Blog Posts

FPB – Furniture Painting Basics – Paint!

I get so many questions from people about what the ‘best’ paint is for painting furniture that I decided to compile a bit of a reference.  My stock answer always is… it depends! 

It depends upon what look you want to achieve, where and how the piece will be used, any allergies in the household… you get the idea.  This isn’t an exhaustive listing of the advantages and disadvantages of various paint types but it should give you a good reference point!

Chalk and Clay based Paints

To start, please know that Chalk paint is named after the textural finish of the paint when dry, not because ‘chalk’ is an ingredient in the paint!  That said, these paints are water-based and finish to a soft, matte look. 


  • Minimal prep work required (they may say ‘none’ but it really is ‘piece’ and ‘surface’ dependent.  Slick surfaces will need a light sand to help adhesion, old pieces or those with dark, red wood may need primer to block bleed-through stains… you get the idea
  • Low odor, low to no VOC’s (volatile organic compounds)
  • Fast drying, minimal wait time to re-coat
  • Colours blend easily and well giving lots of variations and options
  • Tends to be thicker than other paints allowing better coverage with fewer coats and can be used to create textures, distresses easily
  • Durable, cures to a hard finish


  • Numerous brands makes it very accessible (can make your own… but… why?)
  • Bit of a learning curve, especially if you’re looking for a smooth, modern finish
  • Fast drying.  I know this is also a ‘Pro’ but it does present issues at times, though using a spray mister of water while you work can extend this time

Note:  I pretty much exclusively use some version of a chalk or, particularly, clay based paint in my business.  For the styles and types of finishes I enjoy this is the type of paint that works best for me. 

Milk Paint

This is so-named because it contains milk protein.  This also means it does not keep indefinitely.  It comes in powder form and you mix what you need, as you need it. I’ve had a lot of fun using this paint when I’m looking for a farmhouse, chippy look or when I want to ‘stain raw or natural wood. My dining table is currently painted in multiple layers of milk paint, that have chipped to reveal layers of colour below and heavily sealed to protect the surface!


  • All natural, no VOC’s and has been around for hundreds of years.  Time-tested!
  • Typically this is a thinner paint, though you can mix it thicker for some textural variation (this may cause more chipping)
  • Distresses well
  • Obviously water based!
  • The way it’s pigmented provides great depth of colour and colour variation
  • Works great on raw wood and porous surfaces because it will soak in and act like a stain
  • Lasts indefinitely in its dry state


  • The mixing.  It can be a bit of a pain to manually get a ‘smooth’ paint.  Immersion blenders work great though!
  • It can be a bit unpredictable – when you don’t want a ‘chippy’ final look.  A bonding agent needs to be added to minimize this but… still no guarantees! Even top coating doesn’t prevent it happening later
  • Once it’s mixed you need to use it, there is no storing of this.  A couple of days at best, other-wise it will smell like soured milk

Acrylic Paint

I do use Acrylic, all-in-one, paints periodically – when I am looking to be able to distress down to a ‘colour’ rather than wood I will use this paint as a blocker, or if I am looking specifically for a smooth, durable, modern finish. My front door is currently painted in an Acrylic paint.


  • Good for both interior and exterior
  • Durable – even without a topcoat (though you can certainly add one for greater durability)
  • Smooth flowing and levels nicely
  • Also water based – easy clean up
  • Often advertised as all-in-one paints – primer, paint and sealer in one
  • Short drying times – can apply several coats in a relatively short period of time
  • Once fully cured it has a very durable, chip resistant finish


  • The shorter drying times makes it a little more challenging to ‘blend’ colours on the piece for certain looks. 
  • Although it can be distressed it is not as easy as chalk or milk paint.  Although you can wet-distress you have a very short window within which to do so, in which case you are generally dry sanding

Latex Paint

Full Disclosure – I don’t use latex at all in my business – personal choice more than anything. It’s not a ‘finish’ that works for my pieces and, due to people’s allergies I don’t like to limit the sale-ability of a piece.


  • Readily available just about anywhere in just about any colour – think… all hardware stores!
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Water based
  • Sprays easily
  • Durable once cured (think trim, walls…) – though prone to chipping with heavy use
  • Comes in different sheens for different looks – Flat, Satin, Semi-gloss, High-gloss


  • You definitely need to prep your piece before using this paint
  • Typically more of a smell to this one (okay… I’m sensitive to migraines so it does for me!)
  • Some people are allergic to latex (issue for resellers perhaps)
  • Doesn’t lend itself to distressing at all (peels)
  • A good brush is definitely an asset since brush strokes ‘stay’ behind (non-levelling)

Oil Paint (Alkyd)

And… another paint I don’t use in my business, mostly because of my laziness in cleaning (if it can’t be cleaned with water I’m not going there!) and the smell. I’m sensitive so… I’m out!


