Mid-Century Modern Nightstand Makeover With a Splash of Paint

Do you have an old nightstand that could use a refresh? Let’s give it a mid-century makeover with new stain, paint and hardware.

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My Old Nightstand

My Great Uncle Jim built this nightstand for shop class around 1960. It spent many years with my great grandma, before passing to my grandma who recently gave it to me.

After six decades—enduring the Vietnam War, JFK’s assassination, and even the bellbottom era—this nightstand only needed a little refresh.

Old wooden nightstand before the update

I wanted to sand out the old wear and tear, update the stain, and add mid-century modern hardware and paint to match this guest room.

Where to Find a Wooden Nightstand

If you don’t have a vintage nightstand waiting for a makeover, you might be able to find one at a thrift store or estate sale.

Or you could build one from scratch. Really! The simple, clean lines of mid-century modern style are perfect for beginning woodworkers.

Try a DIY from one of these bloggers:

Refreshing a Mid-Century Modern Nightstand

Once you have your nightstand, here are the steps to give it a fun mid-century makeover.


  • Safety gear (goggles, mask, gloves)
  • Pry bar or screwdriver (whatever’s needed to remove the old handle)
  • Power sander and/or sandpaper
  • Stainable wood filler and putty knife (optional to fill holes)
  • Wood stain (I used Minwax Golden Pecan)
  • Foam brush
  • Clean cloths
  • Paint (I used PPG Brass Mesh)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint brush or roller
  • Beeswax wood polish
  • Drawer handle and screws
  • Drill
  • Tape measure

Remove Handle

Start by gently removing the old hardware if needed. I wrapped a small pry bar in a piece of cloth to protect the front of the drawer as I removed the drawer pull.

Sand Nightstand

Next, sand the nightstand to prepare it for staining, painting and DIY magic.

Ryobi power sander

I started with a power sander for the bulk of the sanding. Then I switched to 150-grit sandpaper, followed by fine 220-grit sandpaper to smooth out the wood by hand.

Safety Note: Don’t sand if you think your nightstand contains lead.

Add Wood Filler

Next, you can fill any holes with stainable wood filler as needed.

My drawer had a couple of holes from the old handle. Since the holes didn’t line up with the new drawer pull, I filled them in.

Let that dry, and then sand it smooth.

Stain Nightstand

Make sure your nightstand is clean, dry and free from sanding dust before staining.

Minwax Golden Pecan wood stain

Then apply wood stain in the direction of the grain, just on the areas you’re not going to paint. A foam brush is your friend for getting an even application without too much mess.

Let the stain soak in for about 15 minutes, or according to the directions for your stain, and then wipe away the excess with a clean cloth.

Nightstand after applying Golden Pecan stain
Here’s my nightstand after one coat of Golden Pecan stain.

Wait overnight to see if the stain is dark enough or you need another application. I was happy with one coat.

Related: Get stain color inspiration from these popular MCM woods

Paint Nightstand

After the stain dries, it’s time to paint the inside cubby of your nightstand.

I spent way too much time deciding on paint color, and then I remembered: this is just a small area. You can easily repaint it anytime, so don’t be afraid to try a fun color.

PPG and Behr paint samples in warm yellow, orange and red

I wanted a warm, mid-century paint to tie in with the many shades of yellow in my eclectic guest room.

Ultimately I landed on PPG Brass Mesh. It feels cheerful and warm while being slightly muted and mid-century. Just right for this room.

Use painter’s tape to protect the stained area, and get to painting.

Nightstand with fresh yellow paint in the cubby hole

Apply Wood Polish

Let the paint fully dry, and then apply wood polish to the stained areas of the nightstand. I like to use this beeswax wood polish to feed and condition the wood.

Howard Feed-N-Wax beeswax wood polish and conditioner

Leave the polish on for at least 20 minutes, and then wipe away the excess with a clean, soft cloth. Let that dry overnight.

Look how the wood comes alive after being polished…

Wood nightstand after applying beeswax polish

Attach New Handle

Finally, attach your new drawer pull. I used this Home Depot handle with a simple mid-century style.

Related: Where to find mid-century modern drawer pulls

You can use a tape measure and painter’s tape to help measure and mark where you want to drill holes for the handle.

Then step back and admire your handiwork!

Mid-century modern drawer pull on nightstand

New Look for an Old Nightstand

Here’s the refinished nightstand in my guest room. The yellow paint helps warm up the decor, and the cubby is perfect for holding books that tie in with the travel theme.

The nightstand also matches this mid-century desk in the opposite corner of the room. I used the same Golden Pecan stain, and the colors turned out very similar in both projects.

If you’ve been thinking about trying a DIY project, a nightstand makeover is a good place to start. It’s small and simple, with beautiful results.

Mid-century modern nightstand with new Golden Pecan stain and yellow paint

You might also like these DIY projects.

6 thoughts on “Mid-Century Modern Nightstand Makeover With a Splash of Paint”

  1. Awesome DIY on “refreshing” the mid century nightstand!! I love the paint color you chose for the cubby..such a happy color! It’s a perfect addition to the downstairs guestroom. (Brings to mind my high school classes in the 1960’s…I had Home Economics supposedly learning to sew and do some cooking.(eye roll). We had to trade and take shop and make something..,,of course mine wasn’t as great as your uncle’s nightstand ..it was a cutting board shaped like an apple which I still have!) Anyway I digress…another great H & H post with easy to follow DIY instructions. Go Tara!!

    • Thanks Judy! The guest room is so cozy now. I spent a lot of time trying to find just the right yellow paint, and I’m really happy with the Brass Mesh color.

      I’m so impressed with your apple cutting board! I need to try something like that. 🙂

  2. Tara:
    I likely got a ‘D” in shop class for making the nightstand but you get an ‘A’ for updating it! I’d forgotten I’d made it and thanks for reminding me. I do remember seeing it in my folks house up in Greenwater over the years, and by looking at the nicks and dings it must of had a lot of use. I still hammer away at woodworking projects but most of them fall apart before they reach 60! Best of luck to you and yours and Merry Christmas.


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