How to White Wash Furniture

White washing furniture is a popular technique that can give a fresh, modern look to any wooden piece by allowing the wood’s natural grain to show through a thin layer of paint. Interior designers often recommend this versatile finish for updating older furniture or giving new life to items with an outdated appearance.

By using a few simple tools and following some expert tips, anyone can achieve this stylish effect with minimal time and effort. White washing creates an airy, coastal feel, making it perfect for those looking to create a calming, beach-inspired atmosphere in their space. This article will walk you through the steps to successfully white wash furniture, ensuring a beautiful and lasting result.

Why Whitewash Furniture

Whitewashing furniture has become a popular choice for many homeowners and interior designers. By whitewashing, you can effectively transform a drab piece of furniture into one that exudes character, charm, and elegance. In this section, we will explore the reasons why whitewashing furniture is highly recommended from an interior design perspective.

Rustic Charm

Incorporating rustic elements into your interior design is an excellent way to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Whitewashed furniture is well-known for its ability to evoke a sense of rustic charm. Thanks to the subtle hints of color and the natural wood grain that shine through the whitewash, each piece has a unique and unpolished look. This characteristic makes it a perfect fit for interiors inspired by country, farmhouse, or cottage style decor.

Vintage Feel

Whitewashing is a technique that can lend furniture a vintage feel, which is perfect for those seeking a timeless and classic touch in their interior design. The worn and slightly distressed look that comes from whitewashing suggests that the piece has a story to tell, imbuing your space with an air of nostalgia. Furthermore, vintage pieces often blend well with a range of design styles, from traditional to eclectic, making whitewashed furniture a versatile option for any home.


One of the major benefits of whitewashing furniture is its versatility in design. Not only can it easily fit into various decorative styles, but it can also serve as a complementary piece or as the focal point of a room. The neutral tones of whitewashed furniture allow them to blend seamlessly with various color schemes and textures, while still adding visual interest through the details.

Additionally, whitewashing is a technique that can be applied to a wide range of furniture materials, including wood, metal, and wicker. This variety ensures that you’ll find the perfect whitewashed piece to accentuate your desired aesthetic.

In summary, whitewashing furniture offers a multitude of benefits from an interior design standpoint. Its rustic charm, vintage feel, and versatility make it a desirable choice for enhancing the beauty and character of various design styles. Whether you are looking to create a cozy farmhouse-inspired living space or to add a touch of timeless elegance to your home, whitewashed furniture could be the perfect addition.

Materials and Tools Needed

In this section, we will explore the materials and tools needed to successfully white wash your furniture. We’ll discuss Paint and Stain, Safety Equipment, and Sanding and Painting Tools.

Paint and Stain

When it comes to whitewashing, selecting the right paint and stain is crucial. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Latex paint: A high-quality latex paint is an excellent choice for whitewashing, as it is easy to work with and dries quickly. Opt for a water-based paint, as they are eco-friendly and allow for easier clean-up.
  • Color: For a true whitewashed effect, choose a light color or off-white paint. This will create a faded, rustic appearance.
  • Stain: A wood stain can be used alongside or instead of paint, to darken light wood and create a more distressed look. Water-based stains are recommended for their ease of use.

Safety Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential when working with paint and stains to ensure your safety. The following are items you should have on hand:

  • Gloves: Paint and stain can irritate the skin, so always wear gloves while working.
  • Paper mask or respirator: Sanding and painting can release particles and fumes, so protect your lungs by wearing a mask or respirator.
  • Goggles: To prevent any splashes or debris from causing eye injuries, wear protective goggles.

Sanding and Painting Tools

Proper preparation is key to achieving the perfect whitewashed effect, so make sure you have the right sanding and painting tools on hand:

SandpaperUse medium to fine grit sandpaper (120 to 220 grit) to prep the surface before painting. Higher grits will give a smoother finish.
PaintbrushA high-quality paintbrush will ensure even coverage and prevent brushstrokes. Synthetic brushes work well with latex paint.
Drop clothA drop cloth will protect the surrounding area from paint drips and can also provide a workspace for sanding and painting.

With these materials and tools in place, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on the process of whitewashing your furniture with confidence and achieve professional-looking results.

Choosing the Right Furniture

As an interior designer, it’s essential to select the right furniture when white washing to achieve the desired effect. Knowing the type of wood, and whether the furniture is intended for indoor or outdoor use, will dictate the best approach to white washing.

Wood Types

Different types of wood produce different results when white washed. Two popular options are oak and pine, which lend themselves well to the technique.

