Faux Fabulous: Furniture Finishing and Decorating Ideas

A host of products are available to bring furniture to life in a new and exciting way. Here are five techniques that you can use to create a stunning appearance on newer unfinished furniture or older pieces in need of refurbishing. These techniques are easy to do and are inexpensive. With just a little practice you can easily transform an ordinary piece of furniture in just a day or two. The techniques described here use products that have been developed with convenience of the do-it-yourselfer in mind, so ease of use and cleanup is insured.

Surface preparation tips:

  • Unfinished furniture should be primed with an acrylic latex primer before painting so that the porosity of the wood is sealed, allowing the paint to obtain its intended uniform appearance. If the unfinished furniture is being stained, the only requirement is a dry, clean, bare surface.
  • Previously finished or painted furniture cannot be stained unless the old finish or paint is sanded or stripped completely off. If the previously painted or finished surface is to be crackled, distressed, or painted, the surface can be properly prepared by lightly sanding the surface to give the new topcoat a less slick surface to which it can adequately bond.

Next Step: Try One of These Fun Finishes

Patina Finish


Patina is the look of copper or bronze that has been gently aged by exposure to the outside elements. Under natural conditions this attractive, weathered look takes many years. You can easily reproduce it in a few hours.

Patina Tools

  • Nylon/polyester 2" paintbrush
  • 3/8" roller
  • Natural sea sponge
  • Cheesecloth


  • Satin, acrylic basecoat paint
  • Water-based glaze - copper or bronze metallic
  • Paper plate
  • Newspaper


  1. Apply basecoat color with a roller on large flat surfaces and with a brush on smaller areas. Allow approximately four hours drying time.
  2. Pour a conservative amount of glaze into a paper plate. Dab a slightly dampened sea sponge into glaze.
  3. Remove excess glaze from sponge by dabbing it onto newspaper. (A little glaze goes a long way.) The basecoat color should be visible under the coat of glaze. Don't apply glaze until it hides the basecoat.
  4. Using a blotting motion, randomly dab the sponge on the surface, trying to avoid any type of regular pattern.
  5. Reload the sponge with paint when depleted and proceed with application until the surface is covered to satisfaction.
  6. Glaze may be applied more heavily in some areas to add to the overall textured look. Rinse the sponge when it becomes saturated with glaze.
  7. As an option, when finished, use cheesecloth to gently dab into drying glaze to impart a "soft" appearance.
  8. Use a small sponge or a piece of sponge for corners, furniture legs and other tight areas.



The distressing technique is an easy and authentic way to give a slightly weather-worn or distressed-appearance to wood furniture. A contrasting basecoat color and topcoat color may be chosen for dramatic results. Less contrast can be achieved with a monochromatic color scheme (using two different values of a particular color family).

Distressing Tools and Materials

  • Satin, acrylic basecoat paint
  • Satin, acrylic topcoat paint
  • Paste wax
  • Satin, interior clear protector (optional)
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • 2" nylon/polyester paintbrush
  • Cotton cloth


  1. Apply basecoat color to surface, using 2" brush.
  2. Allow basecoat to dry a minimum of four hours.
  3. Using cotton cloth, apply paste wax to random sections of the furniture piece. A thin and highly non-uniform application of the paste wax maximizes the impact of this technique.
  4. Allow paste wax to dry for approximately one hour.
  5. Apply topcoat color to the entire piece of furniture.
  6. Allow topcoat to dry a minimum of 24 hours.
  7. Using fine grit sandpaper, sand lightly with the grain of the wood, thus removing the topcoat in some areas and revealing the basecoat.
  8. For a realistic worn look, sand areas such as knobs, handles and table tops more heavily.
  9. Clean the surface and use as is. For better protection of the finish, apply a satin interior clear protector.
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