Restoration Hardware Inspired Rustic Barstool Makeover DIY


After looking for months for new barstools to go under our counter height breakfast bar, I thought I would just give up. There was no way we were paying $400 per stool (I have expensive taste, apparently). So I decided to take matters into my own hands. Granted the finished product isn’t exactly what I originally wanted – which involved leather padded swivel seats and studded nail-head detail – but hey, they’re unique! And a heck of a lot cheaper.

So, I found a few old stools on VarageSale for $40 and went to work. I didn’t snap photos of the whole process because I honestly didn’t think they would turn out as good as they did so you’ll have to use your imagination. But, here is my step-by-step tutorial on how to turn old barstools into rustic beauties.

Step 1 – Sand

Sand them down. Just enough so the finish is rough so paint can stick to them. Make sure to clean the dust off after. If they don’t have any finish on them then you can skip this step.

barstool makeover before picture


Step 2 – Watered Paint

Paint them with a watered down paint solution. Use whatever colour you want! I watered the blue colour down quite a bit, about half and half. Then brush on the paint very roughly (with the grain) so you can still see the wood through the paint here and there. Let the paint dry fully –  I waited overnight.

Step 3 – Dry Brush

Dry brush your other colours on. This is where you can get creative and make them look as rustic and old as you want. Pro tip: Home Depot sells small $5 paint sample jars which work great for these kinds of projects.

Use a paper plate, put just a tiny bit of your colour on it and dip your brush in just a touch and wipe off the excess. Then using very light strokes brush the colour on all over, as much or as little as you want. The key here is to brush so you can see the brush strokes, that’s what makes it look rustic. It works great to use an old brush.

A trick I learned while doing the second stool is to keep a wet cloth with you so you can wipe off any strokes that you don’t like or that went on too thick.

I liked the look of brushing with the grain, and then putting a few very light brush strokes against the grain to make it look washed out.

restoration hardware inspired refinished bar stools

After the first colour of dry brushing

Step 4 – More Dry Brushing

Keep dry brushing with different colours (after one colour dries) until you like how it looks. I used a very light blue/grey and then put just a very small touch of a cinnamon orange colour on top to make it look a little bit more weathered. The best part is that I already had these colours in my house!

Step 5 – Image Transfer

The image on top of the stools is an idea I found on Pinterest and have never tried before. It was surprisingly easy.

Cut out a piece of wax paper to an 8.5 x 11 size and glue it to a piece of paper, preferably card stock paper that’s a little thicker. Find or create a graphic that you want and flip it around so it’s mirrored.

Disclaimer: I’m a graphic designer so I have the software to create my own graphic – but you can find lots of cool graphics on Google!

Print onto your wax paper. I didn’t try this with colours, only black ink, so I don’t know how that would work. This will only work with a laserjet printer.

Figure out where you want your image and place the wax paper face down on it. This is the tricky part because you have to be very careful and place it down and not move it or the image will smudge. Then press it down with the edge of a credit card or something similar and with your hands (I learned the hard way that just the credit card doesn’t work). Press it down hard so the whole image transfers. I had to re-do mine a few times.

rustic barstool makeover

Step 6 – Seal

It might take a while for the ink to dry, like a day or so. Then seal the whole stool with a wood sealer that has a finish that you like. I used a satin finish.

I must say, I quite enjoy how they turned out!

Also if you’ve been wondering about the graphic… we call our little ranch “Windy Ridge.” It got it’s name because, you guessed it – it’s SO WINDY. All. The. Time. But we love it! It’s our little piece of paradise.

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Have you tried any furniture refinishing projects lately? Let me know how they turned out in the comments below!

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