Refinishing Wood Furniture for a French Provincial Look

The white finish of French provincial style furniture fits into the romantic theme of an adult bedroom or the princess theme for a girl’s bedroom. Using white or off-white paint, you can turn wood furniture into a French provincial style, giving the furniture a new design purpose. And French provincial decor isn’t limited to bedroom furniture; use the design throughout the house! To achieve the ultimate look, start with a piece of wood furniture that captures the flourish of French provincial design. The furniture will have cabriole legs (bowed leg that curves to a tapered foot), scallops, and decorative grooves.


Begin the refinishing process by protecting the floor. Lay newspaper, plastic, or a folded old sheet beneath the furniture. Remove the drawer and door pulls. If the drawer and door pulls are wood and will be reused, refinish them in the same manner as the furniture piece. Use antique gold to spray paint on metal drawer and door pulls. Remove the doors and drawers. Stand the drawers on end and place doors on a raised object, like a box, to make it easier to paint the sides of the doors.

Sand the wood furniture to roughen up the surfaces for better paint adhesion. Use sandpaper designed for furniture finishing, like 240 grit. Use rags and a vacuum cleaner on the furniture to remove all traces of dust.

Prime and paint

Apply primer as a base for the paint on all displaying surfaces; the inside and back of the furniture and doors and drawers do not require painting unless desired. Primer is also an aid to cover up dark colored wood finishes. Let the primer dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Apply white paint in a low luster or flat finish. A semi-gloss or gloss finish may be used if a shiny finish is preferred. A paint roller can be used on flat surfaces to speed up the painting process. A paint brush will be needed to paint into grooves and channels of the wood design. Apply the paint in the direction of the wood grain. Allow to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions before applying a second coat if needed. If beverages will be placed on the surface of the furniture, two to three coats of clear urethane will prevent moisture penetration. Urethane is available in satin, semi-gloss and gloss finish, and may be water- or oil-based. If choosing oil-based urethane, apply with a less foam brush, which is less expansive and can then be tossed out when you are finished.

If desired, use gold-colored paint around the edges of drawers and doors, being careful not to get paint on flat surfaces. If the furniture piece is more ornate in design with recessed areas around raised panels, then use gold paint to highlight the recessed area (grooves or channels in the wood design). For an aged appearance, use a rag to immediately wipe off some of the gold paint.


Allow to dry thoroughly, preferably overnight, before reattaching doors, inserting drawers, and attaching door and drawer pulls. Replacing drawer and door pulls with brass or antique gold-colored pieces will offer a step up in elegance.

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