Looking for that old, chippy painted look? This tutorial will show you how to achieve an antique, layered effect even on new furniture.
If you’ve followed me for any time at all, you know that I love juxtaposition – the fancy, former-English-teacher (aka super nerdy) word for contrasts. 😉 I like to combine traditional rugs with unfinished tree trunks for side tables or clean line leather couches with delicate tufted upholstered chairs. I paired a gilded mirror in our recent bathroom makeover with a rustic iron and reclaimed wood towel rack. And I love the contrast of my formal, elegant pieces like the antique dining set I inherited from my great grandmother and simple, rustic pieces like the boot box I built last fall.
Sometimes, those wonderfully aged pieces come to you – through inheritance, antique stores, or the side of the road… But other times, either for budget or size reasons, you want to make one yourself. To give something that antique, chippy, layered paint look.
Before we get into the details, let me say just a few things. First, I was obviously working with completely raw wood (since I built the box from scratch… you can get the building plans here if you’re interested). I will be giving instructions accordingly, but if you are starting with an already finished piece, you can just skip the staining step. However, remember that paint adheres differently depending on the finish your piece has. Be prepared for more or less chipping depending on your piece. Now, without further ado…
- hammer, wood chisel, screwdriver or any other sharp, descructive objects
- sandpaper and putty knife
- stain (I used a combo of Minwax special walnut and dark walnut)
- hard wax (I just popped a tealight out of the metal casing)
- soft wax or oil (I used Fusion Mineral Paint beeswax finish)
- dark blue milk paint (I used Miss Mustard Seed’s Artissimo)
- white milk paint (I used Miss Mustard Seed’s Ironstone)
- soft wax to finish the piece (I used Miss Mustard Seed’s furniture wax)
- rags and brushes for staining, painting, and waxing
Step 1: Distressing
Beat it up. Use your hammer, wood chisel, or whatever to cut gauges, make dents, and wear it out. Think logically… Where would an old piece of furniture be most damaged? Where would it get kicked? Dinged? Cut out a chunk or two if it seems appropriate. Have fun.
Step 2: Stain
Stain the entire piece. Old wood is rarely light colored; it darkens with age, so when you distress the final layers, you want a darker wood to show through. If desired, stain the damaged places a little darker than the rest; this will draw attention to the nicks and character.
Step 3: Wax
Using your candle, rub places where the paint would logically wear off. Where would people touch the piece often? Where would feet or other pieces of furniture bump against it? Where did you bang it up? Paint would probably chip off on those places. Wherever you put the wax is where the paint will likely crack and chip, so think logically. I also waxed over some knots in the wood for added texture to the final product. Then, using some soft wax on a rag, wipe some larger sections. Keep the wax layer very thin; think of it more as an oil to provide a messier spot for the paint to chip or crack. I used this inside the box where firewood would have almost destroyed the paint and in a few sections on the side where oil from people’s hands might have broken down the paint.
Step 4: Layer #1
Mix a very small amount of your darker color (I used one sample bag of artissimo) and paint it randomly. Let dry.
Step 5: Layer #2
Once the dark paint is dry, use your tea light and soft wax again haphazardly on the dark blue paint. Remember, where you layer the wax, your blue paint should show through to the final product. Next, using the same cup you used to mix your dark paint, mix your white paint. This should create a very light blue color. Paint the entire piece. If you opt to leave any portion of the piece unpainted, be sure to protect it with paper and tape; the milk paint over the wax can be kind of drippy sometimes.
Step 6: Layer #3
Repeat the waxing in various places. Again, remember to look for logical wear spots. Finally, in a clean cup (mason jars work great, by the way, because you can close the lid to shake the paint), mix your pure white paint. Paint the entire piece. Note that while the coverage of the last coat should be pretty solid (it should not be streaky blue and white), it will likely have unpainted nicks (which is perfect!) and will already be cracking in some places.
Step 7: Exposing Layers
Using your putty knife, scrape gently over the entire piece, allowing the paint to chip off where it chooses. Next, using a fine grain sandpaper (start with the finest you have), sand those places where you remember putting wax. If you forget, just wing it. 😉 You should begin to see the various layers – dark wood, dark blue, light blue – all appearing in different places. If you are not getting enough variation with the fine sandpaper, move up to a rougher grade. The thing to watch out for is that you don’t make it look like it’s been sanded off. You want it to look like it has naturally worn or chipped off. Feel free to take the hammer, screwdriver, or wood chisel to it again, as well.
Step 8: Finishing
Using a soft furniture wax, give the entire piece a good clear coat when you are happy with the look. Allow the wax to dry and cure according to instructions before you use the piece.
And there it is: a chipped, layered, authentic looking rustic antique paint job. Would I rather have the real thing? Sure. But sometimes you need a piece a certain size or function, and it’s not always easy to find it… I love this as an alternative. And for what it’s worth, it sounds like a lot of steps, I know. But it’s more of an art than a science, and it only took me a few hours. The slowest part is waiting for the layers to dry in between.
What do you think? Any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask. Happy painting.
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