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A hub for all things to do with design, furniture painting, photography, style, event planning [and some foodie bits for good measure].  

How to make an Ikea table look old: Distressing Techniques

I couldn't even tell you the last time I bought a brand new piece of furniture [aside from my mattress, I don't do used when it comes to those!]. Yes, the occasional lamp, but no larger pieces of furniture. I vastly prefer the look of old, worn pieces. But when I first moved to Atlanta six years ago, I didn't know any better, and like any 20-something, went to Ikea and had a field day. I bought this sizable dining table [part of the Stornas collection, though they don't make this size any longer]. At the very least, I had the better sense to choose pieces that were made of solid wood [still the BEST rule to live by!]. This table was used for a couple years, but when I decided to change around the layout of my house, this guy didn't have a proper spot, so he went to the basement and sat there for years. 

With the move to the studio, I realized I needed a work table for craft projects, for teaching classes, for photographing recipes and styling shoots. Finally, my old Ikea table was getting a second chance. After lugging this behemoth out of the basement and transporting it to its new home, it got a bit roughed up. I planned on painting it regardless, but now I had an idea...

Rather than try to fill the scratches and dents [battle scars if you will], I decided to work with them. With the help of my mom, we took any tool we could find and just had at it. Wielding hammers of varying sizes, screwdrivers with all sorts of bits to create different dings and dents, putty knives, you name it, we had some fun with this table.

There was no real 'art' to it, I just had us distress the entire piece, letting out any aggressions on the table top.

 Using different distressing techniques

Using different distressing techniques

Then, after brushing away any loose bits of wood, I painted the top in a mixture of Annie Sloan's Graphite, and a few other dregs from other cans.

The result was a nice warm gray, but it was a bit boring looking for my taste. I didn't force the paint into every scratch and dent, I just quickly went over it and allowed the paint to settle wherever it naturally chose to.

 After two coats of paint

After two coats of paint

Two coats later, I sanded the entire top with a 220 grit block, going with the grain [though this table doesn't have a grain you can feel or see once painted, I still wanted it to resemble the look of wood and this is a great technique for doing that]. I distressed the sides a bit to allow the original wood stain to show through. I always love the look of my pieces when they've just been sanded and have that light dust along their surface. 

 After sending with the grain

After sending with the grain

But once you wax a piece, that lovely patina disappears and returns to the original color of the paint.  But I've figured out how to recreate this look and it's so simple!  I take an empty wax can [or any can or jar works], drop a dollop or two of wax in there, and mix in just a few drops of paint [really DON'T use a lot of paint!]. For this table, I mixed Old White into the wax, but there was a hint of old gray wax I had made prior, so the wax had a ever so slightly gray tinge to it [Paris Gray would be a good color to use if trying to achieve my custom combination].

 After applying a coat of colored wax

After applying a coat of colored wax

Then I used a brushing technique to apply the wax, again, working with the grain, going in bands that spanned the length of the table. I worked quickly, since I had another step I wanted to take with this table.  I really wanted it to feel old, and I wanted to make the sheen of the wax more subdued. Immediately after applying wax to the entire table, I went over the entire surface with Amy Howard's Dust of Ages, again working with the grain. The dust expedites the drying process, so I was able to buff the piece once I finished this dust layer. 

 After brushing on Dust of Ages

After brushing on Dust of Ages

The result is a beautifully aged table, resembling the style of old, graying barn wood. Yes, it took a few more steps than my usual painted piece, but it really didn't take much more time, and just a little bit of artistry [all techniques that are very easy to learn!]. For now, I'm leaving the table's base in its original wood tone, since it works with some other features at the studio. But who knows, maybe I'll paint them in a contrasting color down the road!

 After a light buffing

After a light buffing

I did take a number of photos of the table styled up a bit [it still needs to cure before I can start plopping just anything down on the surface], but I'd rather share those in another post, because this one is already rather lengthy, but I can guarantee it looks even better in person!