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Saturday, April 25, 2015

How to Make Wood Furniture Look Old, Antique, Distressed with Paint

Sometimes old or antique furniture isn't in the best condition to display in their original state. Distressing furniture is a way to restore pieces while preserving the character that comes from being old. 

On the flip side, you may have a piece of furniture that isn't old but you would like to make it look old.

This technique of distressing wood and making furniture look old or antique can be applied to any woodwork you would like to look something like this...

do it yourself how to make furniture look antique


  • Sander/Sand Paper
  • Base Coat Paint (Paint/primer combo is best.)
  • Top Coat Paint (distressing color), (Paint/primer combo is best.)
  • Soft Rags (like old t-shirts)
  • Wood Wax

Crafty Gal Tip: Choosing Distressing Paint Colors - As a general rule when choosing wood distressing paint combinations, the base color should be lighter than the top or distressing color.

I believe there are two best approaches to picking out a top coat/distressing paint color:

Approach #1 - Pick a top coat that resembles the color of things that would normally cause distress to furniture.
  • Dirt
  • Rust
  • Dust
  • Grime
I know, not typically the criteria for picking out paint colors, but here are some project results from following this approach...

antique looking green dresser teal table diy

Approach #2 - Pick a top coat that is a several shades darker in the same color or similar hue as the base coat color. You can also make your own top coat color by simply adding black or brown paint to the base coat colo. Here are some project results from following this approach...

how to make old dresser look distressedkitchen island made to look antique

Now We Begin to Distress the Wood Furniture


  • Remove hardware
  • Sand surfaces to better accept the paint
  • Vacuum, wipe off residue from sanding
  • Prime - Assess whether you need a coat of primer after sanding. If the wood was natural and unpainted, you won't need a primer.
    sanding wood before distressing with paint

2. PAINT INSIDE (Optional)

  • Since you won't be distressing the inside of shelves and drawers, you have to decide whether to leave them unrestored or paint them a different accent color.
  • Let dry completely before moving on to painting the wood with your base color.
restore wood furnituredesk painted distress 


  • Paint wood with first paint color
  • Let dry. Overnight is not necessary but at least two hours.


  • Apply top coat to one section of the furniture at a time (side, back, drawer)
  • With a clean brush, apply a light top coat, with a light hand, in random stroke patterns.

    how to make furniture look antique
  • Immediately after application, use a soft cloth and rub over the paint strokes subtly blending the top coat strokes with the base coat.
  • Repeat where needed. (There's no error in this project. If you feel you went too heavy with the top coat, LET ALL PAINT COATS THUS FAR DRY WELL, then go over the top coat and add strokes of the base coat followed by wiping and blending again.
distressing wood with paint


  • Make sure paint is dry before sanding distress marks
  • Sand by hand or with electric sander over painted wood in areas you would like the wood to show through.
  • Areas that get most distressed naturally, overtime are corners, edges and around hardware. However, there are no boundaries to distress. 
make furniture look antiquepainting wood to look distressed


  • Make sure all paint is dry and project is ready for final phase.
  • Apply wood wax with a soft cloth to the painted surfaces
  • Re-install hardware
    how to distress furnituredistressed dresser

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