Distressing Furniture

Here is a look at how a piece of furniture becomes distressed, glazed, and gorgeous!

Hey, all!!  This post is less of a How-To and more of a How-I-Did. 

I wanted to share a recent project with you, because I felt it was important to show just how much work goes into any particular project.  Especially when distressing is involved.

I had a gentleman in the store yesterday ask me “Why is your table distressed??”  For a moment, I thought he was making a joke and my initial response was “Well, it kind of had a rough day…”  When he looked at me still confused, I realized he genuinely wondered what distressed meant.  My bad!

Distressing means taking sandpaper of varying roughness and going to town on a piece of furniture after is has been painted.  It gives it character, age, and takes away that “freshly painted” look.  Not everything is suitable for distressing – it really depends on the piece.  If it is more modern and clean lines, distressing it would make it look more antique and aged.  Not necessarily the best choice for that style of furniture.  

See the picture of the black and silver dresser as an example.  The body is painted in black w/ a silver glaze, and the drawers are opposite – painted silver with a black glaze.  To go and distress this piece would make the entire style of it change.  A more suited piece for distressing?  This desk/hutch combo I’m about to tell you about!!

For this particular piece, quite a few steps were taken to get it to its finished state. 

The first step is to wipe the whole thing down – I use Murphy’s Oil Soap and a we rag.  Just want to make sure I get any grime off of there.  Next, I remove the drawers and their hardware.  On most pieces, I use a heavy duty primer before painting to help the paint adhere.  When I’m distressing though, primer is a step I can skip because I don’t want the paint to have perfect adhesion.

For this project, I was doing a two-toned paint job, so I started with a dark brown that I had leftover from another project.  I painted both pieces in the brown (one coat).

But, no distressing yet.  I busied myself with some other project and let that dry thoroughly (at least I pretend it is thoroughly dry because I’m usually too impatient to wait that long!).  Then I added the top color, a light taupe, aptly called Vintage Taupe by Behr.

Tip:  You would be surprised by how far a sample can of paint will go.  The Home Depot sells samples of any of their colors for $2.94 each!!  Unless you plan to do a large number of pieces the same color, which I don’t, the quarts are almost a waste.  Also, the samples are REAL paint and primer in one, just as good as the bigger cans!  I was able to paint this entire piece with 1.5 samples of Vintage Taupe.  However, I wasn’t looking for perfection and only did one coat!

Now the entire piece (top part included) has been painted in dark and light paint.  Neither coat was perfect, and the color underneath was showing through in spots.  There is a method to my madness.

Now we distress!  I used a combo of 220 and 100 grit sandpaper for varying degrees of distress.  There really isn’t a rule here.  I’ve sort of just created a technique that works for me, but every piece is still different.  I also keep a wet rag handy while doing this – the dust can get everywhere and this helps combat that.

Sometimes I try to just distress the edges, where it would be most naturally worn.  But this time I wanted heavy distressing, so I did it everywhere.  Top, sides, legs, drawer fronts, etc.

The dark brown starts to show through the light top color, adding to the effect.  Also, the original wood color pops through where I really sanded hard.  Make sure to check out the comparison photo before and after distressing.

So, distressing is done (and my upper arms are now much stronger from the workout!) but I’m not done yet.

Next step is to add a finishing glaze to the whole thing.  Is this necessary to distressing furniture?  No.  But it adds a richness to the paint, darkening the lighter areas and soaking into the exposed wood.  I use a tobacco colored glaze by Ralph Lauren.  It goes on with a paint brush and I just work with it until the brush strokes have mostly disappeared.  It kind of "dirties" it up a bit

Okay, now…..I’m done!  I painted the existing hardware in oil-rubbed bronze to compliment the dark brown paint showing through.

She’s a beauty, standing almost 7 feet tall!  What a great statement piece for a room.  I even envision it being a social hub in a household, serving as a spot for paperwork, mail, notes, calendars, meal menus, etc to all come together in one place.  Maybe in a larger kitchen where Mom can pay bills and little Jimmy can do his homework before dinner.  I don’t actually know a little Jimmy, but I can see one liking it! 


***THIS PIECE IS AVAILABLE FOR SALE*** Please contact me at jessica@jparisdesigns.com or 330.808.4270 with any questions!

1835 4th St  Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221

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