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How to Whitewash Wooden Furniture

Whitewash can add a rustic, unfinished feel to any piece of wood furniture. It is especially popular in cottage or beach house decor. The gloss-free, rough-hewn appearance that results from the whitewash process can transform an ordinary-looking piece of furniture into a design statement. In the past, lime material was employed to give wood an aged, whitish appearance. However, lime wash is not stable and is easily removed by the elements. Modern whitewashing techniques involve using off-white paint or whitewash stain.

Using Off-White Paint

Whitewashed wood offers a rustic feel.
    Unfinished furniture is your best choice for applying whitewash effect.
  1. Buy unfinished furniture. Paints and stains soak directly into unfinished wood, so they are the best choice.

  2. Buy an off-white latex paint with a flat, nonglossy finish. White paint is a bit too stark, so choose a shade like oyster white or bisque white to create a more traditional effect. Glossy paint will offer too finished an appearance to the furniture in the end.

  3. Add water to the paint.
  4. Add water to the paint until its consistency is like a thick cream. You will probably have to experiment with just how much to dilute the paint. Naturally, the less water you use the more opaque the effect will be. Mix small batches of paint to test the effect before you decide on the solution that is best for you.

  5. Paint the furniture with your paint-and-water solution. Go with the direction of the wood's grain and be sure to cover all surfaces.

  6. Allow the paint to dry.

  7. Paint on two coats of your latex varnish and allow them to dry.

Using Wood Stain

  1. Buy a white-colored wood stain. You should be able to find such a product at your hardware or home-improvement store.

  2. Apply the stain with a brush, a roller or a rag, in the direction of the wood's grain.

  3. Allow the stain to dry.

  4. Apply two or three coats of your water-based varnish, and let it dry.

About the Author

D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.