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Shabby Chic Style Refinishing....It's All The Rage

And for good reason....it's an easy way to make a dungheap into something really special. Probably

the most attractive aspect of this finishing method is that it normally doesn't require stripping the finish off.



In this tutorial, I'll show you step by step how I took this well worn dresser and completely transformed it with a

Custom Shabby Chic Style Finish.





So what is Shabby chic in the first place?  Shabby Chic is what I refer to as a decorating style that incorporates furniture with older traditional styles that are given a mildly aged or distressed finish to give it the appearance of an older finish, yet at the same time, a soft, minimalistic, and feminine feel is emphasized to differentiate it from regular vintage decor.


Shabby Chic Style covers a pretty broad spectrum of styles, and probably needs to be a little bit more refined.  When I'm doing a Shabby Chic finish, I let the style of the piece dictate the finish I apply.  To me...Shabby Chic is NOT the same as a primitive finish. Shabby Chic is not intended to look like a "real" antique finish.  The "chic" part is added to the name because the finish is meant to reflect some degree of style and elegance.  If it's a true "time worn" finish we are looking to achieve, I refer to that finish as a primitive finish.


So now that we have an understanding of what Shabby Chic is.....lets get down to the business end of how to do it.




Lets Get Started.....


We begin this Tutorial with a dresser that screams out Shabby Chic to me.  It's too beat up and not special enough in design to warrant a total strip & refinish. A single color paint is (yawn) boring, and the style doesn't lend itself well to a primitive finish.




Shabby Chic doesn't mean White....I see examples of what people are calling Shabby Chic all over the net as furniture

painted white and the edges sanded through. While that may be Shabby Chic in it's most simplistic form, don't limit yourself to that vision alone.  With this project, I used my clients wall paint and a suede chair as my inspiration and color palette. 




To get you inspired, here is what our finished dresser looks like at the end of this Tutorial





Nice, right?  And very simple to do.  To begin this project, I choose to strip just the top of the dresser.  For

more information of how to strip a top, visit this tutorial.  Since I wanted to create a slightly more sophisticated finish

for this client, I choose to keep my distressing to a minimum. The top was badly worn,  and that just didn't fit within

my vision of the finish I wanted to create.





After a quick strip and sand of the top, we are ready to get to the fun part........




Below are two of the drawers. The one on the right was painted with our base color. This is where you

can choose the color direction for your shabby chic finish.  In picked a sand tone for this job.  Keep in mind, the effect

the glaze will have on the final color (Below Left).





After Applying your base paint for your color, you will want to seal the paint in by applying a protective clear coat over it. Use the same finish you will be using as a "final finish", such as lacquer, shellac, polyurethane, etc.

This sealer coat of finish will keep the glaze from absorbing into the paint, and allow you to manipulate the glaze.



For glaze on this project, I am using a heavy pigmented oil base stain. I can do this because I will be using lacquer as

my clear finish.  However, If I were using a finish that was oil based, or reducible (thinned) by mineral spirits,

I would NOT want to use an oil based stain. Reason....The finish would soften the glaze during application, ruining the

effect. If you are using a Polyurethane as your clear coat,  you will be better off using a water based glaze or stain.

The products change, but the procedure is the same.




Below Left: Apply the glaze/stain liberally with a brush or rag, being sure you get stain in all the crevices.


Below Right: Wipe off the excess with a dry rag, leaving enough behind to "brush out"





Below: The Next step is to brush out the glaze while it is still wet. Brush out using long strait strokes with your brush.


Continue this process until you get the desired effects. You can add or remove glaze as needed



Below:  The finished drawer after I complete the above step.




Below: Remember The Door?  How I fixed it was I used Bondo (auto body filler) to fill and build up the damaged area. Once the Bondo hardened, I sanded it smooth with the orbital sander.





Continue this step piece by piece. When doing the case, break it down to smaller working sections, such as the top,

sides and front.



After the glaze dries, I did a little distressing to add some character and definition.  This is a FUN & EASY finish.  You can really impart your own style & taste through color choices and glaze effects.


Below:  The finished drawer




And The Finished Dresser:


I hope you found this episode inspiring!



Your Hosts,

Rod & Jen Keyser

Owners of The Restoration Studio LLC


“Our goal at The Furniture Refinishing Studio Learning Center is to help empower you to step beyond the realm of ordinary, and assist you so that your furniture restoration projects become extraordinary. We are passionate about furniture,and we understand the importance it plays in everyday life.”

Rod & Jen Keyser The Restoration Studio LLC