before and after

before & after: for all the wood-lovers

by Grace Bonney

i can think of no better way to kick off before & after day than with a gorgeous makeunder from d*s reader lauren g. for all of the people who panic whenever wood is painted, this one’s for you.

lauren was lucky enough to inherit some beautiful mahogany furniture from her neighbor but was bummed to see it had been painted over with a green antiqued finish that was chipped and worn. determined to reveal the beauty of the original wood, lauren stripped and refinished each piece to bring back the natural shine of the mahogany. even though i’m not in the “never paint wood camp”, i am firmly in support of projects like that where someone puts time and effort in to restore something to its original glory. well done, lauren!

[have a before & after you’d like to share on d*s? just shoot me an email right here with your images!]


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  • Gwaaah, so pretty! Thanks for sharing. I look at those lovely pieces and wonder how anyone could ever paint them! I guess it’s obvious which camp I’m in. :)

  • I have to admit I liked the shabby green paint, but recognize an amazing restoration job when I see one. The wood looks beautiful =)

  • Lauren, would you mind sharing some of the process here? I have my own paint stripping and refinishing project (though of a much smaller scale) that I have been putting off. Thanks, and they look great!

  • That is effing amazing. My mind is blown. Talk about transforming old shabby chic into something of incredible worth! Well done.

  • Amazing. I just can’t find a good paint stripper that works. Lauren, please tell us more about the process of restoring wood and the products you use!!

  • get out of town! great job…although now that i know it can be undone i’m painting my wood furniture ;)

  • 1. The greens look pretty different from the first picture (which I kind of like) to the stripping pictures (which are ugh green).

    2. LOVELY! I’m not anti-painted-wood either, but it’s nice to see the reverse makeover for a change. Especially when it’s done so well.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Seriously, why would have anyone wanted to cover up beautiful wood!?! The grain pattern in mahagony is beautiful, especially when left its natural color (this goes for any wood for that matter). I am a purest when i come to wood…it should be left its natural color, its beauty should never be masked by stain or paint (paint maybe if it is in bad shape).

    Anywho, beautiful restoration!

  • OMFreakingG!!!!!!!!
    This girl knows what she is doing!
    Painted wood furniture can be beautiful – just try to make sure the wood species is Pine. Various wood species (with the right stain) are so beautiful – mahogany, Oak, and my favorite Maple should not be painted. I challenge folks to head on over to your local DIY Store and explore the different colors stain comes in. Wood stain does not have to mean dark 1970’s Walnut paneling.
    In fact there is this TV show on HGTV where they are FOREVER installing painted Maple kitchen Cabinets. Maple is EXPENSIVE – If you gonna have painted cabinets buy PINE or MDF. Gesh! sorry for my rant.

  • i have almost the same exact pieces, headboard, footboard, and two dressers passed down from my grandmother. they’re all mahogany and have never been painted over. lauren’s incredible work made them look exactly like mine – as if they had never been touched with a paintbrush! beautiful work.

  • (raises hand) I’m one of those people! No painting wood unless absolutely necessary, and then only a subtle color. These pieces are stunning! Lauren, color me impressed. :)

  • (raises hand) I’m one of those people! No painting wood, ever, unless absolutely necessary (and even then I’ll only use a very subtle color). These pieces are stunning! Lauren, color me impressed. :)

  • Wow, that looks amazing! I want to paint almost everything I see, and it makes both my boyfriend and my mother cry a little inside. But I can appreciate beautiful wood and hard work. Yay, Lauren!!

  • I have been refinishing wood for years- so much more beautiful. However, I think this was overdone. By taking out all of the imperfections in the wood it has lost character and a sense of history. Sadly it looks cheapened and not like an heirloom piece. Next time just strip, don’t sand away the nicks and dings!

  • I’m with Sofia- lovely but it looks too new and thus…not the most interesting. I’ve stripped wood before, but left the scratches and hard to get paint specks. Love the aged history so much more. Plus I’m reminded of my childhood when I first painted the furniture, haha!

  • I’m in the only paint Pine camp.
    This is beautiful! I too have a project to strip and refinish and would love to know what method she used. No complaints or criticisms from me!
    Great Job!

  • Yikes, some of y’all need to kindly remember your tact and manners like your momma taught you!

    That restoration must have taken some SERIOUS work- I’m very impressed. I would love to know how she stripped around the details, if there’s a trick to it or (more likely) just tedious difficult work?

