Nightstand – Creating a Story


I’m becoming obsessed with selling off our generic Tyler-Durden-esque Scandinavian furniture and replacing it with pieces that evoke emotion. Ikea furniture has no soul. The only story you can possibly tell when discussing a laminate coffee table is how easy it was to get to the house in a flat box and what a pain in the ass it was to assemble. I want more. I want a connection. A history. Something that required a bit of thinking and a bit of work. And I want it to be cheaper than Ikea.

A logical choice is to start making furniture with my own hands. This requires skills, tools and time and I only have 2 out of 3.

With that limitation in mind I’m concentrating on refurbishing. It’s fast, easy and relatively cheap, especially if you already have the thing that can be refurbished. Luckily our college-day laminate furniture is supplemented by solid wood pieces that we inherited from the relatives. Most of these pieces are in bad shape from many years of use, storage, moves and the lack of TLC.

Take this nightstand for example. My wife remembers it from her early childhood as a side stand and then a TV stand. When we bought our gigantic 5-bedroom house the nightstand made its way into one of the rooms where it sat unused for a couple of years while we were trying to catch our breath from the avalanche of parenthood.

Sad, sad sight…  


Recently this whole parenting thing started to get a bit easier. We can talk with our toddler and expect to receive an intelligent reply. He can poop in the toilet by himself. These two things that mean absolutely nothing to someone without children are absolutely mind-blowing to a parent with a young kid. Or maybe it’s just us.

Here is another example of how parenting hits you like a sack of potatoes. The walls in the nursing room are freshly painted. There is a nice curtain rod and hand-made curtains. There is a colorful decal over a fancy crib along with a matching glider and dresser.  The nursery room can be featured in the Decor for Mommies magazine.

That was all done before our son was born.

About a year ago he moved into the “big boy room”. The walls were painted 8 years ago by a sloppy contractor that was asked to freshen up the house with neutral paint. Cheap builder-grade venetian blinds adorn the window. A hand-me-down mattress sits on a cheap metal frame. A hand-me-down dresser and a hand-me-down side stand are the only other pieces of furniture. Very utilitarian and functional but a 180 from his previous digs. Not like he cares of course.  

The point is, I finally feel like I can sneak an hour here and there to do things that I like. When I tried my hand at refurbishing the dining room table I liked the result so much that I started looking for other things that can become a story.

The old nightstand seemed like a perfect candidate to be reborn into a useful yet decorative piece to spruce up the big boy room. Shall we?

The first step is to strip the old stain and sealer using my trusty sander. Sure you could do it by hand but who wants to spend hours on sanding instead of 20 minutes start to finish? I like my sander in particular because not only it does a great job at sanding but it can also get your car paint looking brand new without any elbow grease. I also picked up this hook and loop pad and some compatible sandpaper. After I finished sanding the nightstand looked like this:


As you can see I stripped pretty much all the stain and sealer from the top and the front of the drawer while not bothering doing as much sanding everywhere else. The reason for this is that I wanted to do a two-tone job like I did on the dining table. I really like the contrast and how that makes furniture pop.

I stained the top with 4 coats of high quality polyurethane waiting for each coat to dry before applying the next one. I used disposable foam brushes that make applying polyurethane simple and smooth.

While each coat of polyurethane was drying I painted the rest of the nightstand using black furniture paint. You would think that any black paint would do but in my experience using this furniture paint is key in achieving a nice looking piece. A quart of furniture paint will be enough to do several projects. I painted a big dresser and this nightstand and still have more than half of the quart can left.

Here is how it came out  in the end – I think it looks pretty good especially compared to what we started with! As always it looks even better in person because it’s hard to convey the depth and color that a good polyurethane will bring out.



After letting the nightstand sit outside for a while and making sure it no longer smells I put it in our son’s room:


It’s a small step in making the big boy room a bit less generic and a bit more custom. I’m currently working on making a matching headboard out of reclaimed wood, so the room is coming along.

My son watched me working on the nightstand and if you ask him he’ll excitedly tell you that “My Papa made it!”

Maybe not quite… but I’m not going to correct him.


2 thoughts on “Nightstand – Creating a Story

  1. I am with you on avoiding Ikea – I have been into an Ikea once… that was enough for me! The nightstand looks fantastic – once again I am impressed with your DIY skills! The other thing to do is keep an eye out at car boot sales / Flea markets / yard sales (not quite sure what you would refer tot hem!) – every so often you can find a piece really cheaply that someone bought for an unknown reason and doesnt want anymore – then you can make it your own too!

    • You can always find some nice solid furniture that’s been neglected and pay very little. A little elbow grease and it will look better and last longer than the particle board pieces sold as furniture nowadays. We’ve inherited a bunch of older furniture when my mother-in-law sold her house so I’ve got plenty to refurbish already – if only I can find some time! Thanks for the compliment on the nightstand. It was super easy and anyone can do it!

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