How to Give Furniture a Shabby Chic Makeover

A set of blue shabby chic chairs.
What You'll Need
Latex paint: 2 colors, flat. One light color, one darker color.
Paint brush: chip or 2-inch sash
Paint stripper (if needed)
Putty knife
Medium grit sandpaper sponge

Some things look better with time, don't they? In fact, just one piece of shabby chic, rustic-looking furniture can really help to transform a room into whatever look you're going for, whether that be a cozy country feel, or an elegant period room full of antiques. To get started all you need is a piece of furniture, some paint, and a little sandpaper.

Step 1: Choose Your Paint Colors

Before you paint your piece of furniture, you'll need to choose your paint colors. For the base you'll need a lighter color (this is the part that will peek through when distressed) and for the top coat you'll want a darker color. For example, if you're going with a blue tone, you could use a light gray as the undercoat. Choose something that will contrast.

Step 2: Prepare Your Furniture Piece

If the furniture you're painting isn't too covered in paint or stain, you can simply wipe it down with a damp rag and get to painting. If it's in rough shape, however, you may want to consider stripping it first so that you're starting with bare wood. If it's already a light color and appears to not have too many coats beneath it, consider leaving it as-is, since the stripping process can be a long one. For those skipping stripping, go to "To Sand" below.

To Strip

Apply the stripper, set your timer according to the manufacturer's specification

Apply the stripper, set your timer according to the manufacturer's specifications, and scrape off the bubbled-up paint. Be sure to use a well-ventilated room, rubber gloves, and the proper tools. You may have to apply the stripper several times to get all of the past paint off. Use a scrubber brush to get all the remaining paint off and then clean it up with a good cleaner.

To Sand

Some things look better with time, don't they? In fact, just one piece of shabby

Once you've stripped and cleaned your furniture, use a sander to finish removing any final paint and to prepare the wood to receive the new paint. If you were able to skip the stripping part, still go ahead and run a sander over the paint to scuff it up and remove any loose paint before it gets its new coat.

Step 3: Painting the Base Color

Paint your first color, the lighter one, onto your furniture piece that you're aging. If the furniture was already a lighter color and you're happy with it, you can simply add a quick single coat of your new light base, or you can skip this part and go directly to adding your top coat.

Your paint job doesn't have to be perfect -- just get it on there and allow it to dry. Make sure all of your wood is covered. Paint the bottom coat, allow it to dry and then if it's still quite transparent, add another coat.

Step 4: Top Coat

Before you paint your piece of furniture, you'll need to choose your paint color

Once your bottom coat is fully dried, you can add your top coat, the darker coat of paint. Be a little more precise with this coat, but still, you don't have to be perfect. Any runs or mistakes can be taken care of when you're distressing it. If you can see the base coat anywhere through the top coat, add another top coat before proceeding. Make sure that it's completely dry before you add any new coats of paint, as you don't want your colors mixing. The top and bottom coats should be completely separate from one another.

Step 5: Time to Distress

After at least a two to three-day period of drying time, it's time to do the really fun part of aging your furniture piece, and that's the distressing part. (Not distressing to you -- to the furniture.) Grab your sandpaper block or sponge with a medium grit sandpaper on it, and begin scuffing areas that the wood would naturally have worn over the years: edges, corners, and any detailed parts that stick out like molding.

As you sand, keep in mind that you want the bottom layer of paint to show through in those key areas. With some you can even go down a bit further to show the raw wood. For the remainder of the piece, continue sanding so that the base coat peeks through a bit in the areas you're distressing until you've achieved the age and the look you want.

Final Tips

If the furniture is to go in a bathroom or kitchen, you may want to seal it with a clear coat. However, if it's for another area of your home --a dryer one -- it's best to keep it natural if you want it to look older. (Moisture in the air of a kitchen or bathroom can ruin the hard work you put into the furniture's surface over time.) One final thing to do to complete your aged look is to find some new or old hardware that showcases your piece. If you can't find any handles or drawer pulls to charm it up a bit, consider another DIY project and create your own out of old silverware or other fun things laying about the house.

That is really all there is to creating a shabby chic look on a piece of furniture: just paint, sand, and doll it up a little according to your tastes, and you're done. This is one interesting and relatively easy DIY project you can do to pretty much any old piece of furniture you have laying around, so go on the look-out and let the fun begin!