How to paint shabby chic furniture

Updated April 17, 2017

Shabby chic style is a romantic and vintage way to decorate rustically. Furniture is usually worn and has chipped paint in light or pastel colours. Shabby chic furniture fits very well into a lot of cottage, romantic and Victorian style homes. When you decide to paint shabby chic furniture, don't forget to research these other styles for inspiration. Painting shabby chic furniture is easily accomplished once you decide how shabby you want the chic furniture to be. There is really no wrong way to do it and only a few guidelines. Choose light, vintage pastel colours and be sure to let paint dry thoroughly between coats.

Clean the piece of furniture thoroughly and allow to dry. Repair any damage to the structure and remove all of the hardware. If you will be using this hardware again, take this opportunity to clean it well.

Sand the surface of the furniture piece. Remove the paint or finish, if you like, or just sand the gloss from the finish. If the furniture has been painted numerous times before, be sure to smooth out any bumps on the surface.

Clean the furniture piece of dust with a clean rag or tack cloth.

Apply a thin coat of paint to the furniture piece and allow to dry thoroughly. Repeat this procedure several times. You can either brush paint or use spray paint.

Paint the last coat on the furniture piece. When it becomes slightly tacky, begin sanding the edges and places on the piece that would normally receive wear over time. This is not an exact science. If you waited until it was completely dry, that's perfectly fine. You may have to use more elbow grease, though.

Clean the surface using a rag or tack cloth.

Paint a clear matt finish over the entire surface of the furniture piece to protect the finish.

Apply a coating of petroleum jelly to the surface of the furniture on areas that would normally receive wear and tear over time.

Paint several layers of paint on the furniture piece and allow each layer to dry thoroughly between coats.

Wipe the surface of the furniture piece, removing the paint wherever petroleum jelly had been applied. Rub the surface and clean well. This technique will give a more chipped paint look than a sanded one.

Paint a clear matt finish over the entire surface of the furniture piece to protect the finish.


Latex paints work well for shabby chic painting techniques. If you mess up or remove too much paint, it can easily be fixed by painting over it.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood furniture
  • Electric palm sander
  • Sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Rags
  • Paintbrush
  • Steel wool
  • Choice of paint or spray paint
  • Clear matt sealer
  • Petroleum jelly
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About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Cyndee Kromminga has been writing craft and interior design articles for 15 years. Her articles and craft designs have appeared in Crafting Traditions Magazine, Easy Holiday Crafting Series-House of White Birches Newsletter and Country Woman Christmas Books. Kromminga's education is in interior design and she has experience operating a craft and design business for more than 20 years.