Shabby Chic Furniture: How to Paint and Distress

Shabby Chic Furniture: How to Paint and Distress

Create your own shabby chic furniture for a cool, funky look. Shabby chic furniture is extremely popular, but can be very expensive. It is easy and fun to paint and distress your own pieces. Poke around yard sales, vintage stores, or your own attic to see if you can find old pieces of furniture that would lend themselves well to this look. Just make sure the furniture is solid wood. Pieces that have a veneered surface will not give the same effect.

Step 1--Prepare the Surface

Make sure the surface you are going to work with is clean. Remove any drawers or other hardware and wash it with warm, soapy water. Allow it to dry thoroughly. If there are any rough places you don't like or wobbly legs, now is the time to fix them. Sand the surface until it's ready to accept the finish treatments.

Step 2--Rub on Wax

If you like the look of cracking or peeling paint, there's a way you can achieve it. Before you put on your paint, rub a wax candle here and there on your piece of furniture, wherever you want cracking or peeling. The paint will roll and peel where the wax has been applied.


Step 3--Paint

Most of the time, shabby chic furniture is covered in either a flat paint or satin paint, as high-gloss isn't the look most want to achieve. Put a good coat of this paint on your piece and allow it to dry.

If you want a two-tone look, paint one color on the first coat and let it dry. After that, apply more wax and then paint a different color for the second coat. The top coat will come off in places to give a worn look and show the under-color.

Step 4--Distress the Surface

After the paint is dry, whether you used the one- or two-coat method, it's time to get the aged or distressed look you desire.

This can be a lot of fun to do. Think about your piece and consider where the wear on it would be if it had been used for generations. On a chair, most wear would be on the edge of the arms and edge of the seat, on a chest of drawers, the front edge and around the knobs or handles. Lightly rub away the paint in these areas with your sandpaper or steel wool until you achieve the desired look.

You can also make gouges in the surface with the screwdriver, a nail, or a chain. When you're done gouging, rub tinted wax into these areas to darken them.

TIP: DoItYourself's painting consultant Pam Estabrooke of ProTect Painters suggests, "A stain marker is also an option for filling in these areas or adding dark accents into cracks and crevices. It gives you an accent color with the control of a marker."

Step 5--Peel the Paint

You can get even more peeling if you use the heat gun on a low setting over the entire piece of furniture. This technique works whether you've used the one- or two-color painting technique. Finish off your project with a coat or two of matt or satin polycrylic to seal the paint and the "wear."