How To Make Driftwood Using Paint And Stain – An Easy 4 Step Formula

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An easy 4-step formula to get the look of driftwood on just about any surface.  This method of “making” driftwood stain is perfect for furniture makeovers and updating home accessories.

If you love the rustic warmth of driftwood colored furniture or having just a few driftwood gray home accessories sprinkled around your home, this formula is super easy and is a budget friendly way to update the decor in your home.

Outdoor chest and small gray chest on a porch.
I love a driftwood weathered wood finish, don’t you?  I love it because its soft, bleached gray look blends well with anything and everything.  However, purchasing furniture that already has that much-desired patina can be pricey!  And finding driftwood decor accessories just isn’t very easy – it seems they get snapped up pretty quickly.

Just because it’s pricey or I can’t find the real thing very often, doesn’t mean that I can’t get the look in my home though.  If you know me at all, you know I’m all about budget decorating and using what you already have, so after lots of experimenting with different techniques, I’ve come up with an almost too-easy-to-be-true formula to get the look and you can use it on just about anything!

I used my faux driftwood formula on the backer boards for the lanterns hanging on my screened in porch.  Then I always get tons of questions about where they came from!

 

porch wall with bifold door backdrop and hanging lanterns

I used it on two parts of the table setting for a summer dining room tablescape.  Would you believe that the chargers under each place setting are plastic and used to be shiny gold?  And that the piece of wood under the centerpiece is just a scrap of wood that we had lying around.  You can’t see it very well, but I gave it the faux driftwood decor treatment as well.

Summer tablescape with blue, white and gray dishes

 

Summer place setting with blue, white and gray dishes

I used the same stylish chargers as part of the summer shelf display in my breakfast room one year.  Notice that the reproduction vintage toolbox and small lamp also have a faux driftwood style finish.

Summer decorative shelf decor

I used the formula to transform a black frame and other art pieces that were part of a gallery wall.  By the way, this wall doesn’t look anything like this anymore!  I gave it a total overhaul with a new updated look that you can see HERE.

gallery wall above sofa using vintage finds

You can see all the beachy driftwood inspired decor.

gallery wall above sofa

I get lots of questions about these eye catching candlesticks any time they make an appearance in a blog post.  I bought them on clearance and they were originally painted red, green and yellow.  Now that they look like driftwood, everyone wants to know where I found them!  They create such a dramatic focal point.

gray candlesticks on hearth with fall decorations

Using my shiny gold chargers as the example, let me show you just how easy my driftwood stain formula is!

step by step photos of getting faux driftwood look

STEP 1: 

If the surface of your object is shiny, wipe it down with liquid sander/deglosser and allow it to dry.  Liquid sander/deglosser can be found in the paint department of any big box home improvement store.

STEP 2: 

Paint the object solid white and allow it to completely dry.  You can use spray paint or paint from a bottle or can.

STEP 3: 

Apply any brand of gray stain over the dried white paint.  Make sure to keep all of your brushstrokes going in the same direction.

STEP 4: 

While the gray stain is still wet, apply a coat of any shade or brand of brown stain over it – again keeping the brush strokes going in the same direction.  Allow the piece to completely dry .  Once dry, seal with a matte sealer, if you desire, but allow the piece to completely dry before using.

NOTE: Depending upon the surface you’re applying this technique to and the humidity level, stain may take longer to dry than paint, but it will dry!

A few tips:

  • Any shade of brown stain will work, but I would avoid an ebony or red mahogany shade to get this look.
  • If you don’t want to wind up with shiny “driftwood”, be sure that the white paint you use has a flat finish.
  • I like to apply the brown stain while the gray stain is still wet.  The two kind of meld together and I believe it gives a more realistic look to the finished product.
  • I use an inexpensive chip brush to apply the stain.  In fact, I use the same brush for both stain colors.  You may want to pour some of the brown stain into a separate container if you use the same brush for both colors.  That way you won’t “contaminate” the whole can of brown stain with gray stain or vice versa.
  • Don’t be afraid to add more gray or more brown to get the look that you’re after.  There have been times when I’ve added more stain even after I thought the piece was finished and everything was dry.
  • If the overall look of your piece is too dark, try very lightly dry-brushing more white paint on top of the dried stain.
  • I’ve tried mixing up the steps for which color to apply when, but I think this method works the best.

Worthing Court Blog

three gray candlesticks on a white brick hearth

Sadly, real driftwood has become scarce along the beaches of North Carolina in recent years.  Everybody is on the lookout for it, so if you happen to find some, be sure to grab it!  I have several pieces that I inherited from my mom that I would never give up.  Yep – real driftwood from the beach is that “valuable” to me!  😀

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86 Comments

  1. I love, love, love the candlesticks. I am for sure going to give this a try. Thanks for all of your great ideas. You are an inspiration.

  2. mattsgramma says:

    You are so VERY creative!

  3. Lisa Kissner Cooper says:

    Sounds easy! I need to try this!

  4. And to think I almost threw away my shiny silver chargers! Definitely going to use your technique to give them “new” life.

