how to antique (and distress) furniture with paint

Let me preface this wee tutorial with a disclaimer: I ain’t claiming to be no painting expert. So please bear that in mind before you send me an email asking a question about a painting project. Generally, I will answer you with: I don’t know. I am very good at researching crap on the interweb. I am also very good at asking questions at my local Benjamin Moore store. I am not afraid to try new things – you shouldn’t be either. However, should you ruin a piece of your furniture whilst attempting to distress/antique it… well, I’m not taking responsibility. Sand ‘er down and try something else. For heaven’s sake, I cannot manage you and the Cat Farm. When in doubt, check with someone who is an expert.

Alright. Moving on. This little how-to guide is for antiquing and distressing with paint. There are many methods out there, and some of it is dependant on whether you are working with a painted piece, natural wood or some man-made product. I was working with pre-fab/painted pieces from Home Sense, thus this tutorial is for working with similar items. So don’t be sending me questions about other types of projects, people. I can’t help you. There are tons of tutorials on distressing and antiquing online. Have a look around, settle on something you like and give ‘er a try. I mixed a couple of methods to find something I was comfortable with and figured I’d get me some awesome results. Also, some tutorials online will guide you through a super distressed (i.e. kick the crap out of your furniture) look. I didn’t want to go that far, so I did not whack my furniture with chains or gauge it with screwdrivers. I just wanted it to look a bit distressed on the edges and corners. You know, cottage chic. You could, should you so desire, hire some neighbourhood kids to really work your table over.

Here’s the before: cat pee yellow, pre-fab tables from Home Sense – aka new master bedroom bedside tables.

how to antique & distress furniture with paint | movita beaucoup

how to antique & distress furniture with paint | movita beaucoup

Here’s the after: drying in the craft room.

how to antique & distress furniture with paint | movita beaucoup

Sand the b*tch. This applies to pretty much any painted project. You want to rough up the surface so your primer will stick to it like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth. You don’t need to use anything too coarse – unless you want the piece to look super rustic. I’d stick with a medium or fine sandpaper – you can ask at your hardware store if you aren’t sure. You can sand by hand or with a sander. Follow the grain of the wood (if possible). For pre-fab surfaces you might have to use your imagination. My pieces, for example, were made of some sort of space-aged material with futuristic paint, so I sanded it following an imaginary grain. Be sure to wipe the sanded furniture down thoroughly with a tack cloth or damp rag – you want to make sure you get rid of all the debris before painting. You can even vacuum the crevices to be extra sure you’re debris-free.

Prime. I like Zinsser 1-2-3 Bulls Eye. It sticks to everything and really stinks up the place. There are many great primers on the market – check around. There are primers for wood, and primers for laminates, etc. Shiny stuff needs good bonding power, so be sure you’re using the appropriate primer if you want your hard work to hold up over time. And make sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions and allow for enough drying time.

how to antique & distress furniture with paint | movita beaucoup

Fake it (when necessary). Because my pieces couldn’t be sanded down to wood, I decided to create a fake, wood-like surface. I settled on Benjamin Moore’s Fairview Taupe (because after staring at 500 browns for two weeks the colour bearing the name of my hood – Fairview – seemed appropriate). I used Benjamin Moore Collection 310 Interior Acrylic Latex Paint in a pearl finish. This base colour is what will eventually be revealed when you distress the furniture – like the base coat under a crackle medium. Browns tend to lend themselves to fake, wood-like surfaces. However, you could use brilliant pink for all I care. I applied two coats and allowed for the proper drying time before proceeding to the next step.

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

Wax on. Using a candle, rub wax onto the surfaces where you’d like to see some of your fake wood exposed. Edges, the bottoms of legs, corners and knobs/handles are all places that would normally see some wear and tear. For these pieces, I did a fair amount of distressing/revealing. I have another piece on the go that will have a lot less fake wood exposed. It’s really a matter of taste. I looked at about a million photos online – favourite blogs and decor sites, and then settled on the look I wanted.

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

Brush off floofy bits. Use something like a paint brush to gently clean the surface of those waxy bits the candle left behind – they’ll get stuck in your top coat otherwise. Don’t brush to hard – you’re just trying to get the excess bits off.

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

Paint ‘er up. For my top coat(s) I used Benjamin Moore’s Aura Satin Waterborne Interior Paint in Martha Stewart’s Pure White. I’m just like that. That’s right Benjamin Moore, I’ll take your awesome paint, but I’ll take it Martha style. Aura is a little thicker than other paints and it dries fast – you don’t want to over-work it. It has great coverage – I’ve used it on walls and furniture. You can apply it over and under any other latex paint. The great thing about Aura is that you can retouch months later and the colour should blend perfectly. (That’s what they say anyway.) Granted, with a project like this, re-touching won’t really be an issue, as I’m going for an aged look. I’m just saying Aura is pretty cool. Anyhoo, if you’re nervous about trying Aura, stick to your regular latex. I had to apply three coats of white to cover my dark brown. If I hadn’t planned to apply an antique patina, I probably would have applied a fourth coat.

Remember, you’re better off applying multiple thin coats than a couple of thick, drippy ones. You can apply your paint with a bristled brush, a foam brush or brush and roller – everyone has different preferences. If you go the roller route, edge like you would if you were painting a wall – do the edges, tricky bits and corners first, and then roll the flat surfaces with the roller. Oh, and if you’re using a foam roller, don’t bear down on it – it creates lines and imperfections. Let the piece dry before heading to the next step.

