{Mis}Adventures in Painting the Pew…and Its Reveal!

This painted and distressed old wooden church pew was a diy project that was a lesson in trial and error. With this humorous tale of real life diy, learn what works and what doesn’t.

I debated and debated over whether or not to write about all my mishaps with painting my church pew. I toyed with the idea of just whipping up a “before” and “after” picture and making it sound so “quick and simple”… But, in the spirit of

  • A. Learning from mistakes
  • B. Learning to laugh at myself for making such silly mistakes, and
  • C. Hoping to help someone from making the same mistakes…

I decided to document the sad but true details. You, see, I was scared to start this project. I really liked my old church pew. I didn’t want to “mess it up”…

How to Paint a Church Pew

old wooden church pew at harbourbreezehome.com

{Enter The Pew: pre-makeover}

I started by sanding the livin’ daylights out of the thing with my random orbital sander.

It was a sort of therapeutic process that took…ummm…hours!

Old wooden church pew sanded with some of the raw wood showing through

{The Pew: post-sanding}

Step 2: Try out a new painting technique called “whitewashing”

After much research, I thought this look might look nice. To achieve the whitewashed look, I watered down latex paint until it was the consistency of water and brushed it on. The concept is that the paint will soak into the wood and still allow the wood grain to show through.

I thought it would be jaw-dropping beautiful.

Wood church pew with thin coat of white paint and dark wood grain showing through

{The Pew: post-white washing}

Oh, Myrtle. It was jaw-dropping, all right… In the uggh-ly way.

“Hmm,” my husband stated carefully, “I think I liked it better at the sanded state.”

That was an understatement!

Proceed with Plan B.

Church Pew laying on its side with white paint painted on the side

I flipped that puppy this way and that, until I’d painted it with 3 (thin) coats of my semi-gloss Benjamin Moore mistint paint.

Old Wooden Church Pew Painted White

Ahh…it started to look better…

Once all the coats are fully dry, distress the finish with sandpaper.

Then I took my hand-sander to it and did a little “distressing” work {I forgot to take pictures of that step. It’s my favorite part!}.

To finish things off, I decided to try some of that fancy shmancy furniture wax that ya’ all in blog land are raving about. However, I don’t have any “Annie Sloan chalk paint” nearby, nor do I have any of the accompanying waxes that are reported to be just the bee’s knees.

Instead, I have my little can of Minwax dark furniture paste wax that I found at my little local island hardware store.

I “wiped on and wiped off”.

It did. Absolutely….wait for it… Nothing!!!


So, I came up to the computer and started reading some more.

Oh. I’m supposed to wait 10 minutes before wiping off. So I did that. I applied it to the areas that I wanted it to look “distressed” ~ on the edges, sides… It definitely took the “edge” off the white and made it a little more “aged looking”… but…it was appearing sort of “streaky”! I was going for a little “distressing”… Hmmm…

I wasn’t sure if it was “right”.

At that point…I was distressed – not to mention a little high from all those fumes!

So…I went to the beach…Smile


Upon further research, (seriously, it was taking forever!) I discovered I was supposed to apply clear wax under the dark wax.



So, out of shear, “I don’t know what to do now”, I walked away from it all ~ for a few days. Every now and then I’d go stare at it.

Last night I had a conversation with my sister about it.

“Well, is it going to drive you nuts until you fix it?”, she asked.

When I gave her the answer, I had my “ah-ha” moment.

You see, I actually like it! I was driving myself crazy because I’m not sure if it’s “right”!

Silly me. I think the point is…

If you like it. It’s done!!!


So, after much ado, I present to you…

Painted Old church Pew (in an off white color) with 2 pillows sitting on it with a basket of blankets underneath

…The Pew~ After!

Collage of a wooden church pew that has been painted creamy white

If your eye caught the painted flour sack pillows, you can get the details on them here.

P.S. And if any of you have any tips for me regarding that furniture paste wax, I’m all ears!!

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  1. It is spectacular! I mean seriously gorgeous!! So many overdue the "aging" process and end up with something that looks artificial. Yours is spot on with just the right amount of "distressing" to make it look loved.