  5. Wow! It looks so easy! I’m not much of a driftwood lover but the candle holders turned out beautifully. I’m thinking I need some!

  6. Love your driftwood finish!!! Can’t wait to try it!

  7. I live too far from the beach to look for driftwood, so I am glad to know how to get that look by doing it myself!

  8. Candy Walsh says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing this easy idea! The candlesticks look amazing and I’ve got some to try it on!

  9. Your chargers look great and never thought of painting them. I have some that could use this process. I will have to go driftwood shopping on the beach!

  10. Great idea….thanks!!!

  11. Debra Roth says:

    I just discovered your blog last week and have already fallen in love with it!!

  12. nancy dempsey says:

    WOW! I love this technique and the results. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Kimberly Leonard says:

    I cannot wait to try your driftwood formula. Your candlesticks look amazing!! Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful ideas.

  14. Love the look on the candlesticks

  15. Thanks for sharing. I am going to give this a try. Love those candlesticks.

  16. Betty Whatley says:

    Love driftwood. We are blessed that we still have some on the rivers here in Alabama. But I love what you did with the chargers and candle sticks. You can’t find driftwood that look like chargers and candle sticks. I appreciate you showing us how to do this and as usual your blog is wonderful.

  17. Great idea!! I have a bunch of gold charges that I could paint like this. Thanks for the idea.

  18. Kathy Bucciarelli says:

    Great idea!

  19. Carol Elkins says:

    I love this!!! My neighbor and I were just talking about how to make a furniture piece look like driftwood! Thank you so much for sharing how to achieve this!

  20. Katherine Allen says:

    So creative! Love the results

  21. Thanks Susie, you have so many great ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing this in action.

  22. I know you said ‘any’ stain. But I need more detail. Do you use Wood stain, craft stain, ????
    It’s a great look.

    1. Hi Mildred. I use wood stain because that’s what I always have on hand. 😀 But, craft stain should work fine too.

  23. Lynn Bright says:

    I love this idea and cannot wait to try it out. I’ve been looking for ways to get the driftwood look and this looks like a winner! Thank you!!

  24. Love the look of driftwood!! Hard to find in the Dallas area!!!! I can’t wait to get my old gold chargers out and try this!!!! Thank you for the formula!!!

  25. Julie Briones says:

    GREAT technique! I may just use it on my DIY ladder (via your tutorial), when I finally can *get* to that project!

  26. The candlesticks look great but looking at the I had a question….Did you rub the paint off in any spots or do it entirely with the brush and stains.

    1. Hi Roxann. Since I wasn’t going for a distressed/chippy look, I didn’t rub any areas off. If I happen to apply too much of one of the colors of stain, I wipe my brush practically dry on a rag and run it back through the stain to pull some of it off. Hope that makes sense!

  27. This is a great technique-thank you so much for sharing! (and I DO have shiny gold chargers so that is exactly what I will do with them!:)

  28. This looks great ! I think that I will give it a try!

  29. Darn, I should not have sold my gold charger plates at recent garage sale.

  30. Lynn S Barnette says:

    I love the project for making items look like driftwood. I want to make some chargers!

  31. Pam Cates says:

    I was wondering where you purchased the “tobacco tray”.

    1. Hi Pam. I purchased the tobacco tray from Decor Steals. 😀

      1. When you apply the stain to the painted surface, it dries? Seems it would need to soak in

        1. Hi Sheri. No, with this technique the stain doesn’t need to soak in. It does take a while for it to dry though.

  32. I love the look of driftwood and didn’t realize how easy it is to create the look!

  33. Ronda manager says:

    A must try!. Thank you for the step by step process.

  34. I just got back from the Outer Banks and I scoured the beach looking for driftwood. I found a few small pieces. I love your technique for getting the driftwood look and can’t wait to try it!

  35. Pam Ballard says:

    I love all the natural colors. I have been working so much as of late and all I want to do is be home and play in my home. Reading my blogs each evening keeps me so inspired. Thanks so much.

  36. They does look super easy! Can’t wait to try it out!

  37. Glad I checked this out. I haven’t been able to find the chargers I have been envisioning. Now I can get those gold or silver ones at Hobby Lobby next time they are on sale and do this to them. Ha. Thank you.

  38. What a great idea! I can’t believe how pretty the finished items are. Remarkable!

  39. This technique looks easy and it is a quite convincing imitation. I’m going to try it!

  40. I love this technique and will be trying it out soon. All of the examples look great.

  41. I love using driftwood and I’m always on the hunt for pieces that I can use when I’m at the beach. They can be hard to find. I can’t wait to try your technique. I’ve got a few pieces in mind. Your pieces all look fabulous! Thanks for linking up at Snickerdoodle. We’ll be featuring this at tomorrow’s party. Hope to see you there

  42. Love the soft weathered colors of driftwood. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful DIY driftwood technique! Can’t wait to try it!

  43. Nancy Carroll says:

    Love it!! Where did you find your centerpiece? Love that it is long and narrow and not intrusive.