  • Extremely durable – the most durable of all the paints making it good for high volume use areas – trims, kitchens etc.
  • Adheres well and also tends to self-level
  • Cures more quickly than water-based paints


  • It stinks.  You want to use in a well-ventilated area or, if you’re sensitive to migraines like I am… never!
  • It has a long drying time between coats, made longer with each coat applied
  • Must be cleaned with solvent – which also smells!
  • Tends to be more expensive
  • Because of the VOC’s contained in the paint some places have banned its use making it a little more difficult to find than other options

Paints have come a long way over the years and there are a broader range of options available than ever before. If you are not painting a lot, or often, buy in small quantities. Paint can go bad or dry out on you so don’t count on a product being fine to use in the future if it is sitting around ‘forever’ before using it again. If this is the case for you consider Milk Paint.

There are numerous brands and types to choose from and, though they will all claim to be the best, they all have slightly different properties. Try and test them in small batches to see which ones seem to work the best for you. If you don’t like mixing colours yourself then you might want to consider a paint line with an extensive colour range. If you like mixing and blending custom colours this isn’t likely to be the deciding factor for you.

Try them out, play with them, feel them out, determine for yourself which works best for you, your budget and your needs!

Happy Painting!


FPB – Furniture Painting Basics – Prep


In the world of furniture refinishing Prep-work represents the boring stuff that takes place before painting can even begin.  It’s not particularly fun, it’s often dirty and messy and it goes largely unnoticed and unappreciated by a paying client.

However, it is an essential step if you hope to create a finish that will last.

There are a lot of paint companies that claim there is no prep needed when using their paint.  This is completely… false!  There may be a reduced amount of prep required but no paint, let me repeat… NO paint… is prep free.  Let’s take a quick look at the potential steps needed to prepare a piece of furniture for painting and I’ll openly share what I do, or don’t do, to the pieces I refinish.

First Step…  Clean!

Rubber gloves save!

This step is a must!  Every piece, no matter where it came from… a shed, a barn, a garage, a basement or someone’s living room…  must be thoroughly cleaned before painting.  Any dust, dirt, oil or grease has to be removed if you want your paint to adhere properly.  You can get specialty cleaners to help you with this but, because I am largely refinishing in my home, I prefer to use products with as few chemicals as possible.  Therefore, I will usually clean my pieces with a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar with a teaspoon or so of the blue Dawn dishwashing liquid to help cut through any grease.

I will wash the piece down with the mixture until my cloth (and the liquid) is coming away clear.  This might require wiping it down a couple of times.  Once I seem to have gotten the dirt and grime off I will then wipe the piece down with straight water to clean off any soap residue.

It’s not glamorous but it is a truly important step and one I take on every piece, every time, no exceptions!. 

Step Two… Repairs

If the piece has holes that need filling, veneer repaired etc. this is when to do it.  You want the piece to be clean first so that any wood glue or wood filler you use will adhere to the surface.  Once the repairs are completed (that’s a different article!) you may need to wipe the piece down again to remove any dust from sanding etc. A tack cloth is great to use for this.

It likely goes without saying but I do the functional repairs that are needed, as needed. Small dents, scrapes and dings I typically leave because they go along with the story of the piece. I have wrinkles, they have dings – it’s all part of ‘who’ we are and the story we tell.

Step 3…  Sanding

Restoration, removing paint from antique chair with sandpaper

Now, here’s where it starts to get interesting.  I don’t sand every piece.  Most of the paints I use don’t require it.  However, there are a couple of situations in which I will most definitely want to sand the piece – or use an alternative product.

  • If the piece I am going to be refinishing has a rough, damaged, chipped finish, or if the original paint is flaking or peeling off, I will definitely sand the piece (using an orbital sander and a medium grit sand paper like 120)
  • If I have a piece with a high-gloss finish or a very slick surface I will choose to lightly scuff the slick surface to ‘rough’ it up a bit and enable the paint to stick better. 

There are times though when sanding is perhaps not really practical, especially if you are refinishing a piece in the middle of your living room (like I usual am), or if the piece has a lot of details you would be hard pressed to sand down into.  Instead, you might want to consider a de-glossing product, which you wipe on/wipe off or paint on a product (such as Fusion Mineral Paint’s Ultra Grip or Slick Stick from Dixie Belle) that is designed to stick to slick surfaces while providing a roughened base for paints to adhere to better. 

Note that these products are only designed to help the first layer of paint adhere to the surface of your piece better, they do not act as a primer. 

