Painting Furniture: Black Stain vs Black Paint

Remember my client’s house that I have been working on?  The one with the blue trimmed windows?  Well, I have been busy helping make it over step by step.  This week I updated two pine tables the homeowner had. When I was assessing what to keep – these two tables made the cut. They are clean lined and classic.  The natural pine finish just had to be changed to be updated to  look  more modern.


Two pine tables with a clear polyurethane finish.

Furniture Before staining with Classic Black Satin Minwax PolyShades Stain

I knew I wanted them to be black, but I wasn’t too hip on painting them black.   I wanted a sleeker look and knew I could achieve that with stain. Yes, stain. Not wood toned stain, but color stain. I particularly like Minwax PolyShades and have been using it for many years.

Black stain vs black paint on furniture -what I like about it:

1. It is thin and sort of sheer looking. It won’t look thick or heavy on your furniture the way paint sometimes does.

2. It is color and polyurethane applied in 1 step – which gives you a truly durable finish.  It does take time to cure  – a few days to a week before the finish is super durable.

3.  It can be applied right over any existing finish.  I usually just take a piece of fine grit sandpaper over the surface quickly to roughen up the surface.

4.  I love the results – smooth and factory finish-like!

The only thing I don’t like is the fact that it is oil based. Needs clean-up with paint thinner.  I don’t let this bother me too much though, because the finish comes out perfect – it is worth having to clean up or just throw out a brush.

If you don’t want to clean up a brush, you can buy a high quality foam brush.  I used one made by Wooster. It is a little more expensive, but you will get a nice even finish with it. I have also used this stain successfully with a Wooster bristle brush made specifically for staining.

Minwax PolyShades Stain and Polyurethane in 1 Step

1. Rub a piece of fine to medium grit sandpaper over the surface of  your piece. All it needs is a quick roughing up.  Clean off debris with a tack cloth.

2.. Make sure you stir the stain well before applying.  Dip tip of brush into can and start from the center of your piece out to the edges using long light strokes. You don’t want to apply it too heavily. 2 or 3 light coats are much better than a heavy coat.  Continue staining until the piece is covered.  Let dry.

How to stain furniture black instead of painting

2.  Since these tables already had a finish on them, you may get this spotting.  If that happens – don’t worry – you haven’t failed.  Let it dry and go over with the fine grit sandpaper again.  Clean the surface with a tack cloth to remove the sanding debris.  Apply another light coat of stain. Let dry.  It will be gone.  Apply another light coat of PolyShades if needed, making sure to use long light strokes.



DIY Decorating TipWhen staining or painting any piece of furniture black or a very dark color make sure you have a few good light sources directed on every side of the piece.  This way you can see if you are covering the surface completely and catch any drips before they dry.


Modern black tables.

How to stain furniture instead of painting it

The long table is going in the dining room.   I will show you the room when it is completed – this is just a sneak peek.

How to stain furniture with Minwax PolyShades in Classic Black Satin

I love the way it looks against the white board and batten walls.

How to stain a table black


Remember the blue trim on the living room windows and the 80’s country look?

Before Decorating Makeover


It is GONE!  The trim and walls have been painted, new wood blinds, furniture, and lamps added.  The black stained side table and rug are the only elements that were existing.

Minwax How to use stain over an old finish on furniture

The decorating transformation is almost complete – now it’s time to add the homeowner’s personality to the rooms. I will show you the “After” when it is completed.

Living Room Makeover

To see more about this house and the before photos click here-  A Client’s House:  Makeover


  1. says

    Diane that is awesome. I’ve been considering using that for a project but wasn’t sure if it would really hold up over a finished surface. Do you go over the entire thing with clear poly after? And, if it is oil based, if your surface was finished with a water based product, will it adhere? (I guess it depends on how long that finish has cured…?) Great project and thanks for the information. I’m so excited now because I think my plan will work! Yeah!

    • says

      Hi Sandra-

      The PolyShades brand by Minwax has the polyurethane in it already. So no I don’t add a coat of poly after. The label says – Stain and Polyurethane in 1 Step. It goes on very smooth. If you have a water based finish you can lightly sand it, but you don’t have to go to the bare wood at all. It adheres beautifully.

      • Darla says

        Can I rough up a PAINTED piece and also use that black stain successfully? I just bought an old dresser that is off white and want to paint it black for a tv stand. I thought I’d add some old glass knobs just to off set it. Or I heard of stenciling in a glossy black over a more matte finish on the front of the doors/drawers. I didn’t want that thick paint look so this might be what I’m looking for. Thanks for any advice. I haven’t done much furniture re-do cuz I usually LIKe the wood look. haha But I’m converting! :) Darla

        • says

          Hi Darla –

          Stain alone won’t go over paint, it is meant to penetrate wood, but the Polyshades that I used did work for me when I wanted black chairs. It was what I tested it out on before I used it on the polyurethaned tables that I posted about.

          After I used it to paint a previously painted white chair, I thought it was a fail since the Polyshades scraped right off after it was dry. I put the chair in my basement and forgot about it. A few weeks later I was going to paint the chair and found that the Black Polyshades finish was smooth and shiny and was adhered. I could not scrap any of it off. It just needed time to cure. If you want to use it over paint, then just know you have to wait a few weeks for it to cure before using it. I always sand and clean a piece well before I stain or paint anything.

  2. Julie says

    It’s gorgeous! It’s gotten me thinking about a couple of projects also. I love everything you’ve shared on this blog. You have some wonderful ideas!

  3. says

    What a big difference in that room Diane! The molding is just beautiful. The tables came out great! I never would have thought of stain for them; it’s amazing how you changed them from country to modern chic with a new color.