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

Wax off. Using something like 2.0’s golf ball cheese knife, gently scrape your top coat(s) of paint off your previously waxed areas. This will give you that distressed look. You don’t want to remove your base coat, so scrape gently, my friend. Step back from the piece as you are working. Stop when you’re happy.

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

Brush off paint bits and sand. Gently sand the exposed fake wood edges.

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

Antique. Essentially, you’re going to make an antique glaze. Far cheaper than buying glaze, and the results were just as good. I used water. It came from my kitchen tap and was free. I mixed a tiny bit of the Fairview Taupe (dark brown base colour) with a fair amount of water. I made it super runny – probably one part paint to three or four parts water. As I added water I tested the runniness on a piece of cardboard. I really didn’t want anything too thick. The idea of this glaze is to add some patina, not to completely cover the beautiful top coat you’ve just finished. I applied a wee bit at a time with a foam brush to the furniture, and then wiped it down with a lint-free cloth. I followed the grain of the wood and worked in small sections. Brush on, immediately wipe off. Brush, wipe. In some areas I wiped more, in some I wiped less. The secret here is to use a light hand – you can easily apply a second coat to darken it. I ended up using a damp cloth for the wiping to help me achieve the look I wanted. I also used the damp cloth for some of the application. I played around a bit. You can let some of the colour settle into ridges and wood detailing – it will lend itself to an aged look.

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

Protect. I have been using Minwax’s Polycrylic Protective Finish (water-based) in a satin finish. It is also available in a gloss. I have read a lot of posts on the internet that recommend applying a wipe on poly over painted furniture. However, when I contacted Minwax, they said they couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be an interaction between the paint and the poly and that the wipe on stuff can sometimes yellow a bit. (I told you I was good a researching stuff.) You’re very intelligent – you decide. I figured if I was going to spend a week painting the tables in 100% humidity I wasn’t about to try some rubbing on some crap that might ruin my work.

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

So, if you do as I did, brush a product like the poly (pictured above) on carefully. It’s much runnier than paint, and can drip all over the place. You don’t want to over-work this stuff – you’ll see brush strokes. Some people use foam brushes and rollers, so that’s an option you could explore. Don’t shake the can of poly – it should be stirred so you don’t get bubbles. Also, the poly appears foggy in the can, but it goes on clear. Again, read the can and follow the instructions.

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

how to antique and distress furniture with paint  |  movita beaucoup

There you go. Now, here’s the tough part. I don’t put anything on my newly painted surfaces for at least 48 hours. This requires an incredible amount of willpower. Then be ginger with it for about a week – watch out when you’re moving the piece around, etc. I think it takes about a month for a piece to be fully cured. But that’s just me.

Note: Some people sand between coats of paint/poly. I didn’t for these pieces, as I was going for an aged look. However, you could lightly sand between each coat of paint and poly with very fine sandpaper if you’d like a really super-awesome finish. Don’t forget to wipe away the sanding debris before applying additional coats of paint and/or poly.

332 thoughts on “how to antique (and distress) furniture with paint

    • Oh, I bet it would look great on an old book cupboard. It really hides imperfections and adds a wee bit of character to older pieces… or those without much character to start with!

    • So ambitious. When I get home I usually flop on the couch and make lists of what I SHOULD be doing…

      • When I first read about the golf ball cheese knife, I started to get all plexed up thinking “what is that? It sounds like a fancy dimpled knife-type apparatus.”. Then I saw the photo and laughed. Turns out I have four similar implements in my home, except they’re hula girls. I’ll have to try them to see if there’s a marked differance between golf balls and hula girls. 🙂

  1. That looks fantastic! We have some old pieces that started out as nice junk but have become old junk. But I’m always hesitant to paint them. I need a little push.

  2. Nice information, but I would like to say that it looks old more than antique.

    I thought antiques are those which are not only old but something which looks royal and feel like treasuring it.

  3. I like, it’s pretty, kinda shabby chic …Good for you on your hard work, you’re a better person than I!! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!! Work on!!

      • Thanks Movita my wife has wanted to try this on a table for 2 years, with your post I was able to take the risk and it came out beautiful!!! We did notice some yellowing when we applied the sealer but we were able to wipe it off. I think it might have been the stain bleeding through. Thanks so much for the info.

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    • My mother would say the same thing. But you should have seen the original colour. So, so bad…

  5. I am very impressed with the end result, especially if you have never attempted that before! Not that I have by the way….I am absolutely and completely useless when it comes to any sort of DIY…so much so I have had to stop even attempting any as I get so frustrated and then quit mid-way and end up with a huge mess…lol.

    • I was a bit worried about the huge mess factor, but let’s face it, you can blame someone else. That’s the huge bonus to antiquing and distressing – no one else will tell you. Just say some dude from yesteryear dropped it or left that gob of paint on the back leg.

  6. I love it. Thanks for sharing. I’ve done all kinds of distressed pieces in the past, but I have never used wax before. I can’t wait to try it out.

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  9. I feel like my mom owes me an apology for all those bad things I did to her nice furniture to make them look like this in the past – Using a coaster under your drink will never make your furniture cool.

    • So true, Robert. You are obviously a very wise man. And your mother really should thank you for your past efforts.

  10. Brilliant tutorial, really helpful. This is something I’ve been wanting to try. Plus you make me laugh!

  11. I had a “fabulous distressed” dresser I managed to sell to a vintage store for a couple hundred dollars.

    It was an old dresser sitting in my backyard that I kept forgetting to put out for bulk trash.

