My latest project was a beautiful bentwood chair purchased at an estate sale. I found it as the sale was about to end, so I scored it for $6! The existing finish wasn’t in great shape, but the caned seat was still in decent condition.
After much internal debate, I decided to paint the chair with chalk paint and leave the caned seat natural. I also left the seat edges unpainted, since the caning extends into the wood. I like the combined look of wood and paint, so it was a fun solution.
There are about as many different ideas about how to paint furniture as there are pieces of furniture. Whether you are a first-timer or a practiced pro, the type of paint you use can make a big difference in how well you like the finished product. After many years of being a huge fan of spray paint or latex for its ease of application and smooth finishes, I gave ‘chalk paint’ a try.
While brand-name chalk paint, such as Annie Sloan, has been around for over 20 years, it has been extremely popular in recent years along with the trend of ‘distressing’ furniture. Not to be confused with chalkboard paint (although you can write on it with chalk before you wax it), chalk paint is a thick, matte paint that dries quickly and adheres well to most surfaces. The biggest benefit of chalk paint is that you typically don’t have to sand or prime the surface before painting. It can be layered and sanded to create the popular distressed or aged look, but it can also be left pristine for a more modern look. Because chalk paint is so porous it does need to be waxed or varnished to seal the paint when using it on furniture. Otherwise, you risk smudged hand prints and stains from anything that touches it. Once sealed, chalk paint is washable and durable, although you may have to rewax it every few years.
Chalk paint can be purchased ready-made at specialty stores or online, and a few lesser known brands have been showing up recently at big box hardware and craft stores. These are fine if you like the color selection available and don’t mind spending a little more money. On the other hand, if you are trying to get a very specific color, you might want to try making your own!
Pinterest is full of recipes for DIY Chalk Paint, most of them involving a mixture of Plaster of Paris or Calcium Carbonate Powder and latex paint. My favorite so far (and the least expensive) is Plaster of Paris. I have used varying ratios of paint to Plaster of Paris, all with favorable results. A pretty common ‘recipe’ is the ratio of 3 parts latex paint to 1 part Plaster of Paris. You can mix the Plaster powder straight into the paint, but for a smoother texture, most people recommend mixing some water into the Plaster of Paris, and then mixing in the paint. Most DIY recipes say any sheen of paint will work, but to avoid paint that also contains primer. When I am working on a small project, I will often just purchase one or two paint sample pots. Experiment a bit to find out what works best for you.
I used two coats of white chalk paint, followed by a thin coat of wax to seal the paint. The texture is a little rougher than I was hoping, so I might go back and try to sand it down a bit. I ‘probably’ got a little impatient when painting and made my mixture a little too thick. Just like regular paint, several thin coats will get you the best results.
Simple designs on the caned seat with colorful embroidery thread makes the chair extra special. I plan to wrap some thread around the top part of the chair too. For less than $30, I now have a completely unique and personalized chair to sit on while I work.
Summer garage sales are in full swing and it is absolutely the best time to score used furniture. That dining table with water rings and marker stains, the multi-colored dining chairs of someone’s previously attempted project or the cute little headboard that would be perfect in your daughter’s room. It’s a plethora of furniture with so much potential!