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Paint and stain manufacturers are making it easier than ever to apply a beautiful finish to ready-to-assemble wood furniture.
If you don’t want to hide the natural beauty of wood furniture with paint, staining is an option with a much-reduced hassle factor. Depending on the look you want, choose from products that combine stain and finish to save you time (such as Circa 1850 Stain ‘N Varnish or Minwax Polyshades), or water-based stains and finishes that make cleanup easy and environmentally friendly (such as Varathane’s Diamond line).

You’re not restricted to wood furniture such as oak and maple. Colors and custom tints are available across several lines; colors can also be layered to create special effects.
For this project, we used Circa 1850 Stain ‘N Varnish in a first coat of white birch and a second coat of steel blue to achieve a rustic, washed-blue effect. Approximate cost: Stain and supplies for this four-shelf storage unit cost less than $25. Completion time: Three hours for sanding and initial stain, 24 hours drying time, two hours for light sand and final stain, plus another 24 hours drying time.

Supplies: Available at paint and building supply stores. Tips: Experiment if you’re uncertain. Buy the smallest quantity of stain possible and test the process, including finish, on an inconspicuous part of your project, or on a test piece of the same type of wood.