Guest Posts

Achieve a Driftwood Finish in 2 Easy Steps

Prepare to get your socks knocked off! Today, we have another wonderful guest post from our friend Jeannette, the very talented blogger from Snazzy Little Things.

The first time I visited Elizabeth Joan Design…I was mesmerized by the talent of these two wonderful ladies. Their photography and tutorials are so beautiful and easy to read, and I absolutely love their style. So when Emily and Erin asked me to be their guest blogger, I jumped at the chance. In this post, I will talk about how to achieve a driftwood paint finish (as found in Restoration Hardware) using only two stains from your local hardware store.


Achieve a driftwood finish in 2 easy steps!

I prefer a no-fuss, authentically aged look on my wood finishes. If I see a paint finish with too many layers…my honest opinion is that it’s similar to the effect you get when applying too much makeup. It tends to feel forced or overdone. The more you apply, the greater the chance for a “gummy” finish or chipping as well. After all, truly “weathered” wood occurs when layers of paint are removed…not applied. Right?

2 Easy Steps Button


Three years ago, my house was a blank canvas with virtually no furniture. As I painted and repurposed my way to a furnished home, I admit that I waffled a bit as I attempted to determine my style. I also made my own fair share of design and finishing mistakes. My husband and I finally settled on the fact that we love a mostly “curated and collected” look in our home. We love antiques and Old World finishes. We determined that I still love my neutrals (maybe a little too much), we prefer minimalism, and we confess that Restoration Hardware is what our makes our hearts go aflutter. This summer he created a woodshop in our garage. So now his passion for woodworking + my obsession with Restoration Hardware–well, they got married :)

Needless to say, I have a plethora of gorgeous new furniture to play with! In particular, I was crushing on this table from RH.


My inspiration: Restoration Hardware Monastery Coffee Table

The Tutorial:

Step 1: Darken Your Wood

If you are starting with plain pine, I suggest darkening the wood. Doing so makes the wood appear older, and the water based stain soaks into the wood and dries very quickly. I love that it doesn’t feel tacky when it’s dry, which is what you sometimes get when you apply an oil based stain. Below is a glimpse of my husband’s new “upcycled” woodshop and our own “knocked-off” Restoration Hardware Monastery Coffee Table. At this point, the wood was sanded and ready for the next step.

Pine Table Build RH Knock Off

Above: Our version of the Restoration Hardware Monastery Coffee Table (knocked off, before staining)

You can choose any dark stain, but my personal favorite is Varathane Dark Walnut, a water based stain. In this case, we brushed it on heavily with a nylon brush and let sit for about 5 minutes. Then we rubbed it into the wood by hand, removing excess and ensuring that the wood was completely covered. Let dry overnight (AND BE SURE TO WEAR RUBBER GLOVES).

81KxBHsTAyL._SL1443_My favorite stain


Step 2: Apply the Driftwood Effect

Next, apply a thick layer of Sunbleached stain with a synthetic brush, and let soak into the wood for not more than 5 minutes. Then, use a dry cloth to evenly and lightly wipe Sunbleached stain into the wood (by hand…again, gloves!) and remove the excess. The goal is not to rub hard — you want to use the cloth (in place of the brush) to give it an even finish overtop of the walnut stain.


My new, favorite stain


After Step 2 is complete, if you want more brush strokes, you can “dry brush” the Sunbleached finish in a cross-hatch application (in quick “X” patterns) using a barely-wet synthetic brush. Make sure the brush is MOSTLY dry. My method: I would cross hatch followed by dabbing with my wet cloth. This is the effect that you get — a beautiful driftwood finish.

Driftwood Finish by

See how you can see a nice combination of light and dark wood tones showing through? And just a few “dabs” and “cross-hatch” effects are visible, too.

Important: Topcoat Treatment

Congratulations! You’ve finally achieved the perfect driftwood look in two easy steps, the hard part is over–but I actually lied to you. There is just ONE more–but very, very important (and simple) last step. Apply a clear water-based, matte polyurethane. This particular brand has a milky white finish at first. BUT DON’T PANIC!! It dries clear. I chose matte to keep it looking as close to natural driftwood as possible.


Do you notice a theme with my choice of finishes? They are ALL water based. My reason? Water-based stains dry much faster than oil based, and they have a reduced chance of yellowing over time. I am not paid by Rust-o-leum…I simply love their products since they are so easy to work with (and who doesn’t love fast-drying finishes?)

So now, we have this:RH Inspired Monastery Coffee Table 1

Another view:RH Knock Off

Free building plans and printables are available for subscribers to my blog.

Once again, I’d like to thank Emily and Erin for inviting me to post on their gorgeous blog. I’m very happy to have the chance to spend time with all of you. This is just one of the many, many projects we have going on over here at Snazzy Little Things. My husband and I are always making sawdust, testing out new tools…and dreaming up our next project.

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Thanks so much Jeannette for sharing your amazing work with us! Please head on over to her blog and check out all of her amazing projects!


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  • Kellsey

    Hello! What if I have furniture already stained like an oak color? Should just put the driftwood affect stain over that or should I darken it first? If I darken it, will I have to sand the old color off? Thank you!!

    • Debi

      That’s what I was wanting to know too! Hate when bloggers post something but never respond to questions! Did you try this on your already stained table, if so, how did it go?

    • Corrie

      It depends on how dark you want the bottom color that shows through. If you keep the original color you will need to sand off any protective coating and rough up the wood a little to allow areas for the driftwood stain to soak in. Good luck on your project!

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