Thursday, January 26, 2017

Debs Does Chalk Paint

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Since we've been talking about home/decor/lifestyle trends this week (hygge), have you heard about chalk paint? Let me start by saying that I am NOT crafty. I don't knit, or sew, and the wee bit of quilting I have done is only with huge help from my quilter friend.

But I had some very, um, "well-used" pieces of furniture that I didn't want to replace, and a much more house-crafty friend had told me about chalk paint, so I thought, "Why not?" 

And besides, it's VERY BRITISH. 

Anyone who has ever refinished an old piece of furniture knows what a huge pain in the behind it is. First you strip, then sand, then--if you are going for the antique look--you paint with oil-based paint, then sand a little more to distress, then finish with oil-based stain. Very messy, very smelly. A huge project that I just couldn't wrap myself around.

Then an English artist named Annie Sloan came up with a paint formula that can be painted right over stained furniture. No stripping. No sanding. No stinky oils. And I was lucky enough to have an Annie Sloan stockist (How cute is that? Stockist!) just a few blocks from me in McKinney. And once I started looking at the color charts online, and then went and looked at the paints in person, I was hooked. The colors are gorgeous!

So last Saturday, with the help of some crafty friends, I started on the first piece.

This was a little chest that belonged to my mom, one of few things of hers I kept. You can't see in this photo, but beneath the stack of books, the finish had been ruined by someone getting the surface wet and setting a stack of magazines on it. It had been sitting under my guest room window for three years, and I was determined to refinish it and use it as a bedside table in my guest room.

So this is what you do:

Step 1: Wipe it down, very lightly sand any imperfections, although you don't have to.

Step 2: You paint it with the chalk paint. And, yes, there are special brushes. 

Step 3: In this case, we wiped paint off the raised part of the carved design.

Step 4: Let dry over night.

Step 5: Now for the wax. This is one of the Annie Sloan secrets. First you brush on a coat of clear wax. Then, if you want a slightly darker finish, you brush on whatever amount of dark wax you fancy. While you are doing this, you can wipe excess wax with a cloth, and if you get too much dark wax, you can wipe and add more clear. (You need two separate brushes for this.) 

I discovered this means working fast, while the wax is still malleable. When you've got the combination you like, you let it dry 24 hours, more or less. While the paint is water-based and has no smell (can easily be done inside, unlike traditional refinishing), the wax has a lovely shoe-polishy scent. (You do, however, have to clean the wax brushes with mineral spirits.)

Step 6: You buff, using a soft cloth pad. The buffing brings up a lovely gloss, and, voila, you are done! Here it is, the new beside table!

The little Henredon chest was a nice piece of furniture, worth preserving. But the next project (and now I was fired up!) was a total piece of junk. This little vanity table we picked up at my hub's grandmother's estate sale when we first moved into our house more than twenty years ago and were trying to fill empty spaces. You might get $10 for this thing at a yard sale now. But the thing is, it perfectly fit our space and needs for our guest bathroom. So, why not try chalk paint???

Well, I quickly discovered that the chest was easy. The little vanity table, with all those spindles, was a job. 

But I got it painted (Duck Egg blue--isn't it gorgeous?) and then I got it waxed (hands and arms falling off from all the brushing, knees and back complaining from crawling around on the floor for hours.) On this piece I added a tiny bit of gilded wax for the last step.

And here it is, back in place.

Still needing new knobs, but pretty adorable, if you are into shabby chic, and a huge improvement over the before.

I have at least two (maybe three) pieces of furniture I still want to do, but they will have to wait until after book tour. 

I also have a few pieces of advice for anyone who wants to try chalk paint.

#1--Buy the real Annie Sloan brushes. Yes, they are expensive. But although I bought Annie Sloan brushes for the wax, I skimped and bought a generic brush for the paint. A big mistake. The quality makes a huge difference, especially on wear and tear on your hands.

#2--Don't do any of this at night! (Which I did.) Especially the waxing. The paint is VERY forgiving. The wax dries fast and you need to be able to see what you're doing.

