How To Refurnish & Distress Furniture

By Bridget Buchanan

I have always dreamt in do it yourself (DIY) projects for as long as I can remember. I’m the girl who loves repurposing items, visiting vintage markets, and I can spend hours on Pinterest dreaming up new ideas. Creating makes me feel alive and energized so that’s where my love for refinishing an older piece of furniture stemmed from.

Even though I love Pinterest, after reading more than my fair share of articles on paint, techniques, and how-to’s it just left me feeling overwhelmed. I then decided what better than to pick the brain of a family friend who had experience refinishing furniture. My motto has always been, might as well learn from others‘ mistakes. After a good long hour on the phone, this amazing friend gave me step by step instructions, and a fool proof way, to set out on a new adventure with all the tools I needed to tackle this project head on.

So, here I am to share these easy step by step instructions with you, so you too can tackle that refinishing project you’ve always dreamt about. I’ve also included a couple cool tips and tricks thrown in for distressing furniture because this farmhouse, shabby chic girl loves anything with a touch of distressed.

The first step is to collect your supplies (I went to Home Depot):

-TSP (Trisodium phosphate heavy duty cleaner)
-Rubber gloves
-100 & 400 grit sandpaper
-Tack cloth
-Nylon paint brush
-Behr (with primer) latex paint
-Sandpaper holder with handle (optional)

Next, it’s time to get started on your project:

-Remove any drawers and handles
-Wash with TSP (wear rubber gloves)
-Sand with 100 grit sandpaper (only sand to roughen up the paint)
-Wipe with tack cloth (this removes any flecks of dust or paint etc)
-Wash a 2nd time with TSP
-Wipe 2nd time with tack cloth
-Paint first coat of paint (Let it dry fully, approximately 24 hrs or longer if needed)
-*Sand with 400 grit sandpaper
-Wipe with tack cloth
-Apply 2nd coat of paint

*Sand with 400 grit sandpaper after each paint coat until putting on the final coat. The 400 grit sandpaper will fix any imperfections like dripped paint. Once the final coat of paint is applied, if distressing is desired, sand carefully with 400 grit to get desired look.

I lucked out with my night stand because I was painting it cream over the current black so when I got to distressing it, I was able to barely sand with the 400 grit sandpaper to get the black to show through.  

The final step is to apply an acrylic topcoat. I chose Final Coat Low Gloss and purchased it at The Rustic Hutch in Mesa, AZ. Be sure to purchase a staining pad, also sold at The Rustic Hutch and ask for the Final Coat easy to follow instructions. Side note, The Rustic Hutch is an absolutely adorable little store full of shabby chic and rustic decor as well, I highly recommend it!

Distressing option #1:

-Paint a white coat and let dry
-Then paint a black coat of paint over it
-Sand with 400 grit sandpaper (just till you get the white to show through)
-Wipe with tack cloth
-Apply top coat

Distressing option #2:

-Paint color (that you’d like to show through in distressed areas)
-Apply Vaseline to the areas you’d like to distress
-Paint desired color (the paint will not adhere to Vaseline areas)
-Apply top coat

My friend also gave me a tip on cleaning and storing paint brushes:

-Rinse brush with water
-Put a dab of murphy’s oil soap in 2 cups water, and swish brush around
-Hang brush upside down (bristles down)

In between painting coats, you can put the used paint brush in a plastic bag, then you can skip washing the brush in-between coats.  

So without further ado, here’s the after photos of my first refinished piece of furniture! I was able to knock this project out in a weekend so it’s not a huge commitment, it just requires some patience between applying coats of paint. I found this gem for $20 on an app called Offer Up. I’m a firm believer that you just can’t beat the sturdy old bones of a quality made piece of furniture; add in some adorable character and I’m sold! I got the nightstand to match an armoire (also purchased on Offer Up) that I fell in love with for my guest room and it ended up being the perfect addition. Now it’s your turn, what will you breathe new life into? The options are endless!

How to Distress Furniture IMG_1647 IMG_1649