My Vote Of “No Confidence” For My Stained Studio Doors Plan

A few days ago, I shared that if I could do anything I wanted with the bathroom door and the storage closet door in the back entry of my studio, my preference would be for them to be a medium to dark stained wood. Walnut would be perfect. You can read more about that, as well as other options, here. But here’s a look at the final vision I had for this area, and how it would coordinate with the mural wall.

So after considering some different options to get get that walnut look (everything from a faux finish to purchasing actual walnut doors, and everything in between), I decided to start with the cheapest DIY option. I purchased a product called Retique It, which is a primer that contains actual wood particles in it. You’re supposed to be able to use this primer on pretty much any surface, and then stain it to make it look like real wood.

I almost named this post “My Vote Of “No Confidence” In Retique It,” but I realized that probably isn’t a fair assessment. After all, I didn’t use their full line of products (they sell their own brand of stains as well). But it’s definitely fair to say that the overall process that I used is not going to result in the look I want, so I didn’t even attempt to finish. This was not one of those “trust the process” types of projects. I knew almost immediately that it wasn’t going to work, so even though I didn’t finish it, I did way more than I needed to do in order to verify that it just wasn’t going to work out.

The doors that I currently have on the half bathroom and the storage closet are these standard six-panel hollow core doors from Home Depot. They come pre-primed and ready to paint, and they have this fake wood grain look to them.

The doors have about two coats of black paint on them, and then they’re clear coated with General Finishes High Performance Topcoat. I clear coated them so to make the black easier to clean. So before I began, I gave the doors a very quick sanding with 220-grit sandpaper. And then I began brushing on the Retique It primer.

My initial impression was that I was shocked at how thin the product is. With it being so thin, I had a hard time avoiding runs and drips. You can see below just how thin the first coat went on. The panel that looks more solid brown has three coats on it. I didn’t want to waste time doing the whole door if the product wasn’t going to cover, so I just used that one panel to test out how many coats it would take to completely cover.

In all, I ended up doing four coats of primer to completely cover the door. And those four coats took about 1/3 of the 32-ounce container of Retique It. That was disappointing. That means that if I wanted to do both sides of both doors, I’d have to purchase a second container of Retique It, at the cost of $55 per 32-ounce container.

After the primer was completely dry, I did a little sanding to get rid of drips and runs, and also to see if I could bring out some of that faux wood grain in the doors. I thought maybe I could use that existing faux wood grain to my advantage to make the doors actually look like wood when I stained them.

As far as the stain goes, I ended up using Behr water-based stain. The Retique It website say not to use penetrating stain, like Minwax. Instead, they recommend a particular Varathane stain, which used to be available at Home Depot. Unfortunately, the Home Depot here no longer carries that type of Varathane stain. They only carry Varathane stain that is labeled “penetrating stain”. They did have another line of oil-based stain that wasn’t labeled “penetrating”, but they didn’t have any of the colors that would have worked for my doors.

So my only option was Behr water-based stain. I had so much success using that stain on the storage cabinet in our bathroom, so I felt like it would work here as well. And initially, I actually thought it was going to work!

My plan was to brush on the Dark Walnut first, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then wipe off the excess so that the dark settled into the faux wood grain of the door. And then once that was completely dry, I’d go back over it with a coat of Special Walnut. Here’s what it looked like after letting the Dark Walnut sit for a minute and then wiping off the excess. I was feeling hopeful!

But then I tried putting the stain on the first panel, and that’s when the plan fell apart. Quite honestly, I didn’t really feel like the Retique It was actually absorbing stain. I thought that was the whole purpose of having primer that is made up of over 65% recycled wood. I expected the wood in the primer to absorb stain much better than it did. This just looked like it was going right over the surface, just like it would over any other painted or primed surface, and it created the streakiest, splotchiest mess ever. No matter what I did, I couldn’t create any kind of smooth, even look, even after wiping away the excess stain.

I was disappointed, but I knew that I was never going to get to a finished look that I was satisfied with using this process or these products, so I just stopped at this point.

So is my vote of “no confidence” in Retique It? Well, I’m not sure at this point, and I think it would be unfair for me to say that the problem is Retique It. I’d have to use their full line of products on a project to make that kind of honest assessment. Maybe it’s just the fact that I was trying to use it on a six-panel door instead of a flat surface like a table top. Maybe the problem is the stain I used. I don’t really know.

But what I can tell you is that my vote of “no confidence” applies to my whole process in general. And I also have no confidence that I can make these cheap six-panel, pre-primed doors look like wood in any convincing way, regardless of the products or faux finish process I use.

The two things that I like about my mock up are (1) the flat panel doors, and (2) the distinct look of the grain of walnut veneer.

Obviously, it’s not possible to make a six-panel door look like a flat slab door without completely covering it, but I also don’t think it’s possible to replicate that look of walnut grain using anything other than real walnut veneer. But it’s that grain that makes it look so special, like on the walnut vanities and storage cabinet in our bathroom.

