How to distress my rocking chairs with paint

Updated February 21, 2017

Distressing a rocking chair will give it a vintage, warm appearance. You do this by applying coats of paint of different colours, and then removing enough of the top coat to let the bottom show through in areas that would be naturally worn with use. You can distress used furniture as well as new.

Paint a coat of latex primer on unfinished wood, or oil-based primer if you will be painting over used furniture. If you distress used furniture, be sure to remove any dust and grit before you attempt to paint it.

Paint on one coat of flat latex paint. Chose white or a lighter shade than the final colour of the rocking chair. The colour depends on the look you wish to achieve. Use a paintbrush, and paint in the direction of the wood grain. Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours.

Rub a thin, even coat of paste wax over the painted chair in the areas you will distress. Use an old rag to do this. Allow the wax to dry for one hour. Do not buff it.

Apply a coat of the main colour of the rocking chair over the entire piece. Apply it with a paintbrush, following the grain of the wood. Usually this will be a darker shade than the first paint applied, and in a satin or flat finish, depending on the look you want. Let the paint dry overnight. If the colour is not as deep as you wish, add a second coat, then allow it to dry overnight again.

Very lightly sand the seat, especially the front edge, as well as the rungs, arms and headrest, using fine-grit sandpaper or steel wool. These are all areas that would be well-worn on a rocking chair. You can sand other areas as well. Sand off only the outer colour, allowing the lighter colour of the first coat of paint to show.

Apply a protective sealant, using a paintbrush, over the entire rocking chair to protect the finish.

Things You'll Need

  • Latex primer
  • Oil-based primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Flat latex paint in colour #1
  • Paste wax
  • Rag
  • Satin or flat latex paint in colour #2
  • Sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • Protective sealant
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About the Author

J.M. Pence has written magazine articles and essays for a variety of publications, including “Sunset,” “Mystery Scene,” “Cat Fancy,” and “Idaho Magazine,” plus 15 novels, a novella, and several short stories. Published since 1987, Pence holds a master's degree in journalism and a B.A. in history with a minor in political science from U.C. Berkeley.