Diary of a Seasoned Life – How to “Antique” Furniture

One of the hottest trends in bringing older furniture back to life is refinishing it with a rustic look. There are now tons of stores selling brands of chalk paint and even offering classes for the do-it-yourself people. Although chalk paint is the trend right now, you will not find many professional furniture re-finishers using it.

In my studies with Asheford Institute of Antiques, I learned, in great detail, various methods of repairing and restoring furniture. They provided great instruction on adding an antique finish to certain pieces of furniture. This method should only be used on old wooden furniture that are not true antiques. You can increase the value of natural wood furniture that has already lost much of its desirability due to prior poorly executed refinishing, being out of date, or damaged by stains or deep scratches.

Some call this method antiquing or shabby chic, which is a little rough around the edges and results in a look that is more similar to unrestored antique furniture. Here is what you will need:

  1. Medium and Fine Sandpaper
  2. Flat White Paint for the basecoat
  3. Any flat pastel or white paint for the final coat
  4. Tube of raw (burnt) turkey umber oil (oil paint)
  5. Turpentine
  6. Clear Waterproof Flat Varnish
  7. Paint and Varnish Brushes
  8. Soft Clean Rags
  9. Boiled Linseed Oil
  10. Pumice Powder

You will need to first completely clean with soap and water the piece of furniture. Sanding is the next step, but it is not necessary to completely remove all the old finish. Sand just enough to allow the base coat of paint to adhere. Always use a flat white paint for the base coat due the the fact that old dark stains will bleed through any pastel shades. If the finish is very dark, it may require more than one coat of the primer paint. The final coat of base paint must be allowed to dry completely before any further steps or decoration. You can check for any tackiness to determine when it is dry. It is important the final coat be smooth, which may mean a little more light sanding.

You can add decoration (monograms, added carved elements, painted artwork, metal or other materials) to the piece at this stage, if desired. Oil paints, such as an artist’s paint, would be used for decoration. If you hand painted some decorations, it may take days for the oil paints to completely dry. In some cases, it might take two weeks. You must be patient in this stage to get a good result.

Now you can apply a coat of flat varnish to protect the section of the piece with your decoration, and let it dry for 24 hours. When it is dry, you can now add the overtone to the furniture. The formula for a medium-dark overtone is 2 tablespoons of the raw turkey umber, 3 tablespoons of turpentine, 1 tablespoon of clear waterproof varnish, and a drop of linseed oil. Squeeze the burnt umber into a jar, add the turpentine, and mix with a brush. Next, add the varnish and mix well. Finally, add a drop of the linseed oil. The linseed oil keeps the mixture from drying too quickly. Follow those steps to the tea for the right result!

The overtone is applied with a two inch brush and then, using a piece of soft clean cloth, rub off the overtone that you just applied using circular motions. The center or top of a panel should be lighter than the sides. This will leave the darker tones in the cracks and depressions of the piece or any carving. When the overtone is first put on, it will appear dark, but do not worry as it wipes off easily leaving an elegant parchment type of appearance. Wait 12 hours for the overtone to dry.

Once the overtone is dry, you can apply the flat varnish to give protection to the overtone. As the piece ages, this varnish will enhance the appearance of the piece. Doing any type of re-finishing on furniture requires patience. Do not rush it. Try this treatment on a small inexpensive piece to gain experience before tackling a bigger piece.

If you try this, send me photos of your before and after. I would love to see a once loved item become lovable again!

Author: Kim Lawrence

After owning a successful distribution business for 18 years, Kim’s life was turned upside down when her mother suffered a major stroke. She had to suddenly take over not only the care decisions for her mother, but also manage her mother’s business affairs, home, finances, and estate. This was all in addition to managing her own business and personal situation. This blog is to help tell the story in the hope that what she learned, and is still learning, will help guide others if they are or suddenly find themselves in a similar situation.

One thought on “Diary of a Seasoned Life – How to “Antique” Furniture”

  1. Wow, Thanks Kim. this is so cool! I am going to share it with my friends, including my sister-in-law who was an interior decorator. Thank you!

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