As already stated, I don’t sand every piece. I make a determination, before painting, whether I feel the piece needs sanding or not. If I’m going to be leaving sections of the piece the natural wood I definitely sand those sections so they will take the oil, wax or stain better, creating a smoother look. If I am not leaving any wood bare and do not need to smooth out a rough section, smooth out wood filler or deal with flaking paint then I don’t sand. Period. If the surface is slick and I’m concerned my paint might not adhere well, then I will apply a product like Ultra Grip.

Step 4… Priming

A primer is designed to be painted onto your surface and act as a barrier between your surface material and your paint.  This helps to prevent what is called ‘bleed through’, which is what occurs when oils and tannins in your wood ‘bleed through’ your layers of paint and create unsightly blotches and discoloured segments.  You must use a primer with a shellac in it to prevent bleed through.  Not every product labelled ‘primer’ works.  You could certainly choose to shellac the piece – that would serve to provide the barrier you’re after – but a white primer with shellac would also provide a layer of colour, which helps if you are taking a dark coloured wood to a light painted finish.  Why paint more layers than you have to?

When I use a primer my go-to’s are Kilz or Zinnser water-based primers – with shellac!

What then are the ideal times to use a primer?

  • When painting over a dark surface with a light colour, a primer can reduce the number of coats you need to apply of the more expensive paint colour, while blocking any potential bleed through.
  • When painting over stain or wood that had red undertones (like Mahogany or perhaps Cherry) I would prime every time – you are almost guaranteed to get bleed through otherwise.
  • When painting over raw wood.  Certainly because there may be natural oils in the wood that may rise to the surface of your paint otherwise but also because raw wood is ‘thirsty’.  A primer can serve to significantly reduce the number of coats of your paint colour that you need for a smooth finish.

Bleed through ‘fix’ – if you chose not to prime your piece but experience some bleed through ‘after’ painting has begun you still have a couple of options.  You could simply paint the whole piece in shellac (if the bleed through is particularly bad) or use shellac over the areas where the bleed through occurred (there is even some great spray shellac you can use to deal with this quickly!)

I will not use a primer for every piece. I do when the look of the wood has me concerned that bleed through is likely, or when I am shifting a dark piece to a lighter finish. In that case I’m being cautious about possible bleed through but also looking to being the ‘lightening’ process with a product that is less expensive than the finishing paint!

Step 5… Paint!

I’ll save the discussion of the merits of the different types of paint for another day.  Suffice it to say that the above steps will ensure that you have a surface that will support and accept the paint of your choice, providing a solid base for your paint to adhere and cure to. 

After all…  if you’re investing the time to update a piece, creating a new look, you want to ensure that your finish will last a long time!


Disclaimer – I have provided links to some of the products I mention only to help you in sourcing them. It costs you nothing more to use them but I might make a few cents in the process!

Here is the Youtube video where I also talk about some of the Prep issues with an example (The Ugly Duckling Cabinet!)

Yes, you can Paint Fabric!

I have upholstered fabric chairs before. It turned out great. I hated every minute of it!

If this rings true for you or… you’re firmly in the ‘not ever gonna do it camp’… here’s a great way of updating your cloth furniture, without having to learn to sew! Paint it. The wood, the fabric… the whole thing!

For this project I used DIY clay paints from Debi’s design diary but I have also used Annie Sloan chalk paint as well. Both worked just fine. For this project then you will need…

Paint – any Clay, Mineral, Chalk paint of your choosing
Paint Brushes – there’s no magic to this and no need to invest in any super expensive brushes since you’re going to be ‘staining’ the fabric and we’re not worried about brush strokes. That said, you may want a couple of different sizes since you are also going to want to paint the ‘wood’ parts of your chair and will need some ‘smaller’ brushes for this.
Painter’s tape
Plastic wrap
Water spray bottle (any old spray bottle will do)
Wax – I used Annie Sloan wax in clear for both chair projects – it’s what I had on hand, but you could use one from another Chalk Paint line if there’s one you prefer!
Fine Sanding pad, block or paper

For the Daisy chair pictured above the only ‘wooden’ pieces I needed to consider painting were the legs of the piece. I will typically always suggest that you paint the wood first since it’s easier to tape off and protect from any of the painting you do on the fabric than is the reverse. If, however, there is a piece you’re working on that isn’t this straight forward then consider using the plastic wrap to protect your painted fabric when painting some of the wooden sections. Tuck it down into the crevasses, nooks and crannies… whatever you need to do.

Since there are often sections of fabric you may have to pull ‘back and away’ from some of the wood I typically like to use some of the plastic wrap as a barrier when I have to ‘release’ the fabric – which means it’s now touching ‘wet paint’. We’ll be painting over it when we paint the fabric but… it just makes life a little easier.

