How to Paint Furniture Black Distressed (Without Sanding!)


I took a walk through a local home store last week for the first time in many months. As I was looking at the new home decor on the shelves, I found myself thinking about the summer flea markets. I truly love old, vintage things so much more than anything new. New items lack the character that I crave!

Which brings me to my next little project. This side table was actually found at a house my husband and I were looking at when we were thinking of moving (before the pandemic). Sadly, we didn’t get the house, but I did manage to buy this beautiful vintage piece.

how to paint furniture black

Preparing Furniture for Painting

While I loved the color of it, it was so beat up I had no choice but to paint it. There was an “X” carved into the front of the table and some big dings in other spots that had to be filled with wood filler.

It was really a mess.

restoring vintage furniture

In addition to the style of the table, I also really loved the color of the wood showing through the old black finish. I wanted to keep some of that visible after painting.

Rather than paint it and sand it, I wanted to preserve some of those naturally worn areas. (They match Donny’s eyes)

painting furniture black and distressed

Because it’s January here in NJ, I had to set up shop inside for this one. I had it as clean as I could get it and I had filled in all the dings and dents with wood filler.

how to paint furniture black distressed

The Trick to Distressed Furniture Without Sanding

I had heard that if you apply vaseline to the wood before painting, that the paint will not adhere to those areas. I hadn’t tried this myself but this sounded like the best option to preserve some of those worn areas.

distressing furniture with vaseline

Using a small paintbrush, I applied the vaseline to the areas I wanted to keep distressed. I was nervous this wasn’t going to work. In retropsect, I really should have tried this on something else first but fortunately, it worked perfectly.

Black Furniture Paint Colors

After the vaseline was applied, I painted the table with a color called Black Magic. I started out with a color called Soot from Benjamin Moore. Though it was beautiful, Soot is a soft black. I wanted to match the existing black and Black Magic (from Sherwin Williams) was an exact match.

This was not any type of special furniture paint that I used. It was actually regular wall paint.

The Best Brushes for No Brush Strokes

Usually, I prefer my paint sprayer for furniture painting because I don’t get any brush strokes showing with that. While the paint sprayer works well, sometimes it’s fun just to have a brush in your hand. Plus, it was too cold out to use that and I’ve found these paintbrushes work well without leaving any brush strokes showing.

Once the paint was fully dry, I used a paper towel to wipe down the areas where I had applied the vaseline. The paint in those areas came right off!

black painted furniture and distressing

The Best Sealer for Furniture

Next, when all the vaseline is cleaned off it’s time to apply a sealer. I always use Fusion Tough Coat on my painted furniture. I find that the type of paint I use doesn’t matter as much as the sealer.

Which clear coat to use on painted furniture

This sealer does not yellow over time, holds up well, and dries to a nice matte finish, just be sure to mix well before using.

How to Clean Old Hardware

For the hardware on this one, I only had that one tiny knob. However, that was so dirty it was almost black.

black painted vintage side table

To clean it, I soaked it in a solution of white vinegar and baking soda for about a half-hour. Then I took it out and scrubbed it with an old toothbrush. It brought much of the metal color back.

The End Result

black distressed vintage table

Here’s the finished project! It almost looks like it may have been a little telephone table back in the day.

living room with gray couch, open pass through and vintage side table

Whatever she was before, I’m glad she’s mine now! Here’s another look at the before and after.

before and after black painted table

She’s all cleaned up but still retains her vintage charm.


  1. That is just beautiful!!

  2. That is ABSOLUTELY beautiful! I also like old antiQue pieces as opposed to new furniture. How did you “clean” it while it was inside, im just curious.

  3. It turned out great! I was thinking it looked like a telephone table. Thank you for restoring this little treasure.

  4. Pamela Irvin says:

    Actually, she looks like a chamber pot cabinet. You did a great job! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Kelly Moran says:

    Stunning! I rescued one almost identical, and have lived to regret it ever since.

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