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Shabby Chic Furniture: The Art Of Distressing Paint

Shabby chic distressed white furniture is still popular at least with me. I love the look, and I think there is always a place for it in your home.


You guys know I’m the queen of distressing. I think I’ve been really good lately and haven’t gone over the top with the electric sander. Heck, I haven’t even taken it off the shelf in weeks, until this week. I went all out and made a video showing how I distressed this little showstopper using an electric sander. The video is very short, under two minutes, and it’s a little further down in the post.

Before I get to the distressing details, you need to know this is Furniture Fixer Upper day and my friends have some truly awesome projects to share. The links are at the bottom of this post. On to my project….


furniture fixer upper chest of drawers for makeover

The chest came from my favorite junk shop and cost me $25. Plan number 1 for this chest was to paint it white, with no distressing, and add pretty fuchsia knobs. It was a good plan, but then I thought of how cool it would be to paint the chest white and distress the heck out of it for a shabby chic coastal vibe. I remembered the anchor knobs I had in my stash, and plan number 2 was a done deal.

staples to hold a drawer together doesn't work

It was a mess. Who uses staples to hold drawers together. There were staples on all sides of this drawer.

using wood glue and clamps to repair furniture drawers

The JTS patiently removed all of the staples and made the repairs using wood glue and clamps. I found a can of flat white paint on the shelf. Remember, I’m trying to use what I have and not buy new paint until I just have to.

one coat of paint

One coat of paint wasn’t enough—two coats and on to distressing.

electric sander for distressing paint and clear wax for patina

I went to town with my favorite electric sander. I brushed the sanded bits off with a dry paint brush then wiped the chest down with cheesecloth. Next, I applied a coat of clear wax. The wax gives the raw sanded wood a nice look.

To make sure you got all the details on how to use the sander, I made a video! Very short, less than 90 seconds.



white shabby chic furniture with a coastal style


I painted the wood knobs using the same paint. Distressing them was over the top too much. Yes, I said that. I distressed two of them and put them on the chest. No. Painted them again, and no distressing for the wood knobs.

anchor furniture knob on white shabby chic furniture


The nautical anchor knobs were a long-ago find at T.J. Maxx. It’s about time I worked them into a project.

how to paint shabby chic white furniture

I know the distressing was too much for some of you guys, and that’s okay. Just be kind in the comments below. Well-thought-out and nicely worded constructive criticism is always welcome.

before and after shabby chic furniture makeover


Now it’s time to see what my buddies have transformed. Just click the pink text links below the “before” photo collage.

Furniture Fixer Uppers makeover projects before photos April

1. Girl In The Garage
2. Just The Woods
3. Prodigal Pieces
4. Confessions Of A Serial Diy’er
5. The Interior Frugalista


shabby chic furniture (1)

Have a great day and I’ll see you next week!

Author: Kathy Owen
Kathy Owen is the founder of the home decor blog Petticoat Junktion where she shares tutorials on painting furniture and upcycling thrifty finds into unique home décor. Her DIY projects have been featured on the Home Depot Blog, Plaid Crafts, Behr Designer Series, and in numerous magazines. Kathy’s newest website is HappyHomeDIY.com

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  1. Looks amazing! I have a dresser very similar I want to try this on. I have some white flat and some white eggshell laying around…does it matter what type of paint I use and my second question is did you do any other prep (aside from the repairs/staples etc) did you prep the wood in any way? Thank you.

  2. Hi I want to.thank you for this tutorial! I have been wanting to try this for a long time!
    I just have one question, what kind of wax do I use? Thank you

  3. I think it improves this rather uninteresting piece. Very nice, but. I love chippy, distressed stuff.

  4. I loved this little chest when you bought it but I am definitely not a fan of the heavily distressed look, The cute anchor knobs disappear into the white background. I would have saved them for something where they would show up. Sorry, you lost me on this one.

  5. Yeah, the distressing is a little too much for me on this piece—I think. But the more I looked at it the more I thought it would be perfect for a cabin or beach house. And I think you did a great job on it. I guess for me it depends on where the piece is used as to whether heavy distressing is the right look or not.

    I love seeing your projects.

  6. This piece really did cry out for a good distressing. It turned out fantastic.

  7. Some pieces look really good distressed Kathy, and this is one of them. The anchors are like a hidden surprise, I almost didn’t even notice them until I read about them in your post. Haha. The right buyer will Love this piece!

  8. I think that a heavily distressed piece speaks to me like a perfectly-painted, smooth piece would speak to someone else. Life takes all kinds. I think it looks wonderful! I really love your style! 🙂

  9. Thank you Dena. Yes the prep is the most important and time intensive part of the makeover!

  10. I’m so happy you ordered those staples out! (I need a JTS) Repairing and prepping a piece can take longer than all the following steps but it’s the most important IMO. I love the simplicity of the white with the distressing, it’s perfectly lovely.

  11. Staples, seriously, talk about a MacGyver. I think the distressing looks fabulous on this dresser. Kind of reminds me of those popular naked cakes. One day I’m going to be brave and pull out my sander (we have the exact same model) and give this a try. Love it, Kathy!

  12. I love it! and I had to laugh out loud at the staples holding the drawers together. hehe Love the added video too. 😉

  13. Wow! I’m not normally a huge fan of extreme distressing, but this one needed it! It looks GREAT!

  14. You know I love a good shabby piece, and that look really works on this dresser! Love it! XOXO

  15. Kathy, this lovely little piece might be more distressed than you usually do, but I don’t think it’s overdone. I think it’s pretty!

  16. The drawers are a little more distressed than I prefer, but I love how the paint brings out the details on the bottom and the anchors are adorable.

  17. You go girl! You know I love me some distressing and this one is perfect. Love the refreshed new (old ) look!

  18. I like this piece. I paint furniture for resale and sometimes a piece just says ‘go for it’! Then other times I just hit the edges. I think it keeps my selling spaces interesting. Good job.