  4. says

    The tables look amazing. I cannot believe what a HUGE step these homeowners took! Their look was so country and now it is so contemporary! This one must have been a fun one. Huge change.

  5. says

    What a great tutorial…I hope you don’t mind, I just had to “pin it” on Pinterest. I did not know that this type of stain existed…no stripping, ya gotta love that! TFS!

  6. Sheryll & Critters. says

    Wow, what a total redo that is for her house. I did not know Minwax came in colors too. I guess I just never looked. I stained a brand new door for one of my boyfriends rental houses and it had three rows of window panes…. I did not know how to do this without getting that stain on the glass, so I put Vaseline on the windows. Was that a bad idea? Do you think that the painters tape would have been better/easier?

    Also, I did not know to use the sponge brush. I used a piece of a cotton cloth to apply the stain and then wiped it off after a few minutes and then reapplied the stain and wiped again (dark wood stain). I found that my latex or vinyl gloves disintegrated on me.. what a mess. And my ex boy friend is really cheap, so to get a good brush was not an option, but the sponge I will use next time (if ever).

    Now if I was rich, I would certainly buy some of those new doors Lowes carries that have the mini blinds enclosed in solid glass. I love those!!!

    Thanks for the tip about the sponge brush. I make a lot of mistakes sometimes……..grin.

    Sheryll & Critters.

  7. Kelly B. says

    I have a side table that’s blond wood and it has such a pretty wood grain top but my problem is blond wood is not my style :( It also have a clear finish already on it, so do you think if I stain it with the same stuff in Antique Walnut the wood grain will still show through following your steps? (great post btw!) Ty ahead of time, I’m new to DIY stuff :)

    • says

      Hi Kelly-

      I have only used the black which is opaque when applied. Not sure if the Antique Walnut is or not. It may change the color, but be a bit more transparent. If your piece has darker knots and grain swirls you may still see them. In the Lowes I go to, they have little sample swatches of all the colors on wood so you can see what the stain will look like. You can see the black totally hides the wood and grain. You can use the PolyStain over already finished pieces. The tables I did had a clear finish on them, too. Just go over the surface lightly with fine grit sandpaper first. If you are unsure on proceeding – maybe try it on the back of the table to see if you like it or not.

  8. says

    Gosh, I never thought about using a black stain. wonderful !
    Have you used the Ann Sloan Chalk paint yet ?
    I’ve sure been hearing good things about it….

    • says

      Hi bj-

      I haven’t tried Chalk paint yet, but do have two corner cabinets that I may tackle eventually. I have heard good things also. I like the fact that you can paint right over the existing finish.

  9. says

    That looks amazing! I never thought to stain something black, but you are totally right about it looking less heavy than regular paint!

  10. says

    Thank you for sharing this very helpful info! I’ve been wanting to refinish my kithcen table set for years! Now I may just have the courage to tackle it!
    Kindest regards,

  11. deanna says

    i love that you are not afraid of change. so many people live in the past and their homes really reflect that. it is important to keep things fresh!

    • says

      Hi Kristen-
      You will love the difference. The stain goes on so smooth and glass like when you use a good brush. I also like that it has the Poly in it to add durability.

  12. Shawn says

    Hi Diane – another great re-do! Question for you about the stain… Can you can still see the pine grain through the stain? I’m wondering how thick it is.

    I have a golden oak finish cabinet that I would love if it something other than golden oak. (I would love it even more if it wasn’t oak at all.) I’d like to save the cabinet but need to do something to make it more aesthetically pleasing…


    • says

      Hi Shawn-

      No you cannot see any of the pine grain or color through the stain. It is totally opaque. It is thin which is why I prefer using it over paint. It create a more pro finish. Another reader asked if it came in white and it does, but I have never used it. I plan on trying it out soon.
      If you want your cabinets dark then you could do this to them. It is thin so I would suggest you remove all the cabinet doors and lay them flat – less drips. I painted my oak cabinets white about 10 years ago using Glidden gripping primer and latex paint. They have held up beautifully. I just read in House Beaufiful magazine last night that Glidden has a new no drip paint. Might be worth looking into. You can see how I painted my cabinets in this post –

  13. says

    I had so much country blue in my house in the 80’s and some of the 90’s that I think I ruined the color blue for my daughter. :)

    I love the tables. Great idea.

  14. says

    They look great! I’ve been wanting to redo my kitchen table black but didn’t want the heavy look of paint either (done that already). Thanks for telling us about the polyshade! (stumbled this today btw) :)

  15. says

    I just discovered your site and I LOVE it! I am your newest Follower. You do so many great things! I will come back and look at all of your great projects on your sidebar. The black tables are great!

  16. says

    Great tip! I think I know just the piece I could use this on. I need to cover some gold accents on a table I can’t bear to paint. thanks!

  17. says

    Hi Diane- I love you site. I check it out frequently and loved this post. I have one quick question. Can you use this type of stain over a painted surface? I have some chairs that are part stained pine and part painted white rails. Would this work on both surfaces or would I need to paint over the paint?

    • says

      Hi Holly-

      I know I answered your question via email that you can use the Stain/Poly over paint successfully, but I asked my friend who did it over a two toned painted green and stained oak dresser. She told me her hubby sanded the painted areas on the dresser a lot before she put the poly/stain on. So I would just do a test area where you have sanded the painted surface a bit. If after it dries and you can scratch it off – you may have to sand to roughen up the painted surface more. Every painted surface is different – latex, oil, flat, glossy, etc. Test first and then proceed.

  18. cheri says

    Wow! We did it, thanks to your inspiration. My college-aged son now approves of his old This End Up furniture. And now my older son is planning to do the same with his pine furniture.

