The Creative Mama » inspiring art, encouraging women

Shabby Chic – distress for less.


It’s no secret, I’m a lover of the Shabby Chic. Absolutely drool over the small cottage stores I come across, love finding little bits and pieces in thrift stores, and am a huge fan of Target’s Shabby line. My desire to Shabby-it-up can get expensive. Let’s face it, even when on sale, Target’s Shabby stuff isn’t usually something I can afford.

I took matters into my own hands, and turned some boring furniture into pieces I am absolutely in love with – and I did it for free. I happened to have the supplies on hand, but if you don’t, it really won’t cost you much.


Supplies needed:

  • Piece of furniture, photo frame, shelf, or the like.
  • Two flavors of paint – a dark (charcoal for me) for the base and a light (white or cream I usually do) for the top coat.
  • Wax candle.
  • Small piece of sand paper or block.

The how to:

  • Paint your darker color first. I prefer a charcoal.
  • Let it dry overnight, you want it good and dry for the next step.
  • Now take your wax candle and rub it along anywhere you’re wanting the “effect” to take place. I like to focus mainly along the edges and corners. Sometimes I’ll smooth it on thicker in random areas, for a more dramatic result.
  • Bust out the lighter color and paint away. The wax from the candle will act as a repellent of sorts, allowing the darker color to show through.
  • Again, allow this to dry.
  • Lastly, you’ll take your sanding block or paper and gently go over the areas where your wax was. This will allow for more of the distressed look. You won’t need to be too aggressive with it, as the wax has done a good job in the first place. Depending on the piece, I’ve gone over areas that didn’t have wax to begin with. It is all about how you want it to look, there really is no right or wrong way.


In this time of financial struggle, when we are clipping coupons and cutting corners, I think finding ways to be creative with what we already have is a gift. Being able to make use of something sitting in the garage or a fabulous freebie from Craigslist, and turning them into new and exciting treasures – ah what joy!

I’d love to hear how you have done this in your own life? Looking forward to reading your comments!

About Bree

Bree is the founder and writer of, a recipe site that shares her love of cooking, baking, and entertaining with others. launched in February of 2010 as a way to merge Bree’s love of photography with her love of food, and share both with friends and family. Currently, Bree lives in the suburbs of Washington DC with her husband and 3 children.

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  • Denise

    If you love shabby chic, cottage style, and farmhouse items, be SURE to check out EVERY AFTER in Benicia!
    Great prices on the most fabulous items! Furniture, decor, all kinds of super great stuff you are gonna fall in LOOOOOVE with!

  • charleigh

    i love the shabby look too! our furniture has mainly got a natural timber finish , so if i just used the candle + white paint treatment, the natural timber colour should still show thru shouldn’t it?? i’ll let you know how it goes! :)

  • Michele

    I love shabby chic! In fact I’ve made it my life and my work! My store not only has finished pieces and accessories but inexpensive appliques so folks can DIY their flea market treasures!

    I am following you on Twitter and look forward to sharing ideas with you!


  • Robin

    I just found you from “Soft Place to Land” and LOVE that table! I’m slowly turning my home into shabby chic too. I just finished a dining room set…….and SO MUCH WORK! But worth it because I love it! I purchased it for $100.00 at a thrift store and I’ve seen them in little shops for $700.00. Now I know why! Lots of work!

  • Roeshel

    I love it! Thanks so much for sharing – I have a few pieces of furniture that I plan on distressing and your tips are so helpful. I love what you’ve done! Great job!

  • Nicole@BugaboosCreations

    WOW! I love this and have never known how to get that look! Thanks So Much for Sharing! This is Awesome!

  • Greenhouse

    Great tips! I love this piece.

  • Rebekah

    That would be fun Angie! I’m not sure the dates this month, but you should check out their website at:

    I use to go every month, but now I have to pace myself, because I have a tenancy to buy….hehe I haven’t been there in 3 months so I do have a hankering to go.

  • jessica

    I needed this about 4 years ago whe I distressed the entire bedroom set that is in our guest bedroom. I never knew the wax candle trick…I’m going to have to try it.

  • angie

    Rebekah you MUST let me know when that store is open – it would be lovely to go together!

    Writer Dad, thank you so much. Quite a compliment coming from you!

  • Carly

    Ooooh, I DO love shabby chic. Well done! Can’t say that I’ve ever done anything like that. I’d no doubt mess it up anyway.

  • Writer Dad

    Beautiful blog and fantastic use of Thesis. A creative mama indeed. : > )

  • Rebekah

    Oh… My ….Goodness! I LOVE LOVE LOVE! Shabby Chic! I have a tendency to be addicted to it! My favorite spray paint is Rustolium’s Antique White. Love it! I have several pieces that I have done Shabby Chic! I have to say the distressing is my favorite part! I even have more in the works from my Head Board to a fun shelf I am working on….. :) Will be blogging on that when I get it done.

    The joke always is dont give it to rebekah, because she will paint it white! I get that from my mom. There are a couple items I have my eye on that are my husbands that my spray paint will look lovely on….hehe…one he let me touch, but the other..well, I might not get that one. :)

    Target’s line is awesome! I never have been able to buy it though because i would rather make it….Have you ever been to “Room with a Past”? It is a store in Walnut Creek that is open 4 days out of the month. The rest of the month they collect vintage items and either fix them up or keep them as is. I have gotten a ton of my shabby chic stuff there, for instance my computer desk, my vintage sewing table, my hutch, a cool shutter. Great place!

    The title of this blog post is just wonderful! Love the words Shabby Chic and Distress together….hehe…I am addicted to Shabby Chic! Nice to know I am not a lone. :)