Easy Way to "Grey" Furniture Without Refinishing It

Submitted by Ana White on Thu, 06/21/2018 - 18:00

This post is brought to you by Varathane.  All opinions expressed are my own.



Do you have a piece of finished wood furniture that you love, but wish it was just a little "grey?" 

Weathered grey tones are a neutrel way of adding texture and dimension to a room, without cluttering a space with different wood hues.  It's no wonder the grey trend is so in right now.

Last year, I built the Two Tool $50 Farmhouse Table, and finished it with a natural wood finish.  

We love the table and it's still very sturdy and useful.  But I felt the color was a little too matchy-matchy to our wood ceiling, and wanted to add a grey tone to it.  But didn't want to sand down the finish and start all over again.  

Here's how I turned this -

Into this -

In an afternoon.

In one simple step that also adds a protective top coat.

And cleans up with soap and water.

Varathane recently came out with a new product, Varathane Stain + Poly in Weathered Grey.  Simply put, it is a grey-tinted polyurethane.  It can be applied just like a normal polyurethane, on bare wood or over a fully cured finish.  Yes, you read that right - you can apply right over top of a finished piece, just like adding another coat of poly.  But it also adds a tint of color (like sunglasses) on top of the wood finish, and protects in one easy coat. This enables you to tint your project, even after it is finished.

Tinted poly is a pro secret - tradditional wood stain can be unpredictable on wood, especially soft woods.  But with tinted poly, you are just adding a layer of tint on top of the wood - it doesn't soak into the wood, removing potential for blotchiness or uneven color. 

I first learned about tinting instead of staining when visiting high end furniture factories in North Carolina.  At the factories, the raw wood was sealed first with clear poly, followed by coats of tinted poly.  This created a consistent finish from piece to piece, and much more control over the final finish.

Now that Varathane makes a water-based Stain + Poly, it's really a no brainer.  Water-based polyurethane goes on smoothly and easily, has low odor, and cleans up with soap and water - making it very DIY friendly.  A game changer really!

And it's not just me - people are loving Varathane Stain + Poly in all the colors for all the projects -

But there are some things to consider -

  • If you are going for a very matte finish, pay attention to the sheen.  I used a semi-gloss and it definitly has a little bit of a "wet" look to the final finish.  You can add a final clear coat (use a water based poly) in a satin or matte sheen to dull the finish.  
  • If you are working with bare wood that doesn't necessarily need a final top coat (think low use pieces like headboards and dressers), tradditional wood stain may be a better option because it comes in more colors that are mixable and results in a flatter sheen.

For my dining table that is already finished, but needs a new top coat, preferably with a grey tint - Varathane Stain + Poly is the cat's meow.  Here's how I transformed (and protected) our dining table -

We gave the table a good cleaning.  We had to sand off a few marker spots from the kids doing art projects, but the entire table did not need to be sanded.

Then we just started brushing it on.  I use a synthetic brush for water-based projects, with fine bristles and brush on in the direction of the wood grain.  I start with one light coat.  You can always add more, but trying to remove is difficult.

One thing I've learned is a subtle change can result in a pretty big change overall on the project when it's done.  Here' what one coat of the Varathane Stain + Poly looks like.

I decided to add a second coat.  This really deepend the color, but you can still see all the character in the wood.  

We love the final finish. 

It's also smooth and even, buttery soft to touch.  

Varathane Stain + Poly comes in 14 colors, including Sunbleached, Ebony and Weathered Grey, and is available at Home Depot for about $12 a quart.  I cannot wait to test out other colors and share the results with you.

And do share your projects too - I love seeing what you come up with as well!

Happy Building! Ana



Sun, 07/07/2019 - 04:36

Ana I am going to build this table and use it outside. I love the weathered grey look. Will the weathered grey stain and poly provide adequate protection against the outdoor elements?


Sun, 05/10/2020 - 16:18

Alan Adler examined the structure and earned a graduate degree in Package Design from Pratt Institute. He is the organizer of two organizations, Source Packaging, and Cases by Source, which produce custom bundling for everything from airplane instruments to clinical gadgets.


Mon, 02/28/2022 - 09:18

I built the simple farm table last year and followed this tutorial for adding polyurethane over the Danish wood oil.

I let the wood oil cure for a couple days, but when I was finished with the poly, the surface was sticky/tacky and has been tacky ever since. Is that an issue of combining water-based over oil-based? Or did it likely just need to cure longer?

Katie Thompson

Tue, 09/19/2023 - 21:06

This easy method for "greying" furniture is a game-changer for DIY enthusiasts like myself. It's fantastic to learn that you can achieve that chic, weathered grey look without the mess and hassle of sanding and refinishing. Not only does this technique save time and effort, but it also allows for creative expression by customizing the level of grey to suit your décor. Plus, the fact that it's a simple process makes it accessible for anyone looking to refresh their furniture. I will be visiting CustomWriting source where I will be writing about writers who help with custom essays. I have to write on this topic to gain more information about it.