    • says

      Hi Cheri-

      That is so nice to hear. I remember when This End Up was “Cool”. I bet they look great stained black – timeless! Thanks for sharing your success.

      • Cindy says

        I would LOVE to see the This End Up furniture! I’m trying to figure out what to do at our beach place with it. Black sounds cool…..driftwood is a possibility. Any input? Suggestions?

  19. says


    Thank you so much for this post.! I just purchased a set of bookshelves that came out of an elementary school library. They have some sort of finish on them already, but I want them to be black. They also have a little bit of a funny smell to them. They are taken apart and are all flat surfaces. I like the new finish being thin enough not to interfere with re-assembling them. I had intended to paint them, but I worry that the painted surface will take a long time to really be safe for me to put my beloved books on. Sometimes painted surfaces stay “tacky” for a while. How long do you think this product would take after application to be ready for use? Thank you!


    • says

      Hi Tanya-
      It dries to the touch in a few hours, but I would let it be for at least a day or two – just to make sure. If you live in a dry climate – less time. After that it should be fine. Just remember before staining to rough up the surface on all the pieces with sandpaper before applying the stain. If you are still uncertain, test a small area and see how long it takes to dry. You will be happy with the thinness of the stain once applied. I wish it came in lots of colors.

  20. Sue says

    Can you distress the furniture after it is stained? Will is look like a piece that is painted then distressed? Or is the wood stained permanently? I love the idea of doing this. I was going to paint my kitchen table/chairs until I came across this site. Now I’m staining them.

    • says

      Hi Sue – I haven’t done it myself, but I think it would distress beautifully. I would experiment by buying a small can of the stain and apply it on a scrap piece of wood to see.

  21. Chris says

    I have two walnut dressers that are stained black–they are over 50 years old–and I was going to paint them black, but after seeing your results, I think I’ll restain them! I was worried that paint was going to be SO thick that the drawers wouldn’t close… now I’m excited to start the project!


    • says

      Hi Chris – the black stain is perfect for furniture that you don’t want to add the thickness of paint. You will love the finish. Just remember to give the dressers a light going over with sandpaper before using the black stain, especially if the pieces have a poly finish on them and are shiny. I would love to see them when they are done.

  22. Lesley says

    I just bought a round table and 4 chairs. It is a very light shade of oak wood. It has already been stained a “blonde” color and sealed. I don’t like the color at all, so what can I do or buy to make it darker without actually buying like behr paint? It is a dining room table. I don’t want to strip the seal because I heard that is a lot of work and bad for your skin. I liked what you did to the black tables, but I don’t know if my table will work like that because it already has so much light stain and sealer on it. I just bought it yesterday from craigslist so I didn’t know it was going to be so light. Please let me know! Thanks! :)

    • says

      Hi Lesley –

      The tables I applied the stain had a sealer on them. It wasn’t super shiny, but they had a protective coat. You have to rough up the surface first so the stain has something to stick to. I used medium grit sandpaper over all the surface, then cleaned it with a tack cloth. If you still see any shiny areas – go over them again. Then you can apply the stain. Try it first on a hidden area of the table to see if you like it and it stays on. The only other option is to paint it. You would still need to sand it a bit first to remove or at least rough up the glossy surface. After sanding you should add 2 light coats of a gripping primer. Glidden makes one and so does Ben Moore. After that is dry, apply your paint. If you are going to paint it black, make sure to have the primer tinted to black to help get better coverage. If the primer goes on white – you will need more coats of black to cover it.

      I hope this helps. Let me know how it turns out.

  23. Erin says

    I’m so excited I found this. I recently decided I wanted to take an old bedroom suit and paint it black. It’s about 30 years old with a cherry finish that is coming off in places from being moved several times. Do you think this stain would work for that? Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Erin-

      I think it would work just fine. A friend of mine did it on her bedroom furniture and it worked great. Her furniture didn’t have a shiny surface, so she just cleaned the furniture, let it dry, and applied the stain. If your furniture has a shiny cherry finish you will have to sand it – to rough it up just a bit so the stain has something to hold onto. For the tables I did, I went over the shiny finish a few times with by hand with sandpaper.
      Recently I was at a blog conference called Haven. Minwax had a booth set up. They have a product that I never used before, but want to try. It is called Minwax Express Color and comes in a tube. It is like a gel and won’t run or drip at all. I want to try it to see if it will be even better than the traditional stain. The piece will have to be sanded to rough up the surface still, but I think may go on really well to give the piece a more factory finish painted look, not a brushed on painted look.

  24. Mime says

    I have a plant box (table tall) with four legs. It was built for me, and has been used on the porch where it has been fairly well protected, but, it has some stains from watering, and some of the wood has grayed. Is it all right to use this technique with the raw wood? I really need to get something on it to protect it. Thank you for your video. The finished products were amazing.

  25. shonda says

    Diane, that looks so nice! I just bought a maple table from a yard sale and want to try to redo it myself, but to bombay mahogany color. I have no clue what i amd doing and its gonna be a project for me and a money saver,lol.. Anyway you can provide me with some helpful tips. Its currently a maple oak color with a gloss. Im not sure how far to sand it to, i bought sand paper of 120, due to 220 grit really didnt seem to do to much. I do have minwax 2 in 1, but really been hearing alot of bad reviews on it, so now i am skeptical about it, also i have a 2inch stain brush and hear not good things on a brush.. so i am so confused on what to use or how do it. Can you please help me out? Ty

  26. Elisabetta says

    I just bought an old library desk with dark walnut stain. I sanded it down. I have both the polyshade in classic black and a black paint. I am so confused as which one to use. I prefer a smoother non-grain look. Help! I love your blog by the way!

