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Creating the Look of Vintage Gray Barn Wood Doors

I had so much fun with this custom paint project this past week! A client brought me a pair of vintage doors they wanted painted to resemble the look of old grayed barn doors.  They're using these as sliding doors to their master bedroom [I think?] and they wanted them to have a rustic, industrial feel.  I'll walk you through some of my process so you can see what it takes to achieve this beautiful farmhouse patina. 

Materials I used:

  • Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in French Linen [main color], Graphite and Old White [blended to create accent colors]
  • 180 Grit Sandpaper
  • Purdy Flat Paint Brush x 2
  • Three Small Jars [to mix paint colors and water]
  • Water
  • Several clean rags [I use old shirts I cut up- they work best!]
  • Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax


I start with the base color [French Linen] and mix two parts paint to one part water. [yes it looks kind of bizarre/cool if you add the paint to a jar with water in it!] Stir that well and let it sit while you start the sanding/cleaning process.

I sanded both sides of each door lightly, just enough to get any loose dirt and debris off the doors. I wanted the doors to keep their character and grit, but if you'd prefer a super smooth finish, just upgrade to a finer grit sandpaper [400 would be good]. 

Brush off all the dust with your brush and a rag [I also stood the doors up and knocked them around to kick up any dust leftover]. 

The door will look pretty light once you've sanded it, but you'll want to brush off a good bit of that until it looks more like its original color [see below]. I then use my widest brush [I think mine is about 3.5-4" wide] and start brushing the watered down paint along the sides first and then in the centers, making sure to get paint everywhere.  You'll want to always paint in the direction of the grain, so that way by the end, it will still keep the integrity of the door's natural look intact.

It will vary for everyone [climate, temperature, etc.], but I waited about 10 minutes before I wiped off the paint with a clean, dry rag. It should look like this [see above], where the original comes through a bit, but there's still a wash of gray leftover.  If you notice your rag is picking up too much paint, just stop and wait another 5 minutes. If the paint dries too much, just LIGHTLY wet your rag and try wiping it off.

I repeat this process twice with French Linen, and then I start to add in bits of some darker shades. I mixed a slightly darker gray using graphite and old white, and kept this mixture a little thicker, only adding a bit of water.  I didn't brush it everywhere. Instead, I went more with a more sporadic approach, just adding little lowlights here and there.  I didn't wait as long for this color to dry, maybe only 5 minutes, since I didn't want the doors to look too dark.  The beauty of this process is there's no real rhyme or reason to it.  If you take off too much paint in one section, just add more back on in the next coat. When there were some spots that seemed too dark, I just washed over it again with french linen, and wiped it off to create that dragged effect. 

I love the depth and texture this process creates. There are still hints of the original wood tone coming through. Even though the grain of this door wasn't too pronounced, you're still able to see it a bit because of the layered effect I used.  Had I just painted without watering it down or wiping the paint off each time, all the gorgeous grain would be lost and muddied. 

To truly create the look of vintage barn wood doors, the trick is to keep things completely random.  Each side should look completely unique, and have it's own character and beautiful flaws. Random is actually the hardest part of this whole process!

Painting a piece of furniture one solid color is infinitely easier.  Creating a layered, random effect takes some practice and time.  There's a good bit of painting, waiting, wiping off, stepping back, looking at the doors, and repeating the process again and again. Once I liked the look of each side, I lightly sanded them, and brushed on Annie Sloan's clear wax with a bit of french linen paint mixed in. I didn't want these doors to have any sheen to them, and I find mixing paint into the wax creates a more muted effect. 

I can't wait for my clients to see the pair in person.  Of course, I want to paint EVERYTHING with this effect now! If you want help recreating this look or want me to paint something in this style for you, feel free to contact me