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How to Distress Furniture: Shabby Chic Techniques

Updated on January 23, 2018

Your Distressing Shabby Chic Furniture Experience?

Do you, personally, own your own distressed shabby chic furniture?

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This is a nice piece of blue distressed furniture. Learning how to distress furniture isn't hard!
This is a nice piece of blue distressed furniture. Learning how to distress furniture isn't hard! | Source

While some may not agree, I would argue that distressed shabby chic furniture is perhaps one of the most beautiful and visually appealing design aesthetics available on the market today. Growing up, before her passing, I can recall vividly how just about every aspect of my grandmother's home was adorned with various forms of vintage, shabby chic distressed furniture of all sorts. Distressed long before she took ownership of those pieces, a DIY woman at heart myself, I absolutely love manually distressing furniture into visually stunning masterpieces and works of art.

Recreation of pieces can be extremely powerful, can foster an amazing visually appealing design aesthetic, and, in this article, I would love to share some tips with you for doing just that.

Since my grandmother's passing, it seems like the shabby chic design aesthetic has certainly become more and more mainstream over the last few years. Just about everyone, from the elderly, to middle aged individuals, to even the younger generation, has grown to integrate principles of this design aesthetic into their own personal decorating tastes and palates.

Have you noticed how popular shabby chic design is getting lately? The concept is really quite simple, eco-friendly and fun: rather than purchasing shiny, new, fresh out of the wrapper furniture from some designer store and spend a ton, you purchase old, worn out pieces and recreate them. Learning how to distress furniture is a great method to breathe new life into a tired piece. Distressed furniture is perfect for antiques, vintage chic aesthetic, and shabby chic. It's also cathartic!

This article is intended to teach you how to distress furniture, and give you some methods to try out. These tips are all very 'hands on', so you'll get a real sense of involvement and personal touch with your distressed furniture creations. I'll teach you how to make it work, even distressing furniture with paint.

Read on, and learn how to distress furniture now!

Your Distressing Shabby Chic Furniture Experience?

Have you, personally, ever distressed your own shabby chic furniture piece(s)?

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You can distress your own furniture with simple tools of destruction.
You can distress your own furniture with simple tools of destruction. | Source

Beat the Heaven Out of It!

I've mentioned earlier that learning how to distress furniture isn't hard, it's actually quite cathartic, and it's very true. This method is a lot of fun, because you actually get to beat the tar out of your furniture! Often you'll get an older piece, or one that could look old, but it's still in pristine condition without a nick on it. For the true shabby chic furniture experience, you'll want to create a worn out patina. Rather than wait for a hundred years of consistent use to do this for you, beat the tar out of it!

This is a commonly accepted method for how to distress furniture, and it's actually done on some very high end lines. Indeed, some are willing to pay a pretty penny for this type of intense furniture treatment, just like there is such a strong and compelling market for high end, worn-looking clothing (like jeans). There isn't really a guideline for how you beat up your furniture pieces, just be creative. You don't actually want to damage the usefulness of your distressed furniture, you just want to give the illusion of wear and tear.

So, how to distress your furniture by beating: you can use hammers, bats, or chains. Chains, I find, actually work well. Just take the piece into the back yard or garage or something, put on some hearing protection (it can get loud!) and go nuts. If your piece is solid wood or metal, it will take a surprising amount of force to put any considerable dents into it, so don't be afraid to get into it.

Your Preferred Way to Distress Your Furniture?

What is your preferred way of distressing your own shabby chic furniture?

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Sand and Burn

Another common method for how to distress furniture is using sandpaper, a sanding block, an electric sander, or something acidic that will eat away at the finish or the paint. Sandpaper is super cheap, and wooden or painted distressed furniture will easily be scratched and marred up by it. An electric sander is a great idea if your piece is large or you have many distressed furniture pieces to work on. Acidic material is a little riskier, but it can create an amazing look or patina, especially on metal with paint on it. Paint thinner works too.

You can burn or scorch your distressed furniture as well, again just be very careful. You don't want it to actually catch fire or lose structural integrity, you just want to slightly remove the finish and / or paint that already exists.

This is a nice example of tastefully distressed furniture. Learning how to distress furniture isn't hard, you should try it out!
This is a nice example of tastefully distressed furniture. Learning how to distress furniture isn't hard, you should try it out! | Source

Distressing Painted Furniture

Distressing furniture with paint on it can be difficult. I'd suggest careful use of sandpaper to get the proper effect. You can use actually use a heavy layer of clear coat to give a painted antique piece of furniture a really nice texture. Using a torch, you can lightly scorch the paint to give it some of those cool spiderweb crackles.

When learning how to distress furniture, no matter what technique you use, I highly recommend finishing the piece with some sort of sealant or lacquer afterwards, even if it's something as simple as mineral oil for wood. In the process of creating your distressed furniture, you're exposing unfinished wood to oxygen and water, and it can degrade quickly from that point. Protect it, and it will last another lifetime.

In conclusion, thank you for reading this article! If you are ever interested in reading more about distressing furniture, as well as other furniture design related articles, feel free to navigate to my profile here on HubPages. I have written several articles about the vintage and shabby chic design aesthetics that you may find to be particularly interesting and useful.

Good Luck!

Painted distressed furniture can be a lot of fun to work with.
Painted distressed furniture can be a lot of fun to work with.

Finding Your Way Here.

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    • ShabbyGypsy profile image


      2 years ago

      This is a great project I would enjoy.

    • C123 profile image


      6 years ago

      That is so beautiful!

    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 

      6 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      I absolutely love this look. I'm going to have to try this out, thank you for writing this!


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