Give a Dated Wood Headboard Fresh Farmhouse Charm

Give new furniture vintage-style charm and patina. Learn our designer trick for creating a distressed, painted finish in a flash.

March 12, 2020

Photo by: Sarah Busby

Sarah Busby

Materials Needed

  • wooden headboard
  • white candle
  • medium-grit sandpaper or sanding block
  • drop cloth or plastic to protect work surface
  • paintbrush
  • flat or eggshell interior paint in the color of your choice
  • cotton cloth
  • clear furniture wax
  • paper towels or tackcloth

Before: Dark and Dated

This solid wood headboard, picked up at an estate sale, has vintage-style charm with reeded posts and thick, scrolling details but the dark cherry finish, marred by a deep gouge, has seen better days.

Photo by: Sarah Busby

Sarah Busby

After: Old Is New Again

Freshened up with a coat of flat white paint that shows just the right amount of wear-and-tear, this new headboard looks like a well-loved family heirloom.

Photo by: Brittney Gazaway

Brittney Gazaway

Scuff Up Stained Finish

Using medium-grit sandpaper or a sanding block, rough up the headboard's existing stained and sealed finish to allow the paint to better adhere to the wood (Image 1). Using a damp paper towel or tackcloth, remove sanding dust (Image 2).

Add Wax Resist

Rub a white candle over the areas of the headboard where you don't want paint to fully stick — for instance, along the raised details, bed posts and other areas that would typically see wear with age. Tip: The wax will form a barrier preventing the paint from bonding to the wood, making it very easy to create a distressed finish by remove these areas of dried paint in a future step.

Photo by: Sarah Busby

Sarah Busby

Paint Headboard

Cover all areas of the headboard in two solid coats, allowing the paint to dry between coats. Tip: One inexpensive sample-size pot of flat interior paint was just the right amount for our headboard.

Photo by: Sarah Busby

Sarah Busby

Distress Paint

When both coats of paint have fully dried, gently go over the headboard using medium-grit sandpaper, concentrating your sanding efforts on the areas where you applied the wax resist (Images 1 and 2). Because the wax resist prevented the paint from fully bonding with the wood, the paint in these areas should sand off easily.

Seal Painted Finish

Using a waxing brush or clean cotton cloth, completely cover the headboard in a layer of clear furniture wax (Image 1). Following manufacturers' instructions, allow wax to fully cure (typically 24 hours) before using a second clean cotton cloth to buff for a more durable finish and a light sheen (Image 2).

Enjoy Your New/Old Headboard

Complement your freshly distressed headboard with antique accessories (Image 1), farmhouse-style bedding (Image 2) or have fun with pattern and color (Image 3).

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