IF YOU’VE GLANCED at Pinterest within the past couple of years, you may have noticed trend that involves chalk-painting old furniture to give it a fresh-yet-deliberately-distressed look. And if you’ve ventured down that particular rabbit hole, like I did, you may have learned that this stuff is not your mother’s paint. Mother used to strip and sand and varnish, in an area with adequate ventilation. But with chalk paint, there’s no need for that nonsense. It requires virtually no prep (no stripping, no primer, no all-over sanding), it dries fast, and it doesn’t stink. They say you can even use it to paint right over upholstered fabric! And if you check out the paint manufacturers’ web pages, or search for blogs devoted to the rehabbing of furniture, you might become inspired to apply this magical substance to transform your own old, tired-looking pieces of furniture. Such as:
My mom refinished so much furniture in her day. She always had a project. The tall cabinet pictured above? She actually had that one custom-made to fit in the dining room, then painted it an antique blue… in the 1970s. “Antiquing” was a thing then. I’ve had it since 1995. The dark dresser above, she rescued from her brother’s barn and refinished, but I remember it exactly like that in my childhood bedroom, so it was way overdue for an update. The buffet and matching chest came from my grandma’s house in 2005, and I don’t know if they were ever refinished, because that’s exactly how I remember them looking when I was a kid.
So in 2017, when I got a wild hair to try out this chalk paint thing, naturally, I called my mom to get her thoughts. She was slightly skeptical of the paint’s many promises (“No sanding? Really??”), yet intrigued. I told her that my first project was to redo the blue hutch. Here’s how that ended up:
I used gray chalk paint with clear wax, spray-painted the hinges brushed nickel, and replaced the door pulls. I should have painted the shelves white, but I got lazy. The chalk paint completely covered the two knots that the antiquing could not.
I also told her that I wanted to repaint Grandma Sara’s dining room furniture. My vision for the dining room furniture was for the bottom parts to be a deep navy blue, but to keep the tops stained. She thought that sounded interesting. And a few weeks ago, I finally got around to it:
Two coats of Renaissance Chalk Paint in Black Indigo, one coat of Dover’s dark wax. On the top, I applied a couple of coats of Restor-a-finish, and holy cow, that stuff is completely magical, too – it got rid of white water marks, without stripping or sanding! I had to repair a few areas with putty where the wood veneer was chipped, and re-glue some veneer. The hardware, I removed and sprayed with a coat of brushed-nickel Rustoleum.
Yesterday, buoyed by my success, I took on the dresser. I had been eyeing a taller version of this one from Ikea:
“I wish I was the kind of person who had yellow furniture,” I said to Steve. He looked at me as if to say, who says you aren’t? Two coats of this golden chalk paint and a coat of dark wax later, I had this:
Oh, and the hardware! When said I was thinking of redoing this one, the first thing Mom said was, does it still have those hateful drawer pulls? YES!, I said.
I have hated these pulls for literally my whole life. The nuts kept working their way off of the screws, and the handles would pop out of the holes and were inexplicably difficult to re-insert. So, I replaced the pulls with these. And if I said to you that this alone was life-changing, you might accuse me of hyperbole, but you would be so very wrong. I seriously don’t know why I didn’t do this decades ago.
Mom would have been pleased, I think, with the results. She was all about updating and repurposing furniture. The trend in her day was stripping and revarnishing. Now, it’s using chalk paint in classic colors or bold. Regardless, it’s nice to freshen up the decor and to have the satisfaction of having done it myself.
(I’m not being compensated by linking to products; just sharing to let you know what worked for me.)