Painting Furniture, Lesson 1

First things first:

  1.  Always take a substantial amount of “before” pictures when delving into a furniture-painting project. Because if you decide to blog about said project later, you’ll need a large supply of photos that compel the reader into thinking that your project has increased the value of the furniture overwhelmingly, and if no one knows what you started with, it’s hard to convince them that what you ended with is any better.
  2. Typically on social media, you view what is referred to as someone’s “highlight reel” – you know, the good stuff that makes it seem like they are conquering the world one homemade, gluten-free quiona-chia-kale muffin at a time.  I would like you to think the world of me; I love posting stuff that makes me look good, of course.  But, if there is “behind the scenes” gore, I will show it to you too.  We’re all only human.  So, this, is one of those posts.  An honest overview of what happened.  And, this experience is something that would not make the cut for anyone’s highlight reel, I promise you.


I collect free/cheap furniture.  It is a really bad habit.  I have quite a few pieces that need refinishing, and I decided (actually my controlling, loving mother decided) that this summer would be the perfect time to try a fun little DIY furniture-painting project.

A few people I know use chalk paint, and judging by my Pinterest page, chalk paint is quite on trend right now.  I looked into it a bit, asked around, and decided it was probably an easy enough way to begin.

There were three pieces of furniture I picked out for my first batch: a bench, a desk, and a chair.

The more I looked into it, I discovered that chalk paint may not be right for the bench or desk because of the constant use.  I decided to go with regular paint and polyurethane for those pieces, and use chalk paint only for the desk.  I did not know it at this point, but this would be a key decision in maintaining my sanity.

I will talk about the bench first because it was the easiest.  It was black from a couple summers ago when I attempted to spray paint it.  The top of it was very uneven, however, and I just wanted to give it a cleaner look overall.  I (luckily) found some black paint in the basement, and went to town.

I let it dry a day, added a second coat, let it dry a day, added a polyurethane top coat, dried that a day, another top coat, and let the entire thing dry about a week before anyone was allowed to use it.

The only minor issue I had with this (there’s always something, right?) is that the polyurethane bubbled a bit on my first coat and instead of drying clear, it dried white.  So, when I have more patience, I will paint over a few of those spots with some more black paint.


Next we’ll talk about the chair.  My helpful dad put a couple extra screws into the chair to help stabilize it before we painted.  (The chair is very old and was never a danger, but it was a bit wobbly.)

Mistake number one: after reading and researching, and KNOWING I needed primer.. I forgot to put primer on first. Ugh!  I was just so excited about my beautiful color blue that I had matched perfectly to the other decor in my sun room that I just dove right in and began painting with actual paint.

Everything was going well*, the paint was soaking into the wood of the chair because of the lack of primer, and I just kept faithfully applying more coats until everything was smooth and even.

*Everything was not going well, the back of the chair needed wood-filler in a place that it had cracked, and I had never used any of this wood putty stuff before.  I slopped it on, because it wouldn’t stick if your intentions were to take a minimalist approach.  The next day, I found my lump of hardened wood putty and after sanding it down for twenty minutes without any kind of success, I decided that something else would have to be done…throw the chair away perhaps?  I painted over the spot anyway, and it turned an electric blue.  Depression set in.  I had loved this chair.  So cutesy and full of character.  Why did our journey have to end because of my mistake?  In one last effort to save my beloved, I applied what I like to call a “furniture tattoo.”  I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first, and I’m 98% sure my husband still loathes it, but I had no choice. With this, things started to turn around for me and lil’ blue.
The lighting here isn’t great, but you can see my little patch-job there on the right side, center.


My first (and possibly only) furniture tattoo.

The culmination of the chair-painting project went smoothly, I let everything dry, painted one coat of polyurethane making sure not to let it bubble so that the white marks I had on the bench could be avoided here.

And finally, the desk.

Remember when I began this post and I mentioned taking really stellar ‘before’ pictures?  Meet the photo that inspired that statement.

All of my friends that swear by using chalk paint to refinish furniture seem to like making their own mix instead of buying a true chalk paint at the store.  Because this was my first time trying out chalk paint, I wasn’t confident in making my own.  I purchased Americana Chalk Paint, and crossed my fingers.  And then I uncrossed them so that I could get some painting done.

The consistency was very goopey and thick; with everything I had read about chalk paint, this seemed to be the opposite.  It did dry quickly however, so my mom and I slapped on paint as fast as we could using almost half of the small jar for the first coat.  We waited a few minutes and slapped on a second coat.


I have made a quick chart for you to see that the Americana chalk paint did not match up to what I expected chalk paint to be/do according to my research:

My Research:                                                                          Americana Chalk Paint:

–thin, milky texture                                                           –thick, clumpy texture

–good coverage, no primer needed                               –horrible coverage, could see right                                                                                                             through 2 coats

–quick drying                                                                       –insanely quick drying

–easy paint for beginners                                                –not easy, even for experts


Since I could still see through the two coats that were applied, I wasn’t quite sure what to do.  I decided to use a dark wax on top and see if I could blend the whole look together.  With any chalk paint, you’ll need a wax as your last step.  Americana offers wax in clear, white, and brown.  I applied a clear wax first; I used a cloth, some people choose to use a wax brush.  When that was dry I applied a brown wax heavily to camouflage the hint-of-original-desk that was popping through.  I kind of liked the look on some of the places by the drawers and legs, but over all I hated every second of it and was a bit repulsed at the final project.





For now, the desk is part of my decor, and it is just like that junior high boy that kept asking you out:  your love starts to grow because you feel sorry for it.  So, the more I see it the more it may grow on me, but I kinda think I will be sanding some of the wax off and refinishing a bit in the near future.


I hope to use a homemade chalk paint mixture on my dresser in the coming weeks, and I am praying that the turnout will be blog-worthy.  I’ll keep you posted!


What DIY projects have you attempted?  Any tips for me?  I’ll take ’em!

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