Furniture Painting

Distressing Furniture-How To Lightly Distress Chalk Painted Furniture

I am excited to share this next step in the furniture painting process with you which is distressing furniture. If you are new to my introduction to furniture series and just joining in, you will find the other posts relating to this? topic HERE. So far we have covered all the steps to get us to this portion of furniture painting. Which is distressing. This is a step I love but it can be a little tricky to navigate if you have never done it before.

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How to Minimally Distress Furniture

Because distressing furniture is a step that you get to get creative with. It is also a step that can take your furniture painting down hill quickly! Today I will be sharing with you how to minimally distress furniture. These tips will help keep you on the straight and narrow furniture painting path. These steps to distressing furniture will also ensure you get the look you’re after! And be able to do so with out ruining your furniture painting project in the process.

How to Begin Distressing Furniture

Step One to Distressing Furniture

The first step to distressing furniture is simple, make sure your furniture is dry. I typically go right in and start distressing furniture after I have painted it. Its easy to start distressing away and in my haste not realize that the piece isn’t fully dry. To avoid this pitfall I simply feel my piece of furniture. If it is still cold to the touch that is an indicator that it is not dry. Your piece of furniture should be dry to the touch as well room temperature before you dive in.

Step Two

Make sure you have the right tools to properly distress furniture. I use only two tools when distressing furniture painted in chalk paint. That is a

  1. Foam Sanding Block that is a medium or 80 grit
  2. Fine Foam Sanding Pads that are 220 grit

One of the easiest ways to mess up when it comes to furniture distressing is using the wrong tools. I am a lover of good power tools. I learned very quickly however, that power tools are not the right choice for distressing. Leave your orbital sander for more intense jobs like prepping your furniture . An orbital sander is too rough to distress furniture. For that reason I stick to manual sanding methods using the products above.

Step Three

How much do you distress? How much I distress varies based on the project at hand. Sometimes I want a more chippy weathered look. In those instances I will distress more. But today and for this piece of furniture I am going for a different look. This dresser will go in my boys room. There space is a little more modern and less rustic. For those reasons it makes sense to do very minimal distressing on their dresser. You may even opt to not distress at all! Distressing is optional and not a requirement for furniture painting.

Even if you choose not to distress, I suggest lightly sanding the entire final coat with your foam sanding block to smooth away any imperfections.

Step Four

Where to start. I typically start at the top of my piece of furniture and work my way down. This is also personal preference and where you start wont make much difference in the end. This just helps me organize how I am distressing furniture. It also helps me make sure I have covered the entire thing by keeping a consistent pattern to where I start and end distressing furniture.

Once you have applied your top coat you cant really go back and distress so make sure you are finished before you head to the next step.

Step Five

Where to distress? This is where distressing can be tricky. I have tried different methods and techniques but overall this is what I have determined is my favorite way to distress: I focus on the edges of my piece of furniture as well as the details. I find that my preferred look when it comes to distressing is something that looks more authentic. An authentically old and worn piece of furniture would not wear on most if any of the flat surfaces. For that reason I steer clear of the drawer fronts flat tops and sides and stick to just the edges and details.

For example: The edges of the drawers would wear naturally over time from rubbing along the frame after being opened and closed. The top would be worn on the edges from being touched and moved over time.

I am typically not happy with the look of chalk paint that is distressed on the flat surface areas. I keep it simple and use the less is more approach. That’s not to say that you cannot distress these areas. Its a personal choice but after trial and error I find that its not my favorite look and is trickier to achieve a look I’m pleased with in the end.

Why I like to Keep Distressing Furniture Minimal

One more than one occasion I have attempted to distress these flat surfaces rubbing the paint down to expose the wood. This gets trickier because I then don’t know how many areas like this are enough or too little? It eventually leads me back to my paint roller to start over. Don’t get me wrong I do love a really distressed piece of furniture but for those project I use milk paint.

Step 6

The only thing left to do is actually distress! I always start with my foam sanding block when distressing furniture. I do however find that sometimes the foam sanding block is not coarse enough to really distress. My goal is to lightly sand the edges of a piece of furniture leaving some small areas of the wood exposed from distressing. If you can’t achieve this with the foam sanding block use your sanding pad.

Furniture Distressing Hack!

I like to place my pad right over my foam sanding block. Holding on the edges of the pad where they extend over. This makes for a simple way to grip your pad easily. There are devices you can purchase that do this same thing. However? this allows you to get double use out of one tool and save you money!

Sand using these tools and concentrate on all the edges and details! You may want to distress over them a second time to smooth everything out using just your foam sanding block.

Step 7

Give your furniture a once over! Make sure everything is smooth and you have evenly worked the edges. You only want some areas of the wood exposed not the entire edge. At least that is what I prefer.

how to distress furniture-distressing chalk painted furniture

You’re done!!! See how easy that was?!

Next week we will be back for the finishing touches on this dresser! Ill be pulling out a tough top coat to protect this dresser from my vivacious boys. I cant wait to show you what it looks like once the hardware is back on and its polished and finished!

XO Haley

2 Comments on “Distressing Furniture-How To Lightly Distress Chalk Painted Furniture

  1. Very beautiful, but the word “minimal” is subjective in this context as in most. My preference for minimal distressing is the type one would see come out on a fine North Carolina lacquered piece before the word “distressing” was a household word. I love the kind of subtle distressing no one even notices on a conscious level. I have a cabinet in my foyer that is minimally distressed and when I told my daughter that is the type of distressing I prefer she didn’t believe the piece was distressed at all. When I showed her the distressing she was amazed. I just want the “crispness” taken off the piece and that is all. Still you did a beautiful job and it is a beautiful piece.

    1. You could definitely say “minimal” is subjective! I think my main purpose in naming this post that was to indicate it would not be an overly chippy or super distressed piece! Still visibly distressed but not very heavily! I have other tutorials for that!! thanks for sharing!!

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