How We Completely Transformed Our Porch Swing With Gel Stain (It couldn’t be easier!)

June 28, 2017

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Last week, we shared with you the new, large, porch swing we found for a great price (bonus! it’s an extra 10% off through the 4th with code OUTDOOR10)–the only problem being the wood was a little too orange for our taste. We polled our readers in this post and while the majority in the poll voted in favor of painting the swing black, almost everyone that commented made a strong point for staining it the same color as the front door–something we hadn’t originally thought of! We loved the idea so much–especially since if it didn’t look right, we could always paint over it–that we went for it.

We couldn’t be happier with the new, rich wood tone! And the process was relatively easy. No sanding. No priming. Heck, I even sprayed on a sealant. Here’s how we did it, but first–remember what it used to look like?

Orange city. With traditional stain, you would likely need to sand and apply a wood conditioner for the best results, but we used a gel stain for this application. Not only to avoid those things, but we wanted a very even looking result, and since it would be easiest to actually stain it while it was still hanging (no propping up required), a gel stain made a lot of sense since it is thick enough that it doesn’t run or drip–perfect for vertical surfaces.

I brought home the sample card of all of Minwax’s gel stain colors from the hardware store and found that their newest stain color, “Coffee” was the closest match to our front door. When you first open gel stain, it’s going to be pretty lumpy with thin liquid around the outside. Stir! Stir! Stir! Until it gets to be a uniform, creamy consistency.

Because the bench didn’t have a lacquer, or slick finish, there is no sanding required. But, if you want to try this on shiny cabinets, or your glossy stair banister–it wouldn’t hurt to go over a high gloss surface with a medium grit sandpaper first.

It’s the easiest product in the world to use, but if you’re working outside on a hot day, like we were–you do have to work pretty fast because it will dry on there quickly. I brushed it on evenly, and although the directions said to wait 3 minutes, I waited only 30 seconds-ish before wiping it off with an old towel. Repeat. 

The results are instant and very rewarding. I love seeing the wood’s character shine through right away. One pleasant surprise was I didn’t bother to tape off the chains or screws and the stain easily wiped off of those–win!

After we were done staining the entire bench (we only did one coat), we let it sit a full 24 hours before applying a topcoat sealer. Although we had some of our favorite Polycrylic in the garage, the instructions said for outdoor use, it’s better to apply this Helmsman Spar Urethane. It protects against weather, sun damage, etc., and is made to go right over gel stain. They had a traditional brush on pint, but also a spray on version—and with all the cracks and crevices, I absolutely went for the spray on route. Three light, even coats about 10 minutes apart and it was done!

I loaded it up with a few pillows, but if you look past those for a second, you can see how much nicer it looks in the same wood tone as the front door. Meant to be.

Even though the swing sits under a covered area, the two larger back cushion pillows are outdoor (they come in so many colors, and are so versatile–we have some in navy on the deck, too!) and I sprayed the tassel pillow with outdoor furnishings Scotchguard for protection, too!

By the looks of it, I’m not the only one that’s happy about the swing. :) Okay, the girls were out here non-stop even before we stained it–kids don’t really care about that kind of stuff–but truly, the swing has been such a great addition to the front of our home and now that it looks like it belongs there, I’m enjoying it even more.


Porch Swing | Large Outdoor Back Cushions | Tassel Pillow | Striped throw | Concrete planter | Minwax Coffee Gel Stain | Sealant Spray | Front door | Address Plaque | Buffalo Check Rug | Welcome Mat 



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What do you think?

  1. Megan says:

    Where did you get the mattress cushion?? We have an outdoor mattress from pottery barn and cover it with a twin sheet but we live in Florida and everything turns to mildew so fast. Is this a sunbrella mattress? Help!

  2. Debbie says:

    Love the stained swing. Great choice! Gel stain is pretty awesome. Last year I used it on my metal wood-grain embossed garage door. It was formerly “plain Jane” but now looks like a rich walnut-paneled door. It was the talk of the neighborhood for a few days.

  3. Shelley says:

    It turned out great! I really like the monochromatic look of the ivory cushions and pillows against the dark wood. Such a cozy spot to curl up with a stack of books and a cappuccino.