    It was dumb-as-a-rock luck that someone happened to see it.

    One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

    Go figure.

    Anyone want to buy the backseat of a Chevy?????

    Kudos for your post.

  12. Thanks for sharing this. I love to refinish old, found pieces of furniture and you’ve given me some great new ideas.

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  14. You have a great way with words. I do paint my woodens, but never tried the rustic look. Will now do.. I do have a few of those cute pieces handy…


  15. I loved the way you wrote this! Informative AND funny! Those things don’t go together enough to satisfy me, but your post did and I applaud you for it.

  16. Lovely finish. If you want a more contrasty, grainy look, I’ve found that attacking the top coat with an old ‘curly spring’ type pan scrubber works well Just remember to go with the grain.

  17. You have given me some great ideas for a cheap-o, pressed-paper (dare I call it wood?) computer desk I have sitting upstairs. I could actually make it look like furniture if I follow your advice. Thanks so much for this information, and for your humor. I so enjoyed reading!!

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  19. Amazing post!

    I signed for a new apartment on saturday, and it is this beautiful old 1800s maison de maitre, but all my furniture is shiny brand new type stuff – totally wrong for the apartment, but I can’t afford to buy new stuff.

    Now I know what I need to do! Hooray!

  20. oh wow! this is such a great tip. i love this look on furniture but its so hard to find furniture that already looks this way but still matches everything else i own. Im ready to give this a try! 🙂 thank you!

  21. i really like your blog these things i like to do is bake , food recipes, and refinishing furnature…!!! so i decided to follow thanks for your great recipes and tips on beautiful furnishings. =)

  22. This trick with candle was great:) If you had some 3 layers with paint before painted you should use building dryer to get paint of using 500 C hot air.

  23. Thank you for a very good guide. I am currently redecorating in a cottage and wanted a corner tv stand for my husband’s monstrosity of a tv that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg yet blend well in the cottage. I finally found a brand new unfinished piece to do the trick but painting is required.

    Your guide was so detailed that I am going to try this out on the new tv stand. Thank you for taking the time to write about this AND including step by step pictures to make following this very easy

  24. I liked the candle wax idea. But I suggest maybe a Furniture paste wax a darker colored one or add color to that and wipe in on your furniture for the aging effect. On Furniture I also prefer oil based poly since it gives a tougher protecting coat but that is me.

    • I figured there was no point buying a furniture paste wax when I could use paint and water. No extra cost as I already had the Fairview Taupe paint. I’d rather spend the money on my next can of paint! (Read: I’m cheap.) Minwax recommended the water based poly, but I can’t remember why. Thanks for the suggestions!

  25. been following ur site around a few days. really enjoy your posts. btw i will be conducting a research relating to this topic. do you know other good sites or perhaps forums where I can get more information? thanks in advance.

  26. Thanks so much for posting this great How To DIY, Love it! Now to tackle my new TV Buffet that we picked up by adding 2 pieces of unfinished furniture together. Thanks again for your easy to work with instructions!!! 🙂

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  28. I love your directions and especially the pics….this is just the push I needed for working on an old desk. I am going to be bold and try an olive green but not sure what color to put under this. Any suggestions???
    Thanks again

    • I would go with a dark brown, unless you’re painting over wood. If you’ve got a wood surface, I’d expose that (i.e. skip the dark brown coat and just wax the wood surface). But if you’ve got a non-wood or painted surface that you’re covering, I’d use a dark brown so it looks more like wood when you scrap away your top coats. Good luck!

  29. Thanks for the great post! I’ve been trying for days to achieve a distressed look on our new maple kitchen cabinets. It’s been very difficult because sanding the edges takes it down to the bare maple too quickly. I was missing a key ingredient: wax! I’m off to try it right now… One question: what’s your opinion on covering the entire surface with a thin layer of paste wax (Miniwax makes this product)?

  30. I forgot to mention: I’m starting with unfinished maple, adding a dark slate blue/grey paint, and finishing with a lighter grey/blue. So, I’m hoping that the “reveal” will be the slate color, not the wood.

    • I haven’t used paste wax – just the candle method. So I really can’t help you out there. If it were me, I’d do a prime coat if necessary, then a coat or two of the reveal colour, wax where you’d like to reveal, paint the top coat and then reveal the base. Basically just what I did in my tutorial! But that’s only because that’s my chosen method. I hope it goes well – there are lots of tutorials out there. Just go with what you feel most comfortable with, and start with a door to experiment. Easier to sand just one door and start again if things haven’t worked out… Thanks for stopping by!

  31. Best description I’ve found by far of how to distress furniture, can’t wait to try this out myself – just need a nice long sunny weekend so I can do it outside. Thanks for putting this up!

    • Do it! I’m currently deciding which pieces of my old crappy furniture will be attacked next. You know, so I can make them look old and crappy…

  32. This is the best instructional guide I have seen yet. Exactly what I was looking for! Thanks for taking such comprehensive photos for the steps involved! Most guides I see just gloss over most of the steps and show like two photos. Your guide was entertaining to read as well. I will be tackling this project asap! Thanks!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words! I had a lot of trouble finding good tips as well, and figured compiling some info for other people might be useful… turns out I was right! I hope your project turns out well!

  33. Beautiful! Great tips, the wax worked like a charm! It saves a lot of time and anxiety over ruining a piece you’ve just spent a week repairing, stripping, sanding and priming! I’m am antique broker, I spend a lot of time refurbishing furniture, I’m always looking for new tricks, and ways to simplify, this was a big help!

