Remember this chair?
If it was painted a solid color it would have an entirely different feel. The chair would have been too clean and crisp looking. I wanted to highlight the history of this chair, it was more than 100 years old after all, and embrace the fact I didn't pick it up brand new at a furniture store last week. This is why I knew I wanted to whitewash it. Whitewashing gives the appearance of being worn and weathered, as if it's been left out in the back yard, propped up against the shed and forgotten about for a few years.
Here's what you do. Seriously, there is no reason to be intimidated because this process is so easy and I'm going to share all my awesome secrets with you.
I love the look of whitewashed wood, so I usually do this technique on unpainted, wooden items, although it is possible to do it on an item that has been painted a color as well. The first step is to prepare the surface of the item, in this case, it means slightly roughing up the varnished surface of the wood with 150 grit sand paper.
Sand in the direction of the wood grain. Use a damp rag to wipe off all the dust. You aren't sanding the finish off, just scuffing it up and removing the shine.
Mix traditional latex paint with water. 1 part paint to 2 parts water, it's ok to eyeball it because the measurements don't need to be exact. Keep in mind, a little bit goes a long way. Brush on the paint/water mixture, working in small sections at a time in the direction of the woodgrain. Let it sit on the wood a few seconds and very lightly, with a paper towel wipe the paint in the same direction as the woodgrain, too. You aren't trying to remove all of the paint, just a little, leaving the "woodgrain" lines. Let it dry completely and do additional layers if needed.
Once you build up the layers to the desired finish you may want to very lightly sand with 150 grit sandpaper over the surface to smooth out any rough spots. Make sure you use a damp rag to remove the dust again. You can either leave the finish like it is or do a clear coat to protect it. That's it! See, not too tough!
Just remember, you aren't going for a flawless finish or even consistency. The point is to make it look worn and aged. Let a little of the wood peek through and even experiment with lightly sanding the whitewashed wood to bring it out a little bit more. Have fun with it. If you are still intimidated, test out whitewashing on a few scrap pieces or a cheap garage sale find to build up your confidence.