Decorating Wooden Furniture: A Comprehensive Guide

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Home Improvement

Creating an Antique Glaze on Your Furniture


Antiquing is a popular technique used to add age or create a unique color effect on wooden furniture. To achieve this look, a glaze is applied over a base finish. Enamel is the most commonly used base for antiquing, but other finishes like varnish, shellac, and lacquer can also be glazed. It’s important to note that antiquing is not recommended for real antiques, but it can work wonders on thrift-store finds or cheap, unfinished pieces.

Materials You’ll Need

You can find antiquing kits at paint and hardware stores that include both base enamel and a coordinating or contrasting glaze. These kits come in many colors and combinations, and you can choose transparent antiquing glaze in muted tones of umber and burnt sienna or in white, gold, black, or other colors. The greater the contrast between the base and glaze, and the brighter the glaze color, the more obvious it will be that the piece of furniture is antiqued. If you’re working over an existing finish, make sure the glaze is compatible.

Application Techniques

The piece of furniture you want to antique-finish must be clean and in good repair. Remove all hardware. If you’re antiquing an unfinished piece of furniture or covering an old finish, sand and seal the wood. On finished pieces to be covered completely, clean the wood thoroughly and then treat it with sanding deglosser to dull the surface. If there are still any shiny spots, buff them with No. 0000 steel wool. Sand out any chips in the old finish so that the surface is smooth.

If you’re working on a piece to be glazed over an existing finish, clean the wood thoroughly with a detergent solution and dry it well. Then wipe it with denatured alcohol. Let the prepared wood dry for 24 hours.

If you’re working on an unfinished piece or covering an old finish, apply a base finish coat of flat or gloss enamel. Let the enamel dry completely. If necessary, apply a second base coat; sand the surface lightly, clean it, and apply the enamel. Let the final coat of enamel dry completely, at least two days.

When the base coat is completely dry, or the existing base finish is prepared, apply the antiquing glaze. Use a contrasting color for an obvious antiqued look, a muted umber or burnt sienna to simulate age. Apply the glaze with a clean brush.


When the enamel base is dry, brush the glaze on over it, one surface at a time. For glaze retention on highlights, cover highlight areas first, then flat surfaces. Antiquing glaze sets quickly, and the surfaces you glaze first will retain more color than the ones you glaze later. Working on one surface at a time, apply glaze to moldings, carvings, and decorated areas, and then to flat areas. On large surfaces, the glaze can be applied in several stages, if necessary.

To create an antiqued finish, wait for the glaze to dry and then wipe it off, leaving some in low areas and decorations. Texturing the glaze can be done with various materials like cheesecloth, newspaper, or plastic wrap. Different textures can be achieved, such as wood-grain, marble, or scratched. For a leather texture, let the glaze dry almost completely, then pad with fiberglass insulation. For protection, apply semigloss or high-gloss varnish compatible with the antiqued finish directly over the antiquing. To create a worn-out look, flyspeck can be used on furniture.


1. What are the best types of wood for decorating furniture?

The best types of wood for decorating furniture are those that have a smooth surface and a tight grain, such as cherry, maple, oak, and birch. These woods are easy to paint, stain, or varnish, and they can be decorated with various techniques, such as stenciling, decoupage, or hand-painting. It’s important to choose a wood that is sturdy and durable, so that the decorations will last for a long time and resist wear and tear.

2. How can I prepare wooden furniture for decorating?

To prepare wooden furniture for decorating, you should first clean it thoroughly with a mild detergent and warm water, and let it dry completely. If the furniture has any rough spots or imperfections, you can sand them down with fine-grit sandpaper. You can also apply a wood conditioner or sealer to the surface to help the decorations adhere better. Finally, you should choose a suitable paint, stain, or varnish that will complement the style and color scheme of your decoration.

3. What are some popular techniques for decorating wooden furniture?

Some popular techniques for decorating wooden furniture include stenciling, decoupage, hand-painting, distressing, and adding hardware or embellishments. Stenciling involves using a template or stencil to apply a pattern or design to the furniture surface. Decoupage involves adhering paper or fabric to the surface with glue or decoupage medium. Hand-painting allows you to create a unique design or motif with paint or markers. Distressing involves intentionally aging or distressing the furniture to create a rustic or shabby chic look. Adding hardware or embellishments can also enhance the style and functionality of the furniture.

4. What materials do I need for decorating wooden furniture?

The materials you need for decorating wooden furniture depend on the technique you choose, but generally you will need paint, brushes, stencils, decoupage medium or glue, fabric or paper, hardware or embellishments, sandpaper, and a wood conditioner or sealer. You may also need a primer or base coat, depending on the surface and the type of decorations you will apply.

5. How can I protect the decorations on my wooden furniture?

To protect the decorations on your wooden furniture, you should apply a clear coat or sealant over the surface, such as polyurethane or lacquer. This will help to prevent scratches, fading, or peeling, and will make the surface easier to clean and maintain. You should also avoid exposing the furniture to direct sunlight or moisture, as these can damage the decorations and the wood.

6. Can I decorate wooden furniture with fabric?

Yes, you can decorate wooden furniture with fabric by using decoupage or upholstery techniques. Decoupage involves adhering fabric to the surface with decoupage medium or glue, and can be used to create a patchwork or collage effect. Upholstery involves covering the furniture with fabric and securing it with staples or tacks. This can be a more complex process, but can create a soft and comfortable surface for seating or resting.

7. How can I create a distressed look on my wooden furniture?

To create a distressed look on your wooden furniture, you can sand the surface with coarse-grit sandpaper to remove some of the paint or stain and expose the natural wood underneath. You can also use a hammer or other tool to create dents or scratches on the surface. Finally, you can apply a dark glaze or wax to the surface to create an aged or antique effect. The key is to experiment and find the right balance between distressing and preserving the integrity of the furniture.

8. What are some tips for choosing colors and patterns for decorating wooden furniture?

When choosing colors and patterns for decorating wooden furniture, you should consider the style and mood you want to create, as well as the existing color scheme and decor of the room. You can use color theory to create harmonious or contrasting combinations, or you can use patterns to add texture and interest to the surface. It’s also important to consider the durability and practicality of the colors and patterns, as well as your personal taste and preferences.

9. Why is decorating wooden furniture a good DIY project?

Decorating wooden furniture is a good DIY project because it allows you to express your creativity, customize your furniture to your style and needs, and save money compared to buying new furniture. It can also be a fun and rewarding activity that you can share with friends or family. Moreover, decorating wooden furniture can give new life and personality to old or dull pieces, and can contribute to a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle by reducing waste and promoting reuse.

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