How to paint a metal locker cabinet to look like it's aged and distressed

Faux Aged Steel Ikea Cabinet Inspired By Restoration Hardware

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Faux aged steel Ikea cabinet. Boy's shared bedroom by Simplicity In The South.
Restoration Hardware…oh, how I adore thee. You are so rugged, yet refined. You showed up on my doorstep again the other day. As I gazed into the pages of your catalog and admired your industrial awesomeness, I was once again reminded that you’re so out of my league. I am but a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks. I couldn’t help but be saddened by the fact that you could never be mine. But, then I remembered the words of Barney Stinson…
I get awesome
Ok, enough with the sappy love story. I do love it when the Restoration Hardware catalogs show up on my doorstep. What I don’t love is that I can’t afford to buy anything. I knew that with a little paint, inspiration, and determination I could transform the old Ikea PS cabinet that I already had out in the storage building into something that looked a little more industrial chic.

My inspiration came from the Vintage Industrial Steel Cabinet from Restoration Hardware.

They describe their vintage steel cabinet as having “an iron patina finish (that) replicates the look of age”. I decided to replicate the finish along with the rivet details with supplies I already had. This project was done on a gray cabinet. If the piece of furniture that you are working on is not gray, you will need to paint it first with a gray primer spray paint.

These are the supplies that you will need to do a faux aged steel paint finish:

Supplies for a faux aged steel paint finish
Pictured: Chalkboard paint, silver craft paint in “Gunmetal”, Annie Sloan Soft Dark Wax, Mineral Spirits, paint sponge, 2 paint brushes. Not pictured: 220 grit sand paper, rags and cheesecloth towels for buffing.

If you don’t have an Annie Sloan retailer nearby, you can substitute the dark wax for this color of Briwax.

**There may seem to be a lot of steps, but this paint treatment is just a matter of sanding, dry brushing the paint on and then wiping it off. **



Sand your piece of furniture with the 220 grit sandpaper till it’s no longer shiny, even when you wipe off the dust.

Wipe it down with vinegar or mineral spirits. These two steps will prep your furniture for the paint and give your paint something to grab onto.

Lightly dip your brush into the chalkboard paint and dab most of it off onto a paper plate.

“Dry brush” the paint lightly on your surface.

As soon as you finish your first section, wipe off the paint with a dry rag.

The sanded surface will catch most of the chalkboard paint.

(Ignore the faux rivets in this picture. I was trying to decide if I liked them.)

It looks messy, but it gets better. The good thing about this paint project is that it doesn’t have to look perfect.

After you have done this with the entire cabinet, you want to apply the silver craft paint.

Put a couple of tablespoons of the Gunmetal silver craft paint onto a paper plate and add about a half teaspoon of water to thin it out.

Take your paint sponge and dip it into the silver paint and dab most of it off onto your paper plate. This is also a “dry brushing” technique.

Lightly streak this paint onto the surface in one direction. If you get too much on, just wipe it off in one direction.

I let this dry for about 2 hours.

Now it’s time for the magic to begin!

Take a scoop of the dark wax and put it on a paper plate. Blend in a small amount of mineral spirits, just enough to thin it out.

Take one of your paint brushes and dip just the tip of the bristles into the wax and dab most of it off onto the paper plate.

Lightly drag the brush in one direction over your surface. This will prevent you from getting too much wax on at one time.
Now, take your clean paint brush and buff in the wax in a circular motion. Don’t let your wax dry too long before you get to the buffing step.

Let this dry for 5 minutes.

Take your “Better Than Cheesecloth” Buffing towel (I bought mine at the same store that I bought my Annie Sloan Dark Soft Wax) and start buffing out the wax so the surface has a nice, thin layer.

The dark wax is what really gives the piece a nice patina. It also protects all of your hard work.

*If you don’t want to invest the money in the Annie Sloan Dark Wax, you can try using a diluted dark umber craft paint. You will have to still have to protect your finish with 2 coats of polyurethane.**


Even the key got a makeover with a little bit of copper spray paint.

