Cerused (sir-ROOZED) or limed wood has been around since the 17th century when furniture makers began applying white lead paste to wood much in the same way women were applying lead based cosmetics to whiten their faces in pursuit of a fashionable pallor. Today the lead is gone but the “whiting” technique continues as a chic way to make wood grain pop, give furniture movement and depth and create a distinctive look that’s also versatile—elegant, beachy, rustic, refined, luxurious, casual, old-world and modern
The cerusing process involves using a wire brush to open up the graining in the wood, usually oak because of its distinctive patterns and durability, and applying a white wax or diluted paint solution that settles into the grooves of the wood but wipes off the surface. It can be done with light wood for a subtle effect or dark stained wood for more drama. Note: This is NOT the pink-hued pickled oak of the 80’s. That technique lightened the entire piece of wood, surface and grooves, giving it a whitewashed look that was very popular at the time but many are not ready to welcome back just yet. Here are a few ways the cerusing technique is being used today.
This dresser from restoration paint specialist Amy Howard is a beautiful example of cerusing. The white in the grain jumps off the soft tan oak and gives this piece an organic feel and understated elegance.
These unique cerused oak stools with an ebony stain are a bold look. Metro, masculine and still a bit dainty—the wood grain has a starring role. The stool backs look like a cloud-streaked night sky and the seats a glossy zebra. From 1stdibs. $1200 for the pair.
Local builder TreHus made these floating shelves from reclaimed oak for a homeowner who was looking for a distinctive finish. They have a light grey stain with cerusing and add a warm touch to this stylish kitchen.
The powder room is always a good place to try a daring look and these cerused oak walls with a medium brown stain are stunning.
Indigo stain and cerusing transformed this dowdy oak secretary into something beautiful and original. Interior designer Jenny Komenda of Juniper Studios did this DIY project and describes how surprisingly easy it is to do here.
by Laurie Junker
Photos courtesy of Amy Howard Home, TreHus and Juniper Studios