I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the look of distressed furniture. Maybe it’s the combination of colours; pastels with small flecks of vibrancy coming through. Or maybe it’s the exposed old wood, sanded down and textured? Whatever your reason is for loving distressed items there is no escaping the demand for such products.
Unfortunately if you want to buy a piece of distressed furniture it seems to cost you the earth. Fashion, demand and a shortage of high quality examples has meant your wallet will feel the pinch if you do decide to invest.
The problem is that this doesn’t have to be the case! I have been distressing old and new furniture for years and have paid anything from £2.50 to £200 to get the piece I want. The simple truth about distressing is that the item should only cost as much as you are willing to pay as you take every day (often scrap) pieces and age them yourself. Distressing is also doable for anyone; you don’t need to know DIY skills and you certainly don’t need to be a carpenter. We have written this article to show you how:
Finding Vintage Furniture
There really is no hidden secret to finding furniture worth restoring, it often comes down to being at the right place at the right time. One of my personal favourite places to look is on residential streets when a skip is in place as there are almost always great free takeaways. The key is being able to see a piece of old furniture and picture how it will look once distressed. Car boot sales are another great place to find old furniture, although of late there is more and more competition. Finally look in your own home; maybe something is in storage or you have an old Victorian front door – it is amazing what you will find when you start looking.
- If this is your first time we would suggest you don’t experiment on the most expensive item you have. Instead pick something inexpensive which you won’t distressing and re-distressing again. It takes a few projects to 100% master the process.
- If the furniture is painted of stained and depending on if you want that colour to come through in your distressing you may need to sand or strip the paint completely. I like random colours coming through in my pieces but it is up to you.
- Once you are happy with the natural or coloured finish of your furniture you will need to finely sand the item. This will smooth the surface and prepare it for the primer and paint you will apply. Remember to always sand with the grain of the wood.
- Once you have finished sanding, use a tack cloth to clean up the dust which you have undoubtedly just left. Your furniture should now feel amazingly smooth to the touch.
- Apply your wood primer using as a brush. Try to be as careful and light-handed with your application as possible. We will be adding multiple layers anyway, so there is no need to slop it on. Just like sanding before; for best results always go with the grain.
- Now consider the contrasts of colour within the distressing of your furniture. If you want a single colour then add it now. Often I like to layer colours over the top of each other so that when distressed you get a ripple or layered effect. This allows you to be playful with combinations, it also gives the impression the item has been re-painted and must therefore be old.
- Now the fun part! There are so many ways of distressing or ageing a piece of furniture that I’m not going to list them. I tend to always start with varying grades of sandpaper and depending on the “look” I am after progress from there. I always have a chisel, screwdriver, short iron bar and a hammer to hand, but find I rarely beat up my items too much (most vintage furniture is a bit beaten anyway).
- Once happy with your level of distress use the same tack cloth to clean of any additional dust or residue. I tend to leave my items unsealed but at this stage you could apply a sealant or stain.
These tips on how to distress furniture brought to you by Yale Composite Doors, who manufacture period style composite front doors. Not only does every Yale composite door look great; each door is manufactured to adhere to strict security codes.