  34. WOW. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and I am off to start my own project. My car is in the autoshop for the next couple of days and the only place I can walk to is an ACE hardware store so I figured I would make good use of my time and make some of my P.O.S furniture into something worth looking at. Many thanks.

  35. Just found your site and I am so excited! I am doing this project with an old dresser that we are pretending is a buffet in our dining room. The classiness of having a cheap old dresser in the DR is really starting to get to us – so we decided to make it look like an even older dresser. Thanks for the help! I will post pics!

  36. Do you wait for the top coat to dry completely before removing the wax, or scrape it off while the paint is still somewhat wet?

  37. How wonderful to find this post! My mother and I have a project we will be starting shortly… Thank you so very much for sharing your knowledge!

  38. DIY that’s actually entertaining! May not actually distress any furniture, but had a wee chuckle reading your advice. Nice one.

  39. Gotta big ole high boy I’m gonna lay this on once it’s not 100 degrees and 100% humidity. Just happened across your site today and I’ll be back for tips and entertainment!

  40. I’ve just started sanding down a dining room hutch I inherited from my Gram…
    In searching online, this is the best put together instructional I have seen, thank you for the great and useful info! I can hardly wait till it’s done now…a distressed turquoise makeup counter for my in home studio.

  41. This is a GREAT entry. I have been finding that people are looking for a creative way to add furniture to their decor cheaply. I think this is the way to go. Something they can do with their existing furniture to give it a face lift I am going to directly link this in my blog. I think it is well done and worth the traffic for you. Thanks so much!

  42. Amazing write up!! I plan on surprised my gf with like a 3 stair step stool thing so she can put up candles and picture frames and whatever nick-nacks girls can’t live without. But I wanted to do this type of painting to give it that weathered distressed look cause we live on the beach. Light colors blues and creams. I will be referri g back to this article when I reach this point in my project!! Awesome!! Thanks again!!

  43. Jeeeeesuz ! I think you are abby fabby! Fixed on to google in the hope I’d find a few ideas and HeY I find your website and all the subsequent comments. You are indeed a star and should go public. Instead of the usual tuts. you make it fun and realistic. You have certainly given me the confidence to have a go. Pure dead brilliant!
    I have attempted loads of DIY in the past with varying success, but I’m pretty sure, following your guidelines, this next project will blow my family away. Thank you so much.

  44. SO GREAT to read this. Thanks! If I wax way too much with the candle and then only scrape some of those areas, are the areas I waxed but chose not to scrape going to be super delicate and more likely to have the top layer come off from regular wear? Does that question make sense?

    • I suppose there’s some risk there, but I did a protective coat at the end of the project, which probably helps. I guess my best advice is to wax carefully and if you’re going for a distressed look, don’t worry about chips!

  45. 1) I love you! You write how I think :). 2) Stoked about trying this out. I bought a dresser at a yard sale for $10 that I can’t wait to antique! I was thinking black base coat, red top coat? After seeing yours, though, I may change my mind! Maybe red base, white top. Or vice versa. Anyway. Thanks for this!! Can’t wait.

  46. I found a couple of old chairs on the side of the road today. I think I will try your method on them! Do you have any advice on distressing with multiple colours? I guess trial and error will do the trick! Good thing they are free. 🙂

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  48. Great info! I have a 80’s pressed wood headboard that is pretty cool looking, but ugly in its current fake wood finish. I’m looking forward to repainting it into a shabby chic look similar to yours. I can’t wait to get started!


  49. So excited to start my project! One question…if I am going to reveal the natural wood do I need a base coat as you put on before the brown (your reveal color)? Or just go straight to the top coat. If I do need a base coat do I wax under both the base and top or just one?

  50. Thank you so much for sharing the tips! You seem to be extremely talented and creative. I’ve been holding on to some antique office chairs for awhile now and really would love to re-furb them, seeing as they are in absolutely horrible condition now I dont think it would hurt the value.

  51. This was worth all the time I’ve spent searching! Love this. After looking everywhere for a used, specific sized floor cabinet, I had to settle for the only one I could find that fit specific dimensions and $$. Similar to your project, it’s white laminated wood. I’ve been trying to figure out how to give it some character and make it fit a rustic western decor. This is it! And thanks to your great instruction and illustration, I believe even I can do it.

    I’m hoping to get some color ideas since this is a first for me. I’m considering a barn red as a base coat, under a cocoa brown glaze. Too dark maybe? Should I use a more desert tan or something over the red? (I’m a big chicken about making bold statements.)

    (The interior will be a tan color with retro shelf paper or red bandanas since it will have glass inserts in the doors to display my True West antique ceramic dish set, and Montana Brands dishes. Both are tan with brown deco., and the True West have cowboys with touches of red, blue, and yellow.) It will sit on tubby little legs on a circular sawn wood floor. Ceilings and wood trim are rough blue pine lumber. Kitchen cabinets are hickory.)

    Thanks for a great tutorial!

    • I’m so glad you’re going to try this! Your ideas sound great. I guess I would focus on the main colour – pick your top coat according to what will look best in the space. Then you can go a little crazier with the base coat, as you can select how much of that you want to reveal. I don’t think the cocoa brown sounds too dark, but I like dark, rich colours. I think you should select your interior colour according to whatever you put on the outside – make it the same as the top coat, base coat, or a variation of one of those. I’d suggest doing the exterior first and then finalizing the interior colour. It all sounds wonderful!