I let the first coat of wax dry about 30 minutes before applying the second coat.

The 2nd coat of wax also gave the cabinet a really nice sheen.
Boy's shared bedroom by Simplicity In The South. Hot wheels jar.
I think he is quite handsome, don’t you think?
Boy's bedroom by Simplicity In The South

Click this link for a quick tutorial on the faux rivets used on the cabinet.

Faux aged steel Ikea cabinet.

Click this link to see the rest of our two youngest boys’ shared bedroom.

Chalkboard wall and art display. Boy's shared bedroom by Simplicity In The South.

Check out these other Restoration Hardware knockoffs that’ll knock your socks off:

Have you recently rescued a neglected or orphaned piece of furniture lately? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about it.!
tricia tag
This Ikea cabinet hack was featured on:

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  1. Cool makeover Amy! It turns really beautiful and compliments the colour of the bedroom. I seriously liked this project of yours. I hope to see more of this in your blog. Cheers!

  2. Hi – Did you coat this with polyurethane afterwards? Or was that just if you use the craft paint instead of the wax?
    Also – this looks beautiful and I think your surface was metal. Would it work on wood? I’m trying to create the look of a zinc or metal topped table…
    Thank you,

  3. Wow, this is great! I’ve already ordered the PS cabinet so I can re-create this. Where did you get the tray under the cabinet in the photo?

  4. Can you please provide the link again for the pillow fabric? I can’t seem to get it to work and I love it!!

  5. Love love love this!! I was thinking of buying the white Ikea cabinet. Do you think using Chalk paint in gray would work as a starting point??

  6. The artwork above the beds…did you buy the canvas with polka dots already and just glue the wood letters or did you wrap a frame with wallpaper or something similar? Please let me know as I’d love to do something like this for our nursery.

  7. I can not find the Annie Sloan Soft Dark Wax. Is there a substitute? Would a car wax work?

  8. Loved this tutorial a lot. Infact it describes everything in details what is required to get started and how to finish in the end. 🙂

  9. Hi,

    I bought a brand new locker color is more on the side of beige (yellow-ish). I also have a rust-oleum metallic silver spray paint on hand, can i sand then spray paint with silver then use the chalk board paint and wax?

  10. Great project! Thanks so much for sharing all the details. I saw it featured by the “Pinterest Addict” on Home Talk website.

  11. Tricia – Love how you transformed the cabinet from plain to eye-catching! It’s never the easiest process – faux aging – but when it’s done right, it looks awesome. Well Done! Thanks for the post, tips and ideas!

    1. Hi Lauren, I’d love for you to feature it! By the way, you’ve done some amazing work. I’m heading back over to pin a few things. Thanks, Tricia

  12. This is great!!! I ‘ve done two Restoration Hardware hacks…not sure where to publish them….One is a metal piece..the other is a Deconstructed Loveseat.

  13. Hey there! I’ve been following your blog for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Kingwood Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the excellent job!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I made the headboards, but I don’t have a tutorial since I made them several years ago. It’s just a piece of plywood (1/4″ thick, I think), quilter’s batting, fabric, and then it’s stapled on to the back side of the plywood. They were really easy except for getting the upholstery tacks on which requires a lot of patience! This tool helps:
      I took some pictures to show you how I made the headboards:
      Put a screw at the bottom of the headboard that will secure it into a stud.
      Backside of headboard with hooks to hang it. Other supplies for headboard: plywood, quilter's batting, fabric, staples and upholstery tacks.
      Upholstery tacks
      Just let me know if you have any more questions! Good luck!

  14. This is fabulous and what a great looking room. This will be one of the features tomorrow night. Thanks for sharing at wow.

    1. Thank you so much, Kim! I’m glad that someone told me about your blog. I especially loved looking through all of your furniture painting projects. It has inspired me to pick up the paint brush again. Hope you have a wonderful day!

