Aging is so Distressing - Techniques for Antiquing Furniture

Well, despite the fact that I am starting to feel my age, this post will help you achieve that beautiful well worn, loved, aged and antique look on furniture and decor items. This is something you can do to new furniture or to give old furniture a new rustic look.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl
Aren’t these layers of paint, scratches and wear marks art to your eyes?

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl
Nothing shows character like chipping paint and multiple revealed layers on metal.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl
Weathered paint worn thin and rubbed off give a table character!

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl
Paint splotches on an old ladder beg to tell stories of the projects it has seen.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

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.) 

Distress Marks:

Achieving a worn look can be as easy as adding dings and scratches. This process can also be a great stress reliever! Grab some chains and let’s work out some of that pent up aggression!


distress 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.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

This is the same technique I used on my mudroom bench.

Sanding through layers:

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

The easiest way to add some age to a piece of furniture is to expose layers of paint. Whether you paint a few contracting colors on yourself or you sand a pre-finished piece, sanding is one of my favorite ways to add age. A note of caution: Before you begin sanding, always check for the presence of lead paint. You can learn more about how to detect lead paint in this post.


You’ll get the best results using 150 grit sand paper (but use whatever you have on hand). Attach it to your power sander and go to town on the furniture! Work in areas that would normally get a lot of use or abuse. Corners and edges of furniture usually take more abuse. Table center is a good place to show signs of worn paint. Be sure to move the sander around and be random rather than symmetrical.  A good example of a sanded finish can be seen on this Trashy Coffee Table.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

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 it lacks the deeper darker color tone of antique lumber. Unfortunately, when new wood is exposed,  it will look blonde and – well – brand spankin’ new.  Read on to learn how I solve this problem.

Faking Age with Stain:

I have a trick up my sleeve for creating those darker wood tones in seconds! Ready to learn my secret?


To hide the look of new blonde wood, carefully paint some wood stain onto the bare wood spots.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

Wipe off any excess immediately with a dry rag.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

If you desire darker wood repeat painting and wiping off the excess.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl
My two favorite stains for aging are Minwax Red Mahogany and Minwax Early American, but any dark color stain would work just as well.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

“Tea” Stains:

You can use the same dark stain to give your object a faux “tea stain”. This antique gold 80’s mirror is easily transformed with spray paint and some stain.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl


If you use regular white spray paint, it will be difficult to “dirty” your object. Instead I like to use Rust Oleum Heirloom White which gives a soft antique white look. (FYI, I used Rust-Oleum Oil Rubbed Bronze for the inside decorative design.)

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl
After the paint dries, hand sand some of the edges to expose the stained wood beneath.

Use a dry brush technique* to brush on the stain and 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.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

For the best results, use an old shaggy brush or rough up your chip brush. The rattier the brush the better because anywhere the stain lands is where it will remain.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

The end results are pretty tea stains and peek-a-boo dark wood below.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

A totally new look for that sad 80’s mirror. It fits in nicely on our living room gallery wall.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

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.


Glazes add depth and dimension to furniture that has a detailed profile. Glazes can be used on everything from kitchen cabinet doors to table legs and picture frames. But, don’t let that limit the places you can use glazes.

The table legs on my DIY Farmhouse Table have Van Dyke glaze on it that accentuates the rope turns.

Aging and Antiquing Furniture | Pretty Handy Girl

This dresser needed more than a coat of paint to give it an attractive new look. I added black glaze for pretty gray tones.

Facelift for a Knotty Pine Dresser | Pretty Handy Girl

Simply brush on the glaze (again use a ratty almost dry brush.) Push more glaze into the gouges and crevices to show off the details.

Aging and Antiquing Furniture | Pretty Handy Girl

Wipe off any excess with a clean dry rag.

Aging and Antiquing Furniture | Pretty Handy Girl

The glaze stays wet for longer than the wood stains. It can be wiped off immediately if you make a mistake. Once you like the look, let the glaze dry to permanence.


When working with black glaze, use the same technique of wiping on and blotting off. The black glaze gives you more gray tones and gave this picture frame a dirty distressed look:

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

It may take a while to build up the glazing. But, you end up with a really nice final product.



Another technique I like is adding paint or stain spatters. This is easy to do, but if you aren’t wearing protective clothing you might give yourself some freckles.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl


Dip a foam brushTechniques for Antiquing Furniture 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 don’t wipe the stain off. Let it dry a little then dab up any excess.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

With these techniques, you can take a plain painted side table from this:

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

To a more sophisticated antiqued older sister:

Make Your Own Mosaic Tile Lampshade | Pretty Handy Girl

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

Protective Coating:

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 PolycrylicTechniques for Antiquing Furniture.

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

You can also use a good quality furniture wax for a satin finish. Or use an antiquing waxTechniques for Antiquing Furniture to really give it an old appearance.

Make Your Own Street Sign | Pretty Handy Girl

Now, don’t be distressed, grab some sandpaper and a brush and give your furniture an age boost!

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl
Yard Sale spice rack turned rustic! Chalkboard lids tutorial here.

Watch a live tutorial to see how I accomplished an aged paint look on this trough. And be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to get notifications when a new video is uploaded.