  52. Looks great and I love your directions..:)
    Finding pieces of used furniture, to distress and “antique” is one of my most favorite things to do. I am so not a professional and tend to go about it in a similar way that you described..
    Thanks for the wonderful tips and tutorial! I am currently on the hunt for bedside tables and am planning a big bedroom redo..
    Thanks for the ideas!

    • This tutorial is for wood and similar surfaces. Iron is a totally different thing, and would require different paints. I’d advise against using any of the products I mentioned in this tutorial on your bed! Perhaps ask at a paint store – they could probably recommend some great stuff, including spray paints (which would go on iron more evenly). Good luck!

  53. After chosen piece of furniture, you will need to prep the surfaces to be painted. Paint shows the great look of furniture. Without painting the furniture cannot be long lasting. Paint increases the value as well as life of furniture.

  54. Great info. I have just purchased an antique (probably late 1800’s) wooden wheelbarrow. It is pretty much all the same color…..a light brown. I have seen others that have some red, green or blue paint on the surface that looks very nice. How would you go about doing this without making it glossy at all? I want to have it look like it was originally one of those colors but that has just gone dull with age and use.

    • Hi Frank, I’m sorry to say that this is beyond my area of expertise! I’ve only used the method I’ve outline above on furniture. Perhaps try asking at your local paint store. Flat paints, of course, are gloss free, so that might be an option. If you’re putting the wheelbarrow outside, you’ll also have to consider that. I hope it works out! And I’d love to hear how you make out…

  55. I just found you, and what a joy! I purchased a circa 1950’s telephone table last week and am researching how to repurpose or refinish it. Great information here.

  56. Thanks so much for sharing… I have read a lot of furniture fix-up blog posts… and I liked yours because it sounded real… you are just one of us… seeing something you want to try and doing it… I have my first piece sitting in the dinning room… waiting for the next step… I am making a dresser that is missing some drawers into a piece with 2 shelves and 2 drawers…. So you live in Fairview, UT? If that is the location… Do you know Nancy and Steve Hansen? Steve is the cousin to my ex Mother in Law…

  57. I recently just got into “Country” decorating, and i have several wood shelves that have been stored in the basement with what I thought to be no use…. Untill I read your blog! Amen! I am now going to distress my own shelving! Thank you so much for your very helpful information!

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    • That’s really personal preference. I just did two bedside tables, that was enough for me, and the tables didn’t even match. I guess you have to decide if you want everything to be matchy-matchy or not!

  59. Thank you too. Great pictures, great step by step and you are funny which is a bonus. I bought a 4 piece bedroom set and a mirror that is painted a deep chocolate brown for $150.00. I have been trying to decide what to do to it. I do not think it is wood cause it is abnormally heavy. This makes me think, I can just skip a few steps. I can start with waxing the corners etc and then painting it a white and after drying scrape, sand, dry and poly it.. Thanks. I think I will have a pretty nice set after I do this since now it is just a nice huge set that looks painted brown now!!! 🙂

  60. Very beautiful. Can you please send me more picturs. I realy like to learn. I am a painter and I like to paint my furniturs.
    Thank you so much.

  61. I just refinished my great-grandparents bathroom vanity! I love it and it’s all thanks to you and your wonderful advice. Thanks again!

  62. Hi from Dublin, just the information I was looking for. Easy to follow.. am going to get to work on a few pieces I have.

  63. easy to understand and my piece turned out awesome! I am not artistic or crafty and have never done anything like this before so I’m so proud of myself. Thankyou for all the little details you included and for not making it a complex process!

  64. I have a question about using the candle wax. After you wax and then paint the top coat, how do you remember all the places you waxed when it comes time to scrape it off? Does it show through the top coat??? I totally want to try this and you tutorial is awesome!!!

  65. This was by far the most interesting AND informative I’ve read. Which makes me happy because I have been researching this on my phone and my eyes hurt. This held my attention enough to write something which I neve ever do. So thank you! Dawn

  66. Hi there. Love your work! I’m wanting to do something similar. I’m making a headboard out of an old wood door. The door is in impeccable shape, and is a finished wood. Do you think i need to prime it first, and put a base coat? Or do you think i would be fine to start with the antique white? Thanks for your input!

    • Without knowing the finish, that’s a tough question to answer. (I’m not a painting expert!) I tend to prime everything. I guess it depends on what the base coat is – if it’s oil, you can’t put latex over it, for example. If the paints won’t clash, then you could probably skip the primer. Also, if you like the colour of the base, that would help, as it’s the colour that will be revealed. Hope that helps. Good luck!

  67. Thank you for addressing what to do if you’re not working with real wood furniture! Yours is the only DIY I’ve found that solved the problem. Thank you sooo much!

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  69. You are just too funny! I have not only learnt, I have also laughed my way through your item!!! I have 3 pieces of furniture waiting for me to start. My hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand has suffered through over 10,000 earthquakes from September 2010 to the current date; we sure have our share of cracked furniture we can turn into something wonderful 🙂

  70. I just thought I’d say that it looks like your painting skills are about a thousand times better than mine. This furniture looks great! I hope to be at your level someday. I practice quite a bit but nothing comes out looking the way I want it lol.


    • I really don’t know, Vickie. I think you’d have to talk to an expert – which I am not. I suspect your paints were not compatible, but I’m not sure. I haven’t used spray paint on furniture, but I know other people do. Temperature may have also been a factor (look on the cans for the recommended temperatures). Perhaps try calling a local paint store – I’m sure they would be happy to advise you, and would be familiar with the products you are using.

