Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shabby Chic - how to distress furniture

My husband and I are in the arduous process of moving into our first home, and we're on a pretty tight budget. A lot of the furniture we have right now is a little.... Ikea. It serves a purpose, but it's nothing to write home about. Standard and functional - but not a whole lot of personality. You get the idea. It all started with a cute little coffee table that I bought about two years ago, about a month before I brought home a new puppy. Well, the new puppy, Sam, wanted to know what the coffee table was made of - so he ate the corner. With a sigh, I turned the coffee table around so at least the gnawed-off corner would be against the wall.

So here we are, two years later, and I have to decide what to do with the table. Is it worth moving (especially in a heat index above 100 degrees) sans a corner? So I asked a few furniture professionals and googled the heck out of refurbishing wood furniture to get some good ideas. Distressing it seemed like the simplest and most fun way to give it a second chance. And it was so successful that I have since decided on a shabby-chic theme for the foyer and kitchen in the new house. It's so easy! The process is a great creative outlet and sanding wood is an amazing stress reliever. And what I really love is when people come over to check out the new house and ooh and ah over the corner shelf I refinished in the foyer, and then ask me where I bought such a cool piece.

The good news: I really had no idea what I was doing when I started. I still don't really know, but that's the best part about the shabby-chic look; it's almost impossible to screw up. And if the finished product isn't what I had in mind, I can sand it off and start over. So here's my step-by-simple-step way to distress wood pieces.

1. Pick your colors. This is my most favorite part! Most of the sites I checked out advised using a darker color underneath if you opted to use two colors other than bare wood for the base. I've used shades of green, black and silver, red and light wood, and brown with tan. I would definitely recommend testing what you like on less expensive pieces: aka, don't experiment with a family heirloom or a major investment piece.

2. Sand away! Depending upon whether or not the piece you're using already has paint or a finish on it, use a fine or medium grain sand paper. This also helps exfoliate, so to speak, and can create little grooves that will add to the character of the piece. Wipe off all surfaces with a dry towel.

3. If you're only going to use one color paint (with bare wood showing through) rub a wax candle on the corners and in places that would be most likely to show wear. If you are going to use two colors, paint the sections of the piece that you would like to with your base color. This will be the color that shows through (like layers of paint over time.) Let this coat completely dry. Multiple coats are totally up to you. I'm usually too impatient, except for with red shades. After the paint is dry, rub wax over corners, edges, and places that would likely show wear over time. The wax will make sanding the top layer of paint of much easier and gives you a little more control in terms of where the paint will sand away.

4. Painting - Round 2! Paint the desired portions of the piece with the top-coat color. Allow to dry, and don't rush it!

5. Sand again! I like to use a medium grain sand paper for this part, but that because I like the really-shabby-chic look. But I think the amount of distressing is subject to the color choices as well. I refinished a kitched shelf in a candy-apple red and used a lot of sanding to tone it down. Experimenting is the only way you'll find what you like to do, so again I would stress making some test runs on thrift-store finds or bare pieces of wood.

6. Technically, you don't have to do this step, and you could've called it a day after step 5. But I like to protect my hard (or not so hard) work, so I recommend finishing it off with a water-based poly coat.

How easy was that?

Here are links to a few great articles that I found:
http://www.hgtv.com/ is another great resource for at-home how-to's

In keeping with the shabby-chic theme, a new piece just arrived at our store that I'm completely in love with! This distressed corner-shelf has an eggshell top coat and distressed bronze trim. It's currently priced for $136. The book-ends are really cute too!

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