Antique Hope Chest Makeover with General Finishes Empire Gray Milk Paint

I’m so excited to share the recent update I did on my antique hope chest!

When my mom passed away, we found a handwritten note in her dresser drawer stating that she wanted me to have this hope chest that had been my great-grandmother’s. ❤️

It’s so special to me because my mom wanted me to have it, and also because it has a long history in our family.

Because this chest is so treasured, I was very cautious about deciding what to do with it to update it, but I’m so happy with the results!

Office Makeover

I’m in the process of giving our home office a makeover, now that it’s getting much more regular use. The hope chest has been in our office ever since I brought it here from my Mom’s, and it works perfectly against the short wall. Now that I’m updating the rest of the office though, I decided to give the hope chest a little touch-up, too, using my favorite milk paint from General Finishes.

Oops 😞

But first, I need to tell you that I committed the cardinal sin of DIY furniture makeovers…. I somehow neglected to take a complete “before” picture. 😕

I honestly have no idea how that happened. I was just so excited to get started with my vision, that I already had the chest disassembled and out in the garage before I remembered.

Thankfully, I at least have these pics of the drawers as I was working on them, so you can see what we were beginning with.

Before = Blonde Lacquered Finish

As you can see in the photo below, the chest had a shiny, yellowish blonde lacquered paint on it. This type of paint was popular several generations ago, but not so much now. And, it really wasn’t doing this piece any favors. All the special details of the chest just got lost in this color with no contrast.

It was clear that this finish had been there a long time, and whomever had painted it way-back-when had painted right over the adorable little brass lock hardware on both of the drawers.

The ornate brass handles were not painted, because they were removable, but the locks don’t come off, so someone just painted them. 😳 It wasn’t super noticeable with the blonde lacquer, but I knew it would be with the gray milk paint. Plus, the locks are beautiful with such pretty little details, so I knew I wanted them exposed.

Fortunately, a heat gun and a tiny steel brush allowed me to scrape the old paint right off.

Look at how much better that looks without the paint on it! Removing it allows all those details in the locks to be noticed now!

General Finishes Milk Paint in Empire Gray

From these drawer pictures, you can also see what rough shape the blonde lacquer was in. This is exactly why I chose General Finishes Milk Paint for this project!

No Stripping or Sanding Necessary

General Finishes Milk Paint does not require any sanding or priming for most applications. This was perfect for this project, because this piece is so old, I have no way of knowing what kind of paint was used. It possibly could have been lead-based, which would make stripping and sanding it a more challenging process.

Even for removing the paint on those two tiny locks, we were very careful, and wore masks and goggles to make sure were were not inhaling any dangerous lead dust, just in case.

General Finishes Milk Paint came to the rescue! It was so easy and quick to update this little chest, because other than removing the paint on the locks, the only other prep I did was just giving the whole chest a good wipe down with Clorox wipes to remove any dust or grime that would prevent the paint from going on smoothly or adhering well. That’s it! No sanding or stripping, which is the worst part!

And, even better, this paint has a nice thick texture that applies like a dream and is self-leveling! That means it covered the rough patches on the old paint so nicely, and all the brush strokes just magically disappeared!

It’s not a perfectly smooth finish, but for not having to sand, it’s pretty darn amazing. Plus, for the farmhouse style look I like, I don’t want it brand-new looking anyway!

The above picture is after one coat of General Finishes Empire Gray. After just the first coat, I already knew I was going to love it! I never really paid attention to those panels of wood on the side, because they just blended in too much with the previous color. But with this light gray color, they remind me of shiplap! And everyone knows how I love shiplap!

The Finished Piece!

The Original Oak Top Finish

First, let me talk about that oak top.

I’m so thankful that it was spared the blonde lacquer paint, so I didn’t do a thing to the top. It was already this perfectly stained, beautiful, rich oak with all the grain showing. And it was in excellent condition. Before, with the blonde lacquered paint, it just blended in. But in contrast to the new Empire Gray, it pops! Your eye is drawn to all the wood grains with that incredible flowing pattern. Love. 💕

The Hardware

Look at these original antique brass drawer pulls! I love all the intricate details, and the patina from years of aging. Oh, my heart.

And the newly exposed locks are now noticeable against the Empire Gray paint. They are a much shinier brass color compared to the pulls, because of hiding under layers of paint for so many years, but they will eventually catch up to the drawer pulls and develop some tarnish and patina.

After I had all that old paint removed from the locks, I just carefully painted around them with a small brush and a steady hand. So worth the little bit of extra time and effort it took to expose them.

The Drawers

I lined the inside of the drawers with a gray patterned wrapping paper from The Dollar Tree. Easy and cheap, but gives it a polished look.

It looks so good with my Vintage Blueprint Art hanging above it!

This antique hope chest is one of my most treasured possessions, and I love having it here in my office where I spend so much time.

When I look at it, my heart just flip-flops a tiny bit.

I remember it in the den at my mom’s house, where she had it for years, the top covered in framed family photos.

I wonder how/where my great-grandmother used it when it was hers.

And now, here it lives in my home, being loved by yet another generation. 💕

That’s the beauty of antiques, I think. The unique character they have from the lives they lived before they came to you.

Stay Tuned for My Office Reveal

The antique hope chest is just a little glimpse into my office makeover. I can’t wait to show you the whole reveal very soon!

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24 thoughts on “Antique Hope Chest Makeover with General Finishes Empire Gray Milk Paint

  1. I had to let my mother’s hope chest go a year ago when we had to clean out our storage area at the airport. So many wonderful memories left with items that had been handed down to me and were an important part of my childhood. It was a very sad day for me, but something that had to be done quickly. – Margy

    1. Oh no Margy, I’m sad that your mother’s hope chest had to go. That is very sad. It’s hard to let go of some of these “things” but sometimes we have to. We are in the process of preparing for an estate sale at my parents’ home, and it’s so difficult to think of any of their things going away. 😞

  2. Absolutely gorgeous. I love the bones of this piece and you did a beautiful job of refreshing it. Thank you for sharing this with us. We were very happy that you chose to link up with #omhgww and your post will be socialized if buttons are available. Have a wonderful day.

  3. This is SO beautiful! We’ve been updating a lot of furniture here, too, and I really love that you kept the wood tone on the surface and the balance between the gray and the wood. That curved edge on the top is precious!

    1. Thank you, Kathy. It makes me so happy to have this special piece in my office, where I can enjoy it everyday. 💕

  4. I really love that the top was left wood grain…too many people simply cover everything and call it a day—the patina in woods is so rich, and with your history on this piece, it would be a shame to cover it up! Sandi from WW

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