Oak: Oak is a hardwood with a pronounced grain pattern that provides great texture when white washed. It’s ideal for large furniture pieces, such as dining tables and buffets, and even cabinetry in kitchens or bathrooms.

Pine: Pine is a softer wood with a subtler grain, making it suitable for smaller pieces like side tables or decorative accents. When white washed, it takes on a more rustic appearance, making it a popular choice for cottage or farmhouse interiors.

Wood TypeBenefits
OakStrong, pronounced grain, works well for larger furniture
PineSoft, subtle grain, perfect for smaller pieces and rustic style

While oak and pine are popular options, other kinds of wood can also be white washed. The key is to choose a wood with a visible grain pattern to ensure the white wash solution can enhance its natural beauty.

Indoor and Outdoor Options

White washing can be applied to both indoor and outdoor furniture. However, there are factors to consider when selecting which pieces to white wash.

Indoor Furniture: Since interiors tend to have more controlled environments, any type of wood can be white washed for indoor use. White washing is a great way to update furniture, such as cabinetry or shelving, and breathe new life into a space. Always choose furniture with a pronounced grain pattern for the best results.

Outdoor Furniture: For outdoor furniture, it’s important to use only weather-resistant woods, such as teak, cedar, or treated pine. White washing outdoor furniture can give it a charming and relaxed ambiance, perfect for patios or porches. Keep in mind that outdoor pieces may require additional protection, such as a sealant or topcoat, to preserve the white washed finish against the elements.

In conclusion, choosing the right furniture and wood type is crucial for a successful white washing project. Whether working with oak, pine, or other types of wood, consider the piece’s intended use – indoors or outdoors – to determine the most suitable approach. By carefully selecting the appropriate furniture and materials, it’s possible to create beautiful, white washed pieces that enhance any interior or outdoor space.

Whitewashing Process

Whitewashing furniture is a popular technique used by interior designers to create a cozy, rustic, and vintage look. This process is ideal for walls or floors made of natural grain wood, as it enhances the wood’s character while providing a unique finish. Whitewashing can also provide a light and airy feel in your home. The whitewashing process involves four main steps: preparing the surface, mixing whitewash paint, applying the whitewash, and sealing and protecting the furniture. This section will guide you through each of these steps.

Prepare the Surface

Before beginning the whitewashing process, it is essential to prepare the wooden surface. Preparation is crucial, as it helps the whitewash paint adhere to the raw wood properly. The following steps outline how to prepare your furniture:

  1. Cleaning: Start by cleaning the furniture to remove any dirt, grime, or existing stains. Use a clean cloth and mild soap-water mixture to wipe down the surface. Allow the piece to dry fully before proceeding to the next step.
  2. Sanding: Sanding to expose the wood’s natural grain is important because it allows the whitewash paint to be absorbed more efficiently. For stained wood, use a medium-grit sandpaper to remove any varnish or polyurethane. For unsealed or raw wood, a light sanding with fine-grit sandpaper should suffice.

Mixing Whitewash Paint

Next, you will need to mix your whitewash paint. The standard ratio of whitewash paint is one part water to two parts white latex paint. However, you can adjust this ratio depending on the level of opacity you desire. A higher water-to-paint ratio will result in a thinner, more transparent finish, while a lower ratio will create a more opaque appearance.

It is essential to mix your paint thoroughly to ensure that the water and paint are evenly distributed. Mixing in small batches may help you achieve a more consistent result. If you are unsure about your desired opacity, test the mixture on a scrap piece of wood before proceeding.

Applying the Whitewash

Once your surface is prepared, and the whitewash paint is mixed, you can begin applying the paint to the furniture. Use a paintbrush or a lint-free cloth to apply the paint, following the wood’s grain direction. The following tips will help you achieve an even finish:

  1. Thin coats: Apply several thin coats of whitewash, allowing each layer to dry before adding more. This technique will prevent any streaks or uneven patches.
  2. Wiping technique: After applying the whitewash, use a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe off any excess paint. This will help to achieve a more natural finish and emphasize the wood’s grain.

Sealing and Protecting

After the whitewash is completely dry, it is essential to seal and protect the surface. A clear, water-based polyurethane is recommended for this step, as it provides effective protection without altering the color of the whitewashed wood.

Apply two to three light coats of polyurethane, allowing each coat to dry before adding the next. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions when working with polyurethane. Sealing the wood will help preserve your whitewashed furniture while providing additional protection against wear and tear.

