Distressed wood furniture is perfect for rooms decorated with flea market finds and antique treasures. Learn how to distress furniture in almost no time using this easy guide.
Read step by step instructions after the video.

Before getting started, choose the piece of furniture you're going to give a distressed paint finish. Scour flea markets or secondhand shops for a piece that's solid wood with a stained finish. Don't worry if it has scratches or watermarks; the painted finish will hide those flaws. Look for a wood furniture piece with lines you love and that will look good in your space.

You'll also need to select two colors of furniture paint to complete your distressed finish. You can choose two shades of the same color as we did or choose complementary or contrasting colors for a bolder look. We chose latex paint for its ease of use; however, oil-based paints are known for their durability and oftentimes the go-to option for wood trim and cabinetry. Once you have your wood furniture and paint colors, it's time to get started! Follow our step-by-step instructions for painting and distressing wood furniture for an aged-over-time look.

  • Working time 2 hrs
  • Start to finish 2 days
  • Difficulty Easy
  • Involves Painting

What you need


How to do it

Part 1

prepping the wood surface
Step 1

Prep the Surface

Place your wood furniture piece on top of a drop cloth and lightly sand the wood to create a rough surface. Apply different levels of pressure as you sand; this causes the wood to absorb more paint in some areas. Wipe clean using a tack cloth or rag. 

applying base paint to table underside
Credit: Jason Donnelly
applying paint allowing streaks
Credit: Jason Donnelly
Step 2

Apply Base Paint

Using your darkest shade of paint, apply the first coat to the furniture. Spread the paint thin enough to allow cracks to show through. Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours. 

creating a paint wash
Step 3

Create a Paint Wash

Place a small amount of your lighter shade of paint in a container. Mix in water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until paint is thin like a wash but not so thin that it bubbles when you apply it. This will go over your first coat of paint to help with the layered distressed look.

applying top layer paint on table
Step 4

Apply Paint Wash

Apply the wash to your wood furniture piece using a foam brush. While it is wet, wipe some areas with paper towels to achieve an antiqued look. Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours.

distress edges of table
Step 5

Distress Wood Furniture Edges

To create an even more antiqued look, lightly sand the edges and corners of the table with fine-grit sandpaper, concentrating on edges and areas of natural wear to keep it authentic looking. Wipe clean with a tack cloth to complete your painted distressed furniture.

By BH&G Editors

    Comments (4)

    How difficult was this project?
    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    April 29, 2020
    Difficulty: Kind of Hard
    If you don’t prepare the Wood with primer and shellac when you seal it with acrylic or another sealer it will yellow. There is more than painting it. Start small and work your way up.
    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    July 22, 2018
    I think it's beautiful.
    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    February 25, 2018
    It's easy to ruin a piece of furniture. Real wood furniture that isn't masse of Pine or Rubberwood is hard to find these days. Furthermore, if it's an old, antique piece you are totally ruining its worth. If you choose to ruin furniture by sanding not stripping first, and doing it unevenly you are ruining what was once a beautiful piece of wood. Please use your "distressing" technique on junk furniture. This makes me sick.
    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    February 22, 2018
    Looks like a project I’d like to try.

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