Want to add a touch of coastal elegance to your home decor? Well, today you are in for a treat because I'm delving into the world of creating a driftwood finish on wood furniture using the power of chalk paint and chalk paint wax. Get ready to breathe new life into your beloved wooden pieces by replicating that gorgeous Pottery Barn furniture's weathered wood finish.
What is a driftwood finish?
Put simply, a driftwood finish is a technique used to transform ordinary wooden furniture into something that looks like it's been weathered by the elements over time.
To achieve this stunning effect, you use a combination of paint, wax, and various techniques that create the appearance of sun-bleached wood.
There are many ways to make paint finishes for a faux driftwood finish, and the method I'm showing you today is just one of them.
The goal is to add depth and texture to make your furniture look as if it's been aged and worn by the salty sea air, giving it a unique character and a touch of coastal charm. It's a fantastic way to bring a beachy vibe into your home, even if you're miles away from the ocean.
I wanted to replicate the DIY driftwood finish I achieved on my bathroom stool for my small hallway table. However, I didn't want to use dark wood stain paint.
Table of contents
- What is a driftwood finish?
- Supplies for creating a driftwood finish with chalk paint
- Prepping furniture for a faux driftwood finish
- Learn how to properly prep furniture
- Applying chalk paint for a driftwood finish
- Sealing chalk paint with wax
- How to use chalk paint wax sealer
- Creating the Driftwood Effect with dark wax
- Layering driftwood colors
- Bring out the wood grain
- Sealing and Protecting driftwood finishes
- Caring for your driftwood-finished furniture
- Driftwood color furniture styling tips
- Frequently asked questions
- Final thoughts
- More great furniture posts
Supplies for creating a driftwood finish with chalk paint
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Here are the supplies you'll need to create your very own DIY driftwood finish:
- Chalk paint. You can use various shades of gray, muted brown, and other driftwood-like colors. I made a whitewash using some off-white chalk paint.
- Clear chalk paint wax for sealing and protecting your gorgeous driftwood finish.
- Chalk paint dark wax for adding texture and depth.
- White liming wax for a finishing touch.
- Sandpaper with different grits for prepping and distressing the wood.
- Optional tools like a wire brush for creating texture and enhancing the driftwood effect.
- Clean, lint-free cloths for wiping down and buffing your furniture.
- Wax brushes (one for clear and one for dark wax)
- Cardboard for unloading your wax brush
Prepping furniture for a faux driftwood finish
Now that you have your materials ready, it's time to prepare your furniture for the driftwood finish.
Below, you will find a few basic tips on how to prepare furniture in readiness for a faux driftwood paint color. However, I wrote an extensive post about prepping furniture, which you should definitely read before starting any furniture painting project.
- What's the condition like? Take a close look at your furniture to see if any repairs need to be made. Fix loose joints, tighten screws, or deal with any structural issues before you start.
- Cleaning and Surface Preparation: Clean the surface of your furniture thoroughly to remove any dirt, grime, or existing finishes. If your furniture just needs a good clean, use a mild soap solution and a damp cloth, ensuring it's completely dry before moving on to the next step.
- Sanding Techniques: Sanding plays a crucial role in creating a smooth base for your driftwood finish. Start with coarse grit sandpaper to remove any roughness or imperfections. Gradually work your way up to finer grits to achieve a polished surface. Remember to sand along the grain of the wood for the best results. Again, see my post on prepping furniture before painting for more details.
- Brush up the grain: As an extra step for creating driftwood-finished furniture finishes, gently brush the surface of the wood with a wire brush. Be gentle and go with the grain without causing damage to the wood. Paint and wax will settle into the grooves made by brushing, creating a weathered look.
Learn how to properly prep furniture
Everything you need to know about preparing furniture for painting.
Applying chalk paint for a driftwood finish
Once your furniture has been prepared and cleaned, it's time for the first step in creating a faux wood finish or weathered driftwood look. For this painting technique, you are basically going to mimic the natural grain and texture of driftwood using a paintbrush and a lint-free cloth or rag.
