How to distress furniture

Sometimes the best way of bringing a piece of old furniture to life is to actually make it look older. With shabby chic becoming more & more popular, people are bringing to life older furniture pieces more & more often. Just flick through blogland & you will see counterless post's on furniture revival. I am still very new to this myself & have had a piece of furniture to play around & experiment with(I will show you this next week when we go into painting distressed furniture). Its been a fun project & I am loving the results & there is that real feeling of satisfaction at bringing something old to life.

Distressing Furniture
Distressing Furniture
Photo: Mati Martek
Here's a 'how to' tutorial on distressing furniture

  1. Don't begin your experiment in distressing with your Grandma's prized cherry tallboy. Instead try a new unfinished piece in solid wood or a thrift shop find. These can be found at much cheaper prices than comparable finished pieces.
  2. Even though you may think the piece is smooth, start by sanding it with fine sandpaper anyway. Be sure to sand in the direction of the wood grain. This will greatly improve the look of your finished piece.
  3. After sanding, clean with a tack cloth (available at any home improvement center). This removes all the dust from sanding so the finished piece will be smooth as satin.
  4. Apply a coat of primer using a brush and painting in the direction of the grain again.
  5. After the primer is dry, lightly sand with a fine sandpaper again. Repeat cleaning with a tack cloth.
  6. Apply your final coat of primer and get ready to have some fun!
  • Use an ice pick or nail to simulate wormholes or insect damage.
  • Want to simulate fly specks? Use a toothbrush dipped into black ink and rub a toothpick along the top of the brush. Use this technique after you stain the piece.
  • Take a hammer and lightly add depressions to the piece.
  • A screwdriver can add holes in random areas
  • Use other tools around the house including a pizza cutter or chisel
  1. Now you want to emphasize the marks you made. Clean the surface using that tack cloth you bought. Then apply a wood stain. I use a damp cloth, but a sponge brush would work just as well. Work on one small area at a time and wiping the stain off with a cloth before moving on. Wiping the stain off leaves behind just enough stain to collect in the holes to emphasize the distressed wood.
  2. After the stain left behind is dry, apply a sealer or polyurethene finish with a sponge brush. Once that is dry, the piece is ready to enjoy.
Dont forget to stop by for next weeks make it monday for a tutorial for painting distressed furniture & a little furniture reveal of my own.

                                                                                                                                              Tutorial sourced from