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How to Achieve a Really Distressed Paint Finish on Furniture

June 28, 2015

CREATE   |   Published June 28, 2015

Vintage Mint Painted Step Ladder from anderson + grant

Normally, the older and more abused a piece of furniture looks, the more I like it.  This ladder that I picked up a few weeks ago at an antique shop was screaming for a distressed finish.  In my mind, it needed to look like a step ladder that someone threw a sloppy coat of paint on fifty years ago and has been using it since.  

Tips for Creating a Really Distressed Painted Finish on Furniture {}

Distressed Furniture How To

To achieve this finish, I used four different "techniques," although I hate to call them that because each step was so simple.  They really all worked together to give an extremely distressed look, though.

DIY Distressed Furniture - Vintage Mint Ladder

For this project, I decided to stop out of my box a bit and chose to use a light mint color for my paint.  Pastels are normally not my thing.  But when I stated my fear over the use of the color on Instagram, everyone assured me that mint is a great color and to go for it.

Oddly enough, by the time the ladder was done, the mint really doesn't look so mint-y after all.  It almost looks like a light gray.  But I'm so pleased with how it turned out whatever color it looks like.

Distressed Mint Step Ladder

My favorite parts are all the metal hinges and bolts.  I didn't worry about trying to keep them free from paint since it was supposed to look a little sloppy, which made the job easier.  Then they got sanded with the rest of the ladder to once again reveal most of the patina on the metal.

Chalk Paint on Metal Hardware

Distressed Paint Finish

Vintage Step Ladder

If you'd like to get a really distressed finish on your next painting project, here is what you'll need to do.....

Distressing Chalk Paint on Wood

1.  Start by rubbing clear candle wax or a wax puck* over areas that you want the paint to chip away easily.

Focus on areas like the edges of your furniture or bottoms of the feet where paint would naturally be worn away on an old piece.  I also like to add some wax in sections were there in a gouge in the wood or where the grain is raised.

The wax creates a resist and protects the surface underneath from being sanded away, while not allowing the paint you add on top to stick.  It is a trick I use on practically everything I paint.

2.  Apply your paint in a really sloppy way.  

Don't worry about painting each and every spot on the piece of furniture.  Places that are left bare will look like areas where the paint has totally worn away when you're done.  Do be sure to paint places that wouldn't naturally distress so that it doesn't end up looking like you skipped that spot!

How to Distress Chalk Paint

3.  Apply one coat of paint over the entire piece.  

But when that coat is dry, go back in small random places and add a second coat.   When everything is being sanded, those areas will distress less, making the finish look more worn in some places than others.

4.  When both coats of paint are dry, go over the entire piece with a heavy 80 grit sandpaper*.  

It has a lot of texture to it and will sand away paint easily.  Sand over every area to blend in what you've done to make it all look natural.

*affiliate link

Vintage Ladder in the kitchen

When my ladder was done being painted, I went over the entire thing with Miss Mustard Seed's antiquing wax (affiliate link) to further age the ladder and give it just a little patina.  It really settles into the cracks and nicks in the wood to make it look old.

Antique ladder and white pitcher of flowering branches

So that is my completed ladder.  Are you into the really distressed look for painted furniture like I am?  I'd love for you to let me know what you think in the comments below, visit me on Facebook, or chat with me on Instagram.  

Hope you have a great start to your week!  

How to create distressed finish on furniture tutorial from anderson and grant

Need some more inspiration for painting furniture?  Check out these great posts!

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