  15. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this amazing tutorial! I purchased the small side table IKEA PS for my son’s printer and to hold the paper. I did this technique (yes, it took a while) but I am so in love with it! This is also for my Asperger son:) Love all of your creative ideas!

    1. Yay! That makes me so happy! I’m glad that you love it! What a coincidence that your son is within the autistic spectrum also. I’d love to share the results of your cabinet. If you get the chance, email me a picture and I’ll add it to the end of my post with a link to your website! That way others can see that it is totally doable.

  16. Does the cabinet have to be gray what is I have a white one? You think it would have the same effect?

    1. Hi! The cabinet doesn’t have to be gray for it to work. If you lightly sand a white cabinet, wipe it down with a tack cloth (to get rid of the dust), and then spray it down with a gray metal primer, you should be able to follow the rest of the steps I listed from there. (Just be sure to be in a well ventilated area when you spray paint.)

    1. Hey Kayla! Sorry I didn’t reply sooner, but I wanted to try the paint technique on a piece of wood to see how it would turn out. From a distance, it looks very similar. The biggest difference is that the wood grain is noticeable close up. I would sand the piece really smooth, starting with a 220 grit sandpaper and finishing with a 400 grit. If you use 2 base coats of Annie Sloan chalk paint (without thinning it), it will fill in some of the wood grain. To mimic the look of a steel finish, the base coat should be gray. Once the paint dries 24 hours, sand it smooth with the fine grit paper. The rest of the painting process should be the same as what I did. I’ve also seen some really good tutorials on how to do a faux zinc finish that is often used on wooden furniture. It looks very similar to what I did except it doesn’t have the dark wax to “age” the piece of furniture. I hope my (extra-long) reply helps!

  17. Love the effect that you achieved, have you tried hammer finish to achieve the same result?

  18. Love this, thanks for sharing! My style is very vintage/industrial and I’ve been eyeing that IKEA locker for a while. I might give it a try!

  19. this is totally AHHHHMAZING girlfriend!!!
    you’ve got some serious talent and skill!
    now i want one!

  20. I recognize that cabinet and love what you have done with it. What would we do without Ikea? I have just started my own blog about my attempt to turn my first rented apartment into a home and I hope you stop by. Your site will provide me with lots of inspiration. thanks

  21. You did an awesome job on this cabinet! It really looks like it came out of our favorite catalog 🙂 Thanks for the tutorial, I pinned it, too good not to!

  22. Amazing transformation! I have loved this Ikea cabinet since it first came out and your faux finish just puts it over the top! I have used black paint and metallic paint together a few times to create faux zinc but I’ve never tried anything with wax. Great tutorial and congrats on your Best of The Blogospere Centsational Girl feature!

    1. Glad that you like the cabinet! Yes, it’s a great piece of furniture from Ikea that held up so well over the years, even with 3 boys. And wow…I can’t believe that it was featured by Centsational Girl! That just made my week!

  23. This is such a great idea – you did an awesome job. Congrats on the blog – I’ve just subscribed. Can’t wait to read about your future projects.
    – Julie

  24. I am so going to do this! I have a question – I wonder what would happen if I did this to the red one? Thanks!

    1. I think if you sanded and primed it with 3 coats of gray primer, that would cover the red. Then, you would need to let the primer have enough time to cure before you do the steps above. I haven’t tried it this way, but it seems like it would work just the same.

  25. I LOVE how this turned out! And your post made me laugh because I feel the same way about Restoration Hardware. They once sent me a 200+ page catalog and I didn’t know what to do with it… so I just drooled all over the pages. So many inspirations, so little money. 😉

  26. I really am smitten with that cabinet! You did a great job! We recently redid a desk using a combination of homemade chalk paint, ASCP, Annie Sloan dark wax and a homemade beeswax furniture polish…. i am in love with it now! In fact the guys really like it too!

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