Distressing Techniques

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When furniture is properly prepared and finished it usually looks just like what it is – brand new. But some people don’t like the brand new look, and sometimes a brand new piece of furniture doesn’t fit into the style of the room.  Distressing is used to add the effects of years of wear and tear in a short time. Since old furniture usually has dents, dings, and worn edges, distressing tries to imitate those imperfections from wear over time. Depending on the style of home decor, especially in more industrial spaces, distressed design can offer a beautiful rustic quality to a space. 

Stripping. Stripping is a technique in which a paint remover is used to reveal older colors on a piece of furniture. This technique can work only if the furniture had many paint jobs over the years.  A scraper is also used to remove the old paint.

Dry brushing. To make a piece of furniture look old, the simplest way to distress is to use a dry brush to go over the surface multiple times.

Sanding. If the piece of furniture should have more distressing marks, then a sander is used. If it is lightly distressed, sandpaper can also be used. And it really looks authentic because usually, the parts that are sanded are the ones that would have worn naturally over time, like handles and edges.

Glazing. For adding age to paint, a glaze or antiquing wax can be used.  When glazing furniture, only a hint of color is left, which is why the piece has a look where it seems like the paint turns color over time and naturally wears.

Worm Holing. Faux worm or termite holes can be created if the desire is that a piece of wood looks very old. This is usually done by driving a drill randomly into the face of the wood. To make it look realistic, people who are experts usually carefully study patterns and sizes of holes in original pieces before starting the holes on the new piece.

Distressed Decoupage. Decoupage involves placing cut out pictures onto an object using layers of varnish. When finished, the item usually looks as beautiful as it would if it had been professionally painted. But for an older look, the decoupage is then distressed with sandpaper or some other technique to achieve a refined antique feel.

Distressed Gilding. When someone says something is “gilded”, people think of a glossy shiny gold finish. But it’s not always like that. Sometimes it is preferred to turn, for example, a console and a wall sconce into fabulous old-looking gilded antiques.