    • Vickie, I’m no trained expert , either, but I can say this. I spray paint A LOT. But I have never found any brand of spray paint in yellow that is worth a shite. All the other colors are good….but no yellows work for me. And I’ve bought every brand from the Walmart to the top dollar ones. I’ve heard other spray painters mention this. Must me something about the pigments used to get the color. BTW, the only things I use spray paint on are iron,brass, some resins, and ceramics. Regular paint is best for wood.

  72. Thanks very much for this simple and well explained brief. I am about to distress my first piece of furniture and very excited about it. Trying so hard not to rush with my excitement and short cut, so I get the best results.

  73. Hey there! actually laughed out loud at “kick the crap out of your furniture”:)You did a pretty neat job for a non-expert. No, please, make that awesome. The bedside tables look great! A special mention for the fun-filled way you explained them. You do have a gift.Thanks and keep going!!

  74. Very informative and I love your writing style and sense of humor! Do you think this method would work on Ikea furniture? It is fabricated wood with laminate finish.

    • I haven’t tried it with Ikea furniture. If it’s a laminate surface, there are paints that are made specifically to cover laminate, and I’d probably go that way. Ask at your local paint store – they can point you in the right direction!

  75. Even if I didn’t want to distress furniture, I would have read this. You crack me up lady! I am doing a round frame to start that I will put a mirror in. On to night stands from there. Thanks for the great info!

  76. Movita, I am going to try your technique on a chair that is already stained. I want to paint it just like you did the table above. If it is stained, do I need to paint an under coat (the brown) or do I just prime over the stain? Thank you so much.

    • It depends on what the stain is, and if there is a protective coat. If you apply primer, the natural wood won’t be revealed, as it will be covered by the primer. If your paints are compatible with what is already on the chair, then you don’t need to prime, and you can just wax and reveal. But, unless you’re sure of the base, this could be tricky. If your paints aren’t compatible, you’ll get peeling. Anyhoo, I’m not an expert, so I’d recommend consulting one before you start. As stated in the tutorial, I can only advise if you’re doing as piece exactly as I did – and I wasn’t working with real wood. This is a food blog, after all!

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  78. I have been researching how to distress furniture for months and this is by far the most detailed and easy to understand tutorial I have come across. Thank you for being so thorough and giving the specific materials you used. I am very excited to try this out.

  79. Pingback: Antique Wood Techniques: 10 wonderful ways to make wooden furniture look old | My desired home

  80. Hi.
    thanks I have found your blog very useful as I am about to re-decorate my daughters bedroom and re-vamp some old bits of furniture i.e an old chest, book case, and bedside table. Hopefully, when she gets back from University in Nottingham she will love the new bedroom.

    I have one problem in that the products you mention are not available in the Uk so I will have research those


    • Hi Brenda,
      Did you manage to source the materials in the UK , I would be very interested where you purchased them from (the protective finish) as I also live in the UK.

  81. I have to admit this piece is not only extremely
    Helpful in achieving exactly the look I seek;
    But is about the funniest thing I have read
    In a long time! You have quite a way with
    Words! I will sure pass this along!

  82. i’m very new with this and don’t want to screw up this nice piece of furniture i have purchased. I have a bright blue dresser that I want to distress but i want the main color to be teal. do you have a suggestion on what color paints look best for that? you used a brown and a cream/white, i am curious what might look best for a teal outcome

  83. Best tutorial online for this technique and not only that but you are very entertaining.Im sharing this on FB and bookmarking it for myself.Thanks much!

  84. The very best “how to” on this subject….and I’ve researched a lot! Very clear instructions AND fun to read! Awesome job. Thank you!

  85. Loved, Loved the instructions – and the entertainment value of it to keep me from falling asleep before I got the job done!! About to disress a room of furniture for a new look and this is exactly what I needed to know. Thank you so much.

  86. I have been working on refinishing a bed found at auction. All is well…..except working with the polycrylic. I started with sponge ‘brush’ and gentle hand – saw ‘stop/start’ lines. Then went to a good quality brush – still see lines. Not overbrushing. I’m ready to scream in frustration. Any suggestions?

    • Sorry, Valerie – without seeing your piece and/or knowing what products you’re using, it’s difficult to say. My start/stop lines faded into the piece. Maybe you’re using too much or too little poly on the brush? I’d recommend asking an expert – maybe some genius at your local paint store…

    • That’s too little information. As stated in many comments above – it will all depend on what material the furniture is made of and what type of paint is currently on the piece. My tutorial is for working with prefab furniture, and doing the exact steps I did. Outside of that, I’m not really able to help. I don’t feel comfortable advising people on things I haven’t seen and/or tried myself!

      If you are in doubt, get in touch with an expert in your area. Perhaps someone at your local paint store can give you some suggestions. Key is making sure your paints are compatible – so be sure to give them as much information as you can when you’re picking up your products!

  87. Thanks for this! It was EXACTLY what I was looking for and I can’t wait to get started tomorrow morning!

  88. I am so glad I found this. Been looking for the right read for quite some time to distress my entry table in the living room. I can’t wait to get started!

  89. I just found an old whiskey cabinet that I’m turning into a buffet for my kitchen. I am super excited to have found your post. I can’t wait to try the directions you gave! And you had me cracking up with your humor. Thanks for such a wonderful posting.

      • Just bought an old dresser that I want to distress-a bit. I found your info very helpful but am wondering about the last step: the protective application. What is this for, I know it’s to protect but from what? Fading? Just curious. Thanks.