For this project I simply (and cautiously) painted the legs in a bright white (White Swan from DIY) in two coats. I sanded the dried paint lightly with a very fine sand paper only to smooth out the finish, not to distress, and then applied wax, allowed it to dry and buffed smooth. I then wrapped them in plastic wrap and taped them off with the painters tape to protect the finish.

Now for the fun part!

This is a picture of the 'before' of 
the chair.  It was a 'damask' type 
raised patterned dusty rose.  
Though I would be covering over 
the rose colour, the actual texture 
of the fabric would come through 
in the final product.  I liked that -
 it would add a bit of detail, but 
know when you are selecting 
your project that we aren't going 
to be altering the textured 
patterning of the chair.  Also, 
heavily coloured patterns, even 
on a flat fabric, may create 
'shade' variations in your final 
painted finish, depending upon 
the colour you choose.  I like this 
also - you decide for you!

Remove the cushion and put off to the side. You will be painting it and treating it the same as the rest of the chair but easier to do separately. Although we are going to be applying paint, we are actually ‘staining’ the fabric with the paint. In order to get the product to ‘sink into’ the fabric we must lightly we the surfaces before and during the application of the paint. In addition, you will need to water your paint down so that it is better able to sink into the fabric.

DIY paint is very heavily pigmented and is very thick. For that paint I used closer to a 50/50 ratio of water to paint, periodically watering it down some more as the paint thickened. Annie Sloan has great colours but it not quite as pigmented and is a little thinner requiring me to use less water but you really need to eyeball this. Your paint could have been sitting around longer and be thicker than mine… you’re just looking for a fairly runny consistency while not diluting your colour too much!

Take your spray bottle, dampen the area you want to start painting (note the word ‘damp’ not ‘soak’!) and then begin painting the area. I found it useful to paint in a circular motion, rather than back and forth, which seemed to help the paint get down into the texture and nap of the fabric. Continue this over the whole piece.

The pic of the chair here is 
after applying one 
(watered down) coat of 
DIY's Bohemian Blue.  You 
can still see some of the 
original pink showing 
through and definitely see 
the 'raised pattern' of the 

Allow this coat to fully dry 
before proceeding.

Once the fabric is dry you need to lightly sand it, all over, using a very fine sand paper/pad/block. I found using the block easiest to use over the large sections but switched to sandpaper to get into the tighter areas. This is just a light sanding but is important to help your next coat adhere well and, most importantly, to sink into the fabric. We don’t want the paint to simply sit on top of the fabric – that’s what would make it feel ‘hard’ or ‘crunchy’ in texture afterward. Sanding eliminates any of the paint sitting on top, allowing your next coat to sink down in, staining and not painting, the fabric.

Once sanded I took a dry dust brush and brushed the piece all-over lightly to remove any of the paint dust. And then… repeat the painting process, using your spray water bottle to dampen the fabric and a circular motion to apply your diluted paint. Allow to dry, sand, brush the dust free and then check your piece to see if it requires more coats.

For the Blue Daisy chair I just needed some touch ups in a few areas and not a full third coat. For the chair I did with Annie Sloan, where I was using a ‘taupe’ colour, rather than the dark blue above, I required a third coat.

I chose to add hand painted
daisies to my final piece, using 
the same white as for the legs of 
the piece. These were painted 
free hand.  Once they were dry I 
lightly sanded and brushed any 
dust residue free from the piece. 
Again... this required a couple of 
The final step is to seal the 
painted surfaces.  For this 
you need to use a product 
that allows the fabric to 
move and breather - Wax.
Apply the wax firmly in a 
circular motion to get it 
down into the fabric. This
will serve to seal the paint 
and prevent it from 
bleeding out at all.  I know 
people are concerned that 
the colour might come off 
onto someone's clothes but 
if it is sealed... it stays put!

Allow the final piece to cure for a couple of days before using. The final texture will depend on the fabric of the piece itself, but will be reminiscent of leather, with a supple buttery feel.

Upping Your Moulding Game!

Making a Floral Mirror

I had been scouring local Restores and Resellers looking for a small round mirror for quite some time.  Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to finally stumble upon just the one I wanted for a particular project I had in mind.  For this project consider using any mirror or picture frame for a similar look but also think outside of this scope a little – what about updating a tired old plant pot or urn?  What about an old teapot? Perhaps a decorative plate?  Options are endless!

Old mirror or frame
Creative Paper Clay
Floral Moulds from IOD
Wood Glue
Paints (Modern Masters Metallic Bronze, Annie Sloan Old White Chalk Paint)
Brushes (chippy brush, wax brush)
Cotton Cloth
Wax for sealing

NB:  some of the moulds I used are older and not readily available but consider using any moulds that fit a theme… florals, butterflies, seashore, wings…

To start, make sure your mirror is clean and free of dirt and oils.  For this you simply need a little soap and water, even a wet wipe would do.  This was my mirror, washed and ready to start!