#3--If you want to use the gilded wax, a little goes a LONG way. Be gentle and sparing. It also dries really fast so you have to wipe like the devil if you get too much.

#4--Watch Annie Sloan videos. Not other people doing chalk paint. Go to the source. They're short, well-edited, and tell you what you need to know. And, besides, she's very cool.

I am tired, and sore, but very proud of myself. I love the results, and I think I can now call myself CRAFTY DEBS. 

So, REDs and readers, who's crafty? Have you tackled projects like this? WOULD YOU tackle projects like this?


  1. Oh, no . . . your tables look lovely, Debs, but this is so not my forte . . . .
    I can crochet or knit, or needlepoint, or embroider, or sew reasonably well but I recognize my own limits. Furniture refinishing is the sort of task I hand over to John without hesitating a single moment.

  2. Cheers to you!!!!!! I was there for the rebirth of your mother's bedside table, and it looks great, but the table from the bathroom? It's spectacular! I love it!!!! You did a great job, and the gold wax is a wonderful touch. See? You really are crafty. You simply lack practice. Now I'm getting inspired about my ugly bedside table! I'm so proud of you for what you've done here. It's fab!

  3. I love how the chalk paint works and looks on the pieces you painted. I made a woven fence once to enclose the open side of our courtyard at our little ranch in California. The kids helped me gather the wood from the dry creek bed and green willow switches for weaving. It looked great, until some open range cattle came through and decided we must be hiding something good on the other side.

  4. This is awesome, Debs. I have a desk in my guest room that is the right size and doubles as my sewing table when I haul out the machine. And a smallish dresser, both of wood that needs refinishing. I see some chalk paint in my future! Thanks for the tips.

  5. I am so not crafty... but chalk paint looks like a terrific solution for the right project. And how satisfying is that, the before/after?!

    My husband once dragged in a broken rocking chair someone was throwing out and it was the project we too to a furniture refinishing class at our high school. Took OFF the paint and exposed beautiful fine-grained maple. But omg it was a major chore. EsPECially the spindles.

  6. Wow! Crafty Debs! Fabulous… I would never attempt such a thing. I am in awe.
    Does it count that I sewed a hem on a dress?--While wearing the dress?

  7. Fabulous Debs, and how fun to have friends helping!

    Hank, hmmm, that is definitely better than scotch taping or pinning the hem:)

    Imagine the projects we could be doing if we weren't writing:)

  8. Debs: I am definitely NOT crafty, so I am in awe with your beautiful results!

  9. The Washington Post covered the Annie Sloan phenomenon a few years ago. I remember their caution about using name brand brushes. Your pieces turned out well. Congratulations!

  10. Beautiful! And I agree with Gigi--that little table is fabulous with the touches of gilt! This is right up my alley. I had a small junk table bought at a garage sale--some sanding, paint, new knob--perfect little end table for the boys' room. So, yes, I would definitely try this. I have a wooden bed that I've been wanting to redo--especially when I finish the new quilt for it. It's a spool bed, so lots of spindles, but I can see what it will look like now--thanks for the tips, too!

  11. Gorgeous, especially the little chest. What a difference it makes to paint or refinish damaged pieces.

    I used to be very crafty indeed (remember I taught sewing). I've done it all, from sewing clothes and drapes, to refinishing furniture. I have a huge library (of course) of how-to books, and enough supplies to open a crafts store, even though I don't do much any more. The last project I did was to stain a hall bench last summer to match the new paint job in the entry better. It turned out okay, but the chalk paint would probably have been better. I may have to redo it, thanks to your demonstration, Debs.

  12. Oh Debs, this is perfect! I have a couple bedside tables that are rather dated and I'd love to update.

    Do you know if this works on doors? My upstairs doors are all beat up, but they have lovely glass knobs and are so old they won't take modern knobs. I've wanted to strip the paint/varnish and redo them for years but oh the work and smell! But if chalk paint works, that would be a real possibility.

