture
Pair of Nightstands in Empire Gray Milk Paint by General Finishes

The trick with turning a desk into a set of nightstands is that you have to repair the sides where you split the piece in half. You can see some of the repair work that was done on my maple nightstands in this photo.

Side view of maple nightstands salvaged from a vintage desk

The other trick is that you often need to take the top of the desk and cut it in half as well. It might need to be re-shaped to look good.

Before image of China Blue Nighstands

I have a very good friend who is a talented carpenter and I ask him to do that work for me. He has a router, pocket joint kit and all of the other tools needed to make these types of pieces look good again. So rather than try to do everything myself, I outsource them to someone who has that skill set.

Prepping the Nightstands

I’m ALWAYS asked whether you need to prep if you’re going to use General Finishes Milk Paint products. The answer is YES! You should never skip prep work no matter what kind of paint you’re using. I’m a huge proponent of prepping. Some paint lines on the market today say you don’t have to prime or sand when you use their products. That statement is very misleading because you should never skip prep work. It’s your insurance policy against trouble down the road. It’s 5-10 minutes of your time that will save you hours potentially in the long run. Why not put in the time up front to save yourself the headaches that may come later?

Okay, I’m off my soapbox!

Whenever you’re going to paint a piece with General Finishes Milk Paint, you should follow these steps:

A 50|50 mix of denatured alcohol and water is their cleaner of choice because it does not contain phosphates, is inexpensive, readily available and does not require rinsing (unlike TSP). It’s compatible with any type of paint you apply next (whether it be oil or water based), unlike Mineral Spirits. You should not wipe a piece down with Mineral Spirits (which is oil based) if you’re going to follow up with a water based paint, like General Finishes Milk Paint.

I also like to use 400 grit sandpaper or a 220 grit sanding pad (yes, there’s a difference) to prep sand my pieces. Prep sanding is not what most people picture in their head when they hear “sanding”. It’s a quick once over to gently scratch up the surface and break the seal on the existing finish. Your goal is NOT to remove the existing finish. You’re NOT taking it to the bare wood. You’re just doing a really quick scuff to further clean the piece.

Again, this whole process should take 5-10 minutes.

Applying China Blue Milk Paint by General Finishes

After prepping, I applied 2 coats of China Blue Milk Paint by General Finishes.

Pint of China Blue Milk Paint by General Finishes

General Finishes Milk Paint is a dream to work with. It’s self-leveling which means you don’t have any brushstrokes, VOC compliant so it won’t smell up your home and exterior and interior rated, which means it can go outside. General Finishes Milk Paint is a great option to use if you’re brand new to refinishing furniture or if you want a clean full-coverage look.

Glazing with Burnt Umber Glaze Effects by General Finishes

Once the China Blue Milk Paint was dry, I applied a glaze of Burnt Umber Glaze Effects.

Burnt Umber Glaze Effects is a caramel colored glaze that added some warmth without taking the nightstands in the “antiqued dark” direction. It’s a color that I don’t use often, but it’s so pretty when I do! The effect is subtle but it added a lovely warmth and glow to the overall finish.

Hepplewhite handles on nightstands painted in China Blue Milk Paint by General Finishes, Eight Hundred Furniture

For help on glazing, you can watch these videos:


Staging the Nightstands

When it came time to stage my nightstands, I used some props I found on my last trip to Morgantown Market. They were the perfect accents for my “beauty shots”!

Maple nightstands painted in China Blue Milk Paint by General Finishes Milk Paint, Eight Hundred Furniture

The antique sifters, amber bottles, beautiful crock, straw hat and dress form all came from some of my favorite dealers!

Some gold spray paint spruced up the original Hepplewhite drawer pulls.

Hepplewhite handles on nightstands painted in China Blue Milk Paint by General Finishes, Eight Hundred Furniture

The tops of the washstands were completely sanded down and stained fresh using Nutmeg Gel Stain.

Nutmeg Gel Stained tops sealed in High Performance Topcoat in Satin, Eight Hundred Furniture

Just like its autumnal spice namesake, Nutmeg Gel Stain has a beautiful warmth to it. I thought this stain color would compliment the China Blue Milk Paint and allow the maple grain to show through. It’s a very lovely combination!

Sprucing Up the Drawers

The drawers of my nightstands were in good shape structurally. They were a bit dirty, so I gave them a scrub down using Krud Kutter.

After allowing them to dry, my Mom helped me cut out drawer liner for each one. Luckily, all of the drawers are the same size, so it was relatively easy!

Lined drawers on maple nightstands, Eight Hundred Furniture

This liner is from Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman. You can pick it up at your local Walmart in the kitchen aisle. She named it “Sweet Rose”.

Lining drawers is a quick and easy way to add a nice little surprise in your pieces.

Lined drawer inside of nightstands painted in Empire Gray Milk Paint, stained with Ash Gray Gel Stain and Van Dyke Brown Glaze Effects by General Finishes, Eight Hundred Furniture

I usually don’t make my liners permanent by applying adhesive to them. This gives some freedom to whoever buys my pieces to swap it out if they don’t care for the pattern.

Lined drawer of antique dresser sealed in Hemp Oil

The paper I use is typically wrapping paper. I don’t tend to spend a lot on fancy drawer liners because I sell most of the furniture I refinish. If the new owner is just going to swap it out, I don’t want it to be something I spend a lot of money on. Plus, wrapping paper looks just as good!

Drawer lined in navy paper on Boxwood makeup vanity

My Nightstands Stay in the Family

This weekend, my sister came over to visit with my family. She saw the nightstands hanging out in my storage area (aka the dining room) and loved them. After making sure they fit in her sitting room, she purchased them!

This evening, she texted me this photo of them proudly accenting her shiplap wall and flanking her gray upholstered sofa.

My sister and brother-in-law are Penn State University alumni, so China Blue is the perfect Nittany Lion shade for their home!

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I'm Jenn Baker - Milk Paint lover, photographer, blogger, and QVC Guest Host. Click below to learn more about me and my creative business.  LEARN MORE ABOUT JENN

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