I like to apply my moulds when they are still soft and somewhat malleable – important when applying to a curved surface such as this mirror. I will therefore only make a dozen or so pieces at a time, glue them in place and then begin making more. 
Take out a small amount of the paper clay and knead it slightly to soften and smooth it out.  Press firmly into one of the mould designs, ensuring that you fully fill the cavity. Smooth the back off since this is the side you will be adhering to your piece.  (I will often use an old credit card to ensure the back of the mould is level).
To remove your design from the mould flip it over so that you are able to slowly peel the mould away from the clay.  If you find your clay sticking to your moulds at all brush a little cornstarch into the moulds first, which will make removal easy!
Brush on some wood glue (usually what I use) or even some white craft glue, ensuring that you take it right out to the edges of your designs to ensure there is no curling of the clay as it dries.

Lay your moulded pieces around the frame ensuring that you are alternating shapes, and working them fully edge to edge.  As you can see in this picture I leave a number of gaps that I go back and fill later with smaller flowers and leaves, typically laying larger flowers and leaves first, spacing similar flowers around the circumference of the mirror to create interest.

Continue to make and add more moulded pieces until your design is as full as desired. For this piece I knew that I was planning on distressing back to a base colour.  In this case I wanted a subdued metallic look for the base so I used Modern Masters Metallic paint in Bronze. Use a small chippy brush to dab the paint down into all of the crevasses in and between your moulds.  I did one full coat and then, once dry, used a smaller brush to touch up edges and areas I missed on the first pass.

Allow to dry fully.  The Modern Masters Metallics dries to a hard finish, allowing you to distress back to the metallic finish without risk of removing that layer of paint.  If you are using a different brand of paint and do not want to risk distressing back to the paper clay layer then you should consider doing a light single coat of a Polyacryllic to form a protective barrier prior to the next paint step. 
I also chose to highlight some of the raised aspects of some of the florals and leaves with some gold metallic paint I had (Americana Décor Metallics) but it proved unnecessary – it’s too subtle to see in the final product!

Once your metallic layer is dry it is time to apply two coats of the Old White layer.  Because we will be wet-distressing these layers I strongly suggest using a chalk or clay-based paint for this.  The water will reactivate the paint allowing you to remove it, where you choose, with ease. 
Take one of your cotton cloths, dip it in water and rub gently on some of the high points of your flowers and leaves, exposing the metallic paint below.  The white paint will remain in the ‘low’ spots, while you will reveal the metallic in the ‘high’ spots, creating a lovely contrast. 

Remove as much or as little as you want, revealing the details of your moulds.  If you feel that you removed too much of the white paint you can simply repaint that area, allow to dry and distress again… no worries!
Once you have settled on the final look and determined it is distressed ‘enough’, allow it to dry and then apply your wax with a wax brush (I used Annie Sloan clear) to get down into all of the crevasses.  Dry overnight and then buff lightly with a cotton cloth.

(Links have been provided to help you access some of the more specialized products used – using them will not cost you anything more but I might make a few pennies!)

Adding Moulds Guide

Adding embellishments to pieces is a great way to dress up an otherwise plain or somewhat lacklustre piece.  Large flat spaces can be given new interest, providing you with areas that allow for more techniques to be used. 

For this little piece I created interest by layering paint colours and distressing back to reveal the hidden colours beneath but you could choose to use glazing, washes or waxes to create interest and highlighting the crevices.

Moulds (such as IOD, I used Escutcheons 2)
Paper Clay
Wood Glue
Painter’s Tape
Desired Paint
Fine Sandpaper

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is before.jpg
A simple piece

The Paper Clay is extremely malleable but does dry out quickly.  When not in use keep the rest of your clay covered to prevent it from drying out on you. Choose which mould shapes you are interested in adding to your piece, bearing in mind the size or your piece and the area you want to apply the moulds to.  You want things to be in balance. Know that you can use small moulds in a large space when you are adding a number of them – visually this will be the same as if you used a large mould and may prove more interesting, depending upon the finish you choose.

For the above piece I chose to add moulds to the front facing panel of the Demi Lune table – above each of the three legs.  I used a combination of two separate moulded shapes – a circular floral medallion and an Escutcheons 2 to frame the medallion and to make it larger.

To form the moulded shape take your paper clay and press into the desired mould, smoothing out the back to ensure that it is level and flat. I will often make use of an old credit card to scrape across the back of the filled mould to remove any excess clay. 

To unmold your clay turn the mould upside down and ‘peel’ it back and away from the clay.  If you find your clay sticking to the mould at all then lightly brush it with some cornstarch before applying the clay – it will help the clay to release easily.