          • Which is why I’m skipping it on my first (today!) distressed project. Old windows to hang as a headboard. Sadly, there won’t be much chance of them getting damaged hanging there. Alas and Alack. Plus there’s hardly any chance of using poly and not having 3,786 cat hairs dried into it before it’s cured.

  90. Never took on a project like this before! I used your directions on my daughters white victorian furniture and i’m very pleased with the results! I painted it green. I painted her bed, dresser, desk and nightstand. Gave her room a Vintage look.

  91. Thanks a bunch, i followed easily and really enjoyed the humor. I’ll avoid the “brilliant pink” … Not that you care ;). Your pieces look great!!

  92. I just picked up a few dumped pieces at the dump. Great pieces. Someone else’s trash… Can’t wait to follow you instructions. Great post.

  93. Awesome job! Beautiful work. Wanting to do this on an old dresser but it’s already a dark wood so I wouldn’t need to do the dark coat correct? Wanting to do a dark red with the dark distressed look, any suggestions?

  94. Nice page, i just used this info to make my 50 inch plasma tv look “rustic”.
    … maybe should have just done the back and sides and NOT the screen, you live and learn.

    Now onto the DVD player

  95. You are a scream! Thanks for the entertaining and thorough instructions. Pics are quite helpful and good too (despite your disclaimer). I pinned you on Pintrest but I will remove since I saw your note about re-blogging. I suppose it is the same thing? Blog on with your bad self.

    • Thanks for your comment! Pin away! Re-blogging is this weird option wordpress gives people that allows them to re-post another blogger’s work – text, photos and all – without permission. It appears on their blog as if it is their own work. Very annoying. Pinterest, on the other hand, is absolutely fine by me, and I always appreciate the shout out!

  96. Enjoyed your instructions! I think this is the 1st step-by-step guide that I’ve read completely. I hate reading but you made it so entertaining! I learned a lot and found out what I’m doing wrong! I’ll start another project tomorrow and do it your way! Thanks so much for the help!

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  98. that is a pretty cool article! Love the in depth coverage and the pics as well. great post on how to antique furniture. wish i’d had seen it earlier 🙂

  99. This is awesome! I’ve already started sanding down my table to antique 🙂 question: after you wax the wood and paint the top coat does it matter if you don’t scrape off every part you waxed? I feel like I might need to make a diagram of where I waxed so I don’t forget and ruin it!!
    Thanks for any suggestions! I’m super excited about this project!

    • You know, I didn’t worry about it very much. I only waxed around the edges and corners (so no diagram required), and I figured that if anything else chipped off later it would add to the authentic distressed look! I haven’t had any problems thus far, and we’ve had the tables at our bedside for over two years.

      Good luck – let me know how it goes!

  100. AMAZEBALLS! can’t wait to get stuck into mine, hope it works out as per your pics, thanks for the tips! and the humour!

  101. @ Melody Friend, I just painted over stain this past weekend and it really looks great. Prior to painting I sanded the stained finish as much as I could then I used 3 coats Rust-o-leum enamel paint. It’s drying this week and next weekend I am going to sand the egdes to show the stain for a distressed look. I came acorss this blog afterwards, so I didn’t know to use wax before painting. I plan on sanding the edges lightly until the wood stains starts to show. This is my first attempt on a project like this, so far I am pleased with it.

  102. I followed these directions for a cheap old desk and it looks awesome now. I painted the fake wood color with a kelly green on top. Thanks for the tutorial!

  103. Good Heavens! I have a very old vintage dresser that over the last 40 years has turned into what you picture as your finished product. I was thinking of doing it over because it looks so tacky and worn, but I hadn’t realized that some people actually LIKE that look.

  104. I have read a BAZILLION tutorials and blogs about painting furniture and cabinets… and your information is AWESOME and SIMPLE! Thanks for dumbing it down for a rookie like me! =)

  105. Awesome. Very enjoyable read. This will be a first to distress furniture for me. Now I have a “Hoozer” to attend too!! 🙂

  106. If I didn’t know better, while reading your responses and painting tutorial above, I’d swear it was Ellen talking! You have a great talent there gal! You’ve got that same quick, dry wit. Thanks for the tips on the furniture. I’m wanting to start painting some outdated furniture I have stored and wonder about starting with a piece that is stained and/or lacquered (or however you spell it!) Strip it first? Thanks!

    • Lyn, my tutorial is for working with prefab furniture, and doing the exact steps I did. Outside of that, I’m reluctant to advise. I don’t feel comfortable advising people on things I haven’t seen and/or tried myself! In the past, if I’ve painted over an existing finish, I’ve sanded the piece well before starting and then primed. You can scroll through some of the comments above – some people have tried painting right over the stain with good luck.

      If you are in doubt, get in touch with an expert in your area. Perhaps someone at your local paint store can give you some suggestions. Key is making sure your paints are compatible – otherwise the paint you put on top will bubble and peel off. Be sure to give them as much information as you can when you’re picking up your products!

  107. This helped me a lot, I like that you didn’t feel the need to thwack it with chains or drag a crowbar over it to make it look old. I just painted my night stand and I can’t wait to see how it turns out! Also your writing is really funny 🙂

  108. This has helped us out tremendously!!!!! I am so relieved. My husband and I were having nightmares over this furniture…creating a weathered beach look…everything we tried didn’t work and we were really racking up the costs! Your technique has worked perfectly and it goes soooooo much faster. Thanksfully we can have our dining room back sooner than later. Thanks for posting all of this…you have no idea how much you have saved my 7 kids from parents with their hands stuck to their foreheads! Ha! Cheers from Australia! Amanda

  109. Thanks for your tutorial, very informative, loved the photos, good to get a handle on the look. cant wait to get started on the wall unit and bookcase.

