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Armoire Makeover: From Modern to Antique with Stencil Embossing

Common-looking furniture is really, well, common! And indeed, some plain furniture IS necessary in a good overall decorating scheme. Not everything in a room can have a screaming loud personality, because then everything would be fighting with each other for attention. Quieter pieces are just as important. Like in music, they can be the silence between the notes. But what if you have some seriously plain furniture that’s standing there unnoticed, and you really just want to turn it’s personality up a notch? An embossed stenciling project could just be the perfect choice! Stencil embossing can add dimension and character to an otherwise plain piece of furniture, and this project did just that!

Stencil embossing before and after project. How to on Paint and Pattern

I’ve had a simple Danish modern cabinet bought 20 years ago for my first apartment. It’s done its job well over the years and has many left to give. After following me across four homes, I can’t give it up to Craigslist just because my style changed and I’m bored with it. To be so fickle wouldn’t be fair. We’ve been a great team — it’s been hiding all my too-small clothes so I don’t have to be reminded of them! What a great buddy!

The cabinet was in our guest room with an IKEA Expedit, its design sister. But I saw potential for it to fit my taste today: “antique Indian + global textiles.” If you don’t want carved Indian doors that look a hundred years old in your house, that’s okay. This is just one example of how you can use stencils, texture and paint to dramatically change the look of furniture. These steps would work just as well with a modern geometric stencil pattern, floral pattern or damask stencil — any stencil style that fits your taste!

Stencil supplies for stencil embossing furniture painting project on Paint and Pattern

Stencil Supplies for this Project:

Carved Indian Doors Inspiration on Paint and Pattern

There are so many stencil pattern choices! So first I looked for inspiration to narrow the choices. Old, carved Indian doors often have a square grid pattern. You will also sometimes see eight-point stars. The Star Diamonds Moroccan stencil was perfect to create this exact look! I just laid out the stencil so the square pattern is vertical and horizontal rather than diagonal. Look at stencils in a new way, and you might find another way to use them. This stencil is available in two sizes and I used the smaller furniture stencil.


First, measure and map out your stencil placement in advance. For my project, four squares fit in the middle of each door with a 2 1/8-inch “frame” around the sides, top and bottom of the doors. I drew this “frame” with a Sharpie. These lines were guides to keep the stencil pattern straight. Could the raised pattern go to the edges of the doors? Sure you can do that. I didn’t because these doors slide into the cabinet a bit when you open them. The fit is tight so there isn’t room for a raised pattern to go to the edge.

If you are stenciling with paint, you can leave the doors attached. If you use Wood Icing Textura Paste is perfect for creating an stencil embossing effect. It makes it easy to create a raised pattern by simply troweling the Wood Icing over and through the stencil. A container of Wood Icing can cover about 14 square feet, so there was plenty to lay it on thick for this bigger project.

stencil embossing wood icing

First, secure the stencil to your surface with painter’s masking tape. Also tape off any areas of the stencil that fall outside the area where you want Wood Icing. Spread the Wood Icing over the stencil like you are frosting a cake. It has similar consistency as frosting. Pull your trowel almost parallel across the stencil for an even spread.

Let the Wood Icing firm up before you spread the next section. Covering these two doors took awhile due to waiting for previous sections to dry. If you have a bigger project, choose a bigger stencil, it will save you some time.

Wash the Wood Icing off your stencil and tools with warm water before it dries on them. I did a lot of running back and forth to the utility sink! I might have lost a pound or two doing this project. Maybe I can fit in some clothes the cabinet was hiding!

TIP! If you want a thicker layer of Wood Icing, you can go back over the pattern and build it up higher. Just lay the stencil back over the dried Wood Icing and spread another layer over it.

Stencil embossing before and after project. How to on Paint and Pattern

Once the Wood Icing is dry, use sand paper to smooth it out. Because I built up the Wood Icing higher, I used rougher 60 grit sandpaper. If you use a thin layer of Wood Icing, fine sandpaper might meet your needs. Wood Icing sands SUPER easily, but it also creates a lot of dust. Wear a dust mask and keep a vacuum on hand because with sanding a whole door, there WILL be dust to clean. The little sanding attachments on a Dremel drill are perfect for cleaning up the sides of the raised patterns, and cleaning Wood Icing off where I didn’t want it in tight spots.

Your surface might be looking messy now. At least mine was! It can be hard to “see” the final result at this point. Don’t worry though. Because Coco Chalk Paint® decorative paint is the super hero to save this.

Carved Indian Door Inspiration on Paint and Pattern

For my color inspiration, I looked to an antique Indian temple door that we own that’s light brown and it’s covered with old dirt and dust. Please don’t take that as an indication of my housekeeping skills! If it were completely cleaned, it would lose its patina and character and that would be sad. To recreate this dusty look, use a darker brown Chalk Paint as a base, then lighter colors mixed into clear Soft Wax to make tinted wax.

Painting with Chalk Paint decorative paint

The entire cabinet was painted with two coats of Coco Chalk Paint, outside and inside. As you can see in the photos, the first coat could make you wonder “why did I decide to do this to my cabinet?!” But hang in there. Just one more coat gives great coverage, even when painting a lighter color over black. The the doors were also painted with two coats of Coco Chalk Paint®. To give the large flat sides of the cabinet more character I dry brushed over them with a dark brown latex paint color that I had on hand.

For inside of the cabinet, I was inspired by how Debbie Dion Hayes painted a contrast color inside her cabinet makeover. Take a look, it is gorgeous and you have no idea what surprise lies within when the doors are closed! The Florence Blue Chalk Paint reminds me of the bright blue colors you see in India, so I thought it was the perfect blue for this project.

Painting and waxing with Chalk Paint decorative paint

Next, to both protect the painted surface and add a dusty look, I mixed Country Grey Chalk Paint into Clear Soft Wax to make a tinted wax. I mixed a ratio of 70% Country Grey Chalk Paint to 30% Soft Wax. I brushed the tinted wax on with a big 3-inch Waxing Brush. To avoid a blotchy look over large flat areas, brush on in long strokes and go light when you’re ready to lift the brush. Keep in mind that you only need a very small amount of wax. I barely dipped the brush into the tinted wax, then offloaded some wax on a paper towel before brushing wax on the cabinet.


Here’s the cabinet styled up in a corner of our bedroom with patterned textiles from around the world — the “antique Indian door mixed with global fabrics” look I love. The chair is covered with Jim Thompson silk, a famous silk from Thailand.

The chair was another makeover — it also used to be birch wood with black fabric, similar to how this armoire started. Some wood stain and new upholstery changed the look. On the chair is a Crate and Barrel embroidered pillow and a dupatta (like a lightweight scarf) from India used as a throw. The framed patterns are pieces of Fortuny fabrics. You can find these in many colors and patterns on eBay. I am loving this corner created by this cabinet makeover! My ironing board used to sit here. So this is not just a new cabinet, it makes a whole new space, as well as handy storage for jewelry and extra blankets.

Royal Design Studio Wall Stencils and Paint Supplies for DIY Projects

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