This post demonstrates how to achieve a medium to heavily distressed patina on a piece of furniture using homemade glaze. If this is a look you like, it’s not all that difficult to achieve.
There are a handful of steps that need to be taken in order to get the depth and character of an old piece of furniture, but if you want to take the easy way with less distressing and no glazing, refer to my post, “How to Paint and Distress Furniture the Easy Way“. My piece was already painted a bright white when I purchased it several years ago at our ‘Third Sunday Market’ antique show here in Central Illinois.
The dealer I purchased it from told me the wardrobe was a new piece that was built to include an antique door and an antique decorative cornice. So the bulk of the piece was new, and was built around those two beautiful old pieces. Authenticity isn’t a priority for me. I’m more interested in pieces that I think are beautiful and functional, and this wardrobe was just what I was looking for. Here’s a before photo.
What I did to start the process was make a trip to the garage to find items that would make interesting dings and dents in the wardrobe. I took these items, and lightly pounded them into the surface with a hammer. Old pieces of furniture are not going to have nice smooth surfaces, after all. Here’s what I came up with.
Next I sanded areas that would naturally wear and lose their paint over time—areas that protrude like edges and corners, as well as areas near knobs. I usually hand sand with sandpaper wrapped around a block of wood for distressing. But after I purchased this piece, I painted it with exterior paint since I originally purchased it for a screened porch. Since exterior paint is more resilient than interior paint, I decided to bring out the heavy artillery, and used my new electric sander. I used a coarse, 60-grit sandpaper to sand through the paint to reveal the bare wood underneath. Here’s an example of the types of areas I sanded.
The sanded areas on the antique door showed through the white paint as black, and the sanded areas on the newer wood, barely showed. The bulk of the cabinet was made from pine, which is a light-colored wood.
Here’s a picture of the dark wood showing through on the door.
I had to match the sanded areas on the newer wood to the darker sanded areas on the old wood. Fortunately, I have quite the stash of stain and paint colors to choose from to make that happen. I used an ebony (a.k.a. black) stain on a rag to lightly go over the sanded areas on the new wood to make them match the sanded areas on the old wood. I used a small amount of stain, trying my best to only hit the sanded areas, and then wiped it off right away. After applying the stain, all of the sanded areas matched. Mission accomplished.
Then, using 200-grit sandpaper, I lightly sanded the entire piece to get rid of any scratches left from the coarse grit sandpaper, and to lightly roughen up the paint so the glaze I was going to use next, would adhere better.
I made my own glaze with some medium brown paint (Hopsack #6109 from Sherwin Williams) that I had on hand, mixed with Floetrol. Any medium-brown color that you have will do. If you don’t have any medium-brown paint on hand, the cheapest way to go is to head to your local craft store, and pick up a 2 oz. bottle of acrylic paint. They usually run around $2.00 a bottle, and 2 oz. will be more than enough to glaze a piece of furniture.
I would say I used roughly 2 or 3 parts Floetrol to one part paint. I would normally use a dark brown paint for glazing, but since the wardrobe was bright white, I felt I would get a better result if I layered a couple of different colors of glaze to tone down the amount of contrast.
I’m not entirely sure of what sizes of containers Floetrol comes in, but you certainly don’t need this much to do a piece of furniture. If it comes in a quart, that would be plenty. I just bought a ginormous one because I needed it to faux finish a room, and I knew I’d be using it for other projects as well.
I applied the glaze with a chip brush (pictured above), lightly brushing most of the piece. I was wiping some areas off, while reapplying in other areas for an uneven look. This is very subjective as far as how heavy to glaze, and what areas to make darker than others. To each, his own as they say.
Here’s a photo after the first coat of glaze. I let this dry overnight before applying the darker glaze over the top of the first coat. If the first coat of glaze isn’t completely dry, it can rub off when you apply the second one.
To add more of a patina, I take my chisel and chip off more paint in some areas.
The next morning, I applied the second coat of glaze—the one that brings the piece to life. This time, decided to go the “dirty water” method of glazing rather than mix a Floetrol glaze. I used some dark brown acrylic craft paint (Asphaltum) mixed with water–more water than paint–to finish the project. If you don’t want to buy Floetrol, you can just try this method. I’ve done entire pieces with a paint/water mix. Floetrol slides a little better, and is more forgiving ratio-wise, but the end result looks the same. You may have to experiment a little bit more with your paint to water ratio to get it right.
This time, I used an artist’s brush to get in the tiny groves of the crown molding, and the detailed areas on the cornice. I applied the paint-water mix to these areas, and then very lightly wiped over them with a cotton rag being sure to leave paint in the grooves. I also brushed over some of my dents an dings, making sure the paint stuck in those areas.
After hitting the detailed areas, I put small amounts of the dirty water on the tips only of the bristles of my chip brush, and brushed select areas of the wardrobe. I brushed the edges of individual boards, the places where two different boards met, the ends of the crown molding, the door panel edges, around the hinges and door clasp and the edges of the cornice. I brushed with the “grain” being careful not to leave brush strokes.
The second, darker glaze adds dimension to the distressing, accentuates the details and brings the piece to life.
Here are some progressive photos showing the original piece, after sanding, after staining the sanded areas, after the first coat of glaze and after the final coat of glaze.
In case you’re wondering, this wardrobe isn’t going to stay in the middle of the bathroom floor! It has a nice spot back in the corner of the room, but this was the only way to get a photo of it without the vanity blocking it. And I must admit to being too lazy to empty all the junk out of it, and man-handle it into another room for a couple of photos. This is only a blog after all, and not Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.
I liked this wardrobe with the original crisp white paint, but when I painted the bathroom a dark blue/green color, the white paint was too glaring. I also believe furniture with a beautiful patina adds warmth and sophistication to a room. And lastly, I just needed a change. I love my new, old piece of furniture!
This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.