Not quite fitting any single category, distressed furniture is a form of decor that identifies with the old and the new, conveying a little of both along with heaps of character. Nicked and worn panels tell tales of when the item was moved around a home and lovingly handled over the course of several generations. Achieving the look doesn't require visiting antique stores and seeking out vintage pieces with charming character gained through decades, especially when those items often cost enough money to distress your wallet more than the item you're looking for.
The Origins of Distressed Furniture
The rise of this trend takes us to London, to modern lands with high concepts for design and art but low budgets requiring just that little bit of inventive genius to realize a particular look. This is where distressed furniture comes to the fore, favoring cheaper antiques and affordable modern pieces of decor that can easily be made over into something unique and artistic.
What was old can be renewed with a touch of colorful paint and what's new can be aged with sandpaper and a bit of steel wool. The trend blurs the lines between what's modern and what's vintage, adding a colorful spin by attaching eccentric extras such as wood-paneled drawers made from old barn doors, bronzed handles once attached to entirely different pieces of furniture, altering the finish of a table or a desk with paint and sandpaper, imitating art and age with savvy design.
Blurring the Boundaries of Modern Furniture
It's the oxymoron of contemporary design, distressed furniture, taking the modern and the vintage, the old and the new, combining these influences in creative ways, but illustrating exactly what attracts buyers to this aged and eccentric design takes a little explaining. People desire antiques but don't have the resources to make these pieces their own.
Buying purposefully distressed furnishings answer this need without breaking the bank, adding a flourish of aged appeal that highlights wear-and-tear as an art form. The distress isn't a random addition to the articles but rather a sensitively applied design meant to show where previous generations handled the furniture, showing the scrape on the leg of a chair that exposes a previous color beneath the current tones, or adding bleached colors and faux paint crackles to imitate an antique piece that has spent a decade exposed to the sun while placed in front of a large picture window.
A Wonder to the Touch and the Eye
The moderately used tables and chairs, lamps and wardrobes fit seamlessly into the interior of a home, tying the old and the new together in a way that antique pieces could never achieve, but the rustic appeal also extends to the sense of touch. Stroke an end table splashed with paint and aged by unidentifiable stains and there's an intimate sensation of essential oils having been rubbed into the grain. Intelligence pairs with this creative input to place the wear around areas where natural age would appear if these were actual antiques.
A worn patch is more discernible around handles and on larger patches where mugs would've been left to cool on writing tables. Vanities are organically aged to reflect a time long past when a lady sat and attended to her makeup needs. It's an art, creating faded lines and partially identifiable stains for the owner to discover and fall in love with.
Adding a Story
A true steward of all types of interior design can appreciate the projection of rustic appeal and the retro eccentricities of this form of furniture. The art is inherently tied to aging the furniture, but an expression of individuality and character goes hand-in-hand with this expression. Mismatched drawers and grungy splashes of paint identify some pieces as lovingly designed for the unconventional homeowner.
Paisley Hansen is a freelance writer and expert in wellness, DIY, and interior design. When she isn’t writing she can usually be found reading a good book or hitting the gym.