Basic Whitewashing Technique

June 29, 2011

Y’all were too kind with the comments on the cabana reveal last week, thanks so much.  I finally updated last week’s post with sources as promised and by the way, forgot to announce the winner of the Home Depot gift card giveaway from eons ago.  My bad. Congrats to #202 Emily Schloerb, I sent you an email Emily! 

Now for that whitewashed trunk coffee table.  Whitewashing is one of my favorite finishes for wood, some call it faux, I call it fab.  Whitewashing allows anyone to use white paint to brighten a rustic wood piece, yet still allows for much of the wood grain to show through.  In fact, the technique accentuates the details of the wood, which is a win-win in my book. 

In my mind, the white + wood combo makes for a perfect world and I love how you can have both with this finish.  It works well indoors and out, and adds a cottage or coastal vibe. Whitewashing is great for those with kids and pets or in heavy traffic areas (think floors!) because you never need worry about wear and tear, it adds to the appeal.

This was one of the quickest and easiest revamps ever, the whole thing took about 30 minutes.  I started with an old trunk scored for $15 buckaroos at a thrift store. 

whitewashed trunk table before after cg


It was dirty and banged up when I found it, but it called to me as the perfect outdoor coffee table.  That gunk on top was nothing a little sanding and painting wouldn’t fix.  I peeled off some of the bumper stickers before I snapped this pic, so you can see there were two tones of pine I was working with, plus the top was icky and covered with spills, eww. 

trunk before from side copy


I sanded it with my power sander for about five minutes with 80 grit (medium) sandpaper.  I wasn’t going for perfection, just more even tones on the wood.   Oh, and I sanded opposite the grain to enhance the ridges, nooks, and crannies. 

I like nooks and crannies, they remind me of Thomas’ English Muffins. 

sand down


I also sanded off the residue from the bumper stickers but I wish the “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” one had been in better shape, I would have kept it.  Because I often leave my heart in San Francisco.  Alas, it was in cracking and peeling so it too was removed.  I also sanded off the stamp of what I assume was the previous owner.  Sorry Wendy, I don’t know you (should I?) so ya gots ta go. 

roberts crop


Top Secret Formula for Basic Whitewashing Mixture to be protected for reasons of national security.  Raise your hand and swear you’ll never share it!  Now pinky swear!

Basic Whitewashing Formula: 

Mix 2 parts white latex paint to 1 part water. 

Ssssh.  You swore not to tell!

Mix the water and paint, then dip your brush into the mixture.  Wipe most of it off then apply the paint in the opposite direction of the grain.  I know that sounds wacky and seems counterintuitive, but I found that painting in the opposite direction of the grain, the diluted paint grabbed onto the rougher edges a lot better.  Working opposite the grain helped keep the paint out of the grooves so it only settled on the higher ridges. Crazy, ay?  If it bothers you to go against the grain, then don’t. I found it gave me the look I was going for. 

whitewashing with brush

That’s it.  

See, when I said ‘Basic Whitewashing’ I meant it, yo. 

If you find your paint goes on too thick, you can sand it away when dry.  I liked mine looking weathered and aged, so one application of the whitewashing mixture looked right to me.  If you want it to be thicker, add a second layer.  It’s one of those things you just play with until it looks right to you.

When your paint is dry, protect it.  I used a water based fast drying outdoor formula by Varathane.



Dat be all. 

Easy peasy, I tell ya.


whitewashed coffee table before and after cg

And purtay! 

Hey do ya like peaches?  I do.  You may see a few in my next post. 

Just wanted to warn you in case you’re allergic. 




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