On this site, we usually talk about how to give new life to old things. Like fixing up old furniture or upcycling something that would otherwise be considered trash. But there is the reverse concept, and that is giving something new a weathered, and lived-in look.
Sometimes, this is exactly the look you’re going for. Consider a summer house on the beach with a nautical theme. Usually, nautical items are worn and weathered, having seen their fair share of use. This typically adds to the charm of the room and makes it look a bit more authentic rather than store-bought. And while you can certainly buy many items already used and weathered (like from thrift stores, garage sales, a Hollywood pawn shop, etc.) you may have to give something new a treatment to match everything else.
This handy guide from homeguides.sfgate.com will work wonders:
A speedy weathering technique requires nothing more than a fresh paint color, a paintbrush and several rags. Paint the top paint color, which is different from the base shade, over part of the project piece, working in a small area so it can be weathered before the paint dries. Rub most of the paint off immediately with a rag, focusing on edges, corners and detailed areas that would wear the most over time. A paint color with a grayish tint to it looks a bit weathered naturally, as if it become dirtier over time; rubbing it off the piece leaves just enough to make it seem as though the furniture has sat outdoors for years and needs a fresh coat of paint. For a more complex version of the layering process, rub candle wax over a dry base coat, then paint on a top color, allowing it to dry. The wax allows the paint to peel and chip away easily with sandpaper. Repeat the wax and paint process with several paint shades for an even more layered look.
A Wrinkle in Time
A crackle finish over a dry paint base coat makes a top paint color look as thought it has wrinkled, crinkled and cracked over time. Crackle medium or school glue creates this specialty effect by making wet paint crack. Apply the crackle medium or glue over the entire painted piece, allowing it to set until it is tacky but not dry. This may take several minutes up to several hours, depending on the medium chosen; some glues are designed to cure slowly. Paint a topcoat in a shade different from the base color over the furniture; opt for vastly different shades, such as charcoal over white, or white over dark blue, for a striking effect. Once the top color crackles and dries, leave it as-is for a natural weathered look, or sand the surfaces smooth for a more refined weathered appearance.
Rough It Up
Sanding away most of the paint, adding a few dents and dings along the way, gives the piece a distressed and weathered look, as if the paint has worn off over time. This technique is effective on wood, especially the denting process. Remove as much paint as possible, almost as much as if you’re stripping the piece down to bare wood. Whack the piece a few times with various parts of a claw hammer’s heed, or poke a few clusters of holes in it with a tack or a narrow drill bit, such as a 1/32-bit, to emulate worm holes.
A tinted glaze applied over the piece gives it a slightly dingy, weathered look, especially if the glaze is made with a dark brown or black tint. Mix the desired paint color into clear glaze, brush the glaze over the furniture, then rub most of it off with a rag. Fleck the glaze on afterwards in a few pieces by flicking a brush loaded with a small amount of glaze toward the piece; the marks look like spots that developed over time due to pollution, insects or errant overspray from a long-past project. The glaze also adds an aged appearance after you’ve distressed a piece with sandpaper.