Do you like the worn, ‘shabby chic’ look that’s so popular but don’t want to spend substantial amounts of money? Use a household candle to reproduce a ‘distressed’ look on any wooden piece of furniture – new or old – that you plan to paint.

Step One: Prime the furniture

First, prime the piece with an under-colour primer (as though the furniture had been painted this colour previously) and allow the primed coat to dry thoroughly.

STEP TWO: Rub with a candle 

Rub a white candle along edges and corners, around knobs and handles, randomly over chair arms – wherever the furniture finish would be worn away by frequent use. Be generous with the wax but brush away any flaky bits.

Step Three: Paint it!

Now paint the piece with a coat of the main colour, which won’t adhere to the wax. If you need another coat of the top colour–a possibility if you’re painting a light colour over a darker one–rub a little more wax over the exposed places.

STEP FOUR: Get rid of the wax

When the item is completely dry, just rub away the wax with a soft cotton cloth dipped in warm water.

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Did you know:

The novelist who ‘invented’ interior design

Much of modern interior design owes its origins to a great American novelist. Edith Wharton (1862–1937) was born Edith Newbold Jones to a socially prominent New York family. She went on to target her own class in The House of Mirth, her Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Innocence and other widely read novels and story collections. But it was her first book, The Decoration of Houses (1897) that punctured the pretensions of upper-class Victorian decorating and set out many principles that still guide interior design today.

In collaboration with architect Ogden Codman Jr, the well-travelled Mrs Wharton brought her knowledge of French and Italian decorating styles into the mix, comparing European lightness, elegance and comfort to the ‘exquisite discomfort’ of the dreary, cold, overstuffed drawing rooms of New York’s upper crust. Her book is credited with elevating interior decoration from a lady’s hobby to a profession. Although not the bestseller she hoped for, The Decoration of Houses did earn her first royalty cheque, sold steadily for many years and is still studied today.

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