Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How To Wet-Distress a Chalk Paint Finish

Many of you have asked for a step-by-step lesson to show how I get the subtle distressed finish on some of my furniture projects.  The subject of today's lesson is an oak end table, part of the set that matches the coffee table that I showed you in THIS POST last week. 

When I distress a piece of furniture, I try to simulate the effects that time and use (and a bit of abuse) would have had on it.  There are no random sanded spots here and there ... every worn place is well thought out, as if that part of the piece has been bumped by brooms and mops and vacuum cleaners and toy trucks, scraped across the floor, and wiped down and polished for decades.  The idea is to wear down the top layer of paint to reveal the perceived history of the piece underneath.

Here is the After ... settle in, and I will show you how it got this way.

As we start the lesson, the subject table already has coats of three colors of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint:  coat #1 is Graphite, coat #2 is Olive, and coat #3 is Aubusson.  (I didn't photograph the painting part of the job ... I'm going to assume that you already know how to do this, so let's skip ahead.)

The supplies for wet distressing are probably underneath your kitchen sink right now ... a ScotchBrite scouring pad and a small bucket for water.

The process is simple ... use the wet scouring pad to gently scrub the corners and edges and the high parts of the turnings, edges, and corners to reveal the color underneath.  Scrub with the coarse part of the pad, wipe the area clean and refine the distressing with the sponge side.  Rinse your pad often as you work.  Go easy so you don't scrub completely through the paint at this point.  You can work across the grain, with the grain, or scrub in circles ... experiment to see what gives you the look that you want.


I love how the careful distressing brings out the details of the wood grain and accents the table's contours.  The top coat of Aubusson stays in the recesses, and the colors underneath are revealed in the high spots and wear areas.

I wanted this table to be even MORE worn looking, so I used the scouring pad and my fingernail to scratch the paint off down to the bare wood in select spots.  I only did this in places that could really have received this sort of abuse ... more on the lower portions of the table legs, where brooms and boots would have made contact, and none on the upper parts.

The side of the table looks like this when the distressing is finished.

As I look at the results on this table, I realize that the Graphite layer doesn't show up very well and probably wasn't necessary.  If I do this color combination again, I will just use Olive and Aubusson and skip the Graphite.

The table now ready for me to add even MORE detail and personality with glaze ... which will be our next lesson.  Stay tuned.


  1. Connie, I love this look, and you have a gift for great design. Would you consider just adopting me?

    Thank you for your visit to my holiday home tour yesterday. I hope you will come back for day two.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my Visiting Heidelberg post. Great tips on distressing chalk paint btw!

  3. I wish things could be settled enough around here so I could utilize some of your excellent lessons. *sigh

  4. Looks great! I've never heard of wet sanding. Sounds like it would work better than dry sanding. I'll have to give it a try.

  5. Great lesson! The finished project looks so natural, like it would if it had really been worn down like that.

  6. What a beautiful colour! and that technique really gives a time worn look.

    Great job!

  7. So that's how you make new furniture look old! Thank you for sharing your expertise.

  8. Dear Connie,
    A million blessings on you for NOT distressing the heck out the sides of the table. This is a pet peeve of mine as it is not a natural place for things to be worn. Who or what touches the sides of a table or dresser so many times that it removes the paint....it just is not natural! As always, you are spot on and this table is going to be Gorgeous!!!

    We need to get together soon.
    Janet xox
    The Empty Nest


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