Roost + Restore
Decorating Farmhouse Decor

Easy Guide for A Distressed Paint Job

I am a sucker for a nice heavily distressed paint job. It is a great way to give new pieces of furniture a beautiful look of old age and history. It is no secret that it has become a very popular go-to look for refinishing those outdated pieces you snagged at a yardsale or just simply want to create an updated look in your home.

In this tutorial I share some of my personal tips for when you are looking to start your next project.


To start off, I recommend having a dark base. Specifically for the look I am demonstrating here, a dark espresso or walnut stain is perfect. I understand how starting super dark just to go lighter can be contradictory but just trust me, you will thank me later.


For the next step, I painted directly over the top of the stain with a satin white interior latex paint. I covered the entire surface of the areas I wanted to distress with two full coats. Some may prefer using a oil based furniture paint.

I allowed my legs to dry for a few hours before moving on to the actual distressing. Just keep in mind that different paints will take different amounts of time to dry, the main thing is to just be sure there are no tacky areas. Everything should be dry to the touch. If you start your distressing too early you will not get the effect were trying to achieve here.


For heavy sanding a stripping you’re gonna want a heavy grit sandpaper. You do not have to use this particular size and shape of paper, I just had this handy. I am using 80 grit piece from my circular sander. DO NOT use a sander for this step! It is super important that the sanding is done by hand!


The actual sanding process is difficult to photograph, I encourage you to hop on over to my Instagram stories later for a quick video tutorial on the process I used here.

I folded my paper in half and simply started to sand the areas of the table legs that would distress naturally. Think about the edges and places that are not totally flat, or an area that is raised. These are the areas that will naturally be touched and grazed more often than a flat surface and it’s the best place to start when wanting a natural distressed look. You can even go as far as sanding a spot here and there to reveal a bit of the natural wood, this adds another beautiful layer and color.

Quick and carefree motions are important. DO NOT over think this step. If you think about the placement of your scuffs too much you will fall into a pattern and that is not what you need for this look. Once you start to get a feel for it you will find a groove. Just start light and remember you can always sand more paint away later.


After the edges and raised areas are finished, comes the heavier part of the sanding. For this part of the process I recommend a crosshatch motion. Find a flat area of your piece and lightly sand vertically followed by a horizontal motion in the same area. The idea is for it to look like its been scratched in different directions over time. If you’re doing a large flat space on a dresser or table top I would recommend alternating between areas of lighter sanding in one direction and this crosshatch method.

I recommend to start on the lighter side with your sanding until you get comfortable with it. You can always go back and add more scuffs and scratches along the way. But that is it! Achieving a heavily distressed farmhouse look is not complicated at all! Truly there is hardly a way this technique can be messed up. By biggest tip is to NOT FALL INTO A PATTERN. Step back every so often to see your project at a distance to make sure it still looks random!


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