Thrifty transformation: How to paint a door to look like wood

For a few years now, I’ve been wanting to spruce up the side door that opens into our garage. This is what it looked like “before:”


As you can see, there’s nothing really wrong with the door, per se. (Yes, normally the hardware is intact.) ;) The only part that really bothered me was that the trim around the windows was left white. I originally planned on simply painting that to match the tan on the rest of the door.

But after thinking it over, I decided to make this door look richer – like a brand new, expensive, solid wood door. And I knew I could achieve the look using my faux wood grain painting technique. This technique will give the appearance of a high-end, solid wood door – even close up – for under $40!

After removing the hardware and cleaning off all the cobwebs and bugs, I gave the door a once over with a coat of exterior flat paint.


I chose Clark+Kensington® Paint & Primer in One – in Copper Pot, purchased at Ace Hardware.


I chose the orange color because I wanted a finished result that mimicked a cedar/cherry wood look. I would recommend choosing a base paint color that matches the undertones of whatever wood you want to replicate.

After the paint dried, I mixed together portions of two tubes of Minwax Water-Based Express Color Wiping Stain and Finish.* I chose mahogany and walnut and ended up using a little more of the mahogany. (This thicker wiping stain or a similar gel stain is key for this project. Regular stain will not adhere to painted pieces.)


Then I used a good paintbrush (Purdy is my all-time favorite) to apply a coat of the mixed stain to a small section of the door, attempting to create a natural wood look.


I had my laptop nearby the whole time, displaying a photo of a door I wanted to replicate. This gave me a clear picture of the direction, appearance and texture of real wood grain.

I used this handy wood graining tool to create realistic knots and different types of wood grain patterns in the stain.


This tool is tricky to get the hang of but, once I did, I was impressed with the results!


Together, the exterior paint base and wiping stain create a superior, durable finish. I used this exact same technique on our front door and it has held up spectacularly well for several years. We have a dog that jumps on the door every day and there is not one single scratch in the finish!

Here’s a look at our “new” side door:



Faux-woodgrain-side-doorThe door hardware was previously gold. I spray-painted it oil-rubbed bronze to give it a more modern look. I’ll share all the details of that project in a post later this week.



What do you think of my thrifty door transformation?


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4 secrets to secondhand gift giving

Have you ever tried to give a secondhand gift but worried that you’d appear tacky or cheap? I personally love giving secondhand items because it allows me to give something that’s worth more than what I could comfortably purchase new. Today I want to share my four secrets for how to give a secondhand gift that is appropriate and tasteful.

1. Don’t try to pass off secondhand stuff as new.

I recently gifted a secondhand play kitchen to my toddler niece. It was previously my daughter’s, but she outgrew it a few years ago. I knew my niece would absolutely love it and use it frequently.


However, I also made sure to honestly explain up front to my sister where the gift originated. This is important because it helps avoid any awkwardness while the gift is examined (the recipient will know it’s not new). And no one will wonder if you were trying to fool them into believing you spent more than you did. You could try saying something like, “I was perusing the thrift store looking for furniture to redo and I saw this and knew it would be absolutely perfect for ______________.”

2. Make sure an item is clean and in “like new” condition.

I always thoroughly inspect a secondhand item for signs of wear and only give stuff that is in “like new” condition. Clean is key, too! I made sure to give the play kitchen a really good scrubbing, so it appeared as if it came right off a store shelf.

3. Add something new.

This is my secret sauce for taking a secondhand item from appropriate to totally awesome! For example, I ordered a new apron for my niece to go along with the secondhand play kitchen. The apron only cost me $2 on eBay, but it increased the value and thoughtfulness of the gift exponentially. Adding something new to a secondhand gift conveys that your motive was to give the perfect gift, not just save a buck.


4. Personalize it.

This removes any shred of “secondhand” from a secondhand gift, elevating it to uber thoughtful, personal and meaningful. For example, I added to my niece’s play kitchen a container to corral all the (clean) secondhand play dishes and cooking items. Then I simply slapped on a chalkboard tag labeled “Rosie’s Kitchen.” Done.  


Have you ever gifted a secondhand item? What was the result?

Garden labels from paint stir sticks

Has spring got you thinking about a garden yet? Well, if you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know I have a bit of a brown thumb. So although I’ve given up on planting a full vegetable garden (for now), I still like to plant a few kitchen herbs every year. I especially love basil (Caprese salad, anyone?) and cilantro, although I’ve found growing cilantro to be a little tricky. (Any tips on keeping it alive are much appreciated.)

To keep everything straight, I like to use garden labels made from paint stir sticks. You know, the free wooden ones you get when you buy a can of paint.

I trim them in half or thirds using my miter saw. I only do thirds if I believe I can cut them without losing any fingers. ;) Then I give them a quick coat of chalkboard paint, front and back.

While the labels dry, I plant my herbs, usually in some sort of container.

Finally, I add the chalkboard paint stir sticks, using a chalkboard marker to label each plant. Done! 

If I don’t touch or breathe on them too much, hopefully this year’s plants will survive. I love using fresh herbs in my dishes, don’t you?