Do you have old furniture hanging around that is useful but just not pretty? Or are you a fiend for hitting up the Goodwill or the garage sales and getting pieces with great utility or lines but they’re in need of a little TLC? Let me introduce you to my friend, chalk paint.
I’m just going to tell you up front that when it comes to remaking furniture, I’m inherently lazy. If I had to mess around with stripping and lots of sanding and stuff, I’d never refinish any furniture. That’s why chalk paint appeals to me so much. This is the lazy version of rehabbing furniture. I’m not going to tell you there’s NO work, but it’s not as persnickety as trying to get latex to stick to uncertain surfaces.
Before I walk you through one of my early chalk painting projects, I want to talk a little bit about what I like about chalk paint and what can be problematic.
- It sticks to anything. I mean that. I’ve painted glass and slick plastic and cheap laminate.
- Minimal prep work. If you’re going for a distressed finish, don’t do anything. Well, maybe clean it, but that’s it. If you want a smoother, more modern finish, sanding any rough surfaces might be useful. The most I ever do is run the orbital sander over the flat surfaces to smooth them out, then wipe it down to clean it.
- It covers beautifully. Two coats is usually enough for even dark finishes, but I have on a few occasions had to do a third coat to even things out.
- No fumes. Really. No waiting to do your project because you need nice weather. Nope. You can (and I do) rehab a piece of furniture in your basement in the middle of winter with not a single window open.
- It covers a LOT. A little paint goes a long way. When we renovated our bar (I’ll show you that project another time), I bought 2 quarts of paint (one Napolean Blue, one Old White), and I didn’t use more than about half of the blue, and maybe a third of the white.
- It dries FAST. Super-fast. Actually, that may have to go in the Con pile….
- Super-flat finish. If you want shiny, you aren’t going to find it here. You can wax for a bit of sheen, but you’re not going to get high-gloss.
- Wax. Some people will tell you that you have to buy the special wax and the special brush and whatever. You don’t. But no matter how you do it, waxing will need to happen. I’ll be honest, I don’t love waxing, but it only takes a little time and elbow grease, less than I’d use sanding or doing prep.
- It isn’t cheap. I like Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, and it runs about $40/quart. That sounds horrible, but It goes about four times as far as latex for me, so it tends not to be as expensive per project as it looks on the surface. Also, if you buy all the special brushes or whatever, that’d be expensive. I don’t.
- Limited colors. Yeah, this one kind of a problem. You can mix colors, of course, but if you’re after easy, mixing colors defeats the purpose. This is one of the main reasons I like Annie Sloan. I love the colors. But if you don’t dig the colors, that’s not going to be an easy thing to fix.
So now that we’ve broken that down, I’m going to walk you through a cabinet I rehabbed. This one was more prep than I usually do, but that’s because it was sitting in my sister-in-law’s basement and needed a bit more work.
You’ll notice that the top is a dark forest green. I elected to redo that in Napolean Blue, and the body of the cabinet in Old White (inclusive of the interior). Also note that red paint spill on the top shelf.
I wiped the cabinet down with a damp cloth just to clean it up, then let it dry overnight. This also reflects me going over the top with the orbital sander (you can see it on my work table) just to smooth out some rough spots.
Then I just started painting. This is the cabinet with one coat of Napolean Blue on the top. You can see it covers the green really well, but you have very obvious brush marks in this first coat. That’s pretty standard. These projects always look HORRIFIC with only one coat. I promise it gets better.
Next I did two coats of the Old White on the body and a second coat of Napolean Blue on the top. Sorry for the lighting here. Also the cat.
You can see that the white covers the red on that top shelf really well, even though I only did two coats. You can also see how flat the sheen is on the paint.
I let the paint dry overnight, then put a VERY thin coat of wax on it, then let that set for a day before buffing it out and doing a second coat of wax just on the top. I did the second coat because the top gets a good bit of wear. I also did a second coat of wax at the edges of the cabinet doors and on the knobs for the same reason. And here’s the finished piece, with its twin, and with the doors in place.
About the Author:
Elise, born in Texas, currently lives in Virginia and has lived in various southern locales. She has a massive aversion to the cold and a virulent dislike of non-competition compliant chili.
Okay, so Elise and I went back and forth about some of my upcoming projects to refinish furniture. I’ve been pretty hesitant about the idea of using chalk paint, but man, she’s doing a really good job of converting me here… I think… I just might have to do my office furniture remodel in chalk paint…
Elise, you’re making a convert of me!!