Monday, August 26, 2013

Experimenting with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Since we live in a rental property, the walls in our house a neutral yellowish white. This includes the room which is going to be our baby’s nursery. It’s not ideal, but since we can’t paint, we have to make due. We decided that since the walls were off limits, we’d have to bring in color in other ways. 

Now, there is something you should know about me: I love painted furniture. 

At my core, my home style is shabby chic, French country, and English cottage. I shop for furniture the way other girls shop for shoes. It’s my 'thing'. Naturally, I want my nursery to reflect this aesthetic which is quite challenging when living in a country of modern IKEA-esque sensibilities. 
The bulk of our nursery furniture (shipped from the states) is painted in a nice French grey, but we ordered some other less expensive pieces to fill in for things that wouldn’t fit into our baby shipment. Namely, a wardrobe to act as our baby’s closest and nesting tables to put near the glider for a lamp and table space for mommy items during those late night feedings. 

We got the nesting tables first and since they came in a not-to-my-taste fake pine finish, I decided to experiment with painting them. If they came out decently, I’d try to tackle our white laminate wardrobe that we bought for about 90 bucks from IKEA. 

Since we don’t actually have our nursery furniture in possession, and neither of us have actually seen it in person, we tried to visualize which colors would go best. I alternated between a robin’s egg blue, a deep (manly) lavender, and trying to match the grey of the rest of the furniture. 

At first I started researching how to paint laminate furniture and it seemed to be quite labor intensive. I felt a bit intimidated by the sanding, priming, painting, waxing , and staining that would be needed to transform my 40 dollar tables. And then I stumbled upon some info for Annie Sloan chalk paint. 
Apparently, this stuff was magical. No sanding or priming required, no matter what the surface. Just grab a can and paint away. I read article after article and watched You Tube video after You Tube video and I have to admit that it seemed fool proof, even for a crafting imbecile like myself.

The paint is kind of pricey but when you factor in the fact that there is no sanding or priming and that the thickness of the paint itself makes it go a long way, it seemed like a more economical decision in the end. Plus, the color options were spot on to what I was looking for. 
When Jonathan headed off to Thailand for a business trip, I headed to Rustiques in Banchory to buy my Annie Sloan painting supplies. I bought 3 ‘sample pots’ for about 7 bucks a pop in Old White, French Linen and Provence. 
I bought one full sized can in Emile (aka ‘manly lavender’) because I figured I could use the leftover paint to give my vanity a makeover in my favorite color. 
I also bought a can of clear wax for finishing and a wax brush for wax application. The total for all the materials came to 75 dollars or so, but the brush alone cost about 48 so that was a big chunk of the price.
I figured I’d paint each of the 3 nesting tables in the different colors and then choose which one I wanted for the wardrobe.  I started with the ‘French Linen’ thinking that it might closely match the other nursery pieces close enough not to clash. Assured by the interwebs that I did not need to sand at all, I just went for it, covering the middle sized nesting table with a coat of paint. 
I’d read that it would dry within 20-30 minutes, at which point I could lather on another coat. However, an hour went by and there were still patchy wet spots on the table top surface. 
Eventually, after over an hour, it completely dried, and I was able to put a second coat, which seemed to do the trick. Then it was on to the waxing phase. Here you apply a thin layer of clear wax onto the paint and then buff it off with a lint-free cloth. I paid about 48 bucks for the Annie Sloan wax brush because I wanted to get this step right. 

I was told to soak the brush in water for at least 8 hours to get some of the hair bristles to come loose before applying the wax. Otherwise, I could expect to end up with shed hairs all over my project. Well, I did everything I was told but still ended up with shedding hairs throughout the table which I then had to meticulously pick out. And then, when I tried to buff the wax off, suddenly the paint was coming off with it onto the rag. 
Now, if I was going for a rustic finish (which is really where this paint excels), a little distressing wouldn’t have been a bad thing. However, since everything in Europe seems to be modular and modern, shabby chic just doesn’t work as well. I reread the articles and re-watched the ‘you tube’ videos and tried to learn from my mistakes before starting on the tiniest table in a fabulous teal green color. 

