How to Paint Shabby Chic

Written by brenda priddy
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How to Paint Shabby Chic
The shabby chic style makes art out of distressed pieces. (Frame image by Antonio Oquias from

Shabby chic is a style of decorating that originated in 1989 with the designer Rachel Ashwell, according to Ashwell started selling furniture pieces found in flea markets with very little alterations or updating. This style of distressed chic grew in popularity, and now is one of the most used forms of decorating. Painting wood in the shabby chic style is not difficult and requires only a few simple tools.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wood
  • Pastel coloured paints
  • Furniture cleaner
  • Toothbrush
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Extra fine steel wool
  • Soft cloths
  • Paint sealer
  • Paste wax
  • Paint brushes

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  1. 1

    Clean the piece of wood or furniture with furniture cleaner. This cleaner is designed to remove dirt, oil and dust from the surface of the wood. It also helps prepare the surface for the paint. Use toothbrushes to reach crevices and a larger brush to clean large surfaces.

  2. 2

    Sand the entire surface of the wood, starting with large grain sandpaper and working down to a fine grit paper. Brush a soft cloth over the surface. If the cloth snags, then you need more sanding. Sand until the cloth can run over the surface smoothly.

  3. 3

    Clean the piece once more with furniture cleaner and fine steel wool. Scrub lightly to remove all sawdust residue. Allow it to dry for two to four hours.

  4. 4

    Paint the entire surface of the wood with a paint sealer. This helps the paint adhere better, and glide more smoothly across the wood's surface. Allow it to dry for 24 hours.

  5. 5

    Rub the surface lightly with the steel wool, then dust with a soft cloth.

  6. 6

    Paint the wood in a soft colour. White, grey, cream, green and pink are all colours in the shabby chic palette. Paint two to three coats, allowing each coat to dry for two hours before applying the next coat. Allow it to dry for 24 hours.

  7. 7

    Sand the painted surface of the wood lightly with medium grit sandpaper. This will begin to make the furniture look aged.

  8. 8

    Imagine that the wood is old. Where would it naturally age and chip? Typically corners, edges and areas where doors and drawers close wear the fastest. Areas around handles or knobs also wear quickly. Sand some of these areas down slowly using the medium grit sandpaper. Sand a few spots to get the shabby chic look.

  9. 9

    Rub a coat of paste wax into the surface of the wood. This prevents further chipping and also conditions the wood. Place some wax on a soft cloth and work it into the surface.

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