  13. These pieces look wonderful, Debs. I'm so impressed.

  14. Debs- I am in awe. Yes, you are most definitely crafty now. The chalk paint is beautiful. I have never heard of this wonderfulness and I have some serious furniture to fix up in the frat house. The closest I have come to a furniture project is decoupaging a small table on which one of the hooligans, when he was about four, scrawled "I hat dad" (yes, hat) in permanent marker after a spat with his father over exactly how many fruit snacks he was allowed to eat in one sitting. I wish I'd known about the chalk paint then! LOL. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  15. Mary, yes, I think it will work on doors just fine. In fact, we need to redo a door frame and I was thinking about using chalk paint. (It was stained, then a goofy contractor painted over the stain with latex paint, which is now peeling off...) We just haven't been able to face the smell and the mess of stripping and re-staining.

    I should add that the chalk paint is fun to paint with--it goes on liked whipped cream, and it's not drippy so very little mess. It (like the brushes) is expensive, about $40 a quart. But a quart goes a long way. You could probably do two large or three small (like my vanity table) pieces with one quart. And you can mix colors, although I haven't been brave enough to try that yet.

    One of the pieces on my list is the old rocking chair in the guest room. I intend to recover it, and chalk paint it in a color called Chateau Gray. But all those spindles!!! Ack.

    You can paint and wax in the same day if you allow maybe 4 to 6 hours between. But it probably is best to let the wax cure for a full 24 hours before buffing. I rushed mine a bit.

    It occurred to me, to late, that I should have done a video. (I actually have a YouTube channel!!!) So maybe on the next piece...

  16. Debs, your chest and table look amazing. I've seen pictures and how-tos for chalk painting, but you're the first friend I know who has tackled a project! Since I have quite a few estate sale-transfer station-hand me down pieces of furniture, I'm VERY interested in a (relatively) easy way to freshen them up.

    What it the finish like post-wax? Is it very matte, like chalk? And what do you do for upkeep? Regular furniture wax?

  17. Everyone who's interested, do go to Annie Sloan's website. The colors!!!! I drool over the colors. I have an old beat up chest in our hall that I want to paint in the color called Aubusson Blue.

    The color on my little chest is Old White, which is much creamier than it looks on the swatch chart. And the little vanity table is Duck Egg Blue.

    Maybe I should add that our house is not entirely shabby chic--we do actually have some very nice furniture:-) But I've always loved painted furniture, and it's fun to fill in with bits and pieces.

  18. Julia, the paint alone is very chalky, as you can see from my process pics. But when the furniture is waxed and buffed it has a nice soft gloss. I'm not sure about upkeep but will check. You may be able to just add a little more of Annie Sloan clear wax, let dry and re-buff.

    Annie Sloan came up with this in 1990. I am, again, behind the times. Although there was a big piece on Annie Sloan in the fall British issue of Victoria Magazine.

  19. This looks like a great tutorial.

    She says for pieces that will get heavy use, you should use two to three layer of wax (probably just on top surface.)

    You can see what a piece looks like with only the clear wax, as I used some dark wax on both of mine.

  20. That's crazy craftsy for me.

    I made a quilt - it's 9' by 9' because I couldn't get the pattern I wanted to use from a book my grandmother had come out right with a king size because they didn't have king size beds back then and my geometry skills have never been strong.

    I started crocheting my daughter a scarf about 10 years ago - it's still in my closet with the needle attached because I keep forgetting how to do a turn at the end of the row and the lady that was teaching me quit the office we both worked plus, you know, I quit almost two years ago too.

    I have a stack of baby clothes and tshirts I've collected from my daughter's activities and experiences to make her one of those special tshirt quilts for when she goes off to college in two years. I think I'll just send them to someone though. Three crafts in 25 years is probably too much for me. :)

  21. Debs, very impressive! They all look wonderful! I was reminded of Victoria magazine, one of my favorites.

    First time I read about chalk paint. If it is ok to ask, is chalk paint safe for the environment?