    • says

      Hi Elisabetta – Try each one on the underside of the desk to experiment with both to see which one you like better. I think I would go with the black stain. It will give you a richer color and smoother finish.

  27. Jon says

    I stumbled on your blog and this is exactly what I am wanting to do to my entire bedroom set this weekend. I was going to paint but this sounds so much nicer and easier. Only question is you mentioned 2 or 3 light coats. Do you do them at once or let it dry and then recoat? If so how much drying time?
    Also my furniture has a lot of routed grooves in it which would be very difficult to sand so I am considering using a product called “sander/deglosser instead of actually sanding. You wipe in on with a cloth.

    • says

      Hi Jon –
      Let each coat dry before applying the next coat. It will take an hour or two to dry depending on the weather conditions. I am not sure how the deglosser will effect the adhesion. Maybe try it on a small area first. It will probably be fine since it is meant to help adhesion, but since I didn’t use it, I am not sure.

  28. Jon says

    Thanks Diane,
    In my research I have found a lot of mixed reviews on the polyshades but I have found everyone that has used a chemical stripper has had great results. I will report back on how it goes.

  29. Becca says

    This is perfect! I love the tips, and I love how they turned out! I found you via a Google search, and your post was just what I was looking for. I’m going to go “stalk” the rest of your website now… :) Thanks again!

  30. says

    Hi Diane-

    First of all-beautiful job on the pine pieces! Well…I finally convinced my husband to let me paint our solid oak table and chairs black. I have to make sure we don’t live to regret this. Some suggest that oak is difficult to stain or paint because of its grooves and wood grain. Do you have experience with either painting or staining oak. I would like to get started ASAP. What do you think is the best method for transforming my light oak to black? I look forward to your response.

    Thank you,

  31. Brittany says

    The black stain looks great. Its just what i want to do to my hutch and kitchen table. Do you have any suggestions on making it looked destressed after it has been stained.

  32. Marissa says

    I found your website and I was so happy! I have been trying to find something to help me either restain or paint my nursery furniture. They are all a light oak color and I wont them a dark either walnut or expresso type color. Do you think the minwax is safe for a crib? would I just apply it the same way with all the rails? or am I dumb for thinking I can make it look different. Thanks so much! I am also thinking of doing my cabinets and I love your makeover!

  33. Vickie says

    I have a large kitchen table with 7 chairs. Some have the original stain on them and some have white paint that I recently applied, but do not want it to be white anymore. I would like to paint it black but am wondering if I can use the minwax stain such a big project?
    Thank you,

  34. Madison says

    Ok, so I have a quick question. I found this post a little too late. We are currently in the process of painting the coffee, sofa, and two end tables (all oak…not much of a finish left because they are the tables that were in my childhood home) black. We have the sofa and one end table taken apart, sanded, primed with Kilz, and one coat of black(ish) paint on the tops. Turns out the guy mixing the paint put a little too much green in, and they have a green tint. What can I do to those table tops to get THIS kind of finsh on them, at this point. I would LOVE to do this much faster step for the other two tables, but I want all 4 to match, obviously. If you could email me with suggestions that would amazingly awesome, and I would be forever grateful!

    Thank you SO much, in advance, for any information you can get me!

    • says

      Hi Madison –

      Black is very hard to get the blackest black finish. I am not sure you should stain over the paint right away since I assume the black paint is latex? The oil stain applied on top of a newly painted surface may make the finish crackle. Water and oil don’t mix kind of reaction. You may want to let the paint cure for a few days before testing the stain on top of it. I would test it in an inconspicuous place. If it goes on smooth and you like it after letting it dry – 24 hours -then you are good to go and can do the rest of the pieces to match.

      If it doesn’t work, the best thing to do if you want everything to match is to go back to the paint store and tell them you want the blackest black formula. Keep having them add more black pigment. Put some on a piece of paper and let it dry. Take it out into natural light and then decide if it is black enough. If not – go back into the store and have them tweak it again. Once you like the color -re-coat the pieces that have the green tint and then use the good black on the rest of the pieces.

  35. Carla says

    Be careful using the Minwax Stain & Poly in one. I recommend you doing some research about the product online (as there are a HOST of problems with this product). It looks like this product worked in this situation, but when I tried to replicate, it failed horribly. The complaints online are the same that I had — after four coats, still patches of shiny and dull, ultimately resulting in having to put a poly on top of all of it anyways. I have since started using General Finishes Gel Stain and their Gel Poly (which, by the way, I was able to apply in a bedroom instead of in the garage with the Minwax which definitely had a strong odor). Read the reviews on the GF line of products and you may end up changing your mind!

    • says

      Hi Carla – It is always good to know of other products on the market. I have never used General Finishes but will try one the next time I use stain and or poly.

  36. Sonal says

    Beautiful! Did you use Black satin or black gloss Polyshades? Also, did you have an issue evenly applying the stain in the nooks and crannies?

  37. Melanie says

    Could you do this with Ikea furniture? It looks great! I have a long table that is sitting in the basement collecting dust. I would like to try this on that table.

    • says

      Hi Melanie –
      I used the stain on two different surfaces – polyed pine and over gloss white paint on chairs. It worked on both. On IKEA furniture if it is shiny melamine, I would use a fine to medium grit of sandpaper to rough up the surface first, then try the stain on a small section. Let it cure for a few days and then do a scratch test to see if you can remove it with a fingernail. If you can – then I would not use the stain, if you can’t scratch it off – then you are good to go. If you can scratch it off after letting it cure for a few days, I would suggest you use a gripping primer – Glidden sells one that I have used called, Gripper or a primer made especially for painting melamine. Once that is on you can paint the piece black. Use a roller and the best quality brush you can afford to get the best finish.

