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Distressed Painted Furniture Project: Antique Breakfront

This distressed painted furniture project involves an antique breakfront (aka - China hutch) that has been in my husband's family for many years. Gulp. I knew I had to get this one right the first time, and this also meant that I couldn't ding and mark the surface like I would normally while distressing wood. I didn't want to damage the surface, so it all had to be done with paint this time.

Allow me to first back up a little and explain why I felt it necessary to tackle this as a distressed painted furniture project in the first place. First of all, when my in-laws gave it to us they told us that we could paint or alter it in any way we wanted. It was refinished about 20 years ago and was even avocado green in the 70s so it had gone through various face lifts over time. Originally, it was a dark, reddish cherry tone. This made me feel better about messing with it since it wasn't original.

Besides, (and this is the most important bit) I just didn't like the color. Didn't suit our home, especially after we had a solar tube installed right over it which made the china hutch the focal point of what you see when you enter our home. It had to change.

distressed painted furniture before distressed painted furniture after

I chose white for the inside of the hutch and generally suggest a light color for this if you are painting a hutch to really make the interior objects stand out. Unless of course you collect all milk glass or other white items, in which case a darker color will make it "pop" best. PS - I painted and recovered the dining room chairs in this room about a year ago now and they are still just as lovely as ever.

So first things first, I emptied the cabinets, removed all the hardware and started sanding all the glossy finish off to prep the surface for priming. I had to hand sand with 220 grit sandpaper because there are so many raised details in the wood that a power sander wouldn't have done any good. Make sure to remove all the sanding dust with a damp cloth so your primer has a nice clean surface to stick to.

breakfront emptied sanding wood furniture

Next I was ready to start taping off areas for my distressed painted furniture project, (like the windows) that I didn't want to get any paint on. I used painters tape and used the "delicate surface" kind on my walls. I taped down butcher paper on the floor and taped the walls behind the hutch too since I am generally a clumsy painter.

tape windows protect-paint-areas

Then, onto priming! I used Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 primer which is my "go to" primer and what I always use. Once dry, the little ones had fun "helping" with the project as usual. I let my primer dry for two full days before doing my top coat of paint.

priming wood furniture primer for distressing wood

I painted my main color, which was Benjamin Moore, Natura Line (yay, zero VOCs, I love this paint) in Tropicana Cabana and in semi-gloss. I didn't bother getting it 100% smooth and silky because any brush lines would be picked up and highlighted by my glaze, which I wanted. Finally, it was time for the glazing on top which would give it that distressed painted furniture look.

distressing china hutch distress wood glaze

For glazing, and getting details in recesses darkened you can use one of many things but my preferred do it yourself distress glaze is to use acrylic paint. I used a brown and a black mixed together in a bowl with water to make it very liquid, like a stain.

Other things you may use are actual faux finish glazes you can purchase which is ideal but harder to find or wood stain. Wood stain works okay but dries very fast and isn't as forgiving as acrylic paint. It is also very stinky so I don't use it. Shoe polish, coffee are other methods people experiment with but I don't like any of these for this. What ever you use, you'll be using rags or paper towels and will get your hands very messy. Be sure to wear gloves unless you wanted paint all over your hands. Like me.

distress faux glaze messy hands wear gloves

So what you'll do is paint a small section of wet, watery, drippy acrylic paint right over your beautiful paint job. And then right away rub it off and around with a paper towel. And then repeat. Paint directly in the recessed areas and lightly wipe off with your cloth so the paint remains in the cracks. This really highlights the details, isn't it wonderful?

distressed glazed furniture distressed furniture

And here is a photo that shows the different between the distressed painted furniture glaze versus the original just plain paint.

distressed painted furniture
To finish, you may use a wipe on poly to really protect your surface and all your hard work. I'll be honest, I clocked in about 16 hours on this project. Yes indeed, it was a big one! So well worth it though, we absolutely love it.

distressed china cabinet
I also changed the hardware, found some salvaged vintage drawer pulls that fit just perfectly. I have had great luck purchasing from Violetteslippers for vintage hardware and it usually winds up being cheaper than buying new.

Now the big project? Working on how my vintage goodies are displayed inside the china hutch! Even since taking these photos last week it has changed again. So. Much. Fun!

PS - this post links up with The Shabby Nest and the power of paint party at Domestically Speaking!

Hey, did YOU paint some furniture?

Please share a photo of your distressed painted furniture project with me! I'd love to see and hear about what you did!



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