Shabby Chic Furniture: How to Paint and Distress

Items that you need:

  • Sandpaper
  • Rags
  • Candle Wax
  • Pastel Colored Paints and Paintbrushes
  • Nails and Screwdrivers
  • Heat gun
  • Tinted Furniture Wax

Create your own shabby chic furniture for a cool, funky look. The shabby chic style is very popular, but can be a bit pricey to buy. Painting your own furniture pieces can be a great alternative. 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. Always choose solid wood pieces, not laminate. Pieces that have a veneered surface will not give the same effect.

Step 1 – Prepare the Surface

The surface of your piece that you have must be clean. Remove any drawers or other hardware, wash it with warm, soapy water, and allow it to dry thoroughly. Rough patches need to be repaired and any other hardware that needs to be replaced should be fixed. When the repairs are done, sand the surface until it’s ready to accept the finish treatments.

Step 2 – Rub on Wax

The look of peeled and cracked paint can be achieved with other means than age. Where you want the look of age, before you paint, rub a coat of candle wax over that part of the furniture. The wax will cause the paint to peel off wherever it has been applied.

Step 3 – Paint

Stay away from gloss paints, and choose flat paints or satin paints for a shabby chic look. Put a good coat of this paint on your piece and allow it to dry. Do not use primer, because you want wood to show through parts of the paint, but you will still be able to apply more than one color of paint if needed. For a two-tone look, paint the first color 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

When the paint has dried, it will be time to achieve the distressed look that you are after. This can be a lot of fun to do. Consider the piece you have chosen, and imagine where the piece would be worn 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, nails, or a chain. When you’re done gouging, rub tinted wax into these areas to darken them.

TIP: You can also use a stain marker to add the dark color to make it look as though it has age instead of tinted wax. It gives you an accent color with the control of a marker.

Step 5: Paint needs to peel

If you want to achieve even more peeling and age, you can use a heat gun or hairdryer on a low setting and the paint will peel even more. This technique works whether you’ve used the one or two-color painting technique. Finish off your project with a coat or two of matte or satin polycrylic to seal the paint and the “wear.”

Look how easy it was to create your very own pieces of shabby chic furniture: have fun!