Get an Antique Look Without an Antique Price

With the exception of unfinished furniture, pretty much all of the solid wood and all-wood furniture on the market is treated or ‘finished’ in some way. Most of the woods used to manufacture furniture take stains and lacquers very well, meaning the color and texture can be altered greatly in the finishing process. The colors and tones described in our Wood Guide are rarely what you find on the market. For example, it is very common to find an oak dresser with a dark cherry finish or a pine bed with a rich walnut finish. It is also important to remember that these finishes can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Company A’s cherry finish might look like company B’s rosewood and company C’s mahogany. Take the names of finishes for what they are—names, and use your judgment to determine if the finish is right for you.

A couple of terms that have become commonplace in the furniture industry are ‘antiquing’ and ‘distressing.’ The terms are somewhat interchangeable depending on which one a manufacturer chooses to use, but they both imply that a piece has been altered or treated to appear more aged and worn. Edges and corners are often sanded and strategic nicks and scratches are added to give the piece a well-worn or ‘antique’ look. Other techniques include cowtailing, which involves using a stiff-bristled paintbrush to leave random black marks, and applying white or off-white paint over stained or finished pieces to create a pickled finish.

If you like the look of antique furniture, but get a little faint at the sight of the price tags, consider new pieces that have undergone one of the aforementioned processes. Contrary to what some say, new furniture is built better than a lot of antique pieces. Who knows, maybe the piece you buy today will be tomorrow’s sought after antique.

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