  4. Mavis says:

    Liking the new look on the blog, though the load time is quite long (on my Samsung s7 with chrome). Just curious if the number of ads has increased on your site recently or if I’m just suddenly noticing it? I’m generally pretty used to ignoring ads and scrolling right past, but the frequency in which they’re in a blog post of yours is sort of excessive. This post has 6!!! 7 if you include the “always on the screen” one that I thankfully have the option to close. It gets a little tiring reading a blog post that has an ad after every paragraph/picture. I know you gotta make your money somehow but ugh, it’s a bit much!

  5. Jenny says:

    Looks amazing! Was the towel you used terry cloth? I used gel stain once on my laundry room cabinets (we ended up painting them), and I tried wiping it with a few different types of cloths, and every single one left fuzz stuck to the stain, even while it was still wet. I’d like to use gel stain on my door, but I’m not sure what I need to do differently to get it right this time. Any ideas?

  6. Jenna says:

    Is the swing being tilted back intentional?

    Such a cozy spot you’ve created. It’s begging to be curled up on with a good book :)

  7. Liz says:

    Looks so, so good! Now how do you decide whether to sit in the front or the back? : )
    Constructive criticism- The planter seems a bit small for the space. What about putting it on top of a white cube table? Kind of like this
    Could be a DIY. Maybe that would be too boxy though… There’s the reason I don’t do this professionally, haha!

  8. Erin K. says:

    This looks so perfect! Like it was meant to be :D

  9. Carly says:

    Love! I voted black but this wasn’t an option or I would have chosen it.

  10. Victoria says:

    Hey that looks great. I suggesting copying the siding colour last week but the stain works too. Very glad you didn’t go black.
    As a tip for other readers, start staining at the back which will be covered by cushions so you can get that hang (geddit? ????) of the stain before moving to areas that will be seen easily.

  11. Lynn says:

    looks amazing! So inviting.

  12. Katie says:

    Well done! And you can’t go wrong with a swing. My parents had (and still have!) a stationary swing very similar to this while I was growing up and I loved to swing on it. My husband actually brought me out to the swing one night and that is where he proposed. : ) Such a sweet memory!

  13. Leena says:

    I forgot to mention it’s such a cozy entrance, really lovely.

  14. Leena says:

    Beautiful ! You didn’t include the girls in your “sources”! J/K :)

    Question: Do you leave the accessories outside? I live in a “twin” in Philadelphia, flanked by two enormous trees on either side (neighbors). The birds are leaving very large “bombs” all over my steps, walkway, car and driveway… I hate the way it looks and its gross so I am constantly hosing down everything. Needless to say I hate leaving out the cushions on my chairs in my back yard. I am only bringing them out when needed but it takes away from the “look” and its also a hassle to bring it all out and then in again.

    • Julia says:

      Oh man! Bummer! We do leave everything out for the most part (unless there’s a storm coming in, then we cover it), but don’t really have a bird problem. Our front porch is covered and our back deck, although it is surrounded by trees, there are none directly over it.

  15. Laurie says:

    I would like to order the stain and sealer. How many of each did you end up using for your bench? Thanks so much!

  16. Kathryn says:

    I wish our porch was big enough for a swing. Yours is beautiful. Love the color
    and the decor you picked. :-)

  17. Lindsay C says:

    Beautiful! Nice work! Now how to keep them from ramming the swing into the brick, lol. Really nice update instead of other furniture. How about a little side table for drinks? Love the subtle belly bump in the background on the stain pic. :)

    • Julia says:

      When the girls are swinging, they are usually turned around pushing OFF the brick–haha. No ramming into it yet, but we’ve been pretty clear that’s a no-no.

  18. Allison says:

    SO good! I didn’t vote, because I wasn’t digging any of the options with your brick. I’m so glad your commenters came through with the stain idea. It’s perfect and looks like the process may have even been easier than painting.

  19. Carol says:

    Love it! Looks so good!

  20. Sarah says:

    I voted for White, but that stain looks amazing! What color are you planning to spray the chains?

  21. Dawn says:

    That is beautiful! Makes me wish I had a front porch!

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