Pickling, bleaching, whitewash—they're all variations on the theme of treating light-colored woods, usually pine, oak, or ash, to make them appear even lighter, almost ethereal. This "limed" look stems from the 16th-century European practice of infusing wood with a paste of caustic lime to ward off insect infestation. Even then, it was appreciated for its decorative value.
Today you can just use leftover primer to create a simple pickling solution, or try one of the commercial pickling formulas out there. In either case, the process couldn't be simpler: Sand the wood, brush on the solution, wipe it off with a rag. The whitewash collects in the darker grain, creating a sort of sun-bleached negative of the natural wood for a weathered, driftwood look. Along with furniture like the red oak bench shown here, pickling is a great choice for pine floors, beadboard wainscot, and paneled shutters.
No primer on your shelf of leftover paints? Try a premixed pickling solution such as Minwax White Wash Pickling Stain, about $12 per quart at paint stores.