  38. Carol says

    Diane, I was so pleased when I read your instructions for using Minwax Polyshades in black. I was planning to paint an unfinished pine chest but liked the sound of using the stain instead. I first used the Minwax prep for soft wood and then applied three coats of the Polyshade. I am very disappointed with the finish. It looks very streaky. I stirred the stain often while applying it, lightly sanded between coats, and used a new natural bristle brush that I bought especially for the project. Any suggestions about what I might have done wrong and what I should do to make it look better? I would appreciate any help you could give me.
    Thanks, Carol

    • says

      Hi Carol
      Many factors could have contributed to the streakiness. Wood quality, a veneer with an uneven grain, to the the air temperature when applied. Since you said you stirred the stain well, and used the right brush – The only other thing that I know of that may have happened is the stain was applied with uneven pressure. Without seeing the piece, this is my first thought. The other thing that might have occurred is there may have been unevenness on the surface before you stained. To try to fix it, I would go over the entire stained surface with very fine sandpaper. Clean it off with water and a clean cloth, let it dry. Then add another coat of stain applied with long even strokes. Add another coat after it is dry if needed.

  39. Heather says

    I love your square ottoman. Where did you get it? I have been looking for that exact piece.

    • says

      Hi Heather – It was for a client. We found it at a local furniture store: Raymour and Flanigan. They have a website where you might be able to find it. raymour and

  40. AY says

    Hello Diane

    Such impressive results. Not sure if I have the courage to try it on my dining table.

    My question though, Does it matter what type of wood you apply the stain on? Pine vs Oak vs cherry wood?

    My other question, you used sandpaper to roughen the surface but not all the way to the wood. How would you know that you reached to a good rough surface?

    Regards and thanks

    • says

      It should work the same on any wood. The smoother the surface (no grain) the better it will look. I rough up the wood surface until I don’t see a shine on the surface anymore. It will look dull even after wiping the sanding dust away with a rag. You need to provide some “tooth” for the stain to stick to. After staining – the curing process may take up to a week or longer for the stain to dry and cure to the lasting durable finish.

      If you are hesitant – try it on the underside of a chair or the table. Usually some of the finish is on the outer edges of the underside. That is where I would experiment to see if you like how it will look.

  41. Francesco Spicuzza says

    Thanks, this was just what I wanted. Best part was your pix and list of items needed.

  42. Tamara says

    Awesome. Thanks for the help. I stubbled across your site when i had sanded two chairs and a table and was over it. I read this and just did the rest over the top with Japanese black and it looks amazing. Your a legend for sharing. :)

  43. JM says

    For this project, did you end up having to use a paint thinner? I see where you mentioned it early in your blog for this project. Just wondering if you used it and if so, how did you apply it.


    • says

      Hi JM – I did not thin the stain. I only mentioned paint thinner in the post since the stain is oil-based. You would need it to clean your brushes when you are done painting.

  44. Abby says

    Hey Diane –
    I bought off white Pottery Barn furniture many years ago to match my current bedroom, but I am moving out in a few months and I am looking to paint or stain this furniture black. Would this stain work for Pottery Barn furniture, or does it only work for wood surfaces?

    • says

      Hi Abby – Is it a laminate? I have only used it over polyurethaned and painted wood pieces. It works on these. Without knowing exactly what the finish is I can’t be sure. The stain is sold in small cans for under $5 – you can test it out to see. It does have to cure for a few days to a week, so let it sit awhile before doing a scratch test to determine if it will stick to the surface.

  45. Nancy Hawkins says

    Your projects are gorgeous. I would love any suggestions for houses like mine – a 1951 “rambler” (ranch, sort of) with a long narrow living room and puny little 8-foot ceilings. My house has lots of windows, and I like that very much, but it does make furniture placement tricky. The living room also has a fireplace and I’m probably going to get our TV our of the spare bedroom and put it in the living room. Tacky, I suppose, but I’d like to watch football and be in front of the fireplace at the same time.
    Again, your projects are the prettiest I have seen on the net, and your directions are very clear. Great blog.

  46. Tanya says

    I just used polyshades to refinish a kitchen table top and got that same spotting. The second coat looks better but still has it. What did I do wrong?

    • says

      Hi Tayna – You probably didn’t do anything wrong. The weather, temps and every surface will act differently. That spotting is called – cratering or pinholing. Depending on how deep it is, you may need to sand a bit harder to smooth it out. The next coat should fill the holes and create a smooth surface. Since you have applied two coats already – sand again and then make sure the stain is mixed really well. Apply it slowly so less air is pushed into each stroke. Let it dry and see how it looks. Sand gently again, but with very fine sandpaper (high number like 400 – 600 grit) Clean off then reapply stain if necessary.

  47. Andrea says

    I bought a beautiful dining room table and chairs from craigslist for $80 (pottery barn brand). I sanded it all the way down then stained it ebony. I did not like to see the grain so i investigated and found classic black poly shade glossy. I painted my table with a brush, looks great. A little too shiny but it is what i wanted. I applied 2 coats whch i think i only needed 1 but wanted it to be durable. My question is, how durable is it? Im going to let it cure for a week before using table. Ive read online that it will eventually peel and easily gets nicks. Is that true? If it does eventually peel, is poly shade easy product to sand and redo? Do or should i use coasters for water condensation? Thank you!!

  48. jackie says

    I can’t wait to try the black minwax stain. I have been agonizing for weeks trying to decide how to pain my furniture black…… I sure hope mine comes out as nice as yours!

