Are you looking for a unique finish to add to a furniture piece so you don’t have just another ordinary painted table or nightstand? A fresh coat of paint on your furniture can be a huge improvement so I’m not “poo pooing” the idea of just painting. I have turned many pieces from trash to treasure by adding a simple coat of paint. But sometimes it’s nice to do something different and add a bit more interest. Adding a patina takes more time, but is well worth the effort. The beauty of adding “age” to a piece is that you are creating the piece to be artfully imperfect. And who among us can’t handle an imperfect creation? Since I am hopelessly drawn to deep, rich neutrals, I have made the decision to venture outside my comfort zone and paint my newest piece an actual color. This will get me out of the beige hole that I’m in.
For those of you who may not know, there is a 60, 30, 10 rule when it comes to color and decorating. Your main color in any given room should account for around 60% of the total color, which in most cases would be the paint color on your walls. You should have 30% of your second color which would likely be displayed in textiles such as draperies, upholstered furniture and rugs. The remaining 10% could be pillows, vases and artwork in a third color for added interest.
I’ve been trying to find a way to bring some blue into my living area for my 10% so here it is! Molly (to see Molly, click here), and my Habitat Restore secretary who will be sharing the room with my new piece are somewhat refined as far as their shape and color, so I feel the need to have something old and weathered-looking for contrast. Keep in mind that my new adoptee’s style will mesh nicely with the other pieces in my opinion, so weathered is still a good choice. They are not all the same style of furniture, but they all have a formality about them that will integrate them in an eclectic sort of way.
My plan is to pull the pale blue color out of my rug and use it on my new piece. Here’s a picture of Victoria. Yep, I named this one too. And yep, I know it’s strange.
Unlike Molly, Victoria is a well-built, sturdy piece so no repairs or alterations are necessary. Thank goodness. I bought Victoria for a song at our local Habitat for Humanity Restore which, if you will recall, is where I adopted Molly. Restore is like a furniture orphanage–so many pieces in need of loving homes.
Here’s a picture of the blue color in my rug that I’m going to use for Victoria. I’m shooting for a very pale, almost white tint of this blue.
So I must admit I’m a bit nervous about painting Victoria a real, live color because I usually stick to black, white or espresso. Here’s my process.
First, I lightly sand. Fortunately, I just borrowed a palm sander from my neighbors for another project—thank you George and Deb—so I’ll be able to make quick work of this. Remember a light sand is all you need to give your paint or primer something to stick to. I don’t really need to worry about the very small nooks and crannies as far as sanding goes because those will be filled with glaze later on.
With the painting technique I’m using, I don’t want to apply any wood filler to Victoria because I’m planning to sand off some of the paint in order to age her when I’m done. If I happen to sand a spot where there’s filler underneath the paint, the filler will show through as an undesirable color. Plus this piece is supposed to look worn anyway, so a few battle scars are actually a good thing.
Since I want Victoria to look “loved” and like she’s been painted more than once, I put white paint in places where I’m planning to sand some of the blue off, and where I may want to add some crackled areas. This would be mainly in areas that would naturally wear first like on the corners, the top, the legs and near the hardware. If you’re not comfortable painting bits and pieces, feel free to paint the whole piece. My goal is to be able to sand and have the original tan, the white and the main blue color all readily visible when I’m finished. Here’s what Victoria looks like with just the sporadic white paint. Pretty strange, right?
I’ve decided that Victoria would look great with some crackled areas for interest so I paint on some crackle medium that I had on hand from another project. I wouldn’t want someone to add any more wrinkles to me, but I’m thinking Victoria won’t mind because it really does add some character. I, on the other hand, have more character than I need.
The medium goes on clear so I need to remember where I’ve added it. It does leave a higher gloss sheen than the white paint or the original tan so if light hits it just right, I can see where I’ve applied it. When you use crackle medium it’s important to take only one or two swipes over it with the top coat color and then leave it alone or you’ll just end up painting over the cracks that are trying to form and covering them completely. That’s why you need to remember where you put the medium. The heavier you put the medium on, the more prominent your cracks will be. If you put it on too lightly, your cracks will be so faint that they won’t show up.
The paint will start to “crack” within a few seconds so you have to work quickly, but it’s an easy process overall. On my piece, I’m hoping the cracks will show in both tan and white under the blue, depending on where I put the medium. To be clear, you want your cracks to be a color that contrasts with your furniture color, which means painting your piece (or parts of it as in this case) twice. First, paint on the color you will want your cracks to be, then add the crackle medium after that dries, and finally use the finished color you want your furniture to be. Another benefit to the crackle medium is it may leave a rough, raised area in addition to the cracks which also makes the furniture look like it’s had other coats of paint.
After the crackle medium has dried completely, I paint Victoria with the blue color I chose, keeping in mind that it doesn’t need to be perfect because I’m going to go back and sand some of this paint off anyway. I’m choosing to use a brush as opposed to a roller because I believe on a piece that’s supposed to look old, brush strokes (which should still be minimal) are more appropriate than the slight texture that a roller cover can leave. That’s just my opinion. It’s fine to paint over the white blotches completely because they’ll still show through when I sand. Here are some close-ups of the crackled areas. Unfortunately, my blue is so pale and so close to white, that my areas where the cracks were supposed to be white, didn’t show up. Bummer. But here are some pictures of the tan crackled areas.
