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Antiquing a Chair

Source: Martha Stewart Living, April 2000


Giving a drab chair a look of aged beauty is an inexpensive and easy process that takes just a few hours. Antiquing can be used to lighten darker woods -- a novel way to subtly brighten a somber shade--or to simply add character to a piece of furniture.


  • For antiquing a chair: 


  • Kraft paper

  • Tape

  • Sanding sponge

  • Natural-bristle brush

  • 2 colors of paint

  • Nylon-polyester brush

  • Steel wool

  • 220-grit sandpaper

  • Paper towel or polishing cloth

  • Tinted Wax (instructions follow)

  • Clean, dry cloth

  • For the tinted wax:

    Butcher's wax

  • Small container

  • Artist's oil paint

  • Rotten Stone

  • Mineral spirits


  1. Before you begin, check with your paint dealer to make sure you get the right primer for the type of surface you'll be painting (1-2-3 Bullseye works well because it is both a sealer and a stain blocker). If you're working on a chair that doesn't need reupholstering, make sure you cover the seat with a piece of kraft paper secured with tape.

  2. Using a sanding sponge, prepare the chair's surface for the primer by stripping off all the old varnish. Apply the primer with a natural-bristle brush; let dry.

  3. Apply a generous undercoat of one color of paint with a nylon-polyester brush; let dry, about six hours. This undercoat will be the accent color.

  4. Apply a lighter topcoat of a the other color of paint; let dry. This topcoat will be the chair's dominant color.

  5. After one hour, use steel wool to rub the chair's surface in small sections. This will take some of the paint off, so your undercoat will show through, giving the chair a distressed look. The more pressure you apply, the more paint will be removed. (If you think you've taken off too much, just paint it again and repeat this step.)

  6. To distress the chair even more and to give it a smooth finish, go over the surface with a piece of fine 220-grit sandpaper.

  7. With a paper towel or polishing cloth, apply a thin coat of tinted wax to give the chair a protective coating. Make sure you work the wax into the grooves. After about 15 minutes, wipe away any excess wax. Buff the chair with a clean, dry cloth.

  8. Tinted wax is available at virtually any paint store, but you can also make it yourself.

  9. Place enough butcher's wax to cover your entire chair in a small container. Slowly mix in artist's oil paint until you achieve the desired shade. Add Rotten Stone, a mild abrasive similar to pumice, to create a polished finish (1 tablespoon should be enough for one chair). Add small amounts of mineral spirits until the wax achieves a consistency that can easily be spread over your chair.

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