  • Lovely work- count me in with those who would love to know how Lauren did it! I have a wonderful china cabinet that my mom “antiqued” in the ’70s- judging from the back of the piece (which she left unfinished), the wood is beautiful. It’s been a goal of mine to restore the cabinet, so I would really appreciate learning about Lauren’s methods and materials… and how long the process takes!

  • I love painted wood, but I can not get over how gorgeous this project looks. The pieces look brand new thanks to Lauren’s hard work and craftspersonship. Thank you for sharing this!

  • I would have to say Gorgeous, just gorgeous and I love painted furniture, but I think she did an amazing job!!!

  • I’m a big fan of painted furniture too but the bed in particular looks absolutely stunning in the after-shots. A lot of the time wooden pieces aren’t made with beautiful wood and then I think they are begging to be painted! These pieces look beautiful in their more natural state but would also look fantastic in a high gloss white or even a bright color.

    My favorite part of design is that it doesn’t HAVE to follow rules. Painted or unpainted, everything can be reinterpreted to suit the tastes and imagination of the owner.

  • yay a wood preserver! it’s so satisfying to strip paint. especially when it comes off in big pieces. like peeling an orange. ;)

  • Hey all,
    Thank you for the comments and constructive criticism. I appreciate it because I intend to do more furniture projects soon. For those of you who were wondering… the materials I used were Kwik paint stripper- there are two kinds gel and marine. I recommend using the gel first to get the heavy paint off because it sits on the wood as opposed to running off which the marine does. then use the marine to get the leftover paint and any old stains that may be on the wood. Then I used denatured alcohol to get all the finger prints off. I chose a mahogany gel stain- with gel stain you have to work quickly so it all blends- this way a good choice for my wood because some parts of the bed were composed of various pieces of wood- this united them in color. Then I finished iwith polyurathane for protection. The tools I used ranged from old screw drivers, oyster knives. and dental picks. I would suggest picking tools particular to your project. Also, remember to wear long pants, long sleeves and protective eyewear when working with the paint stripper because the chemicals in it are strong and can burn your skin.
    Thanks again for the comments!
    Good luck with your own furniture projects!

  • Whoops, Correction! I meant to say that the gel paint stripper is called marine, then there’s the liquid paint stripper.

    Also I wanted to mention that the antique and historic quality of the wood is still apparent in the furniture, when I showed my elderly neighbor the finished product she was in tears saying that it looked just like it did when she bought it in 1941. She even noticed that the cigar mark from her first husband was still in the top of the dresser! The original sticker from the when the furniture was delivered is still intact on the back of the dresser. :-)

  • Lauren, I appreciate the context you included, that the furniture was from your neighbor, and that you’re an amateur who wanted to restore it for your own personal use. The results look beautiful enough to be in a professional mag! And you still preserved the history of the pieces. Way to go, girl, and thanks for inspiring us!!

  • Absolutely amazing. It looks brand new, great job! Just curious… any estimation as to how long the whole project took?

  • I myself have seen this furniture in person and the pictures do it justice but not as much as it truly deserves…it is beautiful laur good work!

  • I myself have seen this furniture in person and the pictures do it justice but not nearly as much as it truly deserves…it is beautiful laur good work!

  • The entire set took me the whole summer to complete, working on it a few days a week for a few hours every day. The set included dresser, head board, foot board, vanity, two mirrors and a vanity chair. The detail in the wood and the many steps were time consuming but totally worth it!

  • Wood is good. My mother refinished a beautiful red maple set for me when I was sixteen, still love it (and the love she put into it). She said, ” the wood is like your clean face in the morning, shining and full of life”. Now I always look at wood that way.

  • Although I prefer the look of the pre-refinishing (but that is just my personal preference) I have to commend you Lauren on such an amazing, amazing transformation. My tastes aside, it’s a great makeover!

    Ps., and i love the story about your neighbours reaction when she saw the pieces! So sweet!

  • I, too, loved the green color before it was stripped. That said, she did an excellent job.

    If I bought those pieces I’d probably paint them right away though – beautiful wood or not…

  • This is way longer but Lauren if your still reading this, I just want to say that I originally saw this and today as I am restarting to refinish some chairs I searched it back out. I love your careful detail directions and hearing how long it took you. It makes me feel a bit better. Thanks again!

  • What a lovely dedicated job Lauren did…I sit firmly entrenched in both camps:)
    I love wood in all it’s glory AND a whimsical painted look…there’s a time and place for both.
    Lauren did a beautiful, beautiful, job.
    Thanks so much Lauren for the tips.

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