Distressing Detail

I’m drawn to old things that are unique, pieces that aren’t fresh out of a box or showroom and don’t look shiny and new, but are instead from another time.  Often these pieces are distressed in that their paint has worn down over the years, and in those chipping layers there is story to be told.  Old pieces of furniture often leave me wondering where it lived in its past life and what purpose it served.   


salvaged desk bhg

One of my favorite things to do is dream up new uses for old things found by scouring flea markets or thrift stores and then bring them home to reinvent them.  Sometimes the doors or drawers are squeaky or in need of a small amount of repair, but with a little attention and care, they can be fully functional and make a one-of-a-kind statement in your home.

Using salvaged furniture is one of the current trends in home design and for good reason.  Rescued pieces bring character to a space and are also an eco-friendly opportunity to use what exists in a new and creative way. 


patina island bhg


It’s always an adventure to hunt for treasure in the form of used furniture and if you’re lucky, you’ll chance upon the perfect piece at an antique fair, flea market, thrift store or on Craigslist, but what if your piece is the perfect size, but not necessarily the right finish?  Good news, it’s easy to give your new find a distressed look with a just a little paint. 


rustic console bhg


Achieving a layered distressed finish is a technique easily mastered with a little practice and patience.  I created a planter for my yard in a look very similar to this stool below by simply dry brushing different colored sample pots of paint onto pieces of wood.


painted distressed stool bhg


Whether you’re whitewashing wood or layering with a more vivid patina, the first rule is choose a water based paint in a color you love, then add just enough additional water in a separate container so that the paint has the fluidity of milk. 

Dip the brush in the paint mixture, scrape most of it off on the edges of your container, and slowly apply the color in very thin layers until you achieve your desired look.  Having a sanding wedge on hand is also useful if you apply too much and want to reveal more of the wood tone underneath. 


patina technique


Layering two to three colors in similar shades will create depth and character, and will give your piece a time worn look.  When dry, finish it off with a coat of clear furniture wax and you’ll have a focal point that will please you for years to come.


distressed green armoire bhg


Are you a fan of salvaged or distressed furniture?  What pieces have you found while treasure hunting and how have you reinvented an old piece to suit your modern needs? 



5 Responses to “ Distressing Detail ”

  1. Love the paint color in the last photo, can you tell me what it is ( if you know??)

  2. I love the island in the kitchen. I think it looks so got with the open shelving. When I see fun distressed pieces like these, it makes me want to create a distressed look on our kitchen peninsula :)

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