DIY Design Tips: Learn How to Avoid Retail Prices by Painting, Distressing, and Finishing a Piece of Furniture All By Yourself

A distressed and antiqued piece of furniture can add a unique charm to any room. And if you do it yourself, the process of distressing and antiquing furniture is relatively inexpensive. And best of all, it’s not really difficult! With a bit of liquid sander/deglosser, spray primer, spray paint, sandpaper, and stain, you can turn just about any piece of wood furniture into a gorgeous piece.

1. Remove all hardware from furniture, and be sure that the piece of furniture is clean.

2. Using a dry rag, apply the liquid sander/deglosser according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the container. If you are going to stain the top, there’s no need to use deglosser on the top.

3. After the surfaces are adequately deglossed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, apply the spray primer. On the drawers, use a piece of cardboard under the edges of the drawer fronts to avoid excessive overspray.

4. After the surfaces are primed, follow with the spray paint. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on the paint. Spray paints generally have specific guidelines regarding dry times and recoating. Ignoring these guidelines could result in your paint finish wrinkling, cracking, or peeling. 

5. If you’re staining the top of your furniture piece, use an electric sander to strip the top. Use a high-grit sandpaper to remove the finish, and use a lower-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface.

6. Use standard sandpaper to manually remove the finish from any areas that can’t be reached with the electric sander.

7. Use this sandpaper to distress the painted finish. When distressing the paint, the key to achieving a natural look is to remove the paint in areas where natural wear would occur, such as raised areas, corners, areas around handles and/or knobs. You can distress as much or as little as you want.

8. Using a rag, apply stain evenly to the top. Use according to manufacturer’s directions if you want to use more than one coat of stain.

9. Next, it’s time to antique the painted areas. If you placed the drawers back in the base after painting, you’ll need to remove all of the drawers.

10. Using a paint brush and stain, apply stain to the entire drawer face.

11. Using a rag, wipe the stain off of the drawer front. This process may require the use of a couple of rags. You can also use two; one for the initial removal of stain, and another reserved for the final buffing stage.

12. Continue the staining/wiping process until the while furniture piece is antiqued.

13. To give the drawer pulls a fresh look, start with a coat of primer, followed by a coat of spray paint, and ending with one or two coats of clear sealer.

14. Finally, use a foam brush to apply at least two coats of polyurethane to the top of the furniture piece.

Final words: If you prefer to paint the top, rather than stain the top, you can follow the same instructions for painting the base and doors/drawers of the piece. However, after painting and antiquing the top, you will need to use at least two coats of non-yellowing polyurethane. Be sure that the product says specifically that it’s non-yellowing, or the top of the piece will be a different color from the base.

2 thoughts on “DIY Design Tips: Learn How to Avoid Retail Prices by Painting, Distressing, and Finishing a Piece of Furniture All By Yourself”

  1. Distressing furniture is so much harder than it looks. The greatest part about distressed pieces is that they look “effortless” as if they were supposed to be messy. Sometimes though, if you miss the mark, it actually just looks messy. It requires a certain technique. This article does provide some of the great basic tips. Unfortunately, from my experience, the only way you’ll nail the distressed effect is by practicing.


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