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How to Distress Furniture

Knowing how to distress furniture is a skill, it really is. It isn't just putting a few dings in furniture or sanding some edges. Well, it is but it is more than that too because you have to make it look natural and real. That is where the skill comes in. There are methods that I've tested and I'll share with you the easiest, most foolproof ones I've tried.

First of all, there are two methods of giving furniture a distressed look. You either actually distress it, meaning you physically dent, sand and otherwise ruin the surface or you "faux distress" the surface using only paint techniques while the wood itself isn't damaged.

Paint techniques, such as glazing or crackling are ideal in situations like antiques or family heirlooms where you don't actually want to damage the surface of the piece but you still want it to look well worn to add interest or to suit your decor.

How to distress furniture: Painting techniques

distressed glazed furniture

Splatter - Use a dry brush with just a little paint on it and flick it on your surface to create paint splatter. Again, do this just once in one spot, not too much.

Glazing - The glazing technique is where you put a dark color over top of a lighter color and then rub it in. It stays dark and highlights the recess details and it also really makes your piece look old, worn and dirty. I used a glazing technique on my china hutch. You can read the full details of how to distress furniture with glazing and see all the step by step photos.

Crackle - You can buy a "crackle glaze" paint product that is absolutely amazing! You paint a coat of paint on your wooden furniture and let dry. You paint your crackle glaze (it is clear) on the surface and let dry. Then you paint your second color on top and it splits, revealing the first color in the cracks. I used this technique on our laminate entertainment center and I fooled so many people into thinking it was a very old, special piece. It was just a cheap laminate entertainment center.

How to distress furniture: Surface techniques

how to distress furniture

You will want to add scratches, dings, dents and worn edges to make your piece look well worn and loved. There are many ways to "beat up" your wooden furniture but some work better than others.

Sanding Tips - Starting with a 220 grit sandpaper to soften corners and edges is a good place to start. If you are doing this on painted furniture, it will reveal the clean, pale wood color beneath so you will need to darken this wood that is revealed because in a truly old piece it would be darker. Wood stain, coffee grounds rubbed in or strongly brewed tea will work well to add grit and grime in these newly sanded areas. And yes, you could even use dirt. Yep. The real deal. Sand in areas that would actually get worn. Corners and edges that would normally get bumped and rubbed during the use of the item, but not all of them or it won't look natural.

The key in how to distress furniture well is randomness. You don't want it all evenly sanded, or evenly dented. You want a dent here and some rubbed edges there. Too much will look planned and fake.

Denting & Scratching Tips - A few key dents and scratches can really make your piece look old. Again, think of where natural dents or scratches might occur and go from there. Some coins in a sock banged against the wood or keys thrown against the surface are favorites of mine. But be careful not to repeat the same exact thing much. Try different stuff.

What about you? Have YOU distressed furniture?

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



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