How to Distress Furniture

Written by ehow home & garden editor
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Add old-world charm to a piece of new furniture or refurbish an older piece with a distressed finish. Creating a distressed look is easy to achieve with the right tools. Distressed furniture goes well with many decorating styles, including French country, cottage style and rustic country.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Latex paint in a dark color
  • Wax crayon
  • Crackling medium
  • Latex paint in a light color
  • Clear varnish

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  1. 1

    Remove any hardware, such as handles, clasps and hinges.

  2. 2

    Using a fine grit sandpaper, lightly sand the surface to remove any old paint or debris.

  3. 3

    Clean the piece with warm soapy water.

  4. 4

    Take a wax crayon and rub it along the edges of the piece of furniture, and along the corners, where it would normally get wear and tear.

  5. 5

    Apply a base coat of dark paint, such as black, hunter green or navy blue. Let dry completely. Apply a second coat if needed.

  6. 6

    Wipe off the crayon wax using a damp cloth.

  7. 7

    Apply a crackling medium found at most paint supply stores. Follow the manufacturers instructions.

  8. 8

    Apply a coat of light paint, such as white, ivory or pastel over the crackling medium. Let dry completely. Seal with a coat of clear varnish.

Tips and warnings

  • If the piece of furniture you are distressing is made of very old, porous wood (it has the look and feel of driftwood), you may want to spray it with a coat of matte acrylic sealer before painting.
  • Make sure you work in a well-ventilated area to avoid harmful paint fumes.

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