Distressed Furniture doesn't have to be Distressing

"Distressed Furniture": The name itself conjures up images of hair pulling, long sessions with a therapist and intense, scarring trauma, but in the world of home decoration, distressed furniture is a means to a much more relaxing and inviting end.

Distressed furniture is pieces that have been sanded, painted and, in some cases, beaten with chains, run over by trucks, hacked at with axes, or other equally jaw-dropping and seemingly anger-motivated treatments, to achieve an antiquated, used and worn look.

The style itself is designed to evoke a sense of comfortable antiquity, the psychological idea being that visibly worn and used furniture evokes a sense of comfort and a refined style. Who doesn't have their favorite chair, even though it looks more like an archeological discovery than a recently-made rocker?

Where to Begin

One of the best places to start in your quest to distress is a flea market. Here, you can get your hands on old, already distressed furniture for rock-bottom prices. Rather than go through the trouble of beating a brand-new table into worn, distressed submission, why not let somebody's kids do the beating for you over the course of a lifetime?

But, if the sadist in you would rather get some anger out, there are a few tips and techniques from the pros to make sure your distressing is impressing:

Once you've finished beating, sanding or burning, think about applying new paint or a new finish. This will help blend the distressed areas in with the rest of the piece.

Make sure to concentrate on areas that would wear naturally. If you are distressing a chair, obviously, the seat and arm rest get worn; for tables, the corners get nicked and bumped, the legs get scratched. Ideally, no one should be able to tell how or where you have treated the furniture.

Ultimately, the techniques you use will be developed after a few trial runs. The end result is distressed, so experimentation almost always leads to happy accidents, and achieves the desired result.