When we purchased our home nearly nine years ago, almost every single wall in the house was off-white. At the time, I was into bold color. So I went nuts with color on the walls. Bright, sunny yellow in the living room. A cool medium blue in the kitchen/dining room. Warm mocha in the bedroom. Tuscany olive-green in the entry. You get the idea. While I didn’t put any red on the walls (except in the basement), I had touches of red everywhere – in accessories, furniture, artwork. In the kitchen, we had a red hutch and red bar stools.
A couple of years ago, I was ready for change. I decided to go more neutral. After the walls were toned down, I slowly began to tone down the accent pieces, too. The red artwork came down. The red hutch was swapped out. I started incorporating whites and light colors to lighten up the space. Now, the only lingering bits of red are in the stripe pattern on an oversized chair in the living room and the red bar stools in the kitchen.
I knew I wanted to paint the bar stools, but I kept putting it off because I remember what a pain the job was years ago. When we bought them at a resale shop, they were beat up and ugly. Had I known what a huge job it would be to paint these suckers, I would have said “Screw it, we’ll just buy new ones.” Ignorance is bliss, they say. Not so much. Even though we used primer, we still had to use four coats of red paint. FOUR coats – on all of those spindly legs and bars. It wasn’t fun. So, the thought of repainting them – well I got tired just thinking about it.
Then I met Michelle. Michelle is an amazingly sweet woman. She’s a wife and a mother of NINE children, who are all home-schooled. Unbelievable. She also manages to find time to unleash her creativity by painting, distressing and selling old furniture (check out her website and Facebook page). Oh – and she teaches workshops, too. She credits her supportive husband and children, who help to make it all possible.
Last Saturday, a friend and I (along with four other “students”) went to Michelle’s house for a furniture-painting workshop. The class fee included all necessary materials (including paint), a delicious homemade lunch, and most importantly, Michelle’s instruction, insider tips, advice and assistance. Prior to the workshop, Michelle asked us to email her a photo of the piece of furniture we were bringing. When I sent her a photo of my red bar stool, I almost expected her to shoot me down. I thought maybe it would be too big a task to conquer in a four-hour workshop. Not only did she not shoot me down, but she didn’t ask me to strip, sand or prime it beforehand. Hmmm… I wonder if this lady knows what she’s doing?
Of course she knows what she’s doing. She’s a furniture-painting guru. The workshop took place in her garage, which is divided into two halves – one half is packed with furniture she’s working on, the other half is a work space. They are in the process of building a much-needed barn for Michelle’s growing business. I had assumed we would need to dive into painting right away, in order to allow the coats of paint to dry. This just tells you how much I knew about chalk paint. Zero. (I actually thought it was just colored chalkboard paint!) Instead, Michelle started the workshop by going through some of her favorite products including repair/restore materials, sandpaper, shellac, glue, brushes, and more. She also discussed various kinds of paint, the pros and cons of each and what they are best used for. I was scribbling down notes like crazy. All of this insider info from an experienced painter was SO helpful and likely saved me countless hours of frustration in the future.
Once Michelle began to describe Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint, I suddenly understood why she’s so in love with this product. First of all, there is absolutely no prep work needed 99% of the time. That is GENIUS! Because prepping is the worst part of it all. The 1% includes pieces from a particular time period that have an oil finish (these require a layer of shellac) and also pieces that are really “gunky” (these require degreaser). Other than that, you can slap this paint on just about anything and get great results. The coverage is absolutely amazing. Plus it dries really fast, it’s very easy to work with, it’s eco-friendly and it doesn’t have an odor. The colors can be mixed and the paint can be thinned down or thickened to create different effects. The only downfalls are the price (about $37 per quart) and the accessibility (it can be hard to find). For a list of retailers, click here. Or you can order online here. As far as the price goes, when you compare it to the alternative (prep work and materials, multiple layers of paint, drying time, additional time overall), it’s pretty much a wash. Especially since a quart of chalk paint goes a REALLY long way (except on walls, then latex is a better option).
Finally, it was time to start painting. I chose the color Duck Egg Blue, which happens to have exceptionally great coverage. When Michelle told me it would only take one coat, I thought she was nuts. ONE coat over bright RED?! She was right. Other than going back and touching up a few spots that I missed or used too little paint, one coat did the job. From what I understand, most of the other colors usually need two coats. However, I just watched a video from another blogger who did a dresser in one coat and purposely didn’t use a second because she liked the way the grain sort of lightly came through. So it’s all very subjective, based on your own personal taste.
While the paint was drying, we stopped for lunch. Michelle’s helpers set a beautiful table for us and served a delicious meal. Because I’m vegan, I packed my own lunch, but I was able to enjoy the artichoke salad which was excellent (if I get the recipe from her, I’ll be sure to share).
I was really glad that I listened to Michelle and didn’t get carried away with layering on too much paint. This made the distressing part VERY easy. Just lightly rubbing the sandpaper over the edges allowed the red paint beneath to peek through. It’s funny how much work we’ll go through to make a piece look old, isn’t it? When my dad was here the other day and saw my new entry table, he was surprised by how old and worn it looked (since it’s a brand new, custom piece). I explained that I asked the builder to make it look that way. My dad’s words – “Yeah, you wouldn’t know that from junk” (meaning you can’t tell the difference between this table and an old piece of junk). LOL! I actually do understand why the idea of painting over wood furniture and then distressing it sounds crazy to him. I think you really have to love the painted/distressed/worn/old look to appreciate the process. It took years, but he finally agreed to let my mom paint some of their solid oak furniture. He’s coming around. Sort of.
After distressing came waxing. To me, this was the trickiest part of all. I think it just takes practice before you get really good at it. Chalk paint has a flat, matte finish but when you wax it, you get a gorgeous, soft sheen. The clear wax doesn’t change the color, it just intensifies it slightly. The dark wax (which I decided not to use) tends to yellow the color a bit and ages the piece even more. Michelle had all kinds of great advice on waxing, which was very helpful. This is one product you want to research and learn about before attempting to use it. (Click here for Annie Sloan’s instructional books.)
My friend managed to complete a headboard AND footboard during the workshop. I think it turned out great! Her inspiration was this turquoise bed from Ethan Allen.
Last night, I walked around our house and thought about all the pieces that could be revamped. First, I have to finish three more bar stools. I’m thinking the kitchen chairs might be next. What about you? Is there a piece in your home that could use a fresh look?