I will generally apply the moulds to a piece before they have dried.  Although they shrink slightly when drying, I find it easier to shape them on the piece while still malleable. You can bend them around corners if needed and ensure they fit closely upon a surface with no gaps.

Apply wood glue (you could also use white craft glue if desired) to the back of your moulds and place them in the desired position on your piece. You could choose to lay your piece flat so the mould doesn’t slip from its desired location, or you could use your painter’s tape to hold it in the right spot!

Allow the moulds to dry overnight. Remove the tape and paint as you desire!

It’s that easy!    

Ultimately you are limited only by your imagination and, perhaps, the moulds you have available but know that any interesting shapes you have at your disposal can be used as moulds also.

The paint finish below was achieved by first painting in two coats of an olive coloured paint (I used Annie Sloan here) and a custom mixed mid-tone grey colour (a blend of Annie Sloan Chicago Grey, Graphite and a little touch of DIY Bohemian Blue) watered down to create a wash.  Using an extra-fine grade sandpaper, the grey layer was sanded back in places to reveal the olive undertone, which adds a depth to the grey that can’t be achieved with a flat grey paint alone.

Clear wax was applied and then polished to a sheen which creates an almost marble-like finished texture that I love!

Use a light hand when sanding the top layer of grey smooth – because it was applied in a wash it doesn’t take much to reveal some of the olive paint beneath.  Even where the grey paint remains the olive paint will echo through the grey, giving a richer finished colour.

(Links have been provided to help you access some of the more specialized products used – using them will not cost you anything more but I might make a few pennies!)

Lavender & Black – updating a vintage desk

working on Stripes and Checkerboards


Paint – Lavender & Black & Gold
(the Lavender colour I used was a custom blend of 2/3 Annie Sloan Pure White and 1/3 Aspire Eminence – only because this is what I had on hand. The Black was DIY Little Black Dress and the Gold was Deco Art Champagne Gold)
Painter’s Tape
Brushes – various sizes
Clear Finishing Wax
Buffing brush/cloth

Notes… I have given you details on the exact paints I used but know I went with what I had on hand.  You can certainly go with a paint of your choice.  For this I used Chalk/Clay paints which required sealing with wax but if you choose a self-sealing paint then know you are able to skip the wax step unless you choose to add it for the `feel` it brings the piece.


  • Clean & Repair – The first step is to always make any necessary repairs (in the case of this desk all of the drawers had separated at the joints which required me to apply wood glue and clamp them together for 24 hours before cleaning and beginning the project)
  • Base Coat – I mixed enough of the Lavender colour to ensure that I had at least 2 full coats of paint.  If you are concerned with bleed through then start with a coat of Shellac to block it, or you can start with a professional base coat paint.  I didn’t do either with this piece – they were unnecessary and I hate ‘extra’ steps!
  • After ensuring full and smooth coverage of my Lavender colour I allowed the piece to fully dry.  This is important before taping to ensure none of the base colour adheres to the tape!
  • Measure the areas you are looking to ‘stripe’ and divide by the width of your tape, determining how well your stripes ‘fit’ into the space.  You don’t want to end up with one over-large stripe so you need to ensure that you are able to adjust the widths accordingly. The taped areas will remain lavender, so determine which stripes are to be black and which lavender and begin taping off accordingly. There is a pic at the end of the instructions showing I striped the outter sides and the inner foot well of the desk.
  • Tip:  I will use small pieces of tape butted up against the edge of the piece, or up against the edge of the taped stripe to guide where my next piece of tape goes, ensuring a nice straight line easily.
  • Ensure that you also tape off the top and bottom areas of your stripes to ensure clean starts and stops.
  • Press all edges of the tape down firmly to help achieve crisp lines. 
  • Tip: Paint over all of the edges of the taped areas in the base colour again (or in a clear top coat).  This is the colour that will bleed through, making any bleed through ‘invisible’.
  • Once dry, apply a couple of coats of your black, working on a smooth coverage.  I allow my paint to dry almost fully so I don’t smudge wet paint, but I do not allow it to fully cure, which might cause issues when removing the tape. And… remove all of the tape.
  • For the checkerboard pattern – I measured the dimensions of the area I wanted finished in the checkerboard, determined the appropriate size of squares that would fit best in the space, and cut heavy cardstock to that width. I used this as my guide to lightly draw lines in the space in pendil. I used these guide-lines to hand paint in the black squares.
  • Don’t expect them to be perfect.  Noone else will!  That said, I did want to add an accent of a small dot of gold paint where each of the square met up.  You could free hand this as well, though I chose a small flat-headed nail, dipped it into the gold paint and pressed it into the appropriate spot.  This left me with dots that were all roughly the same size.
  • For the small stripes along the top desk edge I taped off the top of the desk to ensure a clean edge and then free-handed them, using a flat artist brush that was roughly the width I wanted each stripe to be.  The dots along the Table top (at the top of each stripe) were made with a larger flat headed nail than used on the drawer fronts.
  • The final step is always to apply your sealer.  In this case I used a clear wax, wiping off any excess before it dried and then buffing smooth once it was dry. 
  • Below is the Before and After look so you can see what I started with and where I went with the final look.

