DIY

How to Use Gel Stain to Update Cabinets!

August 10, 2015

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

Do you have a piece of furniture or cabinets that you like, but you don't care for the color of the finish?  We were in that boat a while ago, but figured out how to use gel stain to solve the problem.  I can't wait to share this easy solution with you today!

As most of you know, we have been working hard to improve our twin girls' playroom by addressing lots of storage issues.  But we also had some design issues to address, including the light finish of our Ikea Trofast storage system.  We love, love, love the Trofast system for loads of toy storage and the light finish made perfect sense in our last house.  But it just stuck out like a sore thumb in our new house.  This is what it looked like before.

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

The former stain was fine, but I really preferred a darker finish with the new floors {you can read all about the what this room looked like when we moved in here}.  However, I did NOT want to have to strip and sand the pieces, nor did I want to paint them.  So, I turned to one of my favorite companies, General Finishes {no, I am NOT paid by General Finishes and this is not a sponsored post–I am just a huge fan of their products and samples they have sent me}.  I learned all about their gel stains and knew that was the solution for me.  This post contains some affiliate links.  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

How to Use Gel Stain to Update Cabinets or Furniture

Materials Needed:

Steps:

1) Quickly clean your pieces to remove any dust/dirt.  I used Lysol wipes.  It was quick and easy.

2) Apply your gel stain with a foam paint brush.  Be sure to follow the grain of your wood.  Apply a thin, even coat.  Your first coat will look pretty bad {see below}.  Don't worry.  Most importantly, DO NOT WIPE THE STAIN OFF.  You are basically going to pretend like it is paint, though I find it easier to work with than paint.

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

3) Allow the first coat to dry completely, following the instructions on the stain.  Then apply a second coat again following the grain of the wood, which will give you complete, and gorgeous, coverage.

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

4) After your second coat dries, apply one to two coats of the High Performance Top Coat.  This will add a bit of sheen and a LOT of protection.

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

Allow the top coat to dry and then enjoy your new, updated look!  How easy is that?!  Check out our new look.

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

Now, how about a good before and after comparison for you?

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

BEFORE

BRILLIANT and SO EASY! Learn how to use gel stain to update finished cabinets or furniture that you want to update with a darker stain. Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body!

AFTER

If you are curious about other updates we have made in the playroom, be sure to check out our DIY pipe shelves and desks.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

DIY Pipe Shelves and Desks

Oh, and a post about that adorable hanging basket storage will be coming VERY soon.  Stay tuned!

Be sure to check out my other kid related projects by clicking here–you are sure to be inspired!

 

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  1. We used this kind of technique on an old pine dressing table and chest of drawers. However, we used brushes to get a fake wood grain effect.

  2. Sherri says:

    Such a cute playroom!! And I LOVE the “ToYS” letters! Where did you get the large letters? Any big letters that I have seen at stores are block style. I have also used the General Finishes Gel Stain on a honey oak bathroom vanity and it worked GREAT!! It was easy, looks great and it dried DRY! By that, I mean, no tackiness you normally get with latex paint. Thanks for the great blog!

  3. Tracey says:

    How well has it held up? Like stain or more like paint?

  4. Judy says:

    I am staining the seat of a kitchen chair. No matter how many coats I put on there are one or spots that barely cover Any suggestion

    • Tasha A. says:

      Strange, Judy! It sound like there may be some sort of wax finish on that one spot. Try a wax wash remover on it and then try to apply the stain again. That’s my best guess!

  5. Divya Badrinath says:

    DO you think this kinda pain will work on Ikea Malm birch color furniture?
    I want to make it black.

    • Divya Badrinath says:

      I meant *Paint

    • Tasha A. says:

      Hi Divya! Is the Malm birch furniture solid wood? If so, this gel stain should work perfectly on it. If it’s laminate, it should work as well, but I would test it on a small are first. The Ikea storage system we updated was solid wood. I hope that helps!

  6. Chi Chi says:

    This is right on time! So, you did not sand at all?

  7. Jenn says:

    Do you think this would this work on standard builder-grade kitchen cabinetry (rather like these: http://hgtvhome.sndimg.com/content/dam/images/hgtv/fullset/2011/2/11/0/HRMYM104_small-kitchen-builder-grade-cabinets_s4x3.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.960.jpeg)? I loathe the orangey-tone to them and well, I’m lazy and don’t want to sand them, etc. LOL

  8. […] playroom.  We have done lots so far, including building DIY pipe shelves and desks and we updated the look of their Ikea toy storage system quickly and easily with gel stain.  Today I am super excited to share with you how we created the easiest and cutest hanging toy […]

  9. Jen says:

    Looks great but I’m wondering if it still shows the grain of the wood? Or is that something that gets lost when finished?

  10. Shannon says:

    Is the geL stain available at Lowes or Home Depot or online only? Thanks!

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