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Free Ultimate Furniture Painting Guide

Shabby white china cabinet with a classic farmhouse look

Send me all the dark and outdated furniture and let me paint it shabby white!

Those are certainly words I never thought I'd say!

I have had an aversion to painting "dark to white" for a very long time....but this project converted me!

Let me be clear.....I did not say...."let me paint it white"....I said......"let me paint it SHABBY white"! Big difference!

shabby white china cabinet by Traceys Fancy

If you are a new reader, hello and welcome to the Fancy Fam! With over a decade of furniture painting experience, I can honestly say that sharing my projects through this blog is still my favorite way to inspire! I've got years worth of fun and creative ways to update your home decor and furniture through paint! If this sounds like something you'd like to have delivered to you every Sunday be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter here!


My client asked if I would be willing to revamp her mother's Ethan Allen china hutch. Her mother had recently passed....and she really didn't want to part with this piece....however it just didn't work well with her personal home decor.

So she sent me photos of several hutches that she really loved. They were all in various shades of white....and they had been highly distressed and gave off a cottage vibe.

I really wanted to do this for I said yes.

shabby white china cabinet by Traceys Fancy

White furniture finishes are special.....There are many things to consider when painting dark wood with white chalk mineral paint.....

How to prep to paint white furniture

1. Do you need to prime?

This can be determined by performing a test spot. Brush on a small amount of paint on several areas of your piece and let dry. Apply the topcoat that you plan to use over the painted area to see if bleed throughs occur. I did this on live video (you can see that HERE).....and bleed-through was present in the form of an overall dingy yellow coming through my fresh white paint. So yes....I needed to prime

2. What type of primer should you use?

My choices of Primer include Dixie Belles clear, gray, and white.

BOSS white

BOSS Primer Clear

I knew that my finish would include distressing. This means any primer underneath my paint would show. This usually calls for a clear your primer layer is not exposed with distressing. However.....because my paint was going to be white..... the white primer layer would NOT show. So I had the choice of both clear and white. I chose it adds a layer of color blocking meaning I could use less white paint in the end.

3. What type of finish are you going for?

My finish will be a naturally aged distressed cottage vibe.

4. What top coats do you have available in the end?

The Dixie Belle topcoats that offer this look are Clear Coat in Flat....or any of the waxes. I chose Big Mama's Butta as it's very easy to apply with its whipped consistency...dries with a buttery sheen....yet keeps the natural chalk finish look. I could have also used Clear Spray Wax, Best Dang Wax Clear, Hemp Oil, or even Best Dang Wax White.

Hemp Oil

Big Momma's Butta

Easy Peasy Spray Wax

LOTS of choices.....and any or all would work! It really is a preference. If I'd wanted a super hardy finish...I would have chosen Gator Hide. If I'd wanted a light sheen finish I would have chosen my normal go-to Clear Coat in Satin.

shabby white china cabinet by Traceys Fancy

Step-by-Step for Shabby White China Cabinet

Sooooooo.......long story short....these were my steps for this shabby white china cabinet:

  1. Cleaned well with White Lightning TWICE and rinsed well.

  2. Performed a test spot to determine the need for primer.

  3. Primed with a single coat of Boss in White and let dry overnight.

  4. Painted with a single coat of Fluff and let dry overnight.

  5. Distressed all edges with an electric sander.

  6. Applied Big Mama's butter with Best Dang Wax brush and let sit for 30 minutes.

  7. Used lint-free cloth to remove excess wax and hand-buff to a sheen.

  8. Delivered to a happy client.

The Finished Look: Shabby Farmhouse White

I am in LOVE with this final finish! The shabby white china cabinet was SUCH an easy project.....because I took the time to perform that test spot first!!!

shabby white china cabinet by Traceys Fancy

PRO TIP #1: The proper planning and preparation will make or break both your project AND your spirit! Do the spot test!!

The end result ....the before and incredible!

shabby white china cabinet makeover by Traceys Fancy

It feels like velvet!

And it gives off a charm that is just so endearing! I can see this piece setting the stage for every season and it's the perfect backdrop to display plate-ware and serving dishes and holiday decor!

shabby white china cabinet by Traceys Fancy

It's a non-fussy that doesn't have to be coddled regarding wear and tear! It's already worn and torn! I think I've missed this look.....and I hope to do much more of it in the future!

For a detailed video explanation of this project, visit my 3-part YouTube playlist HERE.

I hope this breakdown helps you to understand how easy your painting projects can be......and what a difference proper planning can make in the success of your results!

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shabby white china cabinet by Traceys Fancy
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