I slapped on three coats of paint, but still had some setbacks with the table top refusing to dry uniformly. 
I figured it might be the result of bad brush quality so I headed to B&Q in search of a non-acrylic brush. It was pretty slim pickings and I still couldn’t find a high quality instrument to paint with. Annie Sloan sells her own paint brushes which are quite pricey but seem to get the job done. Since I didn’t feel like making the 45 minute drive out to Banchory, I decided to make due with what I already had. 

I was extra careful and meticulous as I started to pain the largest table, especially since I was painting it with ‘Emile’, the color I was leaning towards for the large wardrobe piece. Despite the assurance that it was unnecessary, I decided to sand it down a little first, just to give it a rougher texture for the paint to grip on to. I cautiously painted on 3 coats and the color was fabulous; the manliest lavender I ever did see. 
I also was super careful during the waxing phase, though bits of paint still came off onto the rag. It came out the best of the three tables, though it still shows uneven brush strokes and isn’t as polished of a finish as I wanted. Still, that’s likely the brush’s fault and not Annie Sloan’s lovely paint. 

So while I wouldn’t call it ‘fool proof’ and I’m not totally drinking the Annie Sloan Kool-aid, I will say that it had several perks: 

1) It’s water based which means it washes off of your hands, brushes, clothes, and floors easy breezy. I tend to be a bit messy so this was a big plus for me.  

2) No odor and non-toxic. For pregnancy painting, this is the way to go. 

3) The color selection. If you’re like me and into an old European aesthetic, the color pallet is perfection. Plus, you can get Annie Sloan’s color combo book which will give you formulas for a whole slew of other colors that can be achieved by mixing the one’s already in existence. 
4) No sanding or priming. Even though I felt like my tables came out a little better when I sanded them before hand, I definitely didn’t have to do anything rigorous. And plus, the set of 3 tables was about $40 bucks from Argos so we aren’t talking high quality materials here. 

5) It will paint any surface from metal to wood and from tile to fabric. 

6) For distressing and creating that shabby chic look, most furniture refinishers swear by this paint. I was going for more of a polished look just because the pieces themselves were very angular, so I think that type of finish in general is less forgiving, especially of beginners. 

However, despite it not coming out exactly as I envisioned, I still really enjoyed the process and can see myself getting into refinishing furniture at some point in my life. Maybe when I have a house that’s big enough to at least fit a 3 seater sofa? Now is certainly not that chapter in my life. But I really do think that it’s something I would enjoy and could eventually be good at, and Annie Sloan’s chalk paint is certainly a product that I would use again and again. 

I’m still a bit wary of painting the wardrobe just because it is so uber modern, but I do think it would look better in manly lavender than it does in stark white. 
Have you ever attempted to refinish a piece of furniture? How did it turn out?


  1. The tables look hem...I mean masculine. I think the project turned out great, they look so so so much better. Go for the wardrobe! I think it would look fantastic in the manly lavender (yes, I agree. Lavender can be very manly)

  2. It takes a lot of courage to get this accomplished. Great job.

  3. Only recently started to read/follow your blog, (love it!)and must say that you did an amazing job with the tables. I've actually refinished IKEA furniture before with a satisfactory result, so it can most definitely be done. However, I did the whole sanding and priming procedure so have no experience of your method but it does seem excellent in comparison. Anyhow, good luck with the wardrobe I'm sure it will be fab!

  4. I'm from Aberdeen! Living in Katy. Enjoy reading your blog. Like you, enjoy the culture change but miss comforts of home. My friend here, Houston native, is a chalk paint fanatic. I'm always joking that she'll one day paint over the brick on her house... Anyway... She uses Annie Sloan too sometimes. She says the fool proof way to chalk paint is to always add some plaster of Paris (a binder) and some warm water to the can and you'll get the perfect ending.

  5. I'm an Aberdonian living in Katy, Texas. My friend is a chalk paint fanatic. She always adds some plaster of Paris and warm water to paint can. Then coverage is perfect even for beginner. She uses an old t shirt to apply wax. Her furniture is beautiful. I enjoy your blog - miss home as you do - nice to see pics.