The Aging of a Door

Any project you see on this site has multiple steps, steps you often miss when viewing the final product.  This door was no exception!  It started as a beautiful old, solid wood Farmhouse door that, although I loved its chippy look, needed a makeover to be functional in anyone’s home.


So…  the start of any project is to clean the piece thoroughly.  Dirt, grime…  whatever’s on there has got to go!  In this case it also meant the removal of multiple layers of old, chippy paint.  A nice sunny day meant it was the perfect time to haul that sucker out of the garage and get started!  Luckily, all that was needed was a lot of scraping and no actual stripper (of any kind!) was needed.

I knew that I wanted to try two very different looks for the two sides of this door, giving options to its ultimate owner!  This side was going old and rusty so once the last speck of paint was removed it was time to begin adding paint.  Sheesh!


STEP 1.  The first step in the rust process (I used the Modern Masters system) is to apply two coats of their primer.  It’s necessary to use their primer since it is designed to block any of the metals or rusting agent to penetrate through to your base item.  This is particularly important if you are painting over metal since you don’t want to actually begin rusting that metal out!  All I can say is that it’s a good thing we are going to be painting over this primer colour because beautiful it is not.  It is however, effective and that’s what counts at this stage!


STEP 3.  Once dry two coats of the Iron paint are applied.  This is a black paint that has actual Iron particles in it so care is taken to apply it.  Unlike other times in painting you are not necessarily looking for a smooth application of this.  You can paint in multiple directions, stipple it in areas, use a sea sponge in others…  those variations in the paint will provide some interest and variation in how the ‘rust’ reveals itself.  However, at this point it pretty much looks like a big, black, rather boring old door.  Once this coat is dry though the fun begins!

STEP 3.  This is where the magic happens.  Spray the rust activator over the whole piece.  You may even want to come back after 30 minutes or so to spray again in certain areas.  At this point you want to include some variation in the application.  A light misting will give you one look.  Over misting another.  Using a sea sponge to add texture another.  You could stand your piece up and allow some of the activator to run and create drips or to pool in areas to provide heavier coverage.  Although you’ll see some things start to happen within a half hour or so walk away.  Yep…  leave it alone for at least 24 hours and come back to view the magic…

Just look at all that glorious rust patina!  You can see the areas that were barely misted compared to those that had the activator applied with a heavier hand and those areas where the activator was allowed to pool.  Wonderful!  If you love this as it is you can simply seal it (to stop the activation process from continuing) and you’re done.  I would suggest a spray sealer so that your brush doesn’t move and smear any of the rust pastina.

However, you could go on and add a bit of colour to create an even more patinaed look.

(I think I’m making up the word ‘patinaed’ since spell-checker doesn’t like it, and it does look weird in print, but…  it totally works when you say it out loud in the context of my sentence so I’m leaving it.  I can if I want to!) I watered down paints in shades of green and turquoise and teal roughly 50/50, spattered and spritzed ’em, using paper towels here and there to soak up the excess.

Paint stayed in some of the grooves and crevices around the rust, flowed down through areas, spread and layered creating new shades and blended colours.  So cool!


Finally… I sealed it up!  Though there are seemingly a lot of steps to this – none of them is particularly challenging or difficult.  Honestly, the most work in this piece was the removal of the original paint.  However, given my patented dislike for cleaning…  the prep work on any piece is always my least favourite.  Maybe sanding.  Maybe sanding because it creates dust that needs cleaning…  Yep, there is a definite inter-relationship there.  Don’t get me wrong, I like things to be clean, I would just prefer someone else clean ’em!  However, unfortunately, that is not my life so I get to do the prep and cleaning of pieces too!  Sheesh!

And here’s this ‘rusty’ side of the finished door… Which is far lovelier in person where you get to experience all the variations in shades up close and personal.  The colours also shift with the play of light across them so it looks different in the morning, from the afternoon light or evening shadows.  LOVE it!

Rusty Door Main WM

Planning Your Piece

I often get questions about many of the finished ‘looks’ I create on my pieces.  What is difficult for many to understand is the planning that must take place to achieve a particular layered look.  To achieve it you must be able to work backward, envisioning the finished look you want and then working backward from there ensuring that the layers you want to reveal later are laid on first.

