Distressed Look Chair Renovation

Hello wonderful readers! Today I’ll be showing you how I took these thrift store chairs from Outdated Country to fabulous French Vintage. I am really happy with how they came out. 

I was in need of some new dining room chairs but when I started browsing online I remembered just how expensive new chairs can get. So I began scouting thrift stores.

It took a few weeks but I finally found this set which I scored for $6 a piece! Although they needed an update, they were solid wood, sturdy and in rather good shape. I couldn’t wait to start working on them.

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I wanted to completely transform these chairs into something that looked aged, distressed or vintage. I love French decor and often use it as my inspiration when styling the home or doing renovations.

To get in the mood I listened to French music as I worked on these chairs for several days! It was work, but it was worth it. The chairs look so amazing around our dining table. Come along and I’ll show you how to create this look.



1. Sand

The first thing you’ll want to do is sand off most of the finished surface of your chairs. I spent quite a bit of time sanding these babies with my orbital sander. However, I did not worry about the chairs being completely sanded. Leaving some of the brown on is OK. It will contribute later to the distressed look. For sanding I used an 80 grit initially and a 240 grit at the end for a smooth finish.


2. Stain

I next stained the chairs with one of my absolute favorite stains, Briarsmoke. Staining the chairs is going to achieve two things:
•It will create a dark undertone needed to contrast with your lighter color for a distressed look.
•It will help prevent bleed through—something that can happen when you paint over raw or bare wood.

The technique I used when staining was to wipe on and wipe off. Because wood absorbs stain so quickly, I’m not actually wiping away all the stain. But I am softening the staining effect by doing this. I purposely wanted things to be a little blotchy with lighter parts and darker parts coming through.

I am not very sophisticated when it comes to applying stain. I just use paper towels. One for applying the stain and one for wiping it back.

3. First Coat of Paint

Once my stain was dry I began applying my first coat of paint. I didn’t want a stark white color so I picked this lovely light gray (Touch of Grey by Sherwin Williams). Your painting technique here is important as it helps create that vintage look. This first coat is going to be a light coat. No heavy coverage.

  • First take your paint brush and dip just the tip into your paint so you get only a little on your brush. You don’t want to cake paint on.
  • Next you’re going to dry brush (meaning don’t add any water to your brush or surface) some light strokes onto your chair.
  • Paint some horizontal and some vertical strokes.
  • Work in small sections at a time.
  • Wait about 10 seconds and then rub the paint in with a paper towel. Also wipe paint off. You are creating a smudged uneven look.

4. Second Coat of Paint and Distressing

With your second coat of paint you will be able to create some really beautiful distressing. The undertones of stain, wood and light grey are what we are going to expose through the top coat of paint and sandpaper scratched up the look too much in this case.
• Start by brushing on some paint in one area. Make sure to work in small sections.
• Have a roll of paper towels ready. I like using paper towels because they are just course enough to move the paint.
• Take a clean paper towel and start rubbing with some pressure over the area you just painted. You will see the top coat of paint wipe off in parts, creating a distressed look.
•Rub in vertical and horizontal motions until you are happy with the look. You can apply more paint and do it again to reveal more parts.

Watch The Video Demo Of This Renovation

5. Antiquing Wax

I sparingly used antiquing wax to add an additional touch of vintage. I did not apply the wax all over the chairs because it would significantly brown the entire look. To apply:
•Dab a paper towel slightly into the wax.
•Rub on the chairs in a few random places in straight strokes.
•Use another paper towel to wipe off any excess and help blend in.

The picture below shows where I’ve applied antiquing wax on the right and middle wood pieces. The left wood piece does not have any antiquing wax yet. You see how it adds another very cool dimension? You can choose to add more or less depending on how much brown you want in your finish.

6. Seal

The final step is sealing your finished chairs.  I gave the chairs one coat of clear coat all over. For high contact areas like the seat, tops, and back rests I applied a total of three coats.

Another reason I like the distressed look for high traffic furniture is that it hides scratches and marks so well. I was leery to paint these chairs a solid color knowing the amount of abuse my children inflict on furniture.

Isn’t this look so divine? I just love the feeling of being in a cottage in France or Europe somewhere (if only for pretend!)…

I am so grateful you stopped by and read my tutorial. If I missed any details that would be helpful please let me know. Bye for now and happy creating!

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