Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Experimenting with Homemade Chalk Paint

(Sit down and fasten your seat belt, this is lengthy)
I needed to paint a few pieces of furniture quickly and didn't have time to do it the "proper" way.  You know, by sanding, washing with TSP, priming and so on.
I have been watching the blogs lately and reading many stories about the new chalk paint that has revolutionized the world of painted furniture.  I have resisted - I am still old school.  How can it be that easy?  No prep work other then making sure the piece is clean?
Seemed too good to be true.  I certainly didn't want to put all the effort into painting a piece only to have it peel a year later!
I used to own my own hand painted furniture and mural business in the 1990's.  It was called "a Gilded Vine" and I did business in the Seattle area for almost 9 years.
I had a reputation of quality work to uphold!  I cut no corners and made sure the prep work was done right!
Plus, when I paint a piece, its not just slapping some paint on it and calling it good.  Or rubbing on faux gold leaf from a jar on the edges.  I am a decorative painter who paints floral swags and landscapes by hand.  I use real gold leaf and sometimes crackle or age the piece with paints and thinners, not by sanding.
To do all that work only to have it peel off in a year or two would be tragic.

Well, needless to say, I decided to try chalk paint because I was in a real pinch for time.
We have 2 FT student renters coming to live with us and the house has been short on storage since my partner Jeremy moved in.  These small 1950's Cape Cod cottages are big on charm, but not on closets!!
The coats, gloves, backpacks and motorcycle helmets were piling up on chairs and sofas in the living room where the front door opens up into with no foyer.  We have NO coat closet...until I found a big armoire on Craigslist and decided THAT would be the new "coat closet".  Of course it needed painting to match the rest of the decor.

Its a big piece, in 2 parts, of considerable weight.  I decided to paint the top half first since it was the most work.  But I wanted to also use my own shade of white I have used on all my painted pieces in my house.  Waverly's "Cottage Linen White".  Its a soft white that isn't harsh and cold, but isn't creamy either.  In my opinion, its the perfect white.  Goes with everything.
I also use a now discontinued pale blue color from Restoration Hardware, "Atmosphere Blue".
It is also everywhere in my house from walls to furniture.  Its the perfect shade of blue for the Swedish Gustavian look I have going.
Homemade chalk paint seemed my only option.

SO, I looked up numerous recipes for making my own chalk paint and decided to use plaster of paris.  Seemed universal that you use 1/3 plaster to 2/3 paint.  Most bloggers who had made it recommended mixing a tad bit of water to the plaster first to make a semi-runny consistency.  GOOD IDEA.

I then added the paint and stirred like crazy for a minute and it was ready to go.
I was VERY nervous painting right over the old varnish.  I had washed the armoire but nothing else. Time is of essence here!

It went on thick and smooth.  I found that if you overbrushed, it would settle flat on its own.
An it dried fast.  I also found that the more plaster you used, the less likely it was it would rub or chip off.  The plaster must be what was adhering it to the surface.  If it got dry and thick, I'd add a teaspoon of water at a time. Mix mix mix.

(Chalk paint reminds me of making Venetian plaster, a technique that has been around for centuries. It involves mixing plaster of paris with marble dust to create a paste that is applied to walls, then polished to a sheen with waxes.  Mixing with modern latex paint might be the next generation of Venetian plaster, which was very time consuming to create!!)

Here is the project so far...I included the photos of the piece off the Craigslist ad because my own are stuck in my broken smart phone right now!
I have much more work to do on it - the base, drawers and doors.  And the decorative work too. I have decided that to save time (I need this done in three days), I would add the decorative work (flora and fauna) on a separate piece of canvas, attach to the back of a gilded frame and attach to the finished armoire later when I had more time.
The gold leaf will go on resin frames from doityourselfchic:
I use this gal's product all the time and highly recommend it!
You can paint or gild them and best of all - they can be bent to curve on table skirts or other uneven surfaces by zapping in the microwave for a few minutes!!

I also protect my painted surfaces with a non-toxic acrylic lacquer that cleans up with soap and water. Its called "Crystalfin" and comes in several finishes from matte to high gloss, with everything in between.  I know people love the chalky look and feel of chalk paint but for me, the purpose of using it was speed.  I want to make sure it doesn't get damaged (I am not into really "chippy" furniture - been there, done that, in the 90's!!)

I also lined part of the inside with wallpaper left over from one of my bedroom re-do's last year.  It's a pretty accent when you open the doors.

Stay tuned for the finished pictures coming later.  I guarantee you will like it!

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