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The art of ageing

From the Resene decorating blog

Learn how to create the lived-in look.

A lounge with weathered timber surfaces

Allowing the wood grain to show through on walls or other timber surfaces by using a stain or wash, is a simple way to achieve a less formal, slightly more weathered look.

Walls stained in Resene Colorwood Touch Wood, floor in Resene Creme De La Crème, door in Resene Sour Dough, tabletop in Resene Tobacco Brown and Resene Sour Dough mixed with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium, table legs in Resene Tobacco Brown and chairs, wire bowl and large case in Resene Bokara Grey. Painting by Brenda Clews, shelving from French Country Collections, glasses and Decanter from H&M home. Project by Melle van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

Perfection is all very well, but sometimes, when it comes to our interiors, a perfect finish can make a space feel a little off-putting or even uncomfortable.

That’s not to say you should be ignoring the all-important preparation stages of renovation, or painting in a careless, haphazard way to get a flawed finish. But sometimes a little imperfection can soften the feel of a space to make it feel warm, lived-in and inviting. It can be the difference that turns a new-look room into a space that feels like home.

The trick is to find the right products that will give you the look you want so you can ride the line between shabby chic and just plain shabby.

Why try for a weathered finish

As well as simply wanting a unique, less structured finish to your project, whether it is indoors or outside, there can be practical reasons to try for an aged finish.

One of those, says Resene Colour Expert Jill Marsh, is disguise.

“Aged looks can make rooms feel comfortable and rustic, which makes them great spaces to relax in. But aged finishes can also help disguise imperfections in the surface,” Jill says. This can make them a great idea in hallways, which are high traffic areas making them prone to knocks, and where there are often long stretches of unbroken wall where those knocks are more noticeable.

An aged surface also works well in areas not in the best condition where the light hits, showing up any dents and other imperfections.

When creating a paint effect finish the first thing to remember is there are no hard and fast rules about what you should do to achieve a certain result. The finished result will be affected not just by the products you use, but also the surface you are working on. Your best bet is to experiment with different colours, products, and techniques to get a look you like, then trial that combination on a sample of your surface material before you commit.

Top tip:  As you work on your effect, make sure you regularly step back and check the painted area so you can keep your effect evenly spread across the surface.

To keep your look on the chic and stylish side of aged Jill recommends keeping walls a lighter neutral colour, as a backdrop to your weathered pieces, and experimenting with techniques on upcycled furniture that has the shape and style of classic antiques.

As well as working with paint or wallpaper effects, Jill suggests adding textural imperfections with furnishing fabrics like natural linens.

Techniques to try


Antiquing:  Smear petroleum jelly on areas of furniture that would normally wear first, such as edges and corners. Paint with Resene Lustacryl tinted to your chosen colour and allow it to dry fully. Wipe away the petroleum jelly to reveal the surface underneath. Other ways to achieve a similar effect are to simply lightly sand areas after painting when the surface is dry, or try Resene FX Crackle which will cause your topcoat to crack showing small areas of the substrate or the base colour underneath.

A sitting room with a geometric wallpaper design

Resene Wallpaper Collection 38829-2 lends the illusion of a recycled or aged brick wall to this room.

Pair this bold wallpaper design with neutrals such as Resene Thorndon Cream, Resene Eighth Biscotti and Resene Colorwood Natural wood stain so the wall becomes the feature of your space.

Colourwashing and limewashing:  Create a broken, weathered-looking colour finish by applying a lighter base colour over your surface and allow it to dry. Using a second, similar but darker shade, mix a small testpot of your colour with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium. Brush the darker colour over the base in a criss-cross pattern. Immediately wipe the surface with a soft muslin cloth in a gentle downward motion to reveal some of the base. Limewashing uses this same technique but is often created over a textured surface such as plaster. Try in pale shades similar to traditional limewash like Resene Quarter Spanish White and Resene Putty for an authentic look.

Rust-look:  Resene FX Faux Rust Effect is a waterborne coating system which leaves interior and exterior surfaces looking aged with rust. The best effects are achieved when it is applied with brushstrokes in random directions when applying the basecoat, then add two coats of Resene FX Faux Rust Effect Activator.

Sponging and ragging:  Sponging is one of the easiest paint effects to achieve and creates a lovely textural background. Coarse textured sponges provide a more lacy, open pattern and finer sponges a smoother, softer look. Start by painting your surface in a base colour and leave to dry. Dab your top colour colours over the surface lightly with your sponge to create the desired effect. Spray a fine mist of water over the design while it is still wet so your sponged colours run slightly. Ragging uses a similar technique with strips of cloth to create a different weathered texture.

Top tip:  Watch for stray threads on your rags which can stick to paint and interfere with the ragged effect.

Resene Sandtex is a textured wall coating and looks stunning in hallways, on chimney breasts or as feature walls. The texture adds an extra dimension to your effect. Take a look at the Karen Walker Paints Chalk Colour paint range with a wax or antique finish to give old furniture a new look and feel.

Sponging and ragging, whitewashing, lime washing or French wash effects finishes create stunning well-loved looks for interior spaces. Experiment first with small samples so you get the effect you are after.

Washing:  One of the simpler techniques that can give timber finishes a gently weathered look while showing off the grain underneath is washing. Paler washes such as Resene Colorwood Whitewash or Resene Colorwood Bask can soften the look of your wood surfaces and give rooms or exteriors (using Resene Woodsman stains) a relaxed, beachy escape feel.

Jill’s top tip:  Resene has a useful free guide available called habitat plus – special effects which is full of ideas on where to use different paint effects and how to achieve different looks.

A bed screen with a ragged paint effect

An intricate repurposed screen with ragged paint effect, used as a headboard adds the suggestion of age and texture to this pared back colour palette.

Walls and bedhead painted in Resene White Pointer, floor in Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy, bedside table and handled bowl in Resene Double White Pointer and vase in Resene Quarter White Pointer. Sheets from Briscoes, duvet set from Wallace Cotton, throw from Freedom, screen from Trade Aid. Project by Megan Harrison-Turner, image by Bryce Carleton.

Washed and weathered interior paint finish

The warm colours of Resene Salted Caramel and Resene Athena mixed with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium, create a washed and weathered finish reminiscent of Mediterranean homes.

Floor, vase and desk plinth in Resene See The Light, box seat in Resene Athena and desk top and legs in Resene Meringue. Lamp and chair from Cane Collective, cushions from Città̀, books from Father Rabbit, artwork from Maiko Nagao, pencil holder from H+M Home. Project by Melle Van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

If all else fails, cheat

If you’re nervous about experimenting with paint effects to create an aged look, or you want to be more certain about the finished result there are a number of Resene wallpaper designs that can add instant ageing to your walls.

You can try anything from an industrial weathered concrete look with Resene Wallpaper Collection 38832-3, to a subtle, aged paint-look with Resene Wallpaper Collection 38823-5. For more extreme aged effects try the worn brick of Resene Wallpaper Collection 38829-2.

The two important rules of experimenting with distressed or aged finishes are being patient – take your time to get a look you’re happy with, and keeping good records of how you achieved your finished look so you can repeat it elsewhere in the future.

Ultimately, the most important thing is really to have fun experimenting. Try your combinations out using Resene testpots and use this to create a sample panel. Then use your sample panel as a reference for the whole project to make sure the look stays on track.

Resene Meringue

Resene Creme De La Crème

Resene Athena

Resene Breathe Easy

Resene Bask

Resene See The Light

Resene Salted Caramel

June 25, 2023

For help selecting the right colours and products for your effects finish, visit your local Resene ColorShop.

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