For instance…  to achieve a rustic look like this….

… you have to create layers of colour first!  In this case the piece received a base of black paint and then red, green and yellow over top of that, painted in patches.  It then received a third layer of paint to finish.  I actually used two different tones of the turquoise to create even more variation, and then wet-distressed back to expose the hidden red, yellow and green beneath.

Wet distressing simply means that you take a wet cloth and rub off the top layer(s) of paint to expose painted colours or natural wood beneath.  Less messy than sanding and it leaves a smooth finish!  This is a perfect distressing technique to use with chalk paints or, as in this case, with clay based paints which are reactivated with water until sealed.

Here is the same piece with its base of black and then patches of colour before the turquoise layers.  There are lots of techniques where you have to take the piece to a ‘scary-looking’ place before it all comes together!

TQ Cabinet Mid way

Anyone venturing into the shop at this point will generally turn around and walk out!

Ugly, right?  But it’s a necessary step to have the paint laid down in the places you want to expose it later.  You just need to ensure that you have planned out roughly how and where you plan to distress so that you can have some variation of colours showing through on the finished product, otherwise you end up having laid down multiple colours and only expose the same one!

So… putting them side by side for final comparison….

I know that when I posted the mid-way photo on Facebook people were horrified.  The finish though?  I absolutely love it!

Feeling a little Rusty!

I had been seeing pieces being completed with a rust finish and wanted to give it a try.  I had tried doing some of the oxidized metallic finishes in the past and, I must admit, found them a little challenging.  The spray would created marks and runs in the finish where I didn’t want them, the fact you have to layer the primer, metallic paint and then the oxidizing spray meant it wasn’t actually as ‘organic’ a process as I was after… yada, yada, yada.

All that to say…  I sucked at it!  But… why let that stop you, right?

So, I picked up a Modern Masters metallic rust kit and… set to work.  I had thought that to avoid the overspray on my finished paint I would just base coat the pieces (two side tables) and then do the rust finish, and then final coat around them, wiping back over the rust as needed.

Wrong!  Don’t do this!  The rust looked great but… you can’t wipe paint back off of it, it’s too rough a surface, and painting around the rust is… yes… a PAIN!  I have plans and ideas how I can achieve the original look I was after in the future but…  how to rescue these?

First…  let go of the thought of what I was going for and re-work the plan.  Sticking with the original plan meant I had screwed up – big time!  Re-working the plan meant that the tables had thoughts of their own and I just needed to work to their plan.  So…pull out a little charcoal paint, cover up the layers of turquoise and bronze, heavily distress to reveal the colours and textures below, while leaving the rust exposed.

These pieces have become a happy accident.  I would never have gotten to this look on my own, it needed to have its own convoluted little journey – along with a sleepless night or two mulling over possibilities!  I have to say that I love the organic look and feel of them. There is a lot of texture and movement happening here that is intriguing to experience.

They won’t be for everyone but they will certainly be the perfect fit for someone.  In the meantime, as with all my pieces, I get to call them mine!

Breaking in the Metallics

I have used gold on a number of pieces…  in stripes, in edgings and trim, accenting legs and other decorative items.  I have even used copper.  I don’t know why I have never used silver but that all ended with this piece!

Eminence Paint

I wasn’t sure what I was really going to do with this Thomasville desk when I first got it but I knew that I wanted to use a new colour (and different paint line) that I had just gotten.  It’s called Eminence from Aspire – a Mineral Paint.  Honestly… I had never heard of the paint before but when someone is offering you a major deal on new paints you jump right in!  Okay, so I jump right in but you’d be there with me… right?

Check out this colour!  Looks more blue in the can, goes on more purple on the piece.  However, after a couple of coats of dry-brushed silver over top (I used Rustoleum Metal Accents in Silver) it looked like a rich blue again.  Beyond cool!

2018-03-02 13.18.18

I specifically dry brushed the first coat of silver in one direction, let it dry and then dry brushed a second coat of silver in the opposite direction almost in a cross-hatch pattern.  I thought it would add a little more texture and dimension to the piece and…  this time… I was right!  (love that when it happens but I’ve learned to expect anything other than what’s goin’ on in my head!) I specifically used a chip brush for this technique because I wanted a random, rough, staggered effect with the paint, not a nice, smooth coat. The uneven bristles of the chip brush helped this effect (and they are super cheap!)

I clear waxed everything but then used black wax in strategic spots (think corners, bottom of legs, etc. to add a little more depth.  New silver and crystal knobs for the drawer and…  here you have her!

Right now I’m loving this look and am already envisioning some other possibilities.  Stay tuned for those but tell me what you think of this one…!!