    1. Hey GF. The centerpiece is made from a black metal thingy that I picked up at Goodwill one day. I’ve never been able to figure out what its original use might have been. It’s simply sitting on a piece of wood that I painted to look like driftwood. 😀

  44. I have several mis-matched chargers and other pieces that can be brought together with this driftwood look! Thanks for the diy, Suzy!!

  45. What a simple process. I love the look of driftwood too and have some items that need to be done. Appreciate you sharing your technique. Thanks!

  46. Ooh, I love this! What an excellent tutorial!

  47. Amazing how realistic and gorgeous this is, and not too hard. I could really go all out with this! Luv!

  48. Oh my word! I have three ceramic pillar candlesticks that I’ve been holding onto for years that would make the perfect candidate for this driftwood treatment. All I need to some grey stain. Thank you SO much for the great tutorial!

  49. I have candlesticks just waiting for this technique! I love driftwood and have a basket of pieces from Lake Superior on my mantel right now.

  50. Love, love, love the driftwood finish!!! Picking up some gray stain this morning to do some candlesticks.
    Thank you so much for sharing your formula!

  51. Wow, I need to try this! Love the candlesticks!

  52. Did you use latex paint and stain?? Love this look! Excited and nervous to try it on a table! ? lol

    1. Hi Mandy. Yes, I used latex products – both paint and stain. Have fun with your table!

  53. I used this technique this weekend on a full length mirror I have! The mirror frame is plastic and was originally black and now it looks like driftwood!! It looks amazing and was SO simple and quick to do! Thanks for the DIY tip! Now I am looking for things to make into “driftwood”!

  54. What a wonderful blog!! Question, Do you think it’s possible to get this effect with acrylic paint? Thanks, Margaret.

    1. Hi Margaret. Yes, I absolutely do! You’ll probably need to water down your paint to get that streaky look and acrylic paint will dry faster than stain,, so be aware of that. I recommend experimenting a bit on a piece of scrap wood or something before you try it on your actual piece.

  55. I love the look of driftwood! Do you think I could use this technique on painted paneled walls? I’m renovating my family room. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jackie. I think this technique can technically be done on a wall, but it all honestly I think it’s best for small projects.

  56. Karen Henning says:

    I live in a 1909 farmhouse with shiplap painted a “hospital blue/gray” and I was looking for a way to just paint that one wall to look like driftwood so it will coordinate with a couple of driftwood picture frames with seaside Morgan prints. Your technique looks like I can get this effect without all the sanding etc., that other methods are dictating. Here’s hoping the result comes out as great as your projects! Thank you!

  57. I just found your blog this weekend and was excited to try the driftwood technique! My kids collected shells on the beach in Perdido Key, AL, in 1998. Finally figured out what to do with some of them! Wish I could post a picture to share my “Walk on the Beach” piece.

    1. Hi Susan. There’s no way to post a photo here in the comments, but you could always email me a photo! 😀

  58. I used this technique to paint a mirror for my bathroom and I love the look, but it came out darker than I wanted. Any tips to lightit up? Thanks!

    1. Hi Teresa. I would try dry brushing some white paint on it.

  59. Maria Mungia says:

    Hi Suzy I love reading your blog and your house is amazing. One question I have is where did you find the pig head in the dining room I love it!! I love your blog and will keep reading and taking notes on your ideas. Thanks so much !!

  60. Hi Suzy, I have a question. Do you stain the whole thing solid gray and then stain the whole thing solid brown and it dries this way, or more of a dry brush effect so that each covers only part of the white and partially overlaps? Thanks!

    1. Hi Lisa. I stained the whole thing and allowed it to dry that way. If the stain looks to heavy for you, you can use a different brush to brush some of it off. This is a really forgiving technique, so you could certainly try using a dry brushing it if you’d rather.

  61. Becky Jones maskal says:

    Question….I attempted your technique and after 24 hours, noticed that the stain was not drying and I didn’t put it on thick at all. How do you get the stain to dry because it just sits on top of the white paint?( the technique was looking great all except for getting the stain to dry) Thanks for any advice.

    1. Hi Becky. The stain does take longer to dry than the paint – that’s for sure! I’ve found that it takes longer if it’s too cold or too humid. In situations like that, I take the piece inside (if I can) or else I just wait it out.

  62. I love your bog!!!! I guess I will have to put all my beach driftwood up for sale!! Real driftwood from the Gulf Coast of Fla. I love it too!! Thank you for all the great info!!!!

  63. What stain color do you use in both?

    1. It’s been a while, but I believe I used Minwax Special Walnut and Minwax Weathered Gray.

  64. kay donbrock says:

    SUSY , I JUST LOVE THE DARK BLUE PAINT ON THE SMALL STAND BY THE WHITE CHAIR IN THE FAMILY ROOM. MAY I ASK WHAT COLOR ITS CALLED, ALSO THE GRAY PAINT COLOR ON THE DRESSER IN THE DINNING ROOM , BETWEEN THE TWO CHAIRS . THANK YOU KAY