  110. this is a fantastic tutorial… i have been wanting to do my bed and side tables for so long but didn’t have a clue. i reckon i’ll be fine now and i’m not as scared to just follow my own instincts with it. thankyou!! 😀

  111. I just got here via Pinterest. (The new evil empire.) I wanted to compliment you on your distressing. Nothing is more sad than “leopard” distressing. Your pieces are distressed where it would actually happen IRL! Beautiful.

  112. how do you remember where you applied wax and if you apply too much. will the paint come off eventually in places you didn’t scrape?

    • As stated in the comments above, I didn’t worry about it very much. I only waxed around the edges and corners, so it wasn’t really hard to remember where the wax was. Also, I figured that if anything else chipped off later it would add to the authentic distressed look – that’s really the point of distressing. I haven’t had any problems thus far, and we’ve had the tables at our bedside for about three years. You might have noticed that I also used a protective finish, so I’m sure that helps – I’d recommend using it if you’re worried!

  113. Who knows if you even read comments on these old posts but WOW. I absolutely love your commentary. It’s a bit how I explained to a friend how to make rolls. AND I don’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed by my project. THANK YOU!

  114. I googled how to distress/antique furniture…fell in here. Awesome! I even think I can do this 😉

    Thanks!!! (Movita Beaucoup-bookmarked!)

  115. hey! so we follow these steps for a dinning set. the two green chairs worked great, and for some reason the white ones are not chipping. we think its because we applied too many coats (it was necessary to completely cover the brown). any ideas oh how we can save these pieces? thank you!

    • I’m glad you had at least some good results, but I really can’t advise on your white pieces, as I’m not an expert. It could be any number of things – perhaps too many coats of paint, but that seems odd. Perhaps there wasn’t enough wax applied? I really can’t say. I used a really good quality white paint – three coats – and had no trouble revealing the brown paint underneath. You could try sanding the paint off in areas make it look distressed – or beating the crap out of the chairs… but there is always some risk involved. I’m sorry I can’t be of more assistance – this tutorial was published almost three years ago, and I’m primarily a food blogger. (Thus, I prefaced this tutorial with a boatload of disclaimers!) Paint products are continually changing, so you might want to ask for advice at your local paint store. Good luck with it all!

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  117. Awesome tutorial. You have a great eye! Beautiful results. I need a writing desk so I plan to buy a console table on CL and distress it. After looking at your pallet table, I almost want to go to HD and buy the wood and make it myself…but I will prolly rein in my exuberance and stick with refinishing. 😉

  118. I did it!!! Followed your directions and it looks awesome!!! Thanks so much. I saved a very nice but totally out of style Thomasville bedroom suite from going to the Goodwill…. and me about $3k 🙂

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  120. i am in the midst of doing this project and found your blog helpful. how long did you wait for your paint to dry. i have heard dont wait too long because it will make it harder to sand all the way up to waiting 24 hours? just wondering your thoughts 🙂

    • I had no trouble removing paint – if that’s the part you’re referring to – as the wax is meant expressly for this purpose. So, I let everything dry fully before proceeding to the next step (according to dry times on the paint cans I was using). I often let hours and hours go between steps – as life got in the way – and had no trouble whatsoever. Wet/wetish paint + sand paper doesn’t seem like a great idea to me, but I’m not a painting expert. (I’m a food blogger!)

      Hope this helps.

  121. I am doing this to my vanity (old teachers school desk I’m converting into a vanity with a vessel sink) this weekend (Happy Independence day to me!! :-)). I bought the paint yesterday & found your blog today! One quick question… oh wait, you said no questions… oh well, what the heck, how much wax do you use? Rub it across the area once? Twice? Thrice?

    Loved your blog! Great sense of humor in covering your bases!!

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  123. I think that is the most useful tutorial from all these that I have read for distressed furniture :):):) But I have a question…. what is this Fairview Taupe that your mention in the end? Is it some kind of paint?

  124. You totally cracked me up! I laughed out loud several times and my husband came to see what was wrong! I love your furniture re-do and am going to do the “exact” same thing on a bedroom suit and redecorate the room in a cottage chic style. I will send you a photo when finished…hopefully by Christmas. 🙂 Thanks for all of the details and especially giving me a good dose of laughter today. Please, keep it up!

  125. I absolutely love your tutorial. The casual voice you chose to use is hilarious, and makes it super fun to read. I kinda feel like if I met you, we would hang out. Haha. Not in a weird way.

  126. HI there!! Great information. I’m about to do my first piece ever…I bought an old bed frame and would like to antique it a turquoise…with black underneath…it’s for my 13 yr old daughter! What are your thoughts on the colors??

  127. That’s gold! I’ll probably never actually pull my finger out & give it a go but what a laugh I had reading that! Thank you!

    • Though I always appreciate a shout out, I would prefer it if my blog posts weren’t reblogged. This is stated in my copyright info and on my about page. I just work so darned hard on my posts that I believe they belong here and not on someone else’s blog. I hope this doesn’t offend.

  128. Comments on this post are now closed – if you are searching for answers to your painting questions, scroll through the post and/or comments. If you don’t find what you are looking for, I’d recommend asking an expert at your local paint store!

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