Choosing the right colors for the driftwood finish
Because I'm creating a light driftwood effect on my tabletop, I'm using off-white chalk paint as the base layer for my driftwood furniture color. Alternatively, cool grays or muted browns are also good paint colors for creating a faux driftwood finish.
For me, the best paint for creating driftwood finishes is always going to be chalk paint because it's water-based and easy to blend.
I'm not saying that chalk paint is the only paint you can use; it's just the paint I've used the most, and it's my favorite for achieving the driftwood look.
You can also stain wood using a driftwood stain or another type of wood finish stain if you need a darker driftwood finish on your furniture.
Instructions for painting
It's best not to overload your brush with paint for this step. You're going to be gently brushing the paint on and quickly rubbing it off again with a rag.
Working in small sections at a time, brush the paint onto your furniture surface in the direction of the wood grain.
Before the chalk paint has a chance to dry, use a rag to rub over it a few times until it's blended into the wood.
In the photo above, you can see how the driftwood color looks after applying chalk paint.
Sealing chalk paint with wax
Once you're finished applying chalk paint and blending it, it's time to seal it using clear wax.
You might be wondering why we are sealing the chalk paint finish now when we haven't finished creating the driftwood finish. Well, in the next step, we are going to be using a dark wax, and if we add that straight over chalk paint, it will sink right into the wood grain just like a wood finish stain. That means that if we make a mistake by adding too much dark wax, we will need to sand the tabletop again to remove the wax.
If we apply too much dark wax over the top of clear wax, we can easily remove it by rubbing the area with more clear wax.
How to use chalk paint wax sealer
Creating the Driftwood Effect with dark wax
In my bathroom stool tutorial, I used dark wax as one of the distressing techniques to achieve a weathered and worn look, and I'd like to re-create that faux finish on this tabletop.
We're going to use the wax to add texture and highlight knots, cracks, and imperfections in the wood.
Instructions for waxing
Again, you don't need to overload your wax brush with dark wax. For the waxing process, you're going to build up the color depending on how dark you want your driftwood furniture color to be.
Dip your wax brush into the dark wax, then unload it onto a piece of cardboard. By "unloading it', I mean dabbing it onto the cardboard a few times to remove some of the wax. I know this seems counterproductive, but trust me, it's the best way to stay in control of the color by building up the layers slowly.
Once you've unloaded your wax brush, brush the dark wax onto your furniture in long, sweeping brushstrokes. Keep blending the wax with the brush until you don't see any obvious brush marks.
How to remove the dark wax
If you've added too much brown wax in one area, here's how to fix it.
Add some clear furniture wax to a clean, lint-free cloth or rag and rub it over the brown wax. Keep adding clear wax until the excess brown wax has been removed.
Layering driftwood colors
This is where the magic happens! In this step, we're going to layer and blend colors to add depth and dimension to our driftwood finish. If you want your faux finish to be darker, keep slowly building up the dark wax layers.
Bring out the wood grain
Using white wax is a fantastic way to enhance the wood grain and add depth to your driftwood finish.
Take a small amount of white wax on a lint-free cloth and gently work it into the surface, focusing on the areas where the wood grain is prominent.
The white wax will settle into the nooks and crannies and bring out the grain, giving your furniture an authentic and organic look.
As with all of these faux finishes for furniture, blend the wax in slowly and gently so you don't overpower the overall driftwood effect.
Sealing and Protecting driftwood finishes
You're almost there! The last step is sealing and protecting your gorgeous driftwood finish, and for that, we are going to use some chalk paint wax. I use Annie Sloan's clear wax, but you can use any clear furniture wax for this step.
Now, I know what you're thinking: we just covered our furniture with dark wax; why do we need clear wax as well? Chalk paint wax not only protects your furniture but also deepens the colors and adds a subtle sheen that mimics the natural patina of driftwood. It brings out the depth and character of your furniture, making it truly stand out.
Applying and Buffing the Wax
Applying chalk paint wax is as easy as a day at the beach (minus the sand in your swimsuit).
Use a wax brush or a lint-free cloth to apply a thin and even layer of wax to your driftwood-finished furniture.
Work in small sections, gently massaging the wax into the paint surface. Think of it as giving your furniture a relaxing massage, allowing the wax to penetrate and bond with the paint.
