Refurbishing a Pie Safe Using Milk Paint


This article shares information on how to refurbish an old Pie Safe using milk paint and some basic supplies.

If you are new to this blog: Welcome! My name is Anna and I share information on collecting antique/vintage items, refurbishing furniture and making small crafts/projects. The purpose of this blog is to share with you how to use creativity and antiques to make your home beautiful. In addition to information here on the blog, you can also follow me on  InstagramFacebook or Pinterest.

Back Story

I stopped selling antiques and refurbished antique furniture in January. Trust be told, I miss it. Mostly, I miss working on furniture. There is something rewarding about taking a piece of furniture most people don’t want, fixing it up, and giving it a new life. While working on furniture can be a bit tough on my body and can be frustrating when I don’t get the results I want, I still miss the process of saving well-made, solid pieces of furniture. Particularly if the furniture is more than 60 years old.

Since I no longer sell refurbished furniture, I have not been working on any pieces. There is only so much furniture we need in our home. It seems a little silly to refurbish a piece of furniture only for it to end up in the basement. Selling via FB Marketplace takes time and the ability to meet people. With a full time job in addition to this blog, selling furniture isn’t a realistic possibility.

Then, last week, I was at an antique store and stumbled upon a cute little pie safe. It wasn’t particularly old. (My guess, it was made in the 1950s) It wasn’t fancy. Yet, it had a certain rustic-country-charm. It kept waving at me from across the room. After ignoring it for about 30 minutes, I walked over to have a look. It was dirty and painted a yucky yellow color. It had a terrible hook and eye clasp to keep the doors closed. Really, the piece deserved so much more. There were oiled mucky finger prints on the door frames from years of opening and closing them.

If I squinted, I could see the possibility. This little piece could be really cute. I looked at the back of the pie safe and noticed it had a single piece of plywood that was 3/8″ thick. This pie safe was well made and it was likely made by hand. (Not manufactured).

So, I asked the sales clerk about the price and he said he could give me a discount. Not more than 10 minutes later, this little pie safe was in my car. The next couple of days, I spent time in the garage refurbishing this pie safe using milk paint and basic supplies. No repairs needed to be made. Although I did order new clasps for the doors. (They haven’t arrived yet.)

Without further delay, here is the process used for breathing new life into this old piece.

Refurbishing a Pie Safe using Milk Paint

The first step in any furniture refurbishing process is to gather all your supplies. I like to lay out everything I need – before I start working. There is nothing more frustrating than getting 1/3 of the way into your project and realizing you don’t have the ______ to finish the job.


Below are the supplies I used for this project. Most of these are available at your local hardware store. Where possible, I linked to online sources. MMS Milk Paint is only available via Amazon – at least where I live in upstate New York.

A quick note that this post includes affiliate links and if you purchase items from links provided in this post, I will receive a small commission, but at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. I am presenting you with my own opinion and honest review of the information provided. If you want to read the entire disclosure statement, please click HERE. You can also read my privacy policy by clicking HERE.

  • Milk Paint – I used MMS Milk Paint in Ironstone and Aviary
  • MMS Milk Coat – to seal the paint
  • screw driver and pliers to remove staples
  • bucket and scrub brush
  • Mr. Clean or Simple Green
  • 150 and 220 grit sandpaper and random orbital sander
  • Rag(s) to remove dust
  • Paint brush – I use Zibra brushes
  • Staple gun
  • Frog Tape and craft paper

Clean the Pie Safe

The amount of grime on this pie safe was pretty gross. As were the hidden cobwebs. Using a rag, bucket of hot water, Mr. Clean, and scrub brush, I thoroughly cleaned the pie safe. This meant scrubbing the inside, outside and underside of the pie safe. Then, I set it in the sun to dry for an hour.

Bucket of water and Mr Clean

Remove Hardware

Once the wood was dry, I removed all the hardware. The first thing I took off were the ugly hook and eye clasps on the doors. Then, I removed the wire mesh screens on the front doors and scrubbed them thoroughly in the bathtub. Once clean, I set them in the sun to dry.

