Saturday, January 14, 2012

How to get that shabby chic look.

Shabby Chic is a look that has been done again and again in our antique booth. And why not, people love it and it is so easy. You can do it too. The following example is in black.

Here we have a little cabinet with a drawer and door. Refinishing the wood to perfection is not something I do, as you know I do most of my work on the deck or in the back yard. Sometimes it is fun. With the shabby look you don't have to worry about mistakes, because you are making a piece look aged in a short period of time.

This piece is made of all, real wood, but has a large crack in the top and some knots that, with age, have separated. I sanded it with our orbital sander to get the varnish off. The varnish had dried to the point I could easily scratch it off with my fingernail. Remember you need to feed your furniture, especially if you have a piece in direct sunlight with Beeswax or Orange Oil at least once a month.

Once you got it somewhat smooth spray paint it with a cheap flat black spray. It took three coats to get the coverage I needed and remember, don't worry about runs. After the paint is dry you go over it with the orbital sander again with a fine grit sand paper. You take away paint to expose the wood beneath. There is no way to go wrong here. You want it to look as if it has aged for decades. If for some reason you are not happy with what you have sanded, repaint it and sand again. Yes it is just that easy. I have done this so many times that sometimes I am not satisfied with my results and my wife says it looks fine, throw it in there because the booth is empty. It is some of those pieces we get the most compliments on.

Our ancient Chinese secret is to wipe the piece with a dark stain after sanding. It brings out the color in the wood and gives an overall richness. Also if you do a piece in white it gives a nice dingy color. After your stain has cured/dried you can give it a clear coat or a hand rubbed wax. I like using the Beeswax.

Here is a closeup of the top, notice you can see the detail of the wood through the paint. This is a dirty job. Sanding the piece can produce a lot of dust. Spray paint gets everywhere, especially in the nose. The stain is the dirtiest part. I don't play around with a brush. Cut 5" x 5" square out of an old t-shirt then soak it in stain and start wiping. Gloves, you don't need no stinking gloves. Rubber gloves you steal from the doc's office disintegrate from a chemical reaction to the stain. Canvas work gloves soak through and stain the fingers. I have used a thick oyster shucking gloves but they are so clumsy you can't get the dexterity needed to move quickly and get into those tight places. Just keep a can of paint thinner handy and soak your hands, after a few days, the stain comes out from under the fingernails. If anyone asks in the mean time tell them a bus load of gypsies broke down on the side of the road and you had to change their oil. In return they gave you this old piece of furniture, must be really old, look at how distressed it is, yeah, I guess I will take $45 for it.

Mr. Hedley was no help at all, he slept all day.

Well, I was going to post a pic of the piece sitting in the mall, but it has already sold. We sat it in just as they were closing and it sold within 30 minutes of being open the next day.

Notice I said it was made from real wood. If you get a piece with press board or fiber board it will swell from the water in the paint. Stay away from these pieces. It is possible to spray paint a piece of Formica but you can't sand it back to the wood after painting.


  1. great info. i've got several old pieces of furniture that need to be freshened up. this helps me greatly and is a good motivator.

  2. Great Work.....being an Artist I can Praise Art !