Metal develops a patina over time as well as rust spots when left to the elements. While some prefer shiny, modern home furnishings, many prefer the character of antique metal. If you can't find an older piece that suits your tastes and budget, you can antique light-colored metal with supplies found in craft and hardware stores.
Scrub the metal with a soft cloth soaked in acetone or lacquer remover to remove any existing varnish. Rinse the metal with plain water to remove varnish residue and solvent. If the metal doesn't have varnish, wash it with a soap and water solution and rinse.
Tap the metal evenly all over the surface with a hammer to create patterned dents reminiscent of antique hammered aluminum.
Wipe apple cider vinegar or a commercial antiquing solution on the metal, using a soft cloth. Allow the liquid to dry and repeat this process until the metal has the desired patina.
Spray the metal with a 10 percent saltwater solution every day and leave it to the elements to speed the rusting process. If you prefer a faux rust, dab a white ink pad over the metal's surface and dry it with a heat gun. Dab distress stain all over the metal's surface and dry it with a heat gun to create a blotchy rusted look.
Rub ochre wax into pitted areas of the metal to create the illusion of dirt buildup.
Coat the metal's surface with clear coat or clear wax to stop the weathering process.