Selecting and Preparing the Table
Select a table with solid construction to ensure your makeover efforts last a while. The makeover will work with any type of table, from dining room table to end table to console table. Determine what color you would like to show through the shabby chic finish -- it may even be the current color of the table. If the table is plain or varnished wood and you want the wood grain to show through, sand it just enough to scuff it up for the paint treatment, and then wipe the dust away. If the table is painted and you'd like that color to show through the finish, dust or clean the table as your first step. No sanding is needed at this point. Whack the table a few times with various parts of a hammer or a cloth bag full of heavy nuts and bolts to give it a bit of worn character.
Paint the table in a base shade that fits your vision for the piece if the current finish isn't quite what you have in mind. No primer is needed -- if any paint chips off, it adds shabby charm to the piece. Once the first layer of paint dries -- or if the table is already a suitable base color -- rub candle wax over the entire surface, focusing on areas that would normally wear the most, such as edges, corners and places where chairs would touch the table. Paint your favorite shabby-chic shade, such as robin's egg blue or an antique white, over the wax and allow it to dry. Sand through some of the top layer of paint and even the base coat, focusing on the areas with the most wax coverage. The wax makes the paint easier to remove, adding to that worn, shabby look. Wipe the dust away with a tack cloth or other soft cloth.
Add the look of many years' wear to your favorite project table by painting on layers of different paint shades. For instance, the base layer may be a pale, warm gray, followed by pastel yellow, light green, then finally a pastel blue. A coat of wax between each layer cuts down on the sanding time required to remove paint from high-use areas. For a varied look, paint the legs or base of the table beneath the top with more or fewer paint colors, or even alter some of the colors, to add contrast and interest to the finished piece. You can seal the top of the table with polyurethane to protect the finish from moisture, such as on a dining table. The sealer makes the table look a bit more shiny, however -- it's completely optional.
Add the look of age to the top paint layer, no matter what color you choose, with an optional tinted glaze. Honey yellow makes light paint look slightly yellowed, while a thin charcoal-tinted glaze darkens and embellishes details, such as carvings around the table's perimeter or legs. Create your own custom glaze by adding the desired shade of latex or acrylic paint to clear latex glaze and mixing them together. Brush the glaze in a random fashion over the piece, and then rub much of it off with a clean, dry rag.