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To distress, or not to distress, that is the question

I purchased this elegant Edwardian chest of drawers / vanity dressing table chiffonier with oval swinging mirror, a few months ago now and thought it would look stunning painted.

The piece is solid mahogany and consists of three large drawers with the original handles, a lovely galleried back and a swinging mirror held by the original turned brackets, sitting on four very attractive turned tapered legs.

I decided to paint the piece in a soft shutter gray milk paint by Miss Mustard Seed, as thought it would complement it beautifully, which it did, but it needed a little 'something else' to finish it off.

I’m not one for distressing every piece of furniture I renovate. Indeed, some pieces look beautiful just as they are, but as was an antique dressing table, I thought it might benefit from some light distress work to further bring out its charm.

For those who haven’t used milk paint previously, it goes on a little lighter and thinner than chalk paint, so I painted about five coats to get the desired colour depth I wanted. The piece hadn’t been previously varnished and most of the oil had faded so the milk paint acted as a stain and soaked right into the wood work, much like an oil might. To be honest, I could have stopped at three coats to achieve a more whitewash weathered effect if I’d have wanted to.

I then waxed the chest in a light brown antique wax so it would pick out some of the detailing around the tapered legs, mirror columns, handles and the ornate detail at the back of the chest.

Once the wax had dried, I buffed the wax and re-waxed certain places, to ensure I got the coverage and shadowing I wanted.

Finally, I pulled out my trusty 160 grit sanding block and very lightly distressed the more prominent points, that might see natural wear and tear over time.

The key when distressing is not to go mad and over distress as you may end up taking off more paint than you want. I tend to lightly sand specific areas, take a step back and consider whether that’s enough.

To finish, I buffed the chest down with a soft cloth and hey presto!

Such a stylish, graceful piece of furniture and just perfect for chic bedroom. I’ve called her my Lostwithiel Antique Chest of Drawers Vanity Dressing Table with Chiffonier, which you can find on our online store now.

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