Now that you have some aging and distressing techniques under your belt, you can push your skills by trying your hand at some more complicated techniques! Like creating a faux wood texture on surfaces following this tutorial.

Faux Weathered Gray Wood Grain Tutorial | Pretty Handy Girl

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

As a follow up to this post, I divulged my top secret recipe for making new wood look old!

Make New Wood Look Old - Aging Wood FAST!

And how to get the true chippy paint look:

Techniques for Antiquing Furniture

You may also want to check out my gallery of rustic and distressed projects!

How to Age, Distress & Antique | Pretty Handy Girl

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When I was 18, and bought my first car, and thought I was the coolest girl in town with a little zippy sportscar – sorry, just a little trip down memory lane.  My parents gave me my first tool kit. That tool kit is still with me today and I do use it a lot. The set has a series of sockets, crescent wrenches, interchangeable screwdriver bits, allen (hex) wrenches, needle nose pliers, and locking pliers.
That set got me through several repairs (both auto and home). Now, as a homeowner, I have found that there are a few more tools to have on hand.
You will likely want to look for a multi-piece set like this one:
This will give you a wide variety of tools for a low cost. If you want a deal, try shopping for these sets around Father’s Day or Christmas. The set above was listed on for approximately $50 – $60.
Regardless if you are buying these items in a set or separate, these are the tools I recommend:
Homeowner essentials:
  1. Hammer
  2. Screwdrivers – Phillips head and a flat (straight or slotted) head. Try to buy a small and medium size of each.
  3. Allen (Hex) Wrenches in several sizes
  4. Adjustable Crescent Wrenches – I suggest buying at least two. One 6″ and one 10″
  5. Slip Joint Pliers (handy for overall gripping)
  6. Needle-nosed pliers
  7. Vice grips (Locking pliers)
  8. Tape Measure
  9. Level – 24″ is preferrable
  10. Utility knife (mat knife)
  11. Safety glasses
  12. 12″ Handsaw
  13. Stud Finder
  14. Flashlight
  15. Pry bar (must have a flat sharp side and the other side a notch for pulling nails.)
  16. Tool box or case to keep all of the above in 
  17. My favorite DIY guide to my home: Home Depot’s Home Improvement 1-2-3 – the best $15 I ever spent!
 Screwdriver bits:

Last but not least, the most indispensable tool I’ve ever owned:
Cordless Drill with screwdriver bits and a small set of drill bits 

For Electrical DIY:
  1. Wiring instruction book or guide
  2. Wire Cutters/Strippers
  3. Electrical Current tester 
    • You only need the simple tester with two probes and an indicator light to test if the power is on. 
For the committed DIYer:
  1. Palm sander
  2. Carpenter’s square
  3. Staple gun
  4. Power Circular Saw 
    • Be sure to hold one in the store and feel how the grip feels in your hand. This is especially important as a woman with a smaller hand size. (more on power tool shopping in another blog post – coming soon!)
  5. Jig Saw
  6. Saw Horses or Folding Work Bench
  7. Clamps – A Variety of Adjustable Clamps and Clips

I hope this list gives you some good information so you won’t feel overwhelmed when buying tools. Definitely ask a sales person for help or opinions. Don’t tell them you are new at this. Ask them for the tool they would purchase if they were buying one for their shop. You should aim to buy a quality tool (especially power tools) that will last your lifetime. A cheap tool will either break or not have the power to do the job you need it to do. However, you don’t need to buy top of the line or break the bank to get a good tool.
Savings Tip: Many of the big box home improvement stores will usually price match tools that are priced cheaper at a competitor if it is the same make and model, plus take 10% off the price. Be sure to bring the ad with you or they will need to call or look up the price online.
Home Depots price guarantee:  
If any competitor tries, we’ll beat their price by 10%. Guaranteed.*
*If you find a current lower price on an identical, in-stock item from any retailer, we will match the price and beat it by 10%. Excludes special orders, bid pricing, volume discounts, open-box merchandise, labor and installation, sales tax, rebate and free offers, typographical errors and online purchases.
Lowe’s price guarantee:
Everyday Low Prices, Guaranteed
We guarantee our everyday competitive prices. If you find a verifiable lower everyday or advertised price on an identical stock item at any local retail competitor that has the item in stock, we’ll beat their price by 10% when you buy from us. Just bring us the competitor’s current ad or we’ll call to verify the item’s price that you have found. Cash (charge card) and carry purchases only. Competitor’s closeout, special order, discontinued, clearance, liquidation and damaged items are excluded from this offer. On percent-off sales, Lowe’s will match the competitor’s percent-off offer. Limited to reasonable quantities for homeowner and one-house order quantities for cash and carry contractors. Current in-store price, if lower, overrides Lowe’s advertised price. Price guarantee honored at all Lowe’s retail locations. Labor charges for product installation are excluded from our price guarantee offer in our stores with an Installed Sales Program. Visit store for complete details.
Sear’s price guarantee:

If you find a lower price on an identical branded item with the same features (in Home Electronics identical brand and model number) currently available for sale at another local competitor retail store, Sears will match that price plus, give you 10% of the difference. Just bring in the original advertisement to a sales associate at the time of, or within 14 days after, your purchase. More fine print…

Happy Shopping!