How To Paint Furniture to Make it Look Antique

Painting wood

Different people have different preferences for furniture. Some prefer modern furniture, with sleek lines and smooth surfaces. Others prefer a more rustic look. Some appreciate antique furniture. Oftentimes, these can be family heirlooms, inherited from parents and grandparents.

Antique furniture has a charming feel. These pieces can be warm, and they can be stiff at the same time. However, to those who like antique furniture, one thing would usually be a hindrance: cost. Antiques, while they are old, can sometimes be very expensive, especially if they have intrinsic value. Take for example those Ming dynasty vases. You would be lucky to be able to buy authentic ones at a reasonable price.

Therefore, the next best thing would be to make new furniture look antique. Giving new furniture an antiquated look might be achieved through some painting and finishing techniques. Here are a few ways you can paint furniture to make it look antique.

What you need:

  • Wooden furniture, like an armchair, rocking chair, bench or table
  • Paint
  • Primer
  • Varnish
  • Smooth and rough sandpaper
  • Paintbrush

Apply primer. The first thing to do is to cover or strip away all un-paintable surfaces from the furniture. For instance, if it’s upholstered, cover the upholstered parts with newspaper and masking tape. Then apply primer all over the wooden area. Allow the primer to dry overnight.

Paint over the primer
. Apply the first coat of paint. For faster application and drying, use a latex type of paint. Once finished, allow the paint to dry half a day (overnight is best). Then apply the top coat. Let it dry for about four days.

Now the fun part begins. Antiques look old, and therefore you should give your furniture that worn look. It’s important to note where exactly the furniture should be worn out. For instance, on an armchair, the part of the armrest where elbows usually lie should be worn out. On a chair with a high back, the backrest should be worn out.

Sandpaper those oft-touched areas. Use rough sandpaper (about 60 grit) to lightly sand on the places that should be worn out. Sand these parts lightly until the topcoat gives way to the undercoat. Be sure to sand lightly, so the surface will be smooth. Also, make sure that the paint is already completely dry. Otherwise, sanding will result in an artificial look.

Then, use the smooth sandpaper (about 120 grit or higher) to sand over those same spots you earlier sanded using the rougher sandpaper.

You can also use varnish. If you wish for your furniture to show the wood grain instead of paint, you can use varnish instead. If the furniture is already painted, sand it until the wood is exposed. Then apply two layers of varnish (wait for each layer to dry first). It would be a good idea to use different shades of varnish, so your furniture  will show ageing better. Sandpaper those oft-touched areas as earlier described.

Apart from sandpapering, you can also use other tools and implements to make your furniture look older. You can use pliers to make chip marks or bite marks, for instance. You can also use other objects to create scars on the woodwork.

Turning a piece of furniture into an antique lookalike should be an enjoyable project, especially if you love woodwork. It’s a great hobby, and you can even do it as a business on the side, especially if you have friends who want to have their furniture turned into antique lookalikes.


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