Whitewashing Special Surfaces

In this section, we will discuss how to whitewash various special surfaces such as brick, stone, ceilings, and walls. Whitewashing these unique surfaces often requires a different approach than the techniques used for furniture.

Brick and Stone

Brick and stone surfaces, such as fireplaces or accent walls, can be refreshed with a whitewash treatment. First, clean the surface by removing dust, dirt, or grime with a mild soap and water solution. Once dry, prepare the whitewash mixture. For brick and stone, a thicker consistency is recommended to help the whitewash adhere better. To achieve this, use a 50/50 or 60/40 mix of water and white latex paint.

Apply the whitewash mixture to the surface, working in small sections. Use a brush to apply the mixture and follow with a clean, damp cloth to remove the excess, leaving the whitewash in the crevices and texture of the brick or stone. This technique highlights the unique surface pattern and brings out the texture.

Allow the whitewash to dry for several hours or overnight. Once dry, examine the surface and decide if another coat is needed. Repeat the process until the desired level of coverage is achieved.

Ceilings and Walls

Whitewashing your ceilings and walls can provide a light, airy feel to your space. It also adds visual interest and depth to an otherwise plain surface. Start by preparing the surface. Clean the surface to remove any dirt or dust. Fill any holes or cracks with a filler, sanding smooth once dry. If the wall or ceiling has a smooth finish, you may want to lightly sand the surface to help the whitewash adhere.

For drywall and plastered surfaces, use a mixture of white latex paint and water. However, a thinner consistency is preferred to prevent dripping or runs. A 70/30 mix of water and paint should work well for these surfaces.

Apply the whitewash mixture using a roller, working in small sections. Unlike furniture, a more even application is preferred for ceilings and walls, so avoid crosshatching techniques. If desired, you can apply a second coat using a dry brushing technique to create a more layered and textured appearance.

As the whitewash dries, it becomes more translucent, so allow it to dry completely before assessing whether more coats are needed.

Incorporating Whitewash into Room Design

Whitewashing furniture is a popular technique for achieving a refreshing and cozy atmosphere in various rooms within the home. This section will explore different spaces in which whitewashed furniture can complement the overall décor and provide a few suggestions from an interior designer’s perspective.

Kitchen and Living Spaces

Whitewashing can breathe new life into your kitchen and living room areas, making them appear more airy and spacious. This technique works especially well on wooden furniture, such as kitchen cabinets, tables, and chairs. Keep the whitewashed pieces as a focal point by balancing them with contrasting hues in other elements, like the backsplash or textiles. For instance:

  • Pair whitewashed kitchen cabinets with a bold tile backsplash to create visual balance.
  • Include whitewashed coffee or end tables in your living room for a relaxed and inviting atmosphere.

Implementing whitewashed furniture in your living spaces can introduce a feeling of comfort, making it an ideal choice for homes embodying a sense of coziness.

Bathroom Design

Bathrooms often benefit from a light and refreshing aesthetic, and whitewashed furniture can help achieve that. Consider these suggestions for incorporating this technique into your bathroom design:

  • Whitewash a wooden vanity or storage unit to create an open and spacious feel.
  • Include decorative whitewashed accents, such as a mirror frame or shelf, to maintain the theme without overwhelming the space.

Remember that bathrooms are often more susceptible to moisture, so it’s vital to use water-resistant coatings and materials to protect whitewashed furniture from damage.

Outdoor and Garden Spaces

Whitewashed furniture is not limited to indoor spaces. It can also enhance your outdoor living areas and garden spaces by providing a tranquil and idyllic atmosphere. Consider these suggestions when incorporating whitewashed accents in your outdoor spaces:

  • Choose weather-resistant materials to ensure the longevity of the whitewashed effect in outdoor furniture.
  • Complement your garden by placing whitewashed benches or tables, which can add visual interest and contrast against the natural greenery.
  • Introduce whitewashed planters or decorative statues to elevate the overall outdoor design.

Overall, it’s essential to consider the proper maintenance and protection of outdoor whitewashed furniture from environmental factors like rain and sunlight. Nonetheless, with the right care, these elements can enhance your outdoor spaces and provide a serene and welcoming atmosphere.

Customizing Your Whitewash

Every piece of furniture has the potential to showcase your unique style and personality. One way to achieve this is by customizing your whitewash finish to create enticing and stunning outcomes. This section will discuss two popular techniques for customizing your whitewash: Tinted Whitewash and Distressed Techniques. Let’s explore how you can use these methods to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind furniture pieces.

