How to Paint Distressed Wood Furniture

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.

How to Distress Wood

Before getting started, chose 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 water marks; the painted finish will hide those flaws. Look for a piece with lines you love and 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-base paints are known for their durability and oftentimes the go-to option for wood trim and cabinetry.

  • Working Time 2 Hours
  • Start to Finish 2 Days
  • Difficulty         Easy
  • Involves Painting

What you need


  • Drop cloth
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrush
  • Small container for mixing paint
  • Foam brush
  • Paper towels
  • Tack cloth or rag


  • Wood furniture
  • Paint, in desired colors (x2)

How to do it

Step 2

Apply Base Paint

Apply base paint
Step 3

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

Step 3

Create a Paint Wash

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.

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