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A How-to Guide for Distressing and Antiquing Furniture in 9 Easy Steps

A How-to Guide for Distressing and Antiquing Furniture in 9 Easy Steps

The rustic trend is a timeless classic that never goes out of style and if you’ve been tempted to try it, achieving this look is far easier than you may think.

One of the best ways to do this in your own home is by distressing and antiquing furniture that you already have.

From sanding to sealing your creation, with these nine simple steps, you can give existing pieces a new – or old – lease of life.


Step #1: Select the furniture you want to antique

Whether you’re sprucing up side tables or reworking wardrobes, the opportunities are endless.

What furniture can I use?

Any wooden furniture can be transformed, so don’t dismiss any old pieces that may currently feel like an eyesore.

The transformative power of paint

Paired with sanding and distressing, antiquing with paint really can add classic charm to even the blandest of homeware.

Opt for a single tone, like Fine Cream, if you’re working with a light wood base to create an authentic weathered look, or choose two tones for added depth. Generally we’d advise choosing two tones as a single tone can look one-dimensional. For example, for a traditional finish you might want to pair  Frosted Dawn  with a similar – but slightly different – shade like Porcelain Doll. Alternatively, add a pop of colour to a room by experimenting with a classic vintage blue like Lost Lake paired with a slightly lighter shade like Blue Lagoon.

Top techniques to antique your furniture

There are several methods you’ll be utilising when antiquing furniture. These include sanding, painting, waxing, distressing, staining and sealing.


Step #2: Preparation is key

While it can be tempting to leap right in, make sure you’ve got everything you need before you get going.

The tools you’ll need

The tools you’ll need

You’ll need:

  • Old rag or bed sheet
  • Sanding block
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint(s)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Screwdriver
  • Candle (for wax)
  • Wood stain
  • Steel wool
  • Clean rag
  • Polyurethane

Prepare your space

Before you begin, lay down old bedsheets where you’ll be working to avoid staining your floor.

Additionally, remove metal hardware, like handles and knobs, with a screwdriver.

The best paints to use for antiquing and distressing

You can try an array of antique paint techniques on wood by choosing finishes like chalk and milk paints. However, for an easy and long-lasting finish your safest bet is using matte paints.

Select the two shades you want to work with, such as neutral hues like Timeless and Ashen White. And don’t rule out exploring colourful selections. Regal reds like Monarch leave pieces feeling reminiscent of yesteryear, while a distressed cupboard in Proud Peacock can instantly lift the energy of a space.

Antiquing is just one of the small projects that you can experiment with using leftover paint.


Step #3: Prevent pitfalls

Don’t worry if you’re a complete DIY novice, we’ve got a few pointers for you to keep in mind.

Do's and don’ts

Remember, it’s supposed to be shabby chic so don’t get too caught up with making the piece look ‘perfect’. While it can be tempting to give it a miss, sanding is essential for this project to work properly so don’t let boredom get the better of you.


Step #4: Sand and clean the piece

Before you crack open your paint can, sanding and cleaning your furniture is essential. If it’s already got some exposed wood, lightly sand those areas. Remove any shiny painted surfaces that have been treated with polyurethane by sanding them down completely.

Try to sand in the same direction as the grain of your wood in order to make the finished piece look authentic.

Dirt and dust

Dirt and dust

After sanding, thoroughly remove any dust with a clean cloth or brush.

Smoothing corners and edges

Make sure to sand down any sharp or harsh corners and edges.

Step #5: Paint the piece

Step #5: Paint the piece

To save time on the next round of sanding, try to paint thin layers. If too much of the base is still showing, you can always do more coats.

How many coats of paint to apply

How many coats of paint to apply

Try to stick to two thin coats of paint and leave 24 hours of drying time between each coat. If you’re using two colours, avoid adding the second colour before applying the wax from step 6.


Step #6: Waxing

This is a key component for creating the rustic effect with dual colours.

Using candle wax to add texture

When blending two hues, rub small sections of the first layer with a candle (once it’s dry), before painting your second colour.


Step #7: Distress with sandpaper and steel wool

This fun step really allows you to see your piece taking shape.

Revealing colours by distressing

If you used two colours, lightly remove the waxed sections of paint with steel wool and sandpaper. If you used one colour, sand some of the paint down to expose the wood underneath.

Focus on the details

Start lightly sanding elements of the piece that would naturally be distressed by wear and tear, particularly corners and edges.


Step #8: Applying a stain

This is optional, but it can add nicely to the antiquated look of a piece. Simply apply a very thin layer of wood stain to the furniture and rub off any excess product with your rag.


Step #9: Maintain the makeover

While your piece now looks like it has stood the test of time, it’s time to make sure it does last. Wait a day before sealing with clear polyurethane to preserve your handiwork. When dry, reinstall your hardware.

Once you’ve followed this step-by-step guide to antique and distress your furniture, you may be feeling inspired to try your hand at other home hacks. So, to help you on your way, we’ve compiled the ultimate decorating toolkit – check it out for more inspiration.

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