How to make things look Distressed

There are two types of things people like – super new things, and super old things. New things are great and all, with the warranties and glossy finishes, but there’s a growing trend for things that are rather “distressed”. Distressed is a term used to describe anything that is intentionally “weathered” or made to look older than it really is.

It could also describe furniture that is actually that way due to time and use. Of course, this is usually the exception rather than the rule. Most distressed furniture on the market today is created intentionally using various techniques to model typical wear patterns. Such items can be rather stylish when used in the right way.

I personally enjoy some rustic, distressed pieces of furniture around the house – within reason – and feel it adds to a sense of calm and serenity. Obviously, this is purely a matter of taste, but for those of you who have similar inclinations, you might find the following information helpful. Artificially creating rustic or distressed pieces of furniture isn’t all that difficult.

In fact, it’s actually quite easy to mimic such patterns if you know how. You should of course know that you can only go so far when artificially creating a distressed look. Authentic pieces of distressed furniture are often made with wood that is sought out from remote areas of the world such as parts of Africa for this very purpose.

But no matter how much we might prefer the “real” stuff, there’s obviously a limit to how much naturally distressed wood we’re going to find – even if we do hunt for it. So the alternative of “taking matters into your own hands” is probably your best bet. So let’s talk about how one might go about distressing their furniture.

Techniques you can use to distress your furniture

*(Bear in mind that all the following techniques must be executed tastefully and in moderation in order for it to look even halfway “real”. Don’t blame me if your project ends up looking like someone simply beat up a perfectly good piece of furniture. Take your time and use creativity and imagination.)

  • Use a chain and whack random areas to where you leave small round dents.
  • Use sandpaper and sand appropriate places giving it the “worn out” look. The key to doing this well is to imagine what places would naturally wear the most. For example, corners and edges, seats, arm rests, foot rests etc.
  • Take a blunt object and put scratches in random locations. Vary the lengths and patterns of these scratches to make it look as natural as possible.

Another method is to paint your workpiece with several layers of different shades and colors, and sand appropriately revealing the layers beneath. Applying a layer of clear varnish over the entire piece will blend it all together. It may be a good idea to break for a day or two throughout your project as it may give you new perspective.

Distressing furniture is in a way, a form of art and as such, it often requires time, patience, and an artistic scrutinization that isn’t usually necessary for other DIY projects. Don’t be afraid to even leave it untouched for several weeks before resuming. These longer intervals will give you what only time can.

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