Roadside Rescue: Chalk Paint Buffet Makeover

Roadside Rescue: Buffet Makeover

Friends, I am beyond excited to show you my latest furniture project, a real roadside rescue! In our town, we have a Bulk Trash Pickup Day once a quarter, where we are able to put out large items and a big truck comes Saturday morning to take them away…unless a neighbor grabs them first! Last Saturday was one of those days, and our neighbors right across the street had discarded a piece that I knew at first sight I had to own.

Here’s what it looked like when I first rescued it. It was clear that there was water damage to some of the wood, and that it was in need of some major TLC. But, it had great lines and so much potential, don’t you agree? I couldn’t stand to see it hauled off to the dump, so I decided to see what kind of makeover I could accomplish. I figured that since it was headed for the trash heap anyway, there was nothing to lose, right? Here’s what I did and how I did it…

Furniture Makeover: Before

The Tools

RYOBI ONE+ 18V Corner Cat Sander
Embossing Heat Tool or Hairdryer
Putty Knife
Chalky finish paint {Mine is Delta Ceramcoat Chalk in Cadet Grey and White}
Stencil Brushes
Painters’ Tape
Clear Wax or Spray Sealer


This process can get messy, so be sure to put down a drop cloth or two underneath your piece to catch all the dust and debris. You’ll thank me when it’s time to clean up! Also, if your furniture piece is a roadside find like mine was, or you are for any reason unsure what type of paint it currently has, you’ll want to make sure it’s not lead paint before proceeding. Lead paint is toxic and can be hazardous to your health if not handled properly. To test your piece, you can grab a 3M LeadCheck Instant Lead Test Swab Kit from your local hardware store for about $10. Another way to help rule out lead paint is by placing some rubbing alcohol on a q-tip or cotton swab and rubbing it on the piece. If the paint starts to come off, you know it’s latex based rather than oil based. Since lead was used in oil based paints, if your paint comes off, you’re most likely safe.

The Process

Step 1: Strip the paint and damaged wood from the piece.

For this particular piece, that included the entire top, both sides, and most of the front.


I had hoped to be able to keep the design on the front, but as you can see, the top layer of wood was coming off and had some water damage, so it had to go.


I’m baffled as to why the original painter left this bottom piece as it was rather than painting it white like the rest of the piece. The right side, as well as those inside parts of the back legs, were left unpainted as well.


To do the stripping, we used a putty knife that helped get underneath the damaged wood and scrape it from the surface. Just a note, make sure to always push the knife away from yourself and your hands. I had a little incident where the corner went into the palm of my hand, and it wasn’t pretty! At that point, hubby stepped in to help finish it up.


Expert Tip: To make removal easier, heat your surface with a hairdryer or an embossing heat tool! This will literally melt any glue or adhesive that was used to hold the layer on, making it much easier to scrape off. This also works for removing price stickers, velcro, and other things that are held on with adhesives.

Step 2: Sand the entire surface.

This serves two purposes; removing peeling paint and giving you a smooth surface that’s ready for paint. I used my RYOBI Corner Cat sander with an 80 grit sandpaper.

Expert Tip: The smaller the number on a piece of sandpaper, the better it is at tearing things up. Paper with a higher number is better for fine detailing and distressing.


I wasn’t able to get every speck of paint off, but I focused on getting anything that was rough, peeling, or uneven.


Step 3: Apply an even coat of chalk paint.

Allow it to dry completely, then cover with a second coat, if necessary.


Step 4: Stencil as desired.

The pretty little decorative area at the top of my piece just screamed for a stencil, don’t you think? I chose the small FolkArt Scroll Medallion stencil, and it was the perfect fit, both in size and style. I stenciled the same image in the center of the front, right around where the knob attaches.


For the panels on either side of the front, I chose a small quatrefoil patterned design. The chair cushions in my dining room have this pattern, so I thought it would be a good way to unify things. I simply taped the stencil in place using painters’ tape, then applied white chalk paint using a stencil brush.

Expert Tip: When stenciling, less paint is more. Avoid the common problem of paint bleeding underneath the stencil by applying only a small amount to your brush at a time and offloading any excess before you touch the brush to your surface. 


Remove your stencil while the paint is still wet, and touch up any areas that may not have turned out completely sharp and clean.


Here’s a peek at how my piece looked once the painting and stenciling were complete!


Step 5: Add hardware.

Depending on your piece, you may have all kinds of knobs and handles to install. I’ve found that using great hardware can completely update and transform the look of any piece of furniture. Since the accent color in my dining room is teal, I thought it would be fun to add a colorful knob. When I saw this gorgeous crystal faceted one in my local Home Depot, I fell head over heels for it and knew it was the one!!


Once I screwed the knob in place, my furniture makeover was complete. Here is the piece, totally transformed and given a new life as a buffet/sideboard!

Furniture Makeover

So, here’s a side by side comparison of how this little beauty looked before and after the transformation! I knew there was still some life left in it! Even after going through every step of the process firsthand, I still have a hard time believing this is the same piece of furniture.


We gave it a home in our dining room, where it coordinates perfectly with the painted table and chairs. The center front section opens and reveals a perfect storage space inside for all of my tablecloths and some extra china.

Furniture Makeover

As for styling it, I didn’t want to overcrowd the top, because the stenciled detailing already adds visual interest and the piece isn’t incredibly big to start with. I decided to keep things simple, sticking with neutrals and just one pop of color in the form of a painted tray. I started with an unfinished wooden tray, painted it teal, then stenciled it with the “Cafe Paris” design. A tray only makes sense if it holds things, so I added a cute stamped spoon that was a gift from my blog buddy Kirsten, and two cute little star shaped cookie cutters I found at Goodwill for 50 cents. In one corner, I placed a very simple ceramic elephant {LC and I both claim elephants as our favorite animal} that I found in the Target craft section. In the other, I placed our silver candlesticks and a little silver pitcher. I found the pitcher at Goodwill in terrible shape, but a quick coat of metallic silver spray paint made it look shiny and new in no time!

Furniture Makeover

This may very well be my favorite piece of furniture in the house at the moment. I’m so excited about how it turned out, and I love knowing that I was able to literally rescue it from the trash and give it a new chance.

Furniture Makeover

What do you think? I’d love to hear your stories about your own upcycles and makeovers! Have you ever grabbed a “Roadside Rescue?”


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  1. I absolutely love it!! I have some pieces I want to refinish that have some grooves that worry me. But seeing your piece is encouraging that maybe I will work on it once this 100* Alabama weather cools off some.

  2. You did an amazing job!! I love the exposed word when you were pealing the paint. However, I love the stenciled pattern you did. Great job!!

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