ARE YOU THINKING OF A LIGHT WASHED OUT LOOK - NOT AN OPAQUE WHITE - SOMETHING SOFTER AND AGED 'LIME WASH' TECHNIQUE IS THE ANSWER.
Limed wood furniture is increasingly popular and is being seen in many recent publications. Also known as the whitewashed finish, it originated in Europe in the 1500s to protect the wood pieces from worm. Slaked lime was applied to the wood which, inadvertently, also gave it the decorative finish that became in vogue.
Luckily for us, we have less caustic ways of whitewashing. It is best to begin with a wood that has a more open grain, such as oak or ash. Other woods may be used, but they will whitewash differently, with the liming material collecting in the moldings rather than the grain.
One method involves applying a good furniture wax mixed with pigment
Following is a basic method for creating a white washed (simulated Lime
wash) effect. There are 2 methods described, each providing similar results.
Using diluted off white (LIKE OYSTER) paint - white paint is too stark - it needs to be a softer tone.
Using a ready made wood stain.
Starting your project
This effect works best over unfinished, unpainted furniture. The natural wood soaks up the paint or stain resulting in some of the underlying wood grain showing through. Depending on how thick your 'Lime Wash' simulated paint solution is will determine the final effect. A thick and rather opaque paint solution will appear more true to the Lime Wash appearance. A thinner, more fluid solution will result in a white washed or pickled appearance.
Applying diluted white paint.
Mix a solution of a slightly off white (like Benjamin Moore Antique White) latex paint, flat sheen with water. The flat paint will dry with a bit of a chalky look, simulating the true appearance of Lime wash. The consistence should be like thick cream. You may need to experiment to determine the level of opacity you want. More water will create a thinner, paler appearance, while less water will create a whiter, more opaque look. Once the white wash effect is completed you should apply 2 coats latex, water based varnish in a Satin sheen. Water based products are very durable and don't yellow. If you use an oil based varnish over a white base then expect it to yellow over time.
Tips and precautions
Things to note when working on wood surfaces; depending on the type of wood, i.e., oak, pine, etc., white paint sometimes pulls the resin up out of the
wood and stains the white slightly pink. Be aware of this. If this happens, you may need to first apply a water based sealer, then lightly sand the surface with 220 grit sand paper (in the direction of the wood grain), then apply your paint followed by 2 coats varnish.
Applying a wood stain.
You can also stain the wood white, instead of painting the surface. This gives a 'pickled' or 'bleached' effect and allows all the wood grain to show thru. You can get commercially available white stains (Minwax for example) that work well. Try and stay away from the 2 in 1 stain/sealer combos. Apply as above, finishing off with 2 - 3 coated water based varnish.
Always apply paint or stain in the direction of the grain, using a good brush, roller and/or rags.
As you can see - it lends itself nicely to the French antique style.