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Creating the Distressed Look

Want to give your furniture the look of an antique piece? Distressing furniture is not as difficult as you may think.

Currently, when shopping for furniture, you'll easily find many wood pieces that look just like antiques. But they aren't. They were purposely made to look distressed. And even though you might think that a wood piece of furniture that has a lot of dings and scratches would be for sale in a 2nd hand store or flea market, they will often command a much higher price than their "perfect" counterparts.

As one of those people who has a few dents, scratches and wrinkles of my own, I can tell you that while the surface may be distressed, I've just improved with age. Really I have.

When you create an artificial aging process, the wood takes on a warm patina and reminds you of a fine antique. It's amazing how this can add character to a room. But many people cannot afford to buy the real deal, so learning some techniques to produce your own distressed furniture is a viable way to go.

  • Start out with less costly pieces.
  • Sand the piece.
  • Select a smooth piece, but you'll always need to sand it with fine sandpaper. This will give you an even finish.
  • Fill all nicks or holes with wood fill.
  • Let the wood fill dry completely.
  • Sand again to remove residue. You don't want a blotchy or uneven look.
  • Sand in the direction of the grain.
  • Sand oak pieces to a medium smoothness using medium-coarse 120-grit sandpaper.
  • Sand other types of wood with medium sandpaper, no finer than 150 grit.
  • Wipe down each piece using painter's tack cloth.
  • To distress, drag the edge of a flowerpot or other rough object over the surface.
  • Create scratches with keys or screwdrivers or other tools.
  • for larger dents, use chains.
  • Don't overdo it. The imperfections you are creating will become more visible once stained.
  • Stain one surface at a time.
  • Apply stain in a thin, even coat, one small area at a time.
  • Wipe off the excess stain in the direction of the grain.
  • Use a clean rag to wipe all the stained surfaces one more time.
  • Repeat the process if the stain is not dark enough.

Now go and enjoy your newly "antiqued" prize.

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Barbara Jennings is author of 10 decorating books: Decor Secrets Revealed, Rearrange It, Home Staging for Profit, Home Staging for Yourself, Arrange Your Stuff, Advanced Redesign, Pro Art Consulting, Where There's a Wall - There's a Way, The Art of Hanging Art, Great Parties! Great Homes!

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