I think the only option to get that look is to use real walnut veneer. There are no other short cuts. And quite honestly, I’m not sure if I’m so set on walnut doors that I’m willing to swap out the existing doors for new ones when what I have is perfectly good, perfectly usable, and already installed and trimmed out. (In order to swap doors, I’d have to remove trim since these are pocket doors.).

While it’s fun to dream about the ideal look and design, sometimes chasing that perfect look and design really isn’t worth the money or the effort it would require. So now I’m back to square one on this. Maybe I’ll just gold leaf the doors. 😀 No, seriously. Would that work? Someone mentioned it the other day, and my initial reaction was, “That’s ridiculous!” And yet, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about gold leafed doors ever since then. I’m so tempted to try it! 😀



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  1. I don’t know how painting faux wood grain would work on your doors (given that they are paneled and already have impressions), but if anybody could do faux wood grain painting, it would be you. Bob Vila has an article about painting faux wood grain, but if it were me, I would need a video (or ten…) before I would attempt it.

  2. My feeling is if you want the woodgrain look, why not source some vintage/antique 6-panel solid wood doors in the correct size. Even if you had to strip them down to the bare wood, it would be of higher quality than a new pre-primed hollow-core door. Just my two cents.

  3. I would find a latex brown paint that is walnut colored & paint the doors. Then get a darker brown antiquing stain to wipe on & off to catch the wood grain in the doors. Or just go with white to match the trim around the doors. The focus is going to be the floral curtains, French doors & chandelier. The side doors shouldn’t be distracting.
    I do love your reviews. I have some wood pieces I was thinking of using the Retique It kit on but will pass & just use some Formbys Restore a Finish instead. Your studio is looking great👍!

  4. Have you priced out a new, unfinished hollow core door slab? I’m seeing about $60-$70 each at Lowe’s and HD. Of course then you can use whatever stain you want. Personally, that’s what I would do instead of messing around with the chemicals and veneers.

    1. I have. I guess the question is how much effort do I really want to put into this? I’m just not feelilng super motivated to swap out pocket doors that are already installed and trimmed. I think I might just need to be satisfied with painted doors. Or gold leafed doors. 😀

      1. Kristi, listen to yourself.. Every time you say this, it never ever works. I’ve been following you almost 15 years, and I can’t remember a single time you settled successfully. 😂 You’re discouraged right now so you don’t have the energy or zest to tackle it. Leave it for a while to let your amazing brain percolate on the options and come back when you have the energy to do it how you really want it. (Said with a loving mom-ish smile)

  5. I’m glad you gave it a try. Walnut is classic. You could also go with the theory that not everything should be the star of the show so simply paint them white

  6. Disappointed that you didn’t see the process through. I’d take your vote more seriously if you had stained the whole door twice. You haven’t given it a fair chance.

    1. There’s no way Kristi should waste time, energy, and money to complete a process she knows isn’t going to work for her. Kristi has been doing DIY projects long enough that she KNOWS when it won’t work for her. Her vote, as you call it, is a vote of no confidence in the process meeting HER needs, not anyone else’s. She’s not here to provide readers a full review of products for general purposes. This blog is to share with us what she does for her own needs, and lucky we are that she shares that with us.

  7. Well, if your’e serious about doing gold leaf, Im thinking let the french doors be the star of the show with that treatment! They will be seen so much more from the studio, and you could paint the pocket doors the same green as the wall BUT give them some gold leafing around the panels similar to what you did on the pink cabinetry….let them shine as well but also giving you symetry at the same time! You get some gold and you get some gold ….everyone gets some gold!!!

    1. I’m with you – love this idea (though I might go a couple of shades darker on the pocket doors)! And there’d be less to gold leaf on the entry doors since they’re full of panes of glass!

  8. How about putting a thin veneer panel just on the outside of the door and leave the inside of the doors white or whatever color. That would save money for sure on the veneer panels. Good luck. Can’t wait to see it finished.

  9. There are so many doors in that small space that compete for your eye with the curtain. Perhaps paint the doors the same color as the wall.

  10. Go for the gold leaf! If you don’t like it you can paint. And if you’re still thinking about walnut after a year then maybe you can work veneer into the budget.

  11. Hmm! If you wanted to try the faux bois treatment via Danial Kanter or Bob Villa maybe you could prime the black door with a different primer and just use the one coat of Retique it on top. Blacks gonna take a lot to cover with any primer. A perfect job will still going to leave you with panelled doors. If you photo shop your doors with gold leaf could you also do a mock up of them painted the wall color and possibly the trim as well. Just color wash both side walls, doors and trim and leave the back door to be the star?

    1. Another thought can you put a veneer over your existing door or use one of those contact paper type murals? They’re only around 25 on amazon. Sorry these thoughts have probably already been mentioned.

