Looking to update your wall decor without spending a lot of money? Scour thrift stores, yard sales or your own garage to put together a grouping of wood objects in different shapes, sizes and proportions. Then apply whitewash paint to each piece to give your collection a uniform look. 

Step 1

Curate a Collection

It’s best to stick with solid wood instead of veneer since veneer may not sand well.

Step 2

Colored Paint

Wooden objects with colorful paint finishes will not take a whitewash treatment correctly unless the existing paint is first removed. Although the mix of paint and water may seem to mask it, eventually the colored paint will bleed through the whitewash. Use fine-grit sandpaper and a sanding block or an orbital sander to thoroughly remove the existing paint color.

Step 3

Remove Embellishments and Separate Frames

Whitewash updates on wooden surfaces look great; however, the application doesn’t work as well on metal, ceramic or stone. If your object includes decorative appliques or embellishments, it’s important to remove them prior to the whitewash application, then reattach them once the wood has dried.

If you’re updating a wooden picture frame, it’s much more efficient to remove the back panel, art and glass from the frame rather than masking it with painter’s tape and paper. Use needle nose pliers or drill to remove the back panel from the frame, then set the frame aside on craft paper.

Step 4

Mixing the Paint

To create the whitewash, mix two parts flat white latex paint with one part water. Then dip the paintbrush into the mix and stir it around until an even consistency forms.

Pro Tip

As you brush the whitewash onto smooth surfaces, be aware of its milky texture and tendency to produce air bubbles. Use the paintbrush to evenly smooth out the bubbles and to ensure an even coat.

Step 5

Applying Whitewash to Rough Wood

Rough, rustic wooden surfaces will soak up the whitewash very quickly. Double load the brush before painting these surface to ensure proper coverage. It’s also important to know that rough surfaces will dry much more quickly. This means you have less time to work from one end to the other, so it’s best to use long brush strokes.

After a rustic wood surface is covered with whitewash, use a damp cloth to remove some of the solution. This will allow more of the grain to show, resulting in a more organic finish.

Step 6

Applying Whitewash to Carved Wood

Carved wooden surfaces require different whitewashing than others. Instead of brushing on the mixed solution, spray the surface of the carved wood with flat white spray paint. This will fully fill the deep crevices of the carvings.

Once carved wooden objects have been coated with flat white spray paint, you’ll simply need to use an orbital sander with fine grit sanding pads to create a whitewashed look. Randomly move the sander back and forth along the surface until enough spray paint is removed, resulting in a weathered, peeled-back look. 

Step 7

Brushing and Aging Wood Frames

The key to whitewashing frames is to add a light coat of paint with a brush. Starting at one end and working your way around, use the brush to cover all surfaces to approximately 80% opacity.

After the brushed paint has dried on the frames, use fine-grit sandpaper along the edges of the frame to lightly knock the paint down. This will result in a worn, aged look.