Here is a picture of Victoria looking a little “blue”. (Sorry, couldn’t help it.) Unfortunately, she looks white in the photograph instead of blue, but just pretend she looks blue so my joke will work. You’ll notice that I don’t even attempt to paint the nooks and crannies around her little round detailed strips beside the drawers as I will be filling those areas with glaze as I mentioned earlier, and my glaze is a pretty close match to Victoria’s original color. I’m all about not taking unnecessary steps.
Now comes the fun part. I get to mess up my project. I’m a pro at that! So I sand where I think it would be appropriate. You need to make sure the paint has dried for 4 hours or overnight before you sand or you will just scratch chunks of the soft paint off. You want it to look worn off, not scratched off. This is also another reason you want to sand before you paint so the paint adheres well and lightly rubs off instead of again, scratching off in chunks. If you’re wanting a very rustic piece, I suppose some scratches would be fine. Here’s Victoria after a good exfoliation. I think she enjoyed that. Again you’ll have to believe me when I say Victoria is a very pale blue. I know she still looks mostly white in all the photos.
I decide I would like for Victoria to look a bit more aged, and I would like to darken her color so I’m going to add glaze. To make my own glaze, I mix Floetrol with some acrylic craft paint I bought at our local Hobby Lobby. It’s downright dangerous for me to go in that store. There are bargains around every turn and no budget for them. Sigh.
For this project, I used about two parts Floetrol to one part paint. And I still had to wet my brush from time to time to get the glaze to slide. Sometimes a glazed look can be achieved using “dirty” water. That is, paint just mixed with water. You can give that a try if you don’t want to invest in Floetrol. It has been my experience that when using dirty water, the brown disappears almost completely when you go back to wipe down your piece. If you want a very faint aged look, it may work for you, but if you want a more noticeable antique look, you should invest in some Floetrol or some actual glaze.
After I put the glaze on an area, sometimes with a brush and sometimes with a damp rag, I wipe it back off, making sure to leave some glaze in the nooks and crannies. Besides wanting a more aged look, I decide to use glaze on Victoria because I really want her beautiful details to show more readily. I want to leave the glaze darker around the edges and anywhere two pieces of wood meet at different angles. If you want to use glaze on your furniture, be sure the paint is good and dry because when you get it wet with the glaze, it can pull the paint back off. Keep in mind, paint isn’t intended to be wet again after it dries, especially for long periods of time. Depending on how rustic you want your piece, if the paint rubs off completely, you may still be ok leaving it that way in a few spots. I don’t want Victoria to be quite that rustic. You have to work quickly and rub gently.
Also note that glazing will dull your paint color. So if you finish your project and like the way your color looks, you might want to forgo the glazing. If you’re undecided, you can paint an area on the back of your furniture piece or on a piece of scrap wood and then do a test run to give you an idea of what it would look like glazed. I love Victoria’s unglazed color, but want to tone down her brightness a bit.
The glazing is more difficult than I anticipated. I use glaze on walls when I do Tuscan finishes and am used to how it feels and reacts, but it takes me longer than I anticipate to achieve the look I want. I just have to keep applying and wiping until it suits my taste. And remember, happy paint is dry paint! And paint that gets too saturated after drying will roll right off your surface as you rub. Think about how you would remove a dried, runaway paint splatter—you get a wet rag and rub, and that’s just what we’re doing here. Here are pictures of Victoria’s little flower detail with the white, blotchy paint and then after sanding and glazing.
Here are the materials I’m using. Floetrol is a product that was introduced to me in a decorative painting class. It’s a paint lubricant (for latex paint only) that reduces brush marks and extends drying time. It’s beneficial in decorative painting when you need to have extra time to work with your paint before it dries, and it’s useful if you’re painting in extreme temperatures–hot or cold. It helps paint to slide, reducing abrasive wear in parts such as nozzles on paint sprayers.
Next, I always have a gallon of Sherwin Williams paint in the color “Pure White” on hand at my house because I use it all the time. For this project, I used an eggshell finish. Pure white might be too bright for some people as there are not a lot of colorants in it, but I think it’s a beautiful, crisp white. I am usually a Sherwin Williams girl but I’ve been venturing more often to Menards lately to try their paint since it’s more reasonably priced. And for Victoria, durability doesn’t matter because she’s aged. The very pale blue I used is the color “Misty Surf” (Menards) and for the glaze color I used Americana’s “Traditional Burnt Umber”. The crackle medium I had on hand is several years old, but it’s by Folk Art.
If you’re skittish about using color on a piece of furniture, keep in mind it’s only paint. If you don’t like it, you can simply repaint your piece. I decided if I didn’t like the way Victoria turned out painted blue, I was going to just paint her black, but I love the way she looks. If I had painted her black, her beautiful detail would be lost. Now I have a good start on my 10% of color. Check out her transformation!
I hope this post motivates you to use some color and to try something new on your furniture in your own redesign process. And I hope you take some time to visit your local Habitat for Humanity Restore in search of bargains like Victoria. If you live in the Central Illinois area, you can visit the Habitat website at www.BloomingtonReStore.org. Donate generously with your cast-offs so we bargain hunters and Redesigners have something fun to do in our spare time!
Wonderful one-of-a-kind pieces can also be found at garage sales, estate sales and most definitely on the curbs of your local city. One man’s trash is….well, you know. You have to be able to use your imagination when you’re looking at a piece in a cold, dark warehouse or on someone’s oil-stained driveway. You have to look past the worn finish and hideous color, and concentrate on the details, shape and sturdiness of your treasure. Squint if you have to! Next time something catches your eye, spend a few bucks and just try rescuing a piece. Chances are, it’ll end up being one of your favorites!
This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Bloomington/Normal, Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for her portfolio where you can view more before and after photos. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.