Antiquing and distressing furniture: clever tips

A coat of glaze and a few artful scratches and scuffs can turn any piece of furniture into an "antique" with shabby-chic flair. Here are a few clever tips to get you started.

  • To transform a piece of furniture with an antiquing treatment give it a base coat of satin or semi-gloss enamel. Let the enamel dry for at least a day. Then mix clear wood sealer or thinned varnish with a dark tinting colour to make a transparent glaze. Apply this glaze and then wipe it off, taking more off the flat, exposed surfaces than the grooves and recesses. This process will simulate natural wear, making the furniture look like an antique. Of course, before you try this on an actual piece of furniture experiment on wood offcuts first to be sure of the results.
  • One way to heighten the effect of glazing is to splatter some fly specks of very dark colour on the surface after wiping off the glaze. Make some of the glazing solution deeper in colour, then dip a toothbrush into it and flick it over the surface. The effect varies, depending on how close you hold the brush to the surface and how quickly you move it.
  • "Distressing" a brand-new piece of furniture will give it an artificial appearance of age. Sand or file corners and edges to round them out. Dent edges with a ball-peen hammer, and scuff flat surfaces with a bunch of keys. Make worm holes and irregular scratches with a sharp awl. When you've finished, sand the distressed areas to soften the look.
  • Applying paint stripper to your base coat in irregular patches can also give you that well-worn look. If you want a crackling effect, wait until the paint begins to lift or bubble, then remove the stripper. Leave the stripper in place longer if you want to remove the paint completely. Neutralize the stripper with water or solvent as directed, and leave to dry thoroughly before applying an antiquing glaze.
  • There are several ways to give your antiquing project some patches of crackled paint. One of the simplest is to brush on some PVA wood glue thinned with water and let it dry thoroughly before applying a base coat of oil-based paint.

Keep these clever tips in mind to help you turn any piece of furniture into an "antique" with shabby-chic flair.

Antiquing and distressing furniture: clever tips
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