Distressed Painted Furniture: A How-To Guide

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What You'll Need
Paint color of your choice
Hammer, screw driver and other tools
Black or raw umber oil paint
Bri wax or satin varnish
Paint brush
Paint thinner
Fine grit sandpaper
Fine steel wool

Distressed painted furniture is a very popular look and is easy to achieve. Here's how to achieve this look.

Step 1 - Prepare the Surface

If the piece of furniture you wish to distress is already painted, you can leave the existing paint on it and just distress that or you can repaint it in the color of your choice. If you choose to repaint it, clean the surface with soap and water to remove dirt and grime. Once dry, rough sand the wood and then wipe away the dust. This will give the paint a surface to adhere to.

Step 2 - Paint

rolling grey paint onto a table

Give your piece of furniture a good even coat of paint in the color of your choice. Flat or satin finish paint is best for a distressing project. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly and lightly rub the piece with extra fine steel wool to smooth any paint streaks or ridges.

Step 3 - Distressing

This is the fun part of your project. Think about what type of natural wear and tear your piece could have had after years of use. A chair may have worn spots on the arms or seat, especially the edges. Perhaps there are nicks on the seat where someone sat down with a sharp object in their pocket.

For tables or dressers, think about the edges being worn down, especially corners and around handles or knobs. Use your sandpaper or steel wool to rub away these areas of paint. You can use a sharp object to create dents in the wood, either small deep ones like worm holes, by pounding in the point of a nail then pulling it out, or lay a rock on the piece and hit it hard with a hammer to create a dent in the wood. About anything or any technique you choose to use will give a good result. This is the part that will make your piece one of a kind and reflect your personality.

Step 4 - Applying Age

sanding an antique chair

Use the oil paint color you have chosen to rub into the cuts, gouges, and worn spots to give it an aged look. Use a rag to rub away what you don't need to give it the color and look you want. You can rub the entire piece with a light coating of this same color if you wish to give the entire piece an aged or weathered look.

Step 5 - Sealing

When all of the oil paint you've used has dried completely, you need to seal the piece. Apply a coat of Briwax over the entire piece, let it sit until partially dry, then buff to a soft lustre. Tinted wax will both age and shine the piece. Wax will also seal it. Or you can use varnish to seal it and protect it from water spills and prolong the life of the piece. Apply the varnish per manufacturer instructions.