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To add some "age" to the piece, black spray-paint is applied sparingly and sporadically over the surfaces to emulate aging and water damage. Apply more black paint toward the bottom areas of the piece, creating an effect that would be expected from a piece that had been exposed to water or sat on a dirt floor.
Next, decide on a color for your piece based on your own tastes and preferences. In this demonstration, a barn-red was selected. Typically, country furniture was simply painted using left over paints from other projects. The red was selected since, in a country setting, the leftovers of paint used for a barn exterior might well have been later used to paint furniture. Paint the piece using an ordinary paintbrush. Start brushing paint on at the top of the piece (Image 1), and proceed downward so that, by the time you reach the bottom, there is less paint on the brush. This technique should result in a thicker coat of paint toward the top of the piece, and a thinner coat toward the bottom (Image 2). Avoid covering every inch of the surface. A sporadic application creates the illusion that, over time, paint has worn off of areas that received the most daily wear and tear.
Once the paint has been applied, wipe it with a rag before the paint has dried (Image 1). This results in a more muted, antique-looking finish. Take your time and use your imagination to give the finished piece a look that imitates the effect of aging and wear. For example on a chair-rung, a heavier application black paint was used (Image 2) to imitate the effect of people hooking their shoe-heels over the rung while sitting in the chair.
To give the piece an even more worn look, consider using medium-grit sandpaper to scuff and wear surfaces that would naturally receive more wear in everyday use. An abrasive pad made of synthetic fibers can be used for the same purpose, but with a more subtle effect. Both techniques will help eliminate the freshly painted look.
Finally, you may want to apply some extra protection using a water-based spray-finish. Use a satin finish rather than a high-gloss. A shiny high-gloss finish would not be in keeping for a naturally aged piece. A satin or matte finished is much better suited to the mellowed, antique look.