Remove old hardware

Sand the Pie Safe

Wearing a mask, and using a random orbital sander with 150 grit sand paper, I sanded the entire pie safe. This included the door frames, the shelves, the plywood backing and the underside of the pie safe. Then using a damp rag, I wiped away any dust left behind. For those areas where the sander could not reach, I went back and sanded them by hand. Then, I gave the piece a final wipe down to remove any dust.

Sanded pie safe

Here is a TIP – when sanding furniture with shelves, it helps to lay the piece on its back. This helps to ensure you sand both sides of the shelves and reach the corners easier.

Another TIP – If you have a furniture mover cart, put your piece of furniture on it when you are working. It’s much easier to move around.

Mix up Milk Paint

Let me first say – you can use any type of paint you desire. I love milk paint for many reasons so it is my “go to” first choice.

  • It’s a paint that gives old furniture an older but charming look
  • It’s all natural and eco friendly
  • It’s easy to clean up and won’t stain your clothes
  • It’s safe for pets and children

Milk paint is unique in that it comes in powder form and you have to mix it with water. After doing all the prep work for the piece of furniture, mix up your milk paint. It takes a bit of mixing before the consistency is right.

Paint the Pie Safe

For this particular project, I painted the interior “Ironstone” and the exterior “Aviary”. I decided to work from the inside out. This meant, I painted the interior of the pie safe first.

Here is another TIP – painting the interior of any cabinet or cupboard requires substantially more paint than the exterior. Especially if you are painting it a lighter color, requiring multiple coats.

I decided to paint the interior first because I knew it would be more difficult than painting the exterior of the pie safe. Once the interior was fully painted and dry, I wanted to protect it from accidental paint drips or dust. So, using craft paper and frog tape, I protected the interior.

Painting the pie safe

Once this was done, I applied two coats of Aviary to the outside of the pie safe. Be sure to wait until the paint is dry before moving on to the next step.

Lighty Sand and Seal the Painted Pie Safe

Using some 220 sand paper, I gently went over the pie safe. This helps to remove any drips or paint blotches. It evens out everything to a smooth finish. A gave the piece a final wipe down with a damp rag to remove the dust and then sealed it with MMS Milk Coat. A clear coat protects the paint. The final step is to re-attach the wire mesh to the doors using a staple gun.

Refurbished Pie Safe

It took me about 8 hours from start to finish to give this little piece a new life. She’s cute as a button. Of course, I am a little biased. Turns out Mr. SLH likes the piece as much as I do. He said we can use it to hold his Lego collection of cars, lighthouses, and space crafts. Hmm. I had never thought to use the pie safe for that purpose.

Feel free to Pin any of the images below if you want to bookmark this post for future reference.

Refurbishing a pie safe using milk paint

She looks better now with her new makeover.

Refurbishing a Pie Safe using Milk Paint

She’s all dressed up and ready for Legos! Or old quilts. Maybe even some jars of homemade jam.

Refurbishing a Pie Safe Using Milk Paint

Now that the interior has been painted the color of Ironstone, it looks so much brighter and cleaner.

Refurbishing a Pie Safe Using Milk Paint
Pink Zinnias in an ironstone jug

Thanks for stopping by the blog today. Wishing you the joy of saving old furniture and giving it a new life.

Anna Signature Block

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  1. Love this pretty makeover! Great piece; you can use it anywhere for storage and display. I love re-doing furniture, too. But it’s much less stressful doing it for myself and my kids than to sell. Maybe someday I’d sell on FB, but I just don’t think I’d get the satisfaction:( I’ve never tried Aviary-so pretty!

    1. Thank you Lora. Pie safes are so versatile. The best part – there are no worries about breaking any glass doors.

  2. This is so beautiful, Anna. I love the color you chose and everything. It’s gorgeous! I miss working on pieces like this too. Plus, it was always so much fun to hunt for fresh pieces, you know? Can’t wait to see what you find next and more importantly how you display the Lego collection 🙂 Big hugs, CoCo

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