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You’re shopping at the AMAZING Long Beach flea market and you see a piece of furniture that HAS to be yours. It has a beautiful distressed look. In other words, the paint is chipped or peeling where hands might’ve worn it down, making it look like an object from generations past and revealing another muted color underneath, or perhaps the bare wood itself. You’re in love. You look at the price. Hm. You’re not in love with the price. We’re here to tell you, it’s going to be O.K. Slowly step away from the piece. With these five simple steps, you will be able to re-create that beloved distressed look yourself!

The instructions and photos below were found on

Tricks & Tips:

If you want another color to show through (to look as if the object has been painted many times before) you’ll need two paint colors. Afterwards you’ll need to decide whether to put a stain on top, which will mute or age the colors you’ve chosen. If you want to preserve the original color, use a clear polyurethane top coat (and water based polyurethane won’t yellow over time).

Materials and Tools:

object to be distressed (wooden frame, piece of furniture, etc.)
satin latex paint for the base coat
satin latex paint or a wood stain for the top coat
painting tools
medium-grade steel wool
tack cloth
polyurethane to finish (optional)


1. Lightly sand the object you want to distress. If the object already has a finish (previously painted or varnished), sand all surfaces well. After the sanding, wipe the piece with a tack cloth.

2. Paint the entire piece in the base coat color you’ve selected.

3. For the bare-wood look: When the base coat is dry, start sanding off areas that would naturally end up distressed — places where hands would have held it, or corners that could easily get nicked. For the color look: Rub candle wax on the areas where you’d like to see color show through. Don’t forget to do the sides and back; you want the entire piece to be finished. Then apply the top coat.

4. For the bare-wood look: Be sure to stop before you go too crazy with the sanding, and then wipe the entire piece with the tack cloth. For the color look: Paint over the base coat and the wax. Cover everything well. After the paint dries, rub the steel wool over the areas you’ve waxed. (The steel wool won’t harm the rest of the paint enough to worry about — remember, the piece is meant to be distressed, so use it to find the waxed areas.) Wipe off the piece with the tack cloth.

5. Apply a finish if desired.

We know. You love the ‘look’. But don’t go overboard. It’s good to have one or two main pieces that are distressed in a room at one time.

(All photos courtesy of  
Check out more DIY projects on our Pinterest page!!!

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