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How to make your own Shabby Chic furniture

There is virtually no end to the possible hiding spots where you can find great prices of furniture ready to be give a shabby chic makeover.


We recently discussed shabby chic design ideas, and now it's time to a closer look at how to create your own shabby chic furniture.

There is virtually no end to the possible hiding spots where you can find great prices of furniture ready to be give a shabby chic makeover. Local garage sales, op shops, community markets and fetes can all be treasure troves of long forgotten pieces that can be picked up for a song.

The key is to look for pieces with appealing or unique features like curved legs, timber inlays or interesting designs. Don't worry about outdated handles or broken glass – these can easily be replaced. However do stick to solid timber items as is difficult to achieve the ‘distressed' effect characteristic of shabby chic on veneered surfaces.

Once you have a few pieces to start work on, gather all the tools you'll need including:

  • Cleaning clothes
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Sandpaper of varying grades
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Furniture wax.

Start by giving each piece a thorough clean with mild soap and water. Once it's dry you can choose to either remove old paint by sanding (which is hard work and can lift the grain) or with chemical strippers (which can damage delicate timbers). 

On especially old pieces of furniture you could uncover multiple layers of paint – even lead-based paints, so it can be quicker and easier to prepare the surface with a light sand, then prime with an oil-based primer. Using primer in a light shade can enhance the effect of distressing.

When the primer is dry, your piece is ready for painting. Apply a few coats, allowing for drying time in between coats in line with the manufacturer's recommendations. Flat or satin paints are better than gloss paints when it comes to achieving an aged appearance. Don't forget to paint all surfaces – including the undersides of chairs, and the insides of drawers and dressers.

Now you're ready for the fun part – sanding your piece of furniture to achieve a distressed look. Start with a heavier grade of sandpaper followed by a finer grade to achieve a time-worn look, and consider areas where your piece of would be most likely to experience wear over time, like the arms of chairs or around the handles of drawers.  Every few minutes, step back from the item you're working on to see how it's coming along.

When you're satisfied with the result, wipe with a damp cloth to clear any dust, and apply a fine layer of furniture wax. Work the wax in well and give the piece a final buff with a soft cloth. Add any new handles, and your piece is ready for a new lease of life.

Posted in: Lifestyle

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