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Create Distressed Furniture

Our Upcycling Ambassador, Jelena Pticek, tells the Preloved community how to create old, antique-looking furniture out of something that’s brand new and how to create your own distressed furniture!

Wood is one of the oldest building materials known to man. From the early days on, it was readily available, could be easily cut, and above all, it was durable. Driving through local countryside (whether in Canada, Germany or the UK) we can still see old barn buildings built over a century ago. On the day these buildings were constructed, the wooden planks were new and light in colour; today they look weathered, grey or possibly speckled with colours and thick layers of paint.

Deconstruction of these farm buildings has become a rather popular undertaking in the last couple of years and the wood is used and transformed into high-end flooring and expensive furniture.


As a furniture makeover artist, I like experimenting with different techniques and painting methods and have come across one that allowed me to turn a brand new piece of wood into one resembling a barn board. I wasn’t trying to compete with the forces of nature and efforts of so many past generations, but have come quite close to mimicking it.

One great thing about this project is that no precision is needed. The messier you apply the paint the more authentic the look. It is essential that paint is applied in thick layers. This will, of course, prolong drying time, but the results are well worth the patience.

Creating your distressed furniture

Here is what you will need:

  • The piece that you want to transform; why not find one from Preloved?
  • Several paint colours (there is really no limit as to how many you can use)
  • Sawdust (easily obtainable in your local hardware store – just head over to the wood cutting area and ask the assistant to scoop up some sawdust for you)
  • Furniture wax – I like to use Annie Sloan Clear wax as it spreads easily
  • Good brushes
  • Patience

I started with an IKEA toy chest that had been sitting in my shed for a few years and selected Pure White, Paris Grey and Emile from the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint collection.

ikea chest

First I sanded the piece lightly and washed it with a solution of lukewarm water and a few drops of dishwashing detergent. This helps remove all the sanding dust but also any possible dirt that would prevent the paint from sticking to the surface properly.

I applied first coat of paint (white) using random brush strokes. I made sure that paint went on thickly as this contributes to the overall rugged effect.

I let it dry for about an hour and proceeded with the next step which involved sprinkling sawdust on the surface and brushing it around with an extra layer of white paint.

I waited approximately 30 minutes and applied wax in random areas (around the edges and on the surface raised by the sawdust). I immediately followed with the second paint colour, (grey) and continued sprinkling the dust. After some drying time I added more wax and gave the piece one last coat of paint, this time in lavender (Emile).
Once the surface was dry, I removed some of the paint using a fine sanding block which revealed specks of white and grey in the areas where wax had been added. The previously perfectly smooth piece of wood now looked weathered and seriously aged.

old looking cabinet

Jelena Pticek

Jelena Pticek

Writer and expert

Jelena is a Canadian artist who specialises in upcycling furniture, and the Preloved Upcycling Ambassador. She was recently selected to be Annie Sloan’s Painter in Residence, and is always on the hunt for inspiration for her latest pieces.