Distressed and Antiqued Kitchen Cabinets

Add cottage-style charm to white painted cabinets by distressing then applying antiquing glaze. This quick and easy project will give builder basic cabinets a custom look in no time.
Antiqued white kitchen cabinet with exposed shelves and kitchenware.

Customize Your Kitchen Cabinets: Antiquing Anyone?

Add cottage-style charm to white painted cabinets by distressing them and then applying an antiquing glaze. This quick and easy DIY project will give your builder basic cabinets a custom look in no time. This transformed cabinet features exposed shelving, white ceramic pitchers, a silver colander, baskets, cookbook, dishes and jars.

Materials Needed:

  • rubber gloves
  • mocha-tinted antiquing glaze (available at most home improvement stores)
  • smooth cotton rags
  • painters' tape
  • sanding block
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • small paintbrush
  • spray polyurethane

Clean Cabinets

Put on a pair of rubber gloves and wipe cabinet faces with a damp rag to remove surface dirt. Let the cabinets dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Empty half of a white kitchen cabinet following cleaning.

Antiquing Kitchen Cabinets: Make Them Squeaky Clean First

The first step in distressing and antiquing kitchen cabinets is clean them well. Put on a pair of rubber gloves and wipe cabinet faces with a damp rag to remove the surface dirt. Let the cabinets dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Protect Walls

Use painters' tape to protect the walls around cabinets. Glaze dries slowly, so there is usually time to clean up an accidental mark, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Sand Edges

Using a sanding block wrapped in 80-grit sandpaper, sand raised edges and corners of each cabinet door and/or opening. Sand until the wood under paint is fully exposed.

Sanding a white kitchen cabinet with a sanding block.

Antiquing Kitchen Cabinets: Sand the Edges and Corners

Step 3 in distressing and antiquing kitchen cabinets is to sand them well. Using a sanding block wrapped in 80-grit sandpaper, sand the raised edges and corners of each cabinet door and opening. Sand until the wood under the paint is fully exposed.

Apply Antiquing Glaze

Add a small amount of antiquing glaze to a smooth, clean rag. Begin applying the glaze to the front or side of one cabinet in small, circular motions until you've covered the entire section. Tip: A small amount of glaze will go a very long way. It's better to start with too little glaze rather than too much.

Glazing a kitchen cabinet with antiquing glaze using a rag.

Antiquing Kitchen Cabinets: Applying the Glaze

Glazing is Step 4 in distressing and antiquing kitchen cabinets. Add a small amount of antiquing glaze to a smooth, clean rag. Begin applying the glaze to the front or side of one cabinet in small, circular motions until you've covered the entire section. Tip: A small amount of glaze will go a very long way. It's better to start with too little glaze rather than too much.

Smooth Finish

Once the entire front or side of a cabinet has been covered in glaze, use a clean area of your rag and a very light touch to smooth out all the circular marks. Gently wipe the glaze in straight up-and-down or side-to-side motion until the desired effect is achieved.

Smoothing out the antiquing glaze on a white kitchen cabinet.

Antiquing Kitchen Cabinets: Smoothing Out the Antiquing Glaze

Step 5 in distressing and antiquing kitchen cabinets is to smooth the glaze. Once the entire front or side of a cabinet has been covered in glaze, use a clean area of your rag and a very light touch to smooth out all the circular marks. Gently wipe the glaze in a straight up-and-down or side-to-side motion until the desired effect is achieved.

Darken Edges

Using a small brush, add more antiquing glaze to the distressed parts of the cabinets and/or doors. It's OK to apply the glaze liberally in these places because some of it will be removed in the next step.

Darkening a distressed cabinet with glaze to darken its edges.

Antiquing Kitchen Cabinets: Darken Cabinets With Glaze

Step 6 in distressing and antiquing kitchen cabinets is to darken the cabinets with additional glaze. Using a small brush, add more antiquing glaze to the distressed parts of the cabinets and doors. It's all right to apply the glaze liberally in these places because some of it will be removed in the next step of the process.

Remove Excess Glaze

Wrap a smooth, clean rag around your index finger and carefully wipe off any excess glaze that's accumulated outside of the distressed spots created in the previous step.

Wiping off excess glaze from a cabinet with a soft cloth.

Antiquing Kitchen Cabinets: Wiping Off Excess Antiquing Glaze

Step 7 in distressing and antiquing kitchen cabinets is to wipe off any residual glaze. Wrap a smooth, clean rag around your index finger and carefully wipe off any excess glaze that's accumulated outside of the distressed spots that were created when the cabinet's edges were darkened.

Distress Remaining Cabinets

Continue working, cabinet by cabinet, until every desired surface has been antiqued. Make sure to stand back every now and then to ensure the overall effect is consistent. When finished, let the glaze dry for at least 24 hours before sealing it.

Protect the Finish

Spray on a light coat of clear, non-yellowing sealer to protect the distressed finish from damage. Tip: It's very important to use a non-yellowing sealer as regular polyurethane will turn yellow if applied over white paint.

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