Everywhere you look – furniture and décor stores, magazines and Pinterest – you’ll see upcycled pieces of furniture: beautifully ornate white dressers and rich espresso coloured tables, chairs and benches that have seen many a meal over time. If there’s a piece that you still love because of its classic lines, or it was an absolute steal at an auction, or you “reclaimed” it from someone’s driveway on bulk garbage day, why not revive it and show it off proudly with a fresh coat of chalk-based paint?
There are several different types of paint used to paint furniture and achieve that sought-after, expensive vintage look, but the two types specifically designed for this purpose are milk paint and chalk-based paint. Milk paint has been around for centuries. It’s natural and eco-friendly because it contains milk protein, limestone, clay and natural pigments. It comes in a powder form and when mixed with water, turns into a milky paint. Paints that contain chalk as a binder such as Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint™ and van Gogh Fossil Paint are very easy to work with and definitely on trend.
Don’t feel guilty about wanting to paint your grandmother’s dresser or your mom’s sideboard. “It empowers people in such an easy and simple way,” explains Kathy van Gogh, Artistic Director for van Gogh Fossil Paint. With a fresh coat of paint and a little distressing “before you know it, you have transformed an ugly duckling into a swan. That’s very empowering; it evokes pride, contentment and confidence,” van Gogh claims. “I still feel that way every time I paint a piece.” If distressed French Country isn’t the look you’re going for, paint your piece and put the wax topcoat on without distressing it for a high-gloss, glam look.
Vintage: the painted veil
While milk paint has useful applications, it requires a lot of prep work and sanding of the entire piece. Chalk-based paints are more appealing for weekend DIY decorators to get the look they want in less time. Chalk-based paints are great because they’re premixed and give a beautiful, level finish. “I like instant gratification myself and don’t want to bother with the mixing required by milk paint,” van Gogh explains. “It also levels out beautifully all by itself creating this velvety-smooth finish.”
Chalk it up to progress
The distressing process is actually the most creative, says Lori Borsellino, owner of Pure Organic Floral in Burlington. She runs frequent workshops for customers looking for hands-on help with refinishing small pieces they’ve brought into the shop. “This process is very forgiving, if you see anything you don’t like, just distress it away. You’re making it your own,” says Borsellino. People are always thrilled with the results. “They can’t believe the transformation. They’re gaga over their ‘new’ piece of furniture.”
How to use
A FINE FIND: choose a piece.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE: a brush, roller, paint tray, 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper, a green dish scrubber, and an old cotton T-shirt.
COAT OF ARMS: put on an even coat, making sure there aren’t any drips. Add another coat if desired.
LAYER UP: for variety, add a different coloured second coat for more visual depth.
DISTRESS – DON’T STRESS: soak the T-shirt and rub it over the entire piece. Wet the sandpaper and rub it lightly across the surface you want distressed. Wipe the area to check the effect. Use different levels of distressing in different areas and let dry.
WAX ON: apply an overall coat of beeswax, which helps protect the piece. Stand back and admire.
Painted Furniture Sources
Pure Organic Floral Boutique, Burlington
White Pear Studios Inc., Oakville
Winterberry Lane, Oakville
Fairhome Interiors, Burlington
My Back Shed, Oakville
Article written by Becky Dumais
Images courtesy of:
Color Recipes for Painted Furniture and more
by Annie Sloan
CICO Books, $24.95 US; $28.95 CAD
Photo credit: Photography by Christopher Drake