I absolutely love the look of the aged vases that McGee and Co. and Amber Interiors and other high-end retailers sell. But I don’t love that they’re often over $200 each! I understand that a vintage vessel has value to it, so I’m not saying they’re not worth the price, but what I am saying is that you can achieve this look yourself with an easy DIY project!
The first step is to find a vase you like. I found one at H&M that was a great shape and size, and cost about $40. You could definitely thrift one for less, but I was lazy and liked that this one shipped right to my house.
A few other options for $50 or less that I like for this:
Amazon, $32 (10 inch)
Amazon, $27 (set of 3)
You’ll also need the following supplies:
- Plaster of Paris
- Sand block or sandpaper (fine grit)
- 3 spray paints:
- (Alternatively, you could use regular black (or gray) paint, but I’ve done this both ways and find matte black spray paint gives the exact finish I’m looking for.)
- and a sealer.
- Mixing bucket(s)
- Paint brush (or two) you’ll willing to trash
- Protective gloves
- Paint sticks/mixing sticks
Once you’ve gathered your materials and set yourself up in your work space, you’ll first want to prime your vase to give the plaster something to stick to. I’ve found terracotta pots don’t need priming, but the glossier the finish, the more difficult the plaster will be to apply. If your vase is especially glossy, I’d advise giving it a light sand first too. The vase I used was relatively glossy, but the plaster ended up applying nicely and it only needed one coat. I’ve done this technique with a few lamps too, and those have needed more passes (and more patience). Let the primer dry.
Now that you’re in the right mindset, let’s talk about mixing the plaster. Generally, I like to use a two-parts plaster to one-part water formula, but this is definitely not an exact science!
Pour your plaster into your mixing bucket and add water accordingly. You want the mixture to be thick enough to give texture, but also thin enough to apply easily. I’d say somewhere in the “thicker than paint but thinner than cake batter” universe is a good place to aim. Again, this is only a personal preference. Also be mindful that plaster sets quickly, generally within 6-10 minutes. You may be able to buy yourself some more time by adding small amounts of water as you go, though.
Once your plaster concoction is at your desired consistency, you can begin applying it to your vase. I like to use a paintbrush to do this, but at times I also apply it with my (gloved) hands, especially around the lip. Make sure you also plaster parts of inside the vase that might be visible. And don’t forget the bottom either! Don’t worry too much if your plaster clumps in some places; once it dries, you’ll want to sand off any rough patches before painting anyway.
If you need to take more than one pass at your vase, that’s okay too. I generally like to let the plaster dry before going over it again (you’ll risk it becoming unworkable if you don’t), but this may mean mixing up a new batch of plaster for the second (or third) coat.
Once you’re happy with your plastering, and you’ve let the plaster dry (it shouldn’t take more than an hour or so, and might me much sooner, especially if you’re outside), sand off any drips and bumps using a fine-grit sandpaper. Too thick and you’ll rip all of the plaster right off. I should note that it’s also okay to have some “holes” where the plaster just didn’t take—once you add spray paint and mud, you won’t notice these patches at all!
Now it’s time to paint! Like I said above, I prefer using spray paint because it allows the color to go on in light layers. Matte black is my favorite option; it’s got the best finish and isn’t too dark. Go over the vase with light passes and be patient. You don’t want to create any drips! I find spraying many thin coats works best. You’ll also have to work in sections, turning the vase over at some point to get the top and bottom. (Make sure your paint is dry before doing this!) Another note on technique: I like leaving a bit of the plaster showing in some spots; I think it adds to the aged look. So it’s okay to not completely coat your vase in paint! But again, this is YOUR project, so do what makes YOU happy.
Once you’re happy with your paint, first let it dry, and then it’s time to make your vase look you unearthed it from hundreds of years in the ground! This means adding mud. I’ve done this enough times that I now know that I prefer real dirt to potting soil, so I like to dig pretty deep into my flower beds for this. (Be weary of bugs and worms though…ackkk.) I mix my dirt with water in another bucket and apply it all over the vase with a paper towel, rag, or my hands. A lot of it will fall off; that’s okay. Use as much or as little mud as you’d like. I’ve also seen people use kitchen spices, like cardamom, cinnamon, etc. for this part, and while I can’t personally vouch for the end result, it certainly sounds nicer. So that’s an option you can try too!
Let your mud set and dry to make sure you like the amount and the color. (Dirt is lighter in color than mud.) Add more mud if necessary. You can also wipe some off and sand down any big clumps you don’t like.
At this point, you’re almost done! You just need to spray the vase with sealer to add a protective coat and also ensure that you don’t track a bunch of dirt all over your house. Using a clear matte sealer will make sure it doesn’t affect the color or sheen of your vase.
Once dry, you’re all set! Now you just need to style your vase! It can be pretty as-is, or like I’ve styled mine here, as a vessel for large stems. I love having a piece that looks similar to ones that cost 4x as much, and it’s fun to decorate with things that are unique to you.
Questions or thoughts? Let me know in the comments! And if you want to pin this and save it for later, just pin the image below! Also, for some fun video content, check out my Instagram reel documenting this process!