    • says

      Hi Jackie – If you give the surface a good overall sanding to rough up the surface a bit and then apply the stain in light even layers – you will love how it comes out. Super smooth and thin, no paint built up look. I wish it came in more colors :)

  49. Cricket says

    I am about to embark on a project as such . A coffee table, with stain and shine on it. I would call it danish modern. I can see it in black and it has a lip edge so I can add glass on top with black and white photos under that.
    I can see it looking so modern using the black stain. Wish me luck as I’m just beginning to lightly sand.
    I wish there was a way to share the end results as I get to that point.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience using the min wax polyshades. I will at least let you know my results. Thanks again, Cricket

  50. Jackie says

    Well, I finally got around to starting my chair. I have one coat on now and it is absolutely beautiful! I can still see the grain which I expected with one coat…so I’ll do another one in a couple days…I came down with a cold and can’t paint and sneeze at the same time, lol…I am soooo glad I found this site! I’m going to do more pieces black when I finish the chair…

  51. michelle says

    question…I am doing the exact same thing with 2 end tables that I bought from craigslist
    however…the top of mine does not look good. I sanded then did the polyshades black. it looked streaky especially when the light hit it. so I lightly sanded and did the second coat…still the same problem! I lightly sanded and did a 3rd coat on top…the same result!! What am I doing wrong? or is it just because the light is hitting it directly so it is noticeable?

    • says

      Hi Michelle – The only thing I can think of is that the Polyshades may need to be stirred more and stirred throughout the application process. It could also be the brush. Many factors – temp in room, etc. It should not look streaky, but an even smooth coat of color. I have heard from another reader that they thought it could be a bad batch of Polyshades. I am not sure. I have used it two times so far and have not had the streaking problem.I even had the pieces out in the sun and the color was even. I think what you have done, sanding and reapplying is exactly what I would tell you to do. My next step would be to try a different brush and stir the can frequently.

      • michelle says

        thanks for taking the time to answer me so quickly. I just tried it again and got the same results. I think maybe I sanded the original table too much to begin with and I am seeing the “scratches” from the sandpaper. Live and learn!!! Next time I will just rub the really fine sandpaper very lightly.

  52. Stephanie says

    The table I want to stain has a small spot on it about the size of s 50 cent piece that my son scratched with a fork. What should I do to this area before using this product on the table?

    • says

      Hi Stephanie – To smooth out the scratch, just run a hand sanding block with medium grit -100 grit sandpaper over the surface. It will smooth out the fork marks. Once it is smooth – continue to rough up the rest of the surface so the paint has something to adhere to. If the fork marks are very deep, you can fill them with wood filler putty first. It is sold in the paint and stain aisle. Put the putty in the marks, let dry and then sand smooth then sand the rest of the table before staining.

  53. Matt says

    hello, I just purchased a house with, dark brown knotty pine cabinets. i would like to stain/ paint then a dark grey/ black, what would u recommend, i have a have grey (barn board coloured hard wood floors in mind) and stainless appliances.

  54. Cricket says

    Ok, just finished the sanding on my danish modern coffee table yesterday.
    Did the clean up and started the first coat of min wax polyshades/black.
    This is working great for me. I might have gotten a little thick on the top
    as it nearly looks like finished product. I will lightly sand in a day or two and do just one more coat. Thanks Diane for this awesome idea.

  55. Melissa says

    I am planning on refinishing a dresser I had purchased at a garage sale and had a few questions for you. I plan on lightly sanding the top to get an even finish, as well as the drawer fronts, but would i also need to sand in the corners and small areas of the dresser design or could i just stain right over it without sanding first?

    Also, I saw that you can also buy the polyshade classic black satin in a spray form – have you tried that before and if so how does it compare to the painting technique? I cant decide if I want to spray paint it or brush it.


    • says

      Hi Melissa –

      I have never used the spray version, but think it would work just as well. Use long strokes as you spray, don’t hold the nozzle too close or in any one spot for a long time. This will help you get a smooth even finish. Follow what ever the label says about how long you should wait to re-coat. I would sand over every part of the dresser. It is needed so the stain has something to adhere to. You don’t have to get it down to the bare wood, but just enough to rough the surface up. If the corners are ornate or decorated, cut up the sandpaper into smaller pieces and fold it so you can get into any grooves.

      If you are hesitant – try it on a small area or least seen area of the dresser first to see if you like it.

  56. Wendy says

    Hi Diane

    I am planning to do my bedroom furniture black. I was going to paint til I came across your blog. The top surfaces of the furniture however are VERY slick and may be laminate not positive. My question is…is there anyway for the stain to work on this? My plan is to have the whole piece black except for the drawer facings… which I am leaving wood color. I will be making the wood a little darker, right now the wood is lighter than I would like. I wasn’t sure if the stain would work on the tops of the bedroom set. If I just the stain I may have to leave them as tbey are or decide to do paint to cover it all.

    • says

      Hi Wendy – I have only used the black stain over wood. I am not sure how it would adhere to slick laminate even with sanding. You would have to do a test and wait a few days to see if it adheres or not. Most laminate surfaces need to be roughed up and primed with a gripping type primer before painting. You may have to do this with the black stain also and then that would take away the reason to use it in the first place (thinner coat – no paint build up) I think I would go with gripping primer and paint over the laminate areas.

  57. Wendy says

    Thanks Diane

    Do you think that its going to look okay with using the gripping primer and paint and stain the wood areas? Or are you suggesting paint all of the furniture or did you mean use the gripping primmer and the stain. Sorry for all the questions.

    • says

      Hi Wendy – I think it will look great – a two toned look. The top, sides and front could be primer and black paint and the drawers fronts can be stained. With some interesting pulls or knobs, it will look very chic.

  58. YaYa says

    I love this idea! I am creating a nursery for my sister and I was wondering if this stain would be okay in a nursery and if so does it need to be completed a certain amount of time before it can be put into the nursery?

