Distressed History #1: Stories To Tell

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Blog entry by Russel posted 08-28-2007 12:08 AM 941 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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We receive bunches of catalogs at our house (we like to look at pictures), and from these periodicals come ideas for things to build. The latest had a collection of furniture pieces that were distressed, and the wife pointed them out saying that she liked them.

Unfortunately, I was less than agreeable. I really don’t like distressed furniture. If you do, I have no quarrel with you. For me, distressed furniture short-circuits one of my reasons for building furniture in the first place.

When I see an old table, or chair, or cabinet, I am tempted to rub my hand across it and feel it’s age. As I do, I think to myself, “What stories this could tell” and picture the potential life that revolved around this collection of wood. Every scratch and every nick has a story behind it; a piece of life that brought it into being. An old piece of furniture has history. It is a remembrance of those that owned and used it. It is weathered, worn, distressed.

Distressed furniture copies the look of old furniture, but has no stories to tell. To my way of thinking, distressed furniture is a book with blank pages; an empty promise. Distressed furniture says it has a story to tell but is really mute. Distressed furniture pretends it has history, yet it has none.

One of the joys I receive from furniture making is seeing my work used; seeing it wearing and collecting history. When I make something for my children or their cousins, they have told me that they look forward to passing it on to their children and grandchildren. Each piece is an heirloom in seed form just waiting to accumulate stories and history.

To me there is life in furniture absorbed over time from those that surround it. Distressed furniture is to history like putting on tights and tying a towel around your neck is to being a super hero. The look is there, but there’s nothing underneath.

But then again, I may be a bit on the sentimental side.

-- Working at Woodworking

4 comments so far

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4280 days

#1 posted 08-28-2007 01:09 AM

I get to half agree. As a builder of distressed furniture. I look at most store bought stuff, distressed or not, and see no story. Just another fad to be tossed out when the new spring fashions hit the stores. Then again I’m not trying to copy old furniture.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4127 days

#2 posted 08-28-2007 01:18 AM

I wouldn’t put your work in the “lying” category, Dennis… your work is art, it’s rustic at its finest. . I think it is very “honest”.
There are lots of “fake” distressed stuff out there that looks like fake distressed stuff. .

Stories are very important.. for me, right now, the story is: “hey, I made it!” :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3905 days

#3 posted 08-28-2007 01:21 AM

Dennis, looking at the projects you’ve posted, your work looks more rustic than distressed. While you may be using distressed lumber, I didn’t see any signs that you purposely damaged the wood. Looks more like you let the wood be itself.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3928 days

#4 posted 08-28-2007 04:15 AM

I mostly agree with you, Russel. I would geatly prefer NOT to make distressed furniture. However, I also need to eat. So, like the girls in Winnemuca say,”If you’ve got the money, Honey, I’ve got the time.”

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

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