How to Create A Whitewash Finish Under Ten Dollars


How to Create a Whitewash Finish Under Ten Dollars

Here are three things you need to know about this post.

If you are looking for a perfectly executed and detailed tutorial on how to create a whitewash finish…this isn’t it.

If you are hoping to find a perfectly styled and photographed coffee table…you won’t find it here.

If you are here to learn the underbelly secrets of creating a whitewash finish for less than ten dollars, congratulations, you are in the right place.

 The Hard Facts

If anyone tells you that whitewashing a piece of furniture is quick and easy, do not believe it. Just politely smile and walk away.

I’m going to be perfectly honest and tell you that I approached this project with a slightly arrogant attitude. What could be so hard about brushing on paint that’s been thinned down with water and wiping it off?

This should be cake for someone who has been painting furniture for four years. In my mind, it didn’t matter I waited until the last minute to try something new.

(The rest of this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. Simply put, if you order any products with the link provided, I may receive a small commission.)

I read this tutorial, and I was armed with this tutorial from one of my favorite books.

I already felt like an expert on this subject and the only thing left to do was to create this magical finish and prepare my acceptance speech for an award I would no doubt receive at some furniture painting ceremony.

Here’s What Happened

I purchased an end table and coffee table for my living room several months ago. I had been stalking the online garage sale sites for awhile now looking for something curvy and French.

Lo, and behold I found it.


With a little paint and whole lot of elbow grease you can create a whitewash paint finish for under $10

Without going into too much detail, my living room is now in stage 1 of what will wind up being ten stages of color choices, second guessing, and blatant procrastination on my part.

I hung drop cloth curtains, and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

I’ve just been waiting for the furniture to speak to me.

I thought about using a stain. It didn’t feel right; too dark and too much work.

Then I thought about painting the thing cream; it felt too bright.

Finally, I realized a whitewash finish would be the way to have my cake and eat it too. The perfect combination of white paint with wood grain still peeking out.

Whitewash is the budget conscious painter’s dream

Even though the process of whitewashing is NOT quick and easy it is a very inexpensive way to freshen up any piece of furniture.

You can use leftover paint, add water, and you have a whitewash.

You only need about 1/4 cup of paint mixed in with 3/4 to 1 cup of water, and you have yourself a whitewash paint mix.

But what if you don’t have any leftover paint?  Never fear, I’ve got that covered.

Allow me to introduce you to the $3.99 paint sample.

This magical jar holds just under 8 ounces of any color paint you choose. You will be amazed by the things you can makeover using just 1 cup of paint.

All you need is 1/4 cup of paint and a cup of water to create a whitewash furniture mix.

This sample is Sherwin Williams Swiss Coffee which happens to be the color I am painting my kitchen cabinets.

I mixed my paint, threw down my drop cloths, and grabbed my favorite size paint brush.

Of course, I prepped my table by cleaning, then sanding, then cleaning again. You know how I feel about furniture prep.

Now, here’s where it got dicey.

The whitewash looked great on the legs and apron. I was in love and feeling unstoppable.

I just brushed the whitewash on in small sections and immediately wiped it away using a folded t-shirt cloth.

I used the same process on the table top, but it was quite streaky.  No worries, I thought, I can just sand it a little and smooth it out.

Sand And Then Sand Some More

Ha! Sand it a lot and then sand it some more.

I tried using steel wool and it did make a lovely shine, but I just wasn’t happy with the look.

In fact, I was downright disgruntled about the whole thing.

So, I packed it up and brought it in the house hoping it didn’t look as bad as it seemed in the harsh sunlight.

Unfortunately, it did.

I began day two armed with coffee and fresh attitude. I was determined to make it work.

I gave the whole table a second coat, wiped it down, then brushed paint directly into all the dreamy details.

More sanding and suddenly, it started to grow on me.

Yes, I was falling in love with my coffee table instead of feeling like I wanted to set fire to it.

And here she is in all her imperfect whitewash glory!

With a little paint and a whole lot of elbow grease you can create a whitewash paint finish for under $10.

The style and detailing just pop with the new finish.

I knew right away my cream tray, and topiary would not work with this new look, so I grabbed my galvanized tray from Magnolia Market, added tulips, and a milk glass bowl with some mossy balls.

All of this styling was totally done on the fly.

You can create a whitewash paint finish on any piece of furniture for under $10.

You can create a whitewash paint finish under ten dollars using a paint sample and whole lot of elbow grease.

With every photo I took, (all 66), I fell a little more in love with what I had created.

If you have ever completed a DIY project, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There are so many highs and lows of the process.

There is a matching end table that I need to tackle next, but I think I will wait a couple of weeks.