Once you've covered the entire piece, let it sit for a short while, allowing the wax to dry (cure) and work its magic.
Now comes the fun part—buffing! Take a clean cloth and start buffing the surface in circular motions, revealing a lustrous and protective finish.
Buff until you achieve the desired sheen and can feel the smoothness under your fingertips. If the wax feels tacky, you need to keep buffing.
Step back and admire your beautiful driftwood-finished masterpiece!
Caring for your driftwood-finished furniture
Now that you've created a gorgeous driftwood finish for your furniture, you want it to stay looking good for years to come.
Here are a few tips to help you maintain and care for your DIY driftwood furniture:
- Avoid harsh cleaners: When it's time to clean your furniture, steer clear of harsh chemical cleaners that could strip away the protective wax coating. Opt for a mild soap solution and a damp cloth instead. Gently wipe down the surface and dry it with a clean cloth.
- Mind the sun: Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can fade the colors over time. Consider placing your piece away from intense sunlight or using curtains or blinds to protect it when the sun is at its brightest.
- Watch out for moisture. Excessive moisture can damage your furniture. Be cautious around spills and try to keep your driftwood-finished piece in a dry environment (indoors). If a mishap occurs, promptly blot the spill until it is completely dry.
- Reapply wax as needed. Over time, the protective wax coating may wear down. Keep an eye on your furniture's sheen, and if you notice it losing its luster, it's time to reapply wax. Follow the same application and buffing process to renew that protective layer.
Driftwood color furniture styling tips
Driftwood furniture is incredibly versatile and can effortlessly blend into different home decor styles. Here are a few styling tips for incorporating driftwood furniture into various decorating styles.
- Coastal Retreat: Pair your driftwood furniture with light and breezy textiles, such as crisp white linens or nautical-inspired striped patterns. Add touches of blue through throw pillows or coastal-inspired artwork to evoke the calming presence of the sea. A DIY coastal-inspired table centerpiece would make a great decoration for your furniture.
- Rustic Farmhouse: Combine your driftwood piece with weathered textures, like burlap or aged leather. Enhance the warmth with cozy blankets and vintage-inspired accents, such as this DIY textured vase or farmhouse-style accessories.
- Modern Elegance: Create a stunning contrast by incorporating your driftwood furniture into a sleek and modern setting. For this look, you should opt for clean lines and minimalist design elements, so that your driftwood piece serves as a captivating focal point in your room.
With a little imagination and some DIY magic, you can breathe new life into your old furniture.
Frequently asked questions
While any wood can be transformed with a beautiful driftwood-inspired finish, porous woods like pine, oak, or cedar tend to absorb the paint and stain better, resulting in a more authentic driftwood effect.
The time it takes to achieve a driftwood effect varies based on factors like the wood's condition, the complexity of the technique, and drying times. The whole process usually takes a few days, allowing for proper paint application, drying, and waxing. You could finish a piece of furniture over a weekend.
Absolutely! Stains and glazes can work really well for creating driftwood finishes. Experiment with different wood stain colors and techniques to create a realistic, weathered appearance. Tip: I've heard great things about the Minwax driftwood stain color and the fusion of stain and finishing oil.
Yes, you can! However, you need to properly prepare the surface by cleaning, sanding, and possibly priming before applying the driftwood techniques. See my guide on furniture prepping for more information about that.
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below, and I'll answer them as soon as possible.
Having updated many furniture pieces using driftwood finishes, I can honestly say it's worth the effort.
As you've read above, driftwood-finished furniture can blend into various decorating styles. Whether your design preferences lean towards coastal retreats, rustic farmhouse charm, or modern minimalism, your driftwood masterpiece will find its place.
The beauty of this faux painting technique is that it's an affordable way to get the furniture you love on a small budget. If you've read my 'About' Page, you'll know that that's partly what got me hooked on painting furniture in the first place!
I hope you enjoyed learning how to create a faux driftwood finish with me today. Now, it's over to you. Go and grab your paintbrushes and wax brushes and start transforming your old brown furniture into unique, eye-catching pieces that you'll love for years to come!
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