  59. Holly says

    This looks easy and fantastic! I read where the MinWax was only supposed to be applied to “naked furniture”. I’ve got an old buffet that I want to make a little more “with it” looking – I think I’m going to try this. Thanks!

  60. Nay Doud says

    I used wood paint stains over laminated surfaces. What is the best method to treat or remove the stains layer to avoid staining other contacting surfaces or leaving prints on clothes

    • says

      Hi Nay – I am not exactly sure what you are asking. I would use Painter’s tape to mask off any areas you don’t want stain to get on. After placing the tape on, seal the edge of the tape by running a finger nail or the edge of a credit card over it. Then add or remove the stain.

  61. Jenny says

    Hi Diane!!
    Loved your blog. I’m doing my first paint job of furniture ever. Do you think a stain like you used here would work on a same colored wood dining table?

    Here is a picture I found of someone else’s blog with the same exact dining table I have and want to paint black- . She used sanding and then painting with General Finishes milk paint in Lamp Black. She says that looking back on it, she would have used primer and maybe a top coat. If you think it will last with a stain alone (or primer/stain or stain/topcoat), I would obviously just use that . :) What do you think? Thanks in advance!! – Jenny

    • says

      Hi Jenny – She did a fabulous job. She used many coats of sealer on the top that is labor intensive.

      The stain works beautifully, but you do need to have nice long strokes for large areas to get a smooth streak-free finish. You also have to let it cure before using or it may chip off. Up to 3 weeks. This may be hard if you use the table.

      Another way I would recommend that is super durable is to use chalk paint. Many think that chalk paint has to be distressed or aged, but it does not. If you want black black, I would buy it and not make it yourself. Making black chalk paint sometimes ends up lighter since you need to add white powder to make it. You can roll it on and then use an angled brush on the rungs or chairs and table legs. For shine – use a non-yellowing water based poly like Minwax Polycrylic or Zinseer Ultimate Polyurthane to seal it.

      Sand the table first to rough up the finish – a hand sanding block with 100 grit sandpaper will do the job. Then two thin coats of black chalk paint and then 2 light coats of poly.

      For this dresser:
      I used DIY chalk paint, I aged and glazed it, but I am showing you it so you can see how smooth and thin the paint went on. It is not sticky, thick or rubbery like regular latex paint cures.

      • Jenny says

        Thanks for your helpful tips, Diane!

        So do you think the results with the stain and the chalk paint are about the same–except that the stain needs longer time to set and long strokes?

        Do you like the chalk paint over the milk paint that the girl in the blog used?

        And lastly– do you think primer is necessary for any (stain, chalk paint, or milk paint) ?

        Thanks again :D

        • says

          Hi Jenny – I do think if you use thin coats of black chalk paint – you will like the results after the poly is on. The finish will be flat until you seal with wax or poly. The stain can streak on large flat areas – so if you have never used stain before, you may have to practice on a board first to get the staining technique down. Milk paint is thiner than chalk paint, but you do have to have a binder mixed in it so it will stay on – otherwise it will chip off easily. Some like this chippy look. Since the photo you showed me was a shiny black table and chairs with no aging or distressing you would have to make sure to use a binder. With chalk paint, you do need to sand it well to rough up the surface but do not have to remove the finish to the bare wood. You do not need a primer with chalk paint.

          With that said – a primer is never a bad thing. Since you are not distressing -you could use a gripping primer after sanding. Glidden Gripper is one of my go to primers. The other is Kilz. Roll it on very thin. Get it mixed to a grey formula – don’t use white. It will be too hard to cover with black.

  62. Liz says

    Hi Diane, I recently came across your post and decided to give it a shot with a couple of antique pieces of furniture I bought at a Salvation Army. Unfortunately, I am dealing with the same issue michelle ^ is dealing with. Streaking.. Lots of it! I could not get it to look smooth. I also couldn’t get it to look black. It just looks like a dark brown and a lot of the original color still comes through. I only worked on it once. I am hoping I can go over it again this week.. And maybe get it to look better.. But I am almost regretting doing it-the pieces are beautiful and the stain sucked! :( any recommendations? Should I lightly sand again and go for another coat..?

    • says

      Hi Liz –

      Sorry to hear that your finish got streaky. One thing that could have happened is the stain was not mixed throughly. Every so often even as you work, stir the stain in the can. As far as it not looking black, you do need more than one coat. 2-3 light coats are needed. To remedy your finish, I would go over it with a sanding block with 100 – 160 grit sandpaper to smooth it out. I would also make sure you have a high quality brush made for stain for your next coat. It may take a few coats and light sanding in between each to get the finish dark and smooth.

      Another thing that sometimes happens is manufacturers often change their formulas. I bought my stain a few years ago. What is on the shelves now, may have the same label, but the formula may have changed. Not sure, but since you are not the first person to have the streaking problem, I am thinking this is the case with this product.

  63. Mars says

    Hi Diane! After remodeling 95% of my basement TV room. Taking it from what was essentially a cave decorated by the prehistoric ancestors of the partridge family to a brighter highly contrasted more modern minimalist look. I was left with a hideously stained desk that I have to reuse since i’m $957 over my original $123.44 budget. (Hehe Bah! Pfffffftt!)
    Painting furniture a flat or satin black is great unless you plan on actually touching it.
    Thanks for showing what can be done with black stain!! This particular product is exactly what I’m looking for. ;)

  64. Kelly Rose says

    I have a bedroom set that I’m looking to change to a black finish. The wood is an orange colored oak. I read on the Minwax Polyshades site that this type of stain will not work on wood coated with laquer or shellac finishes. I did the cotton ball test, and it stuck, which means my wood furniture is not coated with a Polyurethane finish. What do you suggest I do? Is there another product you recommend for this type of project? I’m really not looking to sand down the entire set… Thanks for your help!

