Shabby chic and how to do it effectively

Updating old furniture with a shabby chic look isn't difficult at all; it's actually incredibly simple.

Arts Interior Design Brian Webb

This article was published on January 16th, 2017

Interior design is about personalization; injecting your own personality and style into your home in a contemporary, quirky and unique way. One of the most popular ways to do this is with repurposing  furniture to make it look newly old! Shabby chic, also known as distressed, is the practice of turning wooden furniture into a refreshed, vintage style piece that fits perfectly with your home décor. Here are a few steps on how to do this and do it well.

  1. Preparation

Work in a large, well-ventilated space. You’ll need to be able to leave your project for at least a couple of days because needs to dry between coats, or you may want to take breaks. Before you get started, gather all the supplies you’ll need, including sandpaper, wire wool, paint, clean paintbrushes and any additional fixtures you want (new handles, hinges/doorknobs etc.). Use paint that is suitable for wood; a matte finish always looks much better with a shabby chic style compared to glossy finishes. Pastel or neutral tones work best but be imaginative. You can experiment with complimentary tones.

Shabby chic furniture

  1. Get ready and sand it down!

Remove any fixtures you don’t want to paint, including handles, knobs, hinges or fastenings. The item you want to update likely already has a layer of varnish or paint, so you will need to sand it down. Remember, you don’t need a bare surface to work on so you don’t need to remove the entire original layer. The surface should be scuffed to give the new paint something to stick to and no old paint flaking off because this will come off with the new paint.

Shabby chic furniture

  1. Fix it

Got any bit chunks, dents of scratches? There are a couple of ways to fix them. Poly-filler works wonders. Fill the hole and sand it down so the surface is even. For smaller marks, a great tip is to get a damp cloth or rag and place it over the hole, then get a very hot iron and hold it on top for a few seconds. The heat causes the damp wood to expand filling the hole. Sand over the surface and you’re ready!

chalk painted end tables

  1. Clean and paint

Wipe down the entire piece with a lightly damp cloth and leave overnight to dry, making sure any sawdust and dust is removed from the piece and clean the surrounding area to avoid dust sticking to the wet paint. You should now be ready to paint! Multiple thin, light layers will always, without exception, look better than one thick layer – and it will last longer. Apply a tiny amount of paint to your brush and lightly cover the piece in paint, using smaller brushes where needed for the detail. Leave to dry, then repeat. Continue until you have the desired effect. It could be as simple as two coats, but it could be more. It depends on your preference and the paint you are using.

Shabby chic furniture

  1. Shabby it up!

Now it’s time to add the shabby to your chic. When your piece is totally dry, use sandpaper and wire wool and start to take off the paint at strategic points. This can be tricky to get right because it needs to look authentic. When choosing where to attack, go for the wear points. Edges, joins and around handles and knobs are good places to start. Avoid consistency and symmetry; start off with coarse sandpaper then use wire wool to blend in the wear marks for authenticity.

shabby chic desk

  1. Finish up

When you have the look you want and the desired effect, wipe the entire piece clean, leave it to dry for a few hours, then give it a quick coat of good quality, clear, wax furniture polish to keep it in great condition. Reattach the fixings you removed and you are finished.

Distressed dresser

Updating old furniture with a shabby chic look isn’t difficult at all; it’s actually incredibly simple. It needs a bit of planning, time, and creativity!

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