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Transform Furniture with a Painted Patina

Give ho-hum wood furniture a colorful weathered finish with five simple distressing techniques. A pair of paint-makeover pros show you how.

Color Ideas: Painted Patina

Photo by Daniel Hennessy

Once Upon a time, a perfectly distressed painted finish on a table or dresser took years to develop. Not anymore. Just ask Marjee Ann Kress and Jill Wilson, who blog about their adventures in furniture reinvention at makandjill.com. As the owners of a home store and design-services business in San Clemente, California, they have perfected the process of giving so-called brown furniture the kind of layered patina it would once have taken decades to acquire. "We're taking dated pieces that have been gathering dust in the garage and giving them new life," says Wilson. "We've always been drawn to older furniture," adds Kress. "It has a history, is built solid, and has great detail."

Childhood friends and early adopters—"Our first project was repainting my bedroom set when I was 14," says Wilson—the two have spent years perfecting their techniques. These days they rely on two matte paints for fast results with next to no sanding or priming—one that imparts a chalky look (Annie Sloan Chalk Paint) and old-fashioned milk paint (they like Miss Mustard Seed's)—for both their design work and the workshops they teach. Read on for their secrets to getting an aged look in no time.

Pictured: Marjee Ann Kress (left) and Jill Wilson at their shop, Mak and Jill's The Abode

Aged Milk Paint

Photo by Daniel Hennessy

This easy process mimics the dings and scrapes you'd see on a painted wood piece after decades of wear and tear. It's ideal for unvarnished wood furniture with interesting details, like the dresser pictured.

Get full step-by-step instructions to recreate this look.

Aged Milk Paint: Before

Photo by Courtesy of Mak+Jill

What you'll need: Solid beeswax; a chip brush; yellow milk paint (here, it's Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow); a paint scraper; painter's tape; a round wax brush; clear finishing wax.

How to do it: Run a piece of beeswax along the corners, edges, and prominent details that would naturally show signs of wear; this will keep paint from adhering to those spots. Mix powdered milk paint with water according to the directions, and let sit for 10 minutes until the pigment dissolves. Brush on. When the paint is 90 percent dry, run a scraper over wear spots and use painter's tape to carefully pull off some of the paint on flat surfaces. With a short-bristled round brush, apply finishing wax in a circular motion, about 1 square foot at a time, wiping away any excess with a rag as you go. See the step-by-step instructions here.

Tip: Mix up only as much milk paint as you need—it contains a natural protein that will sour after a few days.

Color Wash

Photo by Daniel Hennessy

This technique adds subtle color while allowing the natural beauty of the wood to show through. Try it on unfinished pieces with paneling details for the wash to accentuate, like the cabinet above.

Get full step-by-step instructions to recreate this look.

See the

Color Wash: Before

Photo by Courtesy of Mak+Jill

What you'll need: A large, round natural-bristle brush; Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Greek Blue; a round wax brush; a rag; dark finishing wax.

How to do it: Brush on Chalk Paint, thinned 3 parts paint to 1 part water, pushing the solution into the wood grain. Wipe paint off flat areas with a rag; color will remain in the crevices. When dry, add a coat of dark wax for a rustic, antiqued look. Wipe off any excess with a rag. See the step-by-step instructions here

Tip: On brand-new wood, thin the paint less, say, 4 or 5 parts to 1.

Boat-Wood Effect

Photo by Daniel Hennessy

Inspired by reclaimed-wood furniture made from traditional Indonesian fishing boats that have been retired, this four-color finish features multiple layers of paint, so it has texture—a good fit for pieces that aren't in constant use, like an occasional table.

Get full step-by-step instructions to recreate this look.

See the .

Boat-Wood Effect: Before

Photo by Courtesy of Mak+Jill

What you'll need: A chip brush; Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Emperor's Silk, Old White, Barcelona Orange, and English Yellow; a plastic putty knife or spatula; a paint scraper; sandpaper; a round wax brush; a rag; dark and clear finishing wax.

How to do it: The key to this look is allowing the containers of Chalk Paint to sit open overnight. When left exposed to the air, the paint thickens to an almost impasto-like consistency. See the step-by-step instructions here.

Chippy Layered Finish

Photo by Daniel Hennessy

Allowing other colors and some bare wood to show suggests an item that has passed through many hands. This three-color look suits worn wood pieces that have a less-than-perfect finish, or even cracks, like this pew.

Get full step-by-step instructions to recreate this look.

Chippy Layered Finish: Before

Photo by Courtesy of Mak+Jill

What you'll need: A chip brush; Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint in Ironstone, Mustard Seed Yellow, and Lucketts Green; a paint scraper; 150-grit sandpaper; a round wax brush; a rag; clear finishing wax.

How to do it: If needed, sand off any existing finish before applying the first coat. Using a chip brush, dry-brush on a coat of white milk paint, dipping just the tip of the brush into the paint, leaving a minimal amount on the bristles. Let dry. Lightly sand where you want "aged" areas to appear. Brush on a coat of yellow milk paint; let dry. Sand again and apply green milk paint. When the piece is dry, use a scraper to remove random "chips" of paint. Brush on a coat of clear wax, wiping away any excess with a rag. See the step-by-step instructions here.

Tip: While wax is used to finish indoor milk-paint projects, it won't stand up to the heat of the sun. If you plan to park your piece outside, finish it with hemp oil. Apply only what the surface will absorb; cure for 30 days before placing outdoors.

Refined Crackle

Photo by Daniel Hennessy

Sometimes you spy a finish on antique furniture that is reminiscent of the crazing on fine porcelain. This process mimics that look, lending a perfectly aged patina to pieces with elegant lines, such as these French Provincial–style caned dining chairs.

Get full step-by-step instructions to recreate this look.

Refined Crackle: Before

Photo by Courtesy of Mak+Jill

What you'll need: A large, round natural-bristle brush; Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Florence and Old White; in Primer Red, Olive, and Graphite mixed to make brown; a blow-dryer; a rag; a round wax brush; clear finishing wax. See the step-by-step instructions here.

How to do it: No crackle medium necessary—just a trip to your vanity: The heat from a blow-dryer helps create the same effect on regular Chalk Paint.