Tinted Whitewash

While traditional whitewashing gives your furniture a classic, timeworn appeal, you can also add a twist by incorporating different colors in the mix. Tinted whitewash allows you to experiment with various shades, such as gray or blue, while still retaining the original charm of the whitewashing technique.

To create a tinted whitewash, consider the following steps:

  1. Select a color: Choose a desired color for your tint, such as gray or blue, to complement your interior design and theme.
  2. Mix the tint: Combine equal parts of water, latex paint in your desired color, and clear mixing glaze for a smooth consistency.
  3. Apply the tinted whitewash: Using a brush or cheesecloth, evenly apply the tinted whitewash to your furniture, following the wood grain pattern. Make sure to work in small sections to achieve a uniform finish.
  4. Wipe off excess: After allowing the tinted whitewash to sit for a few minutes, gently wipe off any excess to reveal the desired transparency and depth of the color.
  5. Finish with a topcoat: Seal the tinted whitewash with a clear topcoat to protect your furniture from wear and tear.

Distressed Techniques

Distressed techniques emphasize the aged appearance of your whitewashed furniture, adding a vintage touch to your interior design. Distressing can be achieved using various methods, such as sanding, using a scraping tool or incorporating other unique treatments.

Below are some popular distressed techniques to consider:

  • Strategic Sanding: To create a naturally worn appearance, focus on sanding areas that experience the most wear, such as corners, edges and raised details. This method is ideal for creating a subtly distressed look.
  • Scraping: With a scraping tool or paint scraper, gently remove portions of the whitewash finish in select areas to reveal the underlying wood. This technique gives your furniture an appealing rough texture.
  • Layering: By applying multiple layers of different colored paints before applying the whitewash, you can create a rich-looking distressed finish. When sanding, these layers will be revealed, creating a vibrant and visually interesting effect.

Experimenting with tinted whitewash and distressed techniques can be both an art and a fun DIY project, providing endless ways to customize your furniture and express your personal style. Remember to take your time and practice these techniques on scrap wood pieces before applying them to the actual furniture to achieve the perfect finish tailored to your design preferences.

DIY Whitewash Furniture Projects

Whitewashing furniture can give your decor a fresh, revitalized look while still preserving the natural beauty of the wood. This DIY project is an excellent way to upcycle your old furniture and create a beautiful new look for your home. In this section, we will discuss some DIY whitewash furniture projects that you can undertake to transform your living space.

Before beginning the whitewashing process, ensure you have the necessary tools and materials, such as paint brushes, a bucket, water, and a whitewash paint mix. It’s crucial to choose a well-ventilated area for your work, such as a garage or outdoor space, to avoid breathing in paint fumes.

Follow these steps for a successful DIY whitewashing furniture project:

  1. Prepare the furniture: Gently sand the surface of the furniture to remove any varnish, paint, or dirt. Wipe down the furniture with a damp cloth to remove any dust.
  2. Protect your workspace: Cover the area where you’ll work with dropcloths, plastic sheets, or old newspapers to protect surfaces from paint drips and spills.
  3. Whitewash paint mix: Combine equal parts of paint and water for a lighter, more transparent finish; or use a 3-to-1 ratio of paint to water for a more opaque finish, depending on your preference.
  4. Apply the whitewash: Dip your brush in the paint mix, remove excess paint by wiping it onto the edge of the bucket, and apply it to the furniture in long, even strokes. Work in sections, and wipe off any excess paint with a cloth before it dries.
  5. Let it dry: Allow your furniture to dry fully before moving on to the next step. This could take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on the humidity and temperature of your workspace.
  6. Seal the finish: Apply a protective sealer, such as a clear varnish or wax, to preserve the whitewashed finish and protect your furniture from wear and tear.

Here are some ideas for DIY whitewash furniture projects:

  • Whitewash a wooden chair: Transform a dull, worn-out chair into a chic accent piece by applying a whitewash finish. This project is perfect for beginners and can be completed in just a few hours.
  • Revamp a wooden table: Give an old table new life with a whitewashed finish. Experiment with different shades of white or even pastel colors for a unique, customized look.
  • Update wood paneling: If your home features dated wood paneling, whitewashing it can significantly brighten and modernize your space.
  • Makeover a wood ceiling: Whitewashing a ceiling can create a lighter, more open atmosphere in any room. This project may be more challenging, so take safety precautions and consider getting assistance from friends or family.

DIY whitewash furniture projects are an affordable and effective way to breathe new life into tired or outdated wood furniture pieces. By following these guidelines and tips, you can create a fresh, stylish look that highlights the natural beauty of the wood, while adding your personal touch to your home decor.

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