Learning how to paint and distress furniture to create a DIY farmhouse style is easier than you may think!
Easy distressing techniques can be applied to just about any piece of wood furniture to give it a shabby chic look, or some farmhouse style.
I like having distressed furniture in my home as opposed to all brand-new furniture because it adds a little bit of character. It’s an easy way to add new life to old pieces, so they blend nicely with my true antique furniture.
Plus, it’s a great way to save money on good-quality furniture pieces!
Often, solid, quality wood furniture can be found for quite a bit less money than you’d spend on new pieces at a furniture store. And those pieces might not be as well-made as the older pieces.
Where can you find furniture pieces to paint and distress?
Shop Your Own Home
I often use distressing techniques on furniture I’ve already owned for a long time, because it’s one of the easiest ways to change things up when I get bored with outdated old pieces or want a new look for a room.
There are so many different furniture techniques you can use to completely change the appearance of a piece!
This coffee table with a unique pattern on top was something I kept from my mom and dad’s home after they passed away. I remember it being in their living room while I was growing up.
I didn’t want to part with it, so I used an electric sander to remove the oak stain from the top and give it a more natural finish.
A coat of white milk paint and some hand-sanding gave the legs a chippy, heavily distressed look.
The final result works perfectly in my modern farmhouse-style living room.
Thrift Stores, Flea Markets, Garage Sales
I’m also always ready to scour flea markets, thrift stores, garage sales, or Facebook Marketplace for good quality pieces that just need a little love to make them amazing.
Oftentimes, you can find pieces to makeover in different ways for next to nothing. Remember this side table that I got for less than $10 at Goodwill and turned into a college-themed table for our son?
It was a heavy, solid wood piece with great hardware. A little bit of chalk paint and some light distressing gave the entire piece of furniture a unique look.
This little side table is a piece I have owned for many years.
It was bare wood when I bought it in the early ’90s and about 10ish years ago I gave it a bad makeover with a dark-brown painted finish and boring silver hardware.
I have no idea what I was thinking.
Needless to say, it was time for an update! Just look at what a difference a little Saturday morning DIY made!
I am partnering with Dixie Belle Paint Company for this post. Paint and stain were generously provided to me by Dixie Belle, but all ideas and creations are my own.
How to Distress Painted Furniture
The top of my little side table had seen better days, with several nicks and scratches in the paint.
I pulled out my favorite Ryobi Corner Cat orbital sander and evened out the paint a little.
When creating a distressed finish, you don’t have to worry about making it too perfect by doing a lot of prep work.
First Layer of Paint
Because you’re going to distress this piece later by sanding away some of the top layer of paint, choose a color for the first layer that will peek through the distressed areas just slightly.
I used Dixie Belle’s Chalk Mineral Paint in the color Driftwood, which is a very light gray, for my base coat.
–>Tip: Using a continuous mister bottle to add a little water helps you move chalk paint around better to achieve a smooth, even layer.
The second coat of paint will be the primary color of your piece, so choose the color that you want to be most dominant. I used a lighter coat underneath and a darker shade on top called Hurricane Gray.
This could be done the opposite way also, with the darker color as your first coat of paint and the lighter one on top.
Choose the paint colors that work for you.
Dry Brushing Technique
To create a distressed “barn wood” appearance on the top of my side table, I used a combination of three different colors of Dixie Belle’s Voodoo Gel Stain— White Magic, Tobacco Road, and Up in Smoke.
I really like this water-based gel stain because it’s so easy to use. It comes in bottles so that a little can just be squirted on as needed.
Begin by applying the first color of stain to the flat surface of your furniture piece.
Then, use a chip brush and lightly pull the stain from one edge of the top to the other in one long stroke.
Continue this dry brush method by layering in the additional two colors of stain, one at a time.
Add stain, lightly drag the paint brush through the stain in long strokes, and repeat as necessary until you get the aged look you want.
If at any time you feel like too much stain has been applied, simply use a lint-free cloth or paper towel to wipe it back a little.
Begin with fine grit sandpaper, and rub gently along the edges and corners of the piece until some of the top coat of chalk paint is removed and the layers of paint underneath appear.
You can experiment with different grits of sandpaper, steel wool, or even a sanding block until as much paint or natural wood as you desire shows through.
Pay special attention to distressing the edges and corners where natural wear and tear would occur, rather than the flat areas. This will give your distressed piece a more authentic, chippy look.
When you achieve the amount of distress you are happy with, use a tack cloth or a damp cloth dipped in warm water to remove any sanding dust before moving on to the next step.
Another way to add some “age” to your piece is by using a dark wax and working it into some of the smaller areas– the nooks and crannies where dirt may have collected on an older piece.
Although I did not do that to this piece, I did buff a clear wax over the sides and drawers, to add some slight variation in the tone of the paint, and help achieve my distressed look.
Once the paint has dried, it’s time think about hardware.
Maybe you had good luck, and your furniture piece came with great vintage hardware, but if not, it’s a good idea to find some that fit with the look of your newly distressed piece.
I exchanged the modern-looking brushed nickel hardware on my table for some small white porcelain knobs that are a more vintage popular style.
While there are many different techniques for distressing furniture, this entire process took me just one Saturday morning.
From the ugly brown old paint that it started with, to the new little “old” table with just the right amount of “age”, it’s perfect for holding my cookbooks in a little alcove just off my kitchen.
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