Restore, revitalize, recycle – Chalk-based paints give your furniture new life

Do you own a piece of furniture that has seen better days? Don’t toss it just yet!

There’s a great, easy way to upcycle that item and transform it into a treasure again: try chalk paint.

Everywhere we look online and in magazines lately, we’re admiring these upcycled pieces of furniture: beautifully ornate white dressers and rich espresso-coloured tables, chairs and benches that have enjoyed previous lives. 

Be original, and your home will speak for itself

Brett Schwebke, Perspectives on Design

A decorative paint known for its matte, chalky appearance, chalk paint is a popular choice for giving furniture and home decor a rustic, vintage, or shabby-chic style. Because it can easily be given a distressed look, chalk paint is ideal for those who want to add character and vintage charm to their home. 

Maybe you can’t bear to let go of a piece you love: because of its classic lines, because it was an absolute steal at an auction, because you “reclaimed” it from someone’s driveway on bulk garbage day? Whatever its history, 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. 

TIP: You don’t have to be a perfect painter; in fact, you are SUPPOSED to do criss-cross brush strokes and not straight lines.

Milk paint has been around for centuries and has its benefits: it’s natural and eco-friendly because it contains milk protein, limestone, clay and natural pigments, but it requires lots of prep work and sanding of the entire piece. Paints that contain chalk as a binder, such as Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint, are easier to work with. 

Furniture must have a personality, as well as be beautiful

Rose Tarlow, Rose Tarlow Melrose House,

Chalk-based paints are more appealing for weekend DIY decorators to get the look they want in less time. They’re great because they’re premixed and give a beautiful, level finish. 

Revitalizing furniture with chalk paint empowers people in such an easy and simple way,” explains Kathy van Gogh, Artistic Director for van Gogh Fossil Paint.  “Before you know it, you have transformed an ugly duckling into a swan, which evokes pride, contentment and confidence,” van Gogh claims.  

The distressing process is actually the most creative, says Lori Borsellino, owner of Pure Organic Floral in Burlington. “The 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 Chalk-Based Paints

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.

IMPORTANT! Don’t feel guilty about wanting to paint your grandmother’s dresser or your mom’s sideboard. With a fresh coat of paint and a little distressing, before you know it, you’ll have transformed an ugly duckling into a swan—and you’ll feel great about upcycling and reusing rather than discarding.

TIP: 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. 

By Kristy Elik
with Becky Dumais

Local Links

Quaint and Paint

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

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