Well, despite the fact that I am starting to feel my age, this post is actually about achieving that well worn, loved, aged and antique look on furniture and decor items.
Aren’t these layers of paint, scratches and wear marks art to your eyes?
Nothing shows character like chipping paint and multiple revealed layers on metal.
or paint splotches on an old ladder.
And you can’t forget rust, love that beautiful brown patina!
I have been experimenting with several techniques to add age to “newer” pieces of furniture. Here are a few ways to add some character through distressing. (This post contains affiliate links. To learn more read my disclosure page.)
Throwing the chain in:
These are a few of my favorite distressing tools.
Throwing a chain at wood gives you those elliptical dents. Dragging the sharp edges of a pry bar across wood will give it some deep grooves. Set a screw on its side and lightly hammer it into the wood. Finally a few random hammer marks here and there finish off the worn look.
This is the exact same technique I used on my mudroom bench.
Sanding through the years:
The easiest way to add some age and expose layers of paint is to pull out a power sander. I use 150 grit sand paper (but use whatever you have on hand). Then go to town on the furniture, a good example of this can be seen on my Trashy Coffee Table.
A table that was previously painted white received a sea-inspired blue layer of paint on top of the white. (You could always add a third color if you want more colors showing through.) Sand through the layers of paint down to the bare wood in spots. The challenge with a new piece of wood is that it lacks the deeper darker color tone of antique lumber. When the wood is exposed and it looks blonde and – well – brand spankin’ new. Add some stain!
Faking age with stain:
I have a trick up my sleeve for creating those darker wood tones in seconds!
Simply paint some wood stain onto the blond wood spots.
Wipe off any excess immediately.
If you desire darker wood, re-apply.
My two favorite stains for aging are Minwax Red Mahogany and Minwax Early American, but any dark color stain would work just as well.
Staining Tea Stains:
You can also use the same stain to give your object a “tea stain”. An antique gold 80’s mirror can be transformed easily with spray paint and some stain.
After the paint dries, hand sand some of the edges to expose the stained wood beneath.
Now use a dry brush technique* to brush on the stain and then wipe the excess off immediately. *Keep your brush dry by dipping in the stain and wipe off your brush on a rag before using it.
It is important to use an old shaggy brush. The rattier the brush the better because anywhere the stain lands is where it will remain.
The end results are pretty tea stains and peek-a-boo dark wood below.
A totally new look for that sad 80’s mirror.
Glazing the surface:
Do the permanency of stains scare you? Have no fear, one of the more forgiving ways to give your object an antique tone is to use a glaze.
Van Dyke glaze is great for brown tones.
And Black glaze for pretty gray tones.
Simply brush on the glaze (again use a ratty almost dry brush.)
The glaze stays wet and can be almost completely wiped off immediately. Therefore you need to either let it dry a little or wipe very gently.
I made sure to push more glaze into the gouges and crevices to show off the details.
Using the black glaze (use the same technique of wiping on and blotting off), gives you more gray tones and gave this picture frame a dirty distressed look:
It may take a while to build up the glazing. But, you end up with a really nice final product. Not my favorite aging technique, but it is very forgiving if you are new to glazing.
Once you get the hang of glazing, you can create a faux wood texture on surfaces following this tutorial.
A spattering of interest:
Another technique I like is adding stain spatters. This is easy enough to do, but if you aren’t wearing protective clothing you might give yourself some freckles.
Dip a foam brush into the stain and wipe off any excess. Then gently tap the brush on a stick or handle of something sturdy. (A large screwdriver or other solid object works well.) This time I didn’t wipe the stain off. I let it dry a little then dabbed up the excess.
With these techniques, you can turn a plain painted side table from this:
To a more sophisticated antiqued older sister:
Once you have achieved the antiqued look you like, be sure to put a protective coating over your furniture. I prefer using Minwax Oil-Based Polyurethane. This adds the perfect age to furniture. (If you use new oil-based poly, it will yellow in a few years time.) If you don’t like the yellowing effect, stick to Minwax Satin Polycrylic.
Now, don’t be distressed, grab some sandpaper and a brush and give your furniture an age boost!
Spice turn table turned rustic! Chalkboard lids tutorial here.
As a follow up to this post, I share my top secret recipe for making new wood look old!
And how to get the true chippy paint look:
You may also want to check out my gallery of rustic and distressed projects!