How to paint a table with a distressed look

Updated November 21, 2016

The distressed look gives new furniture a vintage makeover. Accent your home decor in Shabby Chic style when you learn how to distress a table or any other piece of furniture. This basic technique has impressive results despite the simplicity of the process. Once you finish your first distressed table, you'll get the urge to shop for new furniture so you can make it look old, too. This project finds new use for those older pieces of furniture left over from your yard sale; you'll fall in love with them all over again.

Clean off the table and remove any drawers or hardware it may have; set these off to the side. If the table is covered in a wax or shiny coating, sand it using medium-grade sandpaper until it has a rougher exterior and the gloss is gone.

Paint the table with a coat of primer. The primer will prepare the table for your paint job and help it look even; let the primer dry entirely before moving on.

Paint the table with two to three coats of furniture-grade paint. For a classic distressed look, choose a pastel paint colour like eggshell cream or pale buttery yellow. Another option is to go dark and paint the furniture a deep espresso brown or even black, depending on your decor. Let each coat of paint dry before adding another; when the paint is even and fully covers the table, you can stop. Let the painted furniture dry completely.

Use sandpaper to sand down the edges of the paint. Pay particular attention to the parts of the table that would naturally get the most abuse, such as the corners or edges. Sand down these areas until some of the wood shows through, then move on and sand other areas so the paint appears scratched and worn. Move around the table's surface, sanding each section with a varied degree of severity until you are satisfied with the result.

If the table has drawers, repeat the above steps with the drawer fronts.

Coat the table in a clear coat sealant or a furniture polishing product to protect the surface you worked so hard to create. Some furniture polish, such as those made with orange oil, will actually help to age the piece further and add to its new vintage charm. When the table is dry, replace any hardware or drawers that you removed previously.

Things You'll Need

  • Furniture cleaning solution
  • Rag
  • Sandpaper, medium grade
  • Paintbrushes
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Furniture polish or clear coat
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