It used to mean that if a piece of furniture had an antique look it had been in the family for a long time and had been bumped and moved a lot. It was a symbol of sentimental value and in some cases a family heirloom. Now, most cheap store bought items are made of particle board, and this look is hard to come by, and the furniture is usually thrown out before it ever obtains a desired distressed look.
There are countless ways of distressing furniture and just as many finishes that are possible. However, most of these methods are a variation of the following process.
1. A common distressed finish is to see an old paint color below the worn sections to give the appearance that it has been painted many times over. In order to get this look you need to paint two colors. Usually a brighter color is chosen for the base and darker top coat. If you just want to have bare wood peaking through then just use one color of paint. But make sure the wood is stained the color you want when it peeks through.
2. An added variation to this process is whether you would like to add a stain top coat which will mute the age of the freshly painted top coat. Clear polyurethane is a good choice to coat over the top acrylic coat and will not only protect it but give an aged look.
Materials and Tools:
The object to be distressed (wooden frame, piece of furniture, etc.)
Satin latex paint for the base coat
Satin latex paint or a wood stain for the top coat
Medium-grade steel wool
Polyurethane to finish (optional)
1. Thoroughly sand the object to be painted. If you want the natural wood grain to come through the top coat than best to sand down to bare wood. After sanding use a damp cloth or tack rag to wipe all the loose dust on the surface.
2. Paint the entire piece in the base coat color you’ve selected. If not using a base coat and light primer coat tinted to the top coat should be put on to allow proper bonding of the acrylic paint to the bare wood.
3. If you’re seeking the worn wood look, then wait a few hours for the top coat to dry, and lightly sand off areas around edges and corner where wearing would naturally occur. If a two tone color effect is desired once the areas have been sanded you can add candle wax to the base color before you paint the top coat. This will keep the top coat from sticking to certain areas allowing the undercoat to shine through without having to sand much later.
4. If you don’t have candle wax then don’t go overboard with sanding, and wipe the entire piece down to see what it looks like under all the dust. Remember, it doesn’t take much to give it an authentic antique look. Other instruments can be used to distress the furniture. You can use steel wool or other abrasive tools to apply different affects to the item giving it a unique worn look.
5. Apply a clear coat of water based polyurethane once your happy with the look to seal it all in.