  12. I think I would stick with the white doors, or….painting the doors the wall color and keep the trim white as you have it. I can’t see any solution except to paint them a color you like and white goes with everything. Or a color in the curtains.

  13. I’m sorry the walnut stain didn’t work out as you had hoped it would. I think the gold leaf would be a bit too much. Maybe reconsider the Iron Ore paint for now and maybe buy new walnut doors down the road.

  14. I personally love those 6 panel doors. I agree that taking the time and effort to get them to look like walnut would take time to find the right paint or whatever. However, I think you could get that walnut look that you craved if you did decide to continue with it. And I know that when you have one door done you would be in a place to really see how your dream walnut doors would look. Time lost? NO. You would satisfy your decision on having walnut doors. On the other hand, the gold leaf sounds
    ‘b e a u t i f u l’. I can see in my mind right now how beautiful, not to even mention classy, those doors would look gold leafed. Oh so classy! And would make the curtains look even more outstanding than they already are. Either way you go will be perfect because I can see that if you don’t like it that way, you don’t leave it that way.

  15. Paint the double doors white or whatever and be done with it. I can’t imagine “gilding the lily” in that space of in and out travel. I still think giving those other two doors any prominence will make the area look choppy, especially if the walls will be decorated too. Inevitably, I assume they will be.

    My musings for the day. 🙂 The adventure continues after that learning experience. Thanks for sharing what didn’t work. You probably helped others avoid problems. As you said, to be fair, it probably requieres more products from that company to achieve success.

  16. Some practical advice.
    Sand them back, paint them white then walk away. Finish the room then revisit. You will have a completed room perspective and inspiration should strike. Maybe once the room is fully done you may feel white or another plain is right. Every star, and in this case being those glorious pink cupboards and floral wallpaper needs a soothing back up to make them shine.

  17. Im really liking the idea of painting the doors the color of the pink cabinets or green walls with the gold leaf accent like your cabinets. Let me add I never thought I would ever suggest gold leaf for anything. Yet here I am on the gold leaf wagon!

  18. Okay, since the doors are woodgrain textured already, why not try to dry brush a shade of brown paint over the black, then wipe off quickly. The black would stay in the recesses, while the brown would be the surface, hopefully mimicking wood! (worth a try!)
    As for gold leaf, if it was yucky, would you be able to get it off? And, if it bumped against anything, would it scrape off? If you DO gold leaf, I would go with a more matte look instead of super shiny. (Or just get gold paint) Good luck figuring it out!

  19. Maybe white or Iron Ore doors with some gold leafed trim lines like you did on the studio cabinet doors and drawers! And, seriously, you could have mirror cut for each of those 6 panels or one or two larger mirrors to cover the panels en-masse adding tiny gold leafed trim…

  20. maybe try faux bois? you are very good at painting and I feel like you would be able to create the look you are going for with this technique. Daniel Kanter just did this on his bathroom cabinets. It looks amazing

  21. Bless your heart. That door did indeed look like a mess. I would recommend you paint the doors one of the colors you had shown us a week or so ago. I remember that I liked the darker green with the lighter green walls. I thought that looked sharp, even classy.
    Mistakes makes us learn….what not to do next time. I started a long awaited project today in cutting up material I no longer wanted. I have shelves (Ikea) full of material. Some of it is really old and just out of style. Anyway in addition to the fabric in the shelves, I have tubs and tubs of material. So today was my day to cut up these fabrics into 5″ squares, 2.5″ squares or 2.5″ wide strips. Sounds easy. I got about 5 fabrics pressed and cut up. What a disappointment. It will take me the rest of this year and all of next year to finish this mess. Then I will donate it to Waco Quilting Guild for the ladies to make quilts for nursing homes, fire departments, homeless shelters, etc. I kept thinking “Who’s idea was this anyway” then realized it was MY idea.
    Good luck on your doors. Revisit your picture of that green on green and see what you think. Hope you go forward on your project faster than I go on mine!

  22. Personally l love the french doors and curtains. I feel like the other 2 doors shouldn’t call attention away from the. A nutrial color maybe same as wall color would be a starting place for me. They dont have to be done right now. Live with it a while and see how you feel st the beginning of the year. I resll thing any gold trim on them would call to much attention away from the french doors. They need to be to star! The other to 2 doors are just back up.
    If you want a little immpresion on them paint the soor frames and put some gold leaf on that.
    Waiting to see what you decide. Let it percolate in your mind s while longer.

  23. I think a lot of people really liked the dark purple color you showed in that post when you tried out all the different colors. Maybe just paint them that color and be done with it. Or pick out the detail in gold after painting?

  24. Kristi, I known you don’t like gel stains. I didn’t either until I tried General Finishes Gel Stain. I will be using on my fake grain garage to help it look like wood. Many examples online. You have probably already gold leafed the doors. However what can it hurt to purchase a can to try on future projects.