How to Distress Furniture to Create Shabby Chic

Updated July 20, 2017

Shabby Chic decor is known for its use of faded roses, soft pastel colours and white, wooden distressed furniture. Create furniture in the Shabby Chic style using flea market furniture finds, or furniture you already own, and easy-to-locate paint products.

Clean your furniture with a household cleaner or trisodium. Wipe the furniture down with warm water to remove any remaining cleaner.

Remove hardware including drawer pulls and hinges. When multiple items are involved, label each piece for easier reassembly.

Use 120-grit sandpaper to roughen the surface of the furniture. Use a mouse sander for large spaces and a hand sander for small areas. When sanding is complete, wipe the furniture down with a tack cloth to remove sanding dust.

Apply primer to your furniture piece using a brush or small roller. Painting your furniture with a primer seals the wood and prepares it for the paint. Choose a water-based primer for easy clean up. Allow to dry thoroughly.

Apply two thin coats of white or off-white water-based paint in an eggshell finish. Apply the paint using a brush or small roller. Thin coats of paint dry more quickly and avoid drips and runs.

Sand the finish. Use 80-grit sandpaper to sand furniture edges, crevices and curves to expose raw wood. The technique provides a chipped, well-worn appearance.

Use a tack cloth to thoroughly wipe away sand residue.

Apply a coat of wax paste to bring out the beauty of the finish and to protect the wood.

Re-install hardware.


The colour palette of Shabby Chic decor is light pink, soft green and white. For variety, use a light pink or soft green paint finish instead of white.


Always apply paint in a well-ventilated area. Wear a sanding mask to avoid inhalation of sandpaper particles.

Things You'll Need

  • Household or trisodium phosphate cleaner
  • Cloths
  • Screwdriver
  • Masking tape
  • Sandpaper, 80-grit and 120-grit
  • Mouse sander
  • Tack cloth
  • Primer, water based
  • Paintbrushes
  • Small rollers
  • Paint, eggshell finish, white hue
  • Wax paste
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About the Author

Based in upstate New York, Amy Mosher has been writing interior design and lifestyle articles since 2005. She is a prolific professional blogger, designer, artist and writer for various websites. She holds a bachelor's degree from Mansfield University and is a graduate of the Sheffield School of Interior Design.