Distressed furniture is simply newer pieces of furniture that have been painted to look old. You can easily do this yourself with just a few tools and instructions. The amount of time it will take depends on exactly how you want the piece to look, whether it be slightly old and used or quite so. Wooden furniture of any type can be distressed.
The recommended way to distress a piece of furniture is to use small grain sandpaper. For new pieces that are sporting an original coat of paint it is necessary to apply a new coat of paint. You will need to paint the furniture the color of your choice, (using a different color then the original), to begin the distressing process.
Once you have applied a new coat of paint over the original, let it dry completely, then start using sand paper to thin the paint without removing it entirely. If there are any indentations or carvings in the wood, make sure you sand those a little more, as this will help you obtain a good distressed look. The goal is to allow bits of the original paint to show through the coat you have applied and have them mingle a bit. This adds a worn look to the item.
If you are working on an item that has been stained instead of painted you can use the same process as mentioned above, but instead of applying paint, you will need to use steel wool or a heavier grade of sandpaper to rub away some of the stain or varnish. Again, if the piece has any carvings, nicks or indentations, use the steel wool to go over those areas a little more to add to the aged look you are trying to achieve.
For a distressed kitchen or dining room table, the more nicks it already has in it, the better. If the piece is too smooth you can use a chain in several different sizes to strike the table with. It will leave small dents and nicks on the surface which will give it a distressed appearance. Don’t make huge dents in the wood, but if you slip and do just that, you can easily fill part of the hole or dent in with stain.
The key to distressing furniture is to know when to stop. Although you want the piece to look old and worn, you don’t want to break down the original beauty of the furniture. When you have finished distressing you can go over the piece with a very light coat of varnish or glaze. Some of the tools you might use for distressing wood are a hammer or chain, sandpaper in all grains and a file or wire brush.
Sources: Personal and