Surely by then, I will have some expert tips for you and maybe even a few step by step photos that are clearly missing from this tale.

So tell me, do you think you might attempt to whitewash something after reading this?

I’m off to make a cup of coffee and see what 10 on the 10th. Stories my friends have cooked up this month.

You can read last month’s installment here.

Ciao for now.

Your sister in paint 🙂


Come see how I created a whitewash paint finish for this month's edition of Ten on the 10th!

White Spray Paint

At Home with Jemma

Bluesky Kitchen

Cottage at the Crossroads

Garden Up Green

Patina and Paint

Poofing The Pillows

The Purple Hydrangea

The Queen in Between

To Work With My Hands










    • Lisa says:

      Hi, Carole, I will tell you the tulips came from the super high-end floral section oh my local WalMart. I enjoy how they look as if they don’t care.

  1. Stacey says:

    Good morning! I have always loved the whitewash look on furniture. It makes curves and details stand out in such a pretty way. I’m definitely going to do this to my pine kitchen table when we get in the new house.

    Thanks for the info!

    • Lisa says:

      Hey Stacey, I already know several things I will do differently when I tackle the matching end table. Maybe then I can write a detailed tutorial with tips and tricks.

      Thanks for stopping by today.

  2. Tammy says:

    I have been painting anything that wouldn’t move for over 20 years now. I have ALWAYS avoided washes for the exact reasons you mentioned! I love it on the details but the flat long surfaces…. they take some work! You did a fabulous job.
    P.S. I have been looking at my living room furniture for over two years trying to decide what to do with it all. Great curvy pieces, but dark cherry just doesn’t go with all of my neutrals. You have given me inspiration!

    • Lisa says:

      Knowing this makes me feel a little better. Honestly, I could have done the same effect using milk paint, but that wouldn’t have been under $10. It would have been easier but more costly.

      Thank you for stopping by.

    • Lisa says:

      I can tell you; the hardest part will be working on the top of your table because of the surface size.

      Good luck to you and I look forward to seeing your finished project.

  3. Karen says:

    This is so cute, Lisa. Yep, I can totally relate to that brilliant confidence beforehand then the ups and downs, the dozens and dozens (and dozens) of photos, and then that glorious moment when it “works”.

    Your table is gorgeous and I hope you’re sitting back basking in the glory of your success! 🙂 These “iffy” projects are so much fun, aren’t they? 🙂

    I love that a whitewash uses so little paint. I’ve got six of these in various shades of beige from my indecisive experience of trying to decide what color to paint the dining room. FINALLY, I made the decision, bought the paint, got it done, then covered up those awful swatches I splashed across the walls so I could “really get a good idea of how each option would look.”

    The sad truth is that the library (which I planned to paint the very same color) still sports its variegated wall decor – since November. 🙁
    I’m just passing it off as a fashionable new trend – but I’m not sure anyone is buying that! 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiration. I’m intrigued and have to find something to whitewash now.

  4. Sarah says:

    I LOVE how this turned out!!!!!! I could see me maybe trying my hand at whitewashing one of these days!! Fabulous job and gorgeous photos, my friend!!!

  5. Jemma says:

    I just knew it was going to turn out beautiful and it did!
    I white washed several pieces of furniture a few years ago. Really breathed new life into them.
    Thank you too for reminding me that a small can of paint can do the trick!
    Happy Friday my friend!

  6. Mary-the boondocks blog says:

    Lisa, I have tried this several times and love it. It was so easy to do. And I think depending on how much water you add you can have more or less strength of paint. That will surely make a difference. I love this technique it is simple and cheap!! I am also looking forward to seeing what you’re going to do with the rest of your room.

    • Lisa says:

      It really is an inexpensive way to refresh a piece of furniture. I could have done this just as easily with milk paint and with less sanding probably.

  7. Toni | Small Home Soul says:

    I would love to white wash my dining table so I appreciate knowing that it might not always be easy peasey. Because I too start a project as if it will be cake….

    I love how the white is concentrated in the curvy details of the legs. What a beautiful update!

  8. Tonya says:

    Your table looks gorgeous! I think the key
    To successful whitewashing is lots of sanding!!! Good
    Job! DIY is often trail and error with a little.bravery mixed in.

  9. Carol@blueskykitchen says:

    Lisa, good for you for sticking with your white wash project. I’ve whitewashed so many pieces, but I’ve always used AS chalk paint and it’s always turned out beautifully. I also love Amy Howard One Step for white washing. No sanding at all, but you do have to seal the stained pieces so there is no bleed through. Your pieces are lovely ~ I love the French curves. You found some great treasures.

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