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How to Distress Furniture: A Quick Guide

There are a myriad of ways to distress your furniture. And in this guide, we’re here to give you some tips on how to do so.

So let’s get started!

How Many Distressed Pieces of Furniture Should Be in a Room?
There isn’t a set answer to this question. But, as a rule of thumb, every piece in the room doesn’t have to be distressed. At the same time, having one piece of distressed furniture will not give you the vintage appeal that you’re looking for.

If you do have more than one piece of distressed furniture in your room, make sure that they are not equally distressed. Just use common sense. If one piece is highly distressed, then the other piece should only have small indications of wear.

Look For a Quality Piece of Furniture
This is self-explanatory. In order to make the best painting results, you’re going to have to use the right piece of furniture to do so. As a rule of thumb, only look for solid wood furniture, whether its a chair, dresser, or an end table.

One of the best places to look for furniture is the thrift stores. In addition, you can look for them in estate sales and auctions. Who knows? You might find a nice piece of furniture that needs minimal cleaning up on your end.

Remember, you want to take your time when looking for furniture. Don’t impulsively buy a piece of furniture just to buy it. Know that this piece of furniture is something that you’ll use for your home.

Analyze the Furniture Piece
Once you’ve obtained your furniture piece, take a few days looking at it. Decide if you want to paint the finish or work with it to create the distressed effect.

Stained furniture has a patina that reflects the wood grain. Almost every experienced collectors or decorators of antiques will warn you never to destroy the patina by paint stripping the furniture.

As we’ve stated earlier, decide if you want to work with the existing piece or if you’re going to paint over the furniture. If the existing piece is worth painting, then all you’ll have to do is clean the piece.

So make a decision!

Paint Remover
You should use this technique if the furniture has been repainted multiple times. Start by purchasing protective gear and using a paint stripper. Then, apply the paint stripper on the furniture and follow the wait time on the instructions.

How to Distress Furniture

You should use a scraper to take off the old paint. Depending on the appearance you’re trying to achieve, and how much layers the furniture has, determine how many extra layers from the paint stripper that you’ll need.

Dry Brushing
Most beginners like this technique because it requires the least amount of supplies and is simple to do. To do it correctly, use a dry brush and slowly go through the surface. Make sure to have some extra paper towels to remove the excess paint when needed.


How to Distress Furniture
As its name suggests, this technique requires a lot of sanding in order to get the distressed look. You can use a hand sander, sandpaper block, or sandpaper, depending on how you want the distressed furniture piece to appear. To give an authentic look, sand certain areas that would have shown wear over time (i.e. edges, near handles, etc.).

Milk Paint
This technique uses paint in a powdered form, and you add water to make a distressed look. This paint can create dramatic results depending on the techniques that you use.

Glaze/Antiquing Wax
If you want to add age to your furniture, just add glaze or antiquing wax. This is a fast technique that works quickly. To do it, allow the product to go on the painting and then remove most of it, with only one piece of color left. As a result, the paint will look like its naturally wearing.

How Can I Distress Painted Furniture?
Follow these steps to ensure that your painted furniture gets the distressed look.

Clean the furniture piece.
With fine sand paper or 0000 steel wool, start by smoothing out any rough patches where the paint began stripping away.
Don’t worry about dings and dents. You’ll want them on your furniture.
Select a spray paint color that you want to color over the exterior. For instance, when you paint the exterior of a furniture piece, don’t allow any paint to reach the inside of the drawer (it will ruin the final result).
Once the piece is dried and painted, use a rubber mallet to rough up the furniture piece.
Sand the sharp edges and the corners to give a worn appearance.
If you’re going to use spray paint, make sure that it’s a weekend project. Don’t paint the piece in one day. To do it correctly, lightly spray the surface that you’re attempting to paint. After that, let it dry off for a few hours. Once it’s dry, reapply the spray paint until the surface is coated and smooth.

Additional Tips
Don’t brush or spray paint furniture that’s not completely dry. This will lead to the paint peeling off and blistering.
Don’t paint in the hot sun or when its damp or humid outside. Painting in the morning can be disastrous if you’re painting outdoors.
Spray painting will lead to a good finish if you’re patient. Painting too fast will lead to more runs than necessary and lead to you taking more time to complete the project.
If you’re going to paint by the brush, use a small bristle brush. Don’t pick the cheap brush; it’s better to go for quality in this project. Take some time to practice before applying the paint on the furniture. It will take a couple tries to get it right, but you’ll get the hang of it after a few tries.
If you want to know how to distress furniture all it takes is the right tools, patience, and a bit of technique. Don’t waste your time by going too fast or using too much paint at once. Ultimately, you’ll have a nice piece of distressed furniture in your home once you take the right precautions and techniques to do so.