    To answer your question, although I do not know how to sew clothes from scratch, however I learned how to mend holes in my clothes, sew my name tags on my clothes before going away to summer camp, and I hemmed a doll's skirt.

    In college, I was introduced to Victoria magazine by a friend. This same friend taught me how to knit! It is funny because I learned how to crochet when I was seven years old, though I forgot how. I still know how to knit at the basic level. when I knit a sweater for my college boyfriend's birthday, I had help from other knitters with more experience than I had.

    Just started reading a knitting mystery by Maggie Sefton (sp?) and love it!

    Thank you for sharing!


  22. On Annie Sloan's website they have photos of kitchen cabinets painted with the chalk paint. So I'm sure it would work for interior doors.

    Hmm, the wheels are turning now.

  23. Kitchen cabinets! Hmmm.

    Oh dear. I think you've created a monster, Debs. =)

  24. I'd love to see close ups of the finishes.
    Great job! Good for you.

  25. I am most impressed with your work, Debs. The chest and the table turned out beautifully, and they now stand out as something special in perfect spots for them. I will have to ask my daughter if she knows about chalk paint, as she is the one who painted her kitchen cabinets by herself and does projects like that. I don't think you can claim to be a non-craftsy person now. I remain craft impaired. Like Aimee, I have a few older things that are still around, most notably for me is a macramed (now there's a blast from the past) green Christmas tree, a fairly good sized hanging I made in the late 70s. It is my one and really only crowning achievement in the craft world, and I trot it out each Christmas and hang it proudly.

  26. Diana, the chalk paint is water-based so I'm assuming it's okay.

  27. Good for you, Debs! I tried something similar a couple of months ago. Amitha Verma, here in Houston, came up with her own chalk paint line. You can buy it online and in her store. I went to a free demo to see how it works. She is very engaging. I painted the island in my kitchen, semi-successfully. Again, there is no sanding or stripping. I had issues because the paint I was covering up was glossy and I had trouble getting my chalk paint to work. When it was too late to do me any good my sister told me I could use a de-glosser that would clean the wood and make it tacky for 30 minutes or so to paint on. Next time. I painted, then brushed on the wax sealer. I did not do a third step with a glaze that brings out designs or trim. I am a messy and horrible painter. My little brother and my sister are talented and exacting. I wonder if I could entice them to paint all my cabinets? I've been staring at maroon kitchen cabinets for ten years now. The sheer number of then has kept me frozen in terror.
    On another note I have been to 3 different painting evenings where you're taught how to paint a particular picture. They supply everything but the wine. Unfortunately my finished product never resembles what it is supposed to. The wine doesn't help. I swore off going to these since my brother, my sister, and my granddaughter all painted better than me. Yesterday my granddaughter let me know when her spring break is and asked if we could do another painting session. I let my sister and her daughter know so they can join in too. Maybe her daughter will be a lousy painter.

  28. I'm not crafty, but I love wall paint like nobody's business. When my husband and I owned a house, he always got nervous when he saw me eyeing the wall, knowing what was coming. Looking at the paint chips at the hardware store and home depot makes me very happy. I've been known to paint the occasional end table or lamp, but there's nothing like a wall ready for a new coat!

    Well done, Debs!

  29. Beautiful transformations! I like the water-based and odorless part also. I had the builders use no-VOC paints and no formaldehyde wood to make a healthier space.

  30. Very nice redos! I'm crafty but have not yet tried my hand at revamping furniture. Mostly I sew and knit though even lately not so much... I just can't find the time! However, my kitchen table needs a serious upgrade so maybe when the weather gets warm?

  31. Debs, I remember that little table in the bathroom, and it looks great! I also recognize the bottle of Shay & Blue. :-) xx

  32. Debs,

    That's great ! I hope my question about the environment did not offend anyone here. I finished reading a Lady Kiera mystery by Anna Lee Huber and it mentioned how some paints are toxic. So I wondered about this new paint. Thank you.