  2. Gorgeous!!! I'm putting this on my FB page today! So glad that you pushed through….the final result looks amazing!

  3. Great job! I had the exact same experience with wax! There was no difference and then I read more and realized it should sit for a bit. Then when I did that mine looked streaky too! I painted over the whole thing and now it's still sitting in the garage waiting for the next step! Yours looks fabulous and you should be proud! Found you through Thrifty Decorating!

  4. I have to tell you….my kids were just asking me through the house, "Oh my gosh Mama…WHAT are you laughing at so hard!" Thank you for being honest. I admire your courage. The post was hilarious, beginning to end, and it was your blatant honesty that made it so. That said….it did come out FABULOUS, in the end! Hope it was worth all of your 'distressing'. lol. We are building a new church soon, and all of the pews need to be removed from the old. I've been BEGGING for one. >> The one we sit in every week. That would be so special, and super-cool in our home.

  5. I have a pew that we spent an entire day stripping and after seeing yours, I now want to paint it! I love it! 🙂

  6. This turned out great, Love the off white!! I have one in my dining room, they add so much character! xo Debra

  7. I love it! I have a huge pew that I don't want to "mess up" either, but you've inspired me. Beautiful job. (ps, I struggle with waxes too)

  8. I LOVE it! One step that I learned from earlier Miss Mustard See posts, was to "stain" small areas at a time….wipe on wipe off…..it enhances the distressing. It will be too dark…you will FREAK out….you will panic…..BUT…then you use the Minwax clear paste……It lessens the stain and puts a great finish on your piece. It turned out really neat for me but I love your piece as it is. Love, Me http://www.youaretalkingtoomuch.com

  9. All the elbow grease (I mean, elbox wax!) certainly paid off – your pew is lovely and will certainly be treasured in your home of many years to come! Thanks for sharing such a fabulous story with us 🙂

  10. I love it! I feel your pain about dry-brushing. The few times I've tried it, it's been a disaster!

  11. Absolutely gorgeous!! Your efforts definitely paid off and we are so glad you shared this with us at Inspiration Friday this week!

  12. brilliant! i have a white pew as well and love the addition of the cushions!

    Visiting from miss mustard seed’s party, and love this! Come visit me anytime!

  13. I noticed your pic on the perfectly imperfect linky party after I posted my coffee table/hope chest redo. I like this white and you staged it so sweetly with the pillows and basket!

  14. The same week my husband died…every kitchen chair fell apart! Really! Our church was downsizing the chapel-and I bought one of the pews! The pew rack holds cookbooks and some decorative kitchen towels. The velvet cushion has a make-shift (sheet!) cover-4 cats and velvet-no way! I love it. And you did a great job on yours! Enjoy!

  15. The pew turned out beautifully. I was just looking for pews on craigslist. Could you share the name of the fabric on the pillow? It is so pretty!

  16. I'm so sorry you had to start over! It looks great now though:) I love dry brushing but it is hit or miss sometimes and it's not like you can just click the redo button like on your computer.

  17. I think this turned out beautiful! I'm happy you shared your true experiences while making over this pew. Things don't always happen the way we'd like them to but in the end it all works out 🙂 Oh yeah, I'll be featuring this on my upcoming Thrifty Thursday Link party! Thanks again for sharing.

  18. Hi Rita Joy! LOVE your church pew transformation. It's so beautiful. I want one of my own now. 😉 Thank you for linking it up to Inspiration Friday, we just posted it on our Facebook Page.


  19. Love how this turned out. BRAVO!

    I wanted to let you know that I've got a great giveaway that ends Friday. It's for $100 to wallquotes.com, and trust me they've got something I know you'll love!

    Stop by and enter ASAP. I'd love to see what you would do with their products! See you soon!


  20. ritajoy! I love your pew! It looks fabulous! such a great improvement.
    thanks for linking up and linking back, I'm catching you this week!

  21. Oh, I’m so glad you put this post in your newsletter! I’ve never seen it, and I LOVED reading it! So funny… and helpful. Thanks for showing us how to paint a church pew! Pinned!

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