How to Paint Wood Furniture in a Distressed Style

Written by kay abbot
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Very few hard and fast rules exist when it comes to distressing furniture. Distressing is the act of giving faux age to a piece of furniture so it appears older and naturally worn by time and use. The more imperfect the piece appears, the better it will look. Painting is one way to give bland furniture character and age. Choose colours that are not overly bright and distracting, but remember: In this instance, colour is not as important as technique.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Paintbrush
  • Crackle medium
  • Sandpaper

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  1. 1

    Sand the furniture to ensure proper bonding of the new paint. If there is paint on the piece, you may find you like the effect of the old paint peeking through the new paint in areas (this adds to the distressed look). If you don't, sand off all the old paint and start fresh. Use larger-grain sandpaper to remove paint and fine-grain to smooth the surface afterward.

  2. 2

    Paint the furniture with a flat paint to give it the look of an aged piece. Lightly load the brush with paint and apply in a light back and forth motion. Furniture will appear more distressed if the paint is applied sparingly, with small sections of bare wood or old paint showing through.

  3. 3

    Paint a second coat in a contrasting colour for a more dramatic effect. A popular combination is a flat white paint over black or dark green. Paint the second coat in the same light fashion as the first. Be sure to leave a few very thin bare spots in which the first coat of paint will show through.

  4. 4

    Apply a "crackle coating" between coats of paint for a more aged distressed finish. A crackle medium can be purchased in most places that sell paint products. Apply this medium with a paintbrush and allow it to dry completely before topping it with a coat of flat finish paint. Apply a thick coat of crackle medium for large dramatic cracks or a thinner coat for a more natural subtle look.

  5. 5

    Continue to distress the furniture once the paint is dry. Lightly sand the edges of the piece and carefully tap a few nicks and dings into the finish with a hammer. This makes the furniture appear naturally distressed and aged rather than artificially finished.

  6. 6

    Cover the faux finishes and distressed furniture with at least one coat of polyurethane to protect your work. Polyurethane can be tricky to work with, so follow label instructions carefully.

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