Distressed Furniture Buying Guide

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Furniture Buying Guide - Distressed Furniture

Contrary to what you may think...this is not furniture that's having a bad day. :-)

Also, to my surprise, I discovered that this is not furniture with a manufacturing defect or that must be sold, at a discount, because of the dealers (or Manufacturer's) financial problems.

Distressing, is deliberate and adds to the ambiance, or look and feel, that the piece portrays.

It may appear, to you, as a defect...so it is important that you know what to look for in a piece of distressed furniture.   Understanding "Distress" (I have to chuckle every time I write it) has a three-fold benefit...

  1. It enables you to recognize quality
  2. It protects you from snide remarks from your inlaws pertaining to your choice of furniture.  Show them this chapter the next time they point out a "flaw" in your furniture...that should lock their jaws for a while.
  3. It protects you from an unscrupulous salesperson trying to unload junk on you...while trying to convince you that it's "quality distressed furniture."

Let's take a look at some common "Distressing" techniques:

  • Fly Specking: Little dots of a dark colored paint randomly seen through out a finish, it would appear as though a fly landed and then walked across the piece of furniture before the paint/stain was cured.
  • Cow Tailing: A special brush is dipped in paint/stain and ‘flicked’ down on the furniture to create a heavier streak pattern.
  • White Pumice: A piece of pumice is rubbed along the edges of the furniture leaving behind a white residue.
  • Burnishing: The furniture is exposed to fire in order to  leave darker burn marks in the wood, then finished or painted over.  I really like this.
  • Rasping: To file or scrape with a coarse file having sharp projections; typically done to the edges of the furniture.
  • Worm Holes: This process is done by heating up a nail to red hot condition, and then hammering the nail into the wood to cause tiny darkened holes and trails that mimic the patterns made by worms.
  • Rubbing (Hand Rubbed): While the finish is drying random areas are rubbed with a different color or completely taken off to create a ‘worn’ look.
  • Crackle Finish: A special finish that ‘cracks’ while drying. Sometimes this finish is applied directly to the wood so you see the natural wood color through the cracks or it can also be applied over an already stained or painted piece so that you see the original color through the cracks.


Now that you're aware of what "Distressing" is you can look for it and decide it it's something you want in your furniture.

Just because a piece has been "Distressed" doesn't make it "Quality" furniture.  Make sure you read the chapter on determining quality.

Additional Furniture Buying Tips
Leather Furniture
Distressed Furniture
Foundation and Box Spring
Furniture Types
Cases and Chests
Measuring Tips
Joinery Tips
Leather Basics
Leather Markings
Manufactured Wood
Mattress Tips
Style Guide
Wood Finishes
Wood Types

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