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How to Make Furniture Look Distressed with Paint

I wanted to share my hutch make-over with you and how you can make furniture look distressed with paint. You can also use this technique of adding layers of paint to make a new piece of furniture  look old as if it’s been in your family for years and years. This is a DIY project that can really add character to your furnishings and decor.
How to make a new piece of furniture look old

When we were renovating our kitchen, even though I wanted something old and antique; newer off of Craigslist was in the budget. 🙂 I found this amazing hutch that was the right size and had plenty of storage. It’s only flaw was that it was newer and I wanted something that looked like it came out of an old home. Distressing furniture lends well to a farmhouse style, cottagecore style or even just a home with a vintage or rustic look.
how to make a new peice of furinture look old with paint and distressing
I knew that with paint I could get the look I wanted, I just needed some patience. There a a few distressing techniques I used on this cabinet. First, I sanded the entire piece of furniture so the wood had a bit of a “tooth” on it using a 100 grit sanding block. It doesn’t have to be sanded to bare wood, but just enough so the paint can grip better and won’t peel off. However, if you do want some bare wood to show through the painted furniture, you will want to sand those areas down to wood using a power sander or paint stripper if needed.
Sanding a wood mirror

 After sanding,to add more distressing, carefully add a few dents with the back of a hammer to the wood. Once it is distressed, rub a candle on any edges you wanted to have the bare wood showing through on. The candle wax will act as a resist so the paint doesn’t stick to that area. Then the wood furniture is ready to paint!

To give the illusion of layers of paint, instead of priming with a plain white primer, I used  a tinted light grey primer on the base as my first coat. Once the gray primer is dried, you can now add another layer of candle wax in various places. When you go over those areas with a fine-grit sandpaper, the gray primer will show through, giving it another layer of patina and distressing.
how to make a new peice of furinture look old with paint and distressing
After the primer is dry, then add your top coat. I picked a pretty light aqua blue by Benjamin Moore called Jade. For even more age and layers, apply a second coat of paint or even a third. The more paint layers in distressing paint techniques, the older and more aged a piece will look.
how to make a new peice of furinture look old with paint and distressing
Once the paint is dry, take your sandpaper and a damp rag. Wipe the rage over the surface and then sand the paint while it’s slightly wet. This will help keep down the dust. Sand teh areas where you applied the candle wax to lift the paint to the underlying layers or wood. Some people like to use a wire brush as well to achieve a scraped surface look. With this distressed look, all of the imperfections you can add, the better.
how to make a new peice of furinture look old with paint and distressing
As well as sandpaper, I also distressed a bit with masking tape. Once I had the look I wanted, I went over the entire piece with minwax wood stain in American Oak to give it an antique look. You can also use dark wax, however wax will need to be reapplied occasionally. I prefer stain for a lasting look of distressed wood, and using glaze if you want to use paint as your aging medium as another option.  Once it dried, I went over the entire piece in Polyacrylic in Satin finish to seal it. Either one will darken the paint for the right effect. If you are trying to decide using wax or poly with paint, you can read this post here.
painted hutch in white kitchen
 And then painted the inside the wall color so my white dishes pop, and my grandmother’s collection of hobnail cake plates stood out.
painted furniture kitchen hutch with a distressed finish
I added rust colored handles and pulls for a more rustic look, and cup handles to the drawers.
how to make a new peice of furinture look old with paint and distressing
It holds so much more than the cabinets we had there, but takes up less space so our little, cozy kitchen actually seems a bit larger. It was such a good decision to pull them out. You can read about our entire kitchen remodel here.
how to make a new peice of furinture look old with paint and distressing

I am so glad I did it. I love it more than if I had bought a piece!!!! You can easily take an old piece and make it look old with some patience and paint!


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  1. What a gorgeous china cabinet. I absolutely love it. You did find the perfect color, I love the distressing too. Way to give your piece some awesome character!

  2. Okay, here’s the deal…
    I’m paying for your airfare, putting you up in our cute little 1910 Victorian, and you’re gonna re-do my fugly 1990-era Broyhill armoires.

    I’ll leave the light on, woot!


  3. It looks sooo good! Do you put a finishing product over the top at the end so it feels smooth? If so what? Or do you just leave it after the distressing? I would love to know.

  4. Jen- Another great thing about this is that it appears to be super sturdy and sometimes older ones are a little shaky….I think you did an awesome job!

  5. Beautiful piece of furniture done with lots of care.Good choice of color.You will have so much fun dressing your cabinet up.Just think how fun at the holidays it will be.Have a warm day..Chickie

  6. Hello Jennifer!! This is Triveni. I am a young development professional from India and I have been following your blog since the past two years. I am not quite sure how I stumbled upon your blog but I just wanted you to know how wonderful it is. In fact its one of the first things I read when I am at work.

    I am amazed at the variety of your accomplishments and you are always a source of great inspiration for me.

    All the very best with your new venture.

  7. Oh goodness, I love it, amazing job!! Truly, it looks vintage and perfectly old! My cousin loves to redo furniture for our shop and she does such a great job, but I don’t have patience for it, LOL! 😉

  8. Woman, you are SO GOOD!!! You blow my mind. I LOVE this! I want to do something similar to my hutch in the dining area but I have been stalled out because I’m not sure where to start. I know you have tons of tutorials here, but I don’t know which one is the most applicable to this type of project? Are you going to share your step-by-steps on this one?
    ~Angela 🙂

  9. Wow Jen! It is simply stunning. The color is perfect. I love it. I can’t wait to see the whole kitchen!!!

    I’m having a giveaway…I hope you’ll stop by!!


  10. This piece turned out beautifully. I can’t believe what you started with, gotta love craigslist. Your whole kitchen redo is amazing, I especially love your countertops. Hugs-Carrie

  11. When I saw this hutch in your kitchen photos, I thought it was an antique! You did a fabulous job painting and distressing it. It looked so plain and boring before and you turned it into the star of the room!

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