    • says

      Hi Kelly –

      The only other way I know to get your set black is to paint it. I like using the Polyshades since it is thinner. If you go over all the surface with 100 grit sandpaper on a sanding block and then use the Polyshades, I think you will like how it turns out. Try it on the underside of one of the pieces. Let it cure for at least a few days before doing a scratch test on it and see how you like it. Then you can make your decision. If you go with paint – you don’t have to sand to the bare wood, just go over with a sanding block to rough up the surface and then use a light coat of stain blocking primer. Have it tinted grey. Then use 2 light coats of black paint. Use a foam roller with rounded edges – it will give you the best finish. Do not roll the paint on hard, use a light touch so you don’t create air bubbles in the paint.

  65. Leanna says

    So I used the PolyShade also and a foam brush (not the more expensive one though) and it seemed to be inconsistent compared to your work. I wasn’t able to make one struck with the stain. The foam brush seemed to just soak up the stain and I had to kind of paint it on rather then one smooth struck. The black paint was fine for the most part b/c it is black and you can’t see the inconsistencies, but I also used antique walnut and it seemed to get sticky as I was applying another row and it didn’t blend well. I have to sand down and redo a couple drawers b/c of this.. Do you know what I’m doing wrong? I read that people apply the stain then wipe it off but I think they were just using regular stain not the poly mixed in. So confused…

    First time stainer

    • says

      Hi Leanna – I am not sure what you are doing wrong, but here are 3 things that could be happening. 1. It could be that Polyshades has changed their formula since I did the tables. 2. It could be that the air temp is too hot or humid for the stain to go on and dry correctly. Temp can effect the way paint and stain go on. It is best to apply in in a low humidity 75 degree day. I know that is hard to come by in August. :-) If you wait for a dry day and really stir the stain well, it should go on and dry smoothly. 3. You could be applying the stain too thick. Stir the stain well and dip once and then make long fluid strokes over the surface with the brush.

      It sounds like you haven’t given up on the piece – with sanding and some more effort you just may come up with one great looking piece. This has happened to me more than once when I paint something. On one table I thought it was a disaster and I tried to clean off the paint and let the piece dry Once it was dry there was still some residual paint on it, but it looked fabulous!! It was not how I intended the piece to look, but it ended up looking even better. You just never know – so don’t give up.

  66. vee_evans says

    Hey Diane. Love your work! A quick question. Can I use liquid sandpaper instead of hand sanding? I have a couple of old pieces I’d rather not risk to sandpaper or blocks. Thanks for your advice. Keep up the good work. You inspire.

    • says

      Hi Vee – I have never used anything but sandpaper. I would do a small test on the underside of the piece or a scrap piece of wood to see if the stain adheres. I am not too familiar with the liquid sandpaper and would make sure the stain does not streak when applied on top of it.

  67. Terri C says

    I have a oak triple dresser that I would like to paint black. If I use the Color Poly Stain. can it be applied with a paint roller ? I have a hard time keeping my strokes even and straight on large surfaces.

  68. Tara Taylor says

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. Have been thinking of trying this but was unsure of whether to go with paint or stain. Very helpful!

  69. Joyce Paarman says

    Thank you for your great instruction! Question: I would like to change the color of my currently white latex painted bedroom doors to black. I was going to paint them but am not crazy about adding yet another layer (or probably more!!) of paint on top of what already exists on these 1950’s era hollow wood doors. Do you think it is possible to apply this black stain over the white paint on theses doors? I am assuming several layers of black stain would be necessary to cover the white paint. I am also concerned that recent 2014 responders on this site seem to be having problems with the product, where you did not seem to encounter any problems in your application. Have you tried he product recently?? Thanks again for any advice on application over white paint.

    • says

      Hi Joyce – I have used the stain over a white painted chair. At first I did not think it was going to adhere and I put the chair in my basement and forgot about it. About a month later I did a scratch test on it and I could not scratch it off. It just needed curing. It works if you have the time to let it cure over paint. Product formulas do change. I did this a few years ago and the formula may be different than what I used. I also know that when you stain, you need to apply with steady fluid strokes. Since your doors are large flat expanses, you may see streaks if the application is not smooth and fluid.

      If you decide to paint, I would use Glidden Gripper primer in grey first – one light coat. Then black paint. The grey primer helps so you only have to paint one or two coats of a dark color over it to get full coverage. Use light coats and sand with 160 grit sandpaper in between coats to lessen the build up.

  70. Cheri says

    i love the look and i have been trying so hard to get into the diy stuff and failing every time. i bought the same stuff, or so i thought before i read your blog (Minwax Polyshades 1-Quart Classic Black Oil Wood Stain) and tested it on another surface that wasn’t a huge deal if it didn’t work out. but it looks nothing like yours. yours looks like a paint, mine looks like a stain and it’s ugly at this point (i’m only one coat in). my can looks different than yours though, it’s a little hard to tell from your picture. any help or suggestions would be appreciated. also, the project i originally got this for is to redo a coffee table. how are yours holding up? i’ve got kids and dogs that knock stuff around all the time, so i’m worried about the paint chipping or scratching off. thanks!!

  71. Lashell says

    I love the way your tables turned out. Just what I’ve been looking for. I have dining table and six chairs and a hutch with drawers that I want to stain/paint a very dark brown close to black (espresso). I like the idea of the stain. Paint does always look too thick. Do you think I could mix this stain to get the color I’m wanting? And also do you think this technique is going to be durable enough for a dining table with small kids? I am willing to let it cure a few weeks if I need too! I’ll do whatever it takes to get the best result for durability.


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