In this post: Don’t let anyone tell you that chalk paint is over. Wood painted furniture is still a good solution to some of our home design needs.⇒
I used to worry what people would think.
There are lots of people who are horrified at the notion of painting over good wood stained furniture.
This wasn’t an issue for my first few projects. In fact, all but two of my painted furniture projects involved painting pieces that were either not stained wood, or wood that had been painting by someone long before I got to it. Those were easy decisions to make.
But then I considered my bedroom set.
Why Paint Wood Furniture
You can see the before photo above of one of the tall chests. It’s part of a well made set that I’ve had for years. Two tall chests, two nightstands and a single dresser. All matching. All dark wood. All oh-so-outdated.
Oh, sure, you may be thinking “but I’ve heard wood is back”. People are showing dark wood pieces all over Instagram.
Well, yes, to some degree they are. But they’re not showing matched bedroom sets. The look now is more mixed toned woods, lots of lighter bleached pieces, and the occasional antique dark wood piece with lovely vintage detailing.
My bedroom set is none of those things.
However, what it is is the perfect storage solution for all of my things. It’s well built, the drawers slide perfectly and the abundance of varied size drawers and separate compartments is tailor made for the way I like to organize my things.
So replacing it with disparate pieces, the way I generally like to decorate, is not really ideal for serving its actual purpose, which is to house our clothing.
Hence, I recently decided it was time to paint it. My goal was to make the 5 pieces look like they didn’t come from a set. They would be painted in different colors, using different techniques, and would each be embellished with distinct new hardware. They were already blessed with some unique style elements that helped to differentiate them. So I began with the nightstands and later moved on to the wide chest.
This brought me to the tall narrow chests that are placed in a pair, side by side. It’s always been an odd placement, made worse by the fact that the dark wood made them look so heavy. They were purchased for our old home when they were placed symmetrically, opposite the bed, flanking the TV. But, of course, in our current home, the set up is completely different, and I haven’t been willing to give up these amazing storage powerhouses that so adeptly compartmentalize an assortment of our things. I just love the multiples of small drawers which are ideal for separating items.
Ok, so, I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and address these two pieces. I have a history of diving into my projects without the proper set up, but I’m getting better at using drop cloths (albeit only a single trash bag) and moving the piece at least partway from the wall.
Hence you can see my crazy setup above. These are big bulky pieces that needed to be separated to paint all the sides. I started by doing one at a time so there would be less disruption in the room.
The Set Up
As always, the first step is to quickly wipe down the piece to remove dust and debris, then remove the drawers and take off the hardware. The new hardware I’d be using is a bit simpler and more casual, although the ring pull is common to both the old and the new.
Painting the First Coat
Next, I dove right in with the first coat.
The paint I always use is called Classico Chalk Based Paint from Pure & Original and I am 100% loyal to using this paint. It yields a gorgeous velvety finish when the piece is done and the range of colors available is sure to please everyone. There’s no need for sanding or priming and the coverage is excellent. (It’s great to use on walls, as well!)
The most important decision to make with any paint project is not only what color to use, but what paint style you will work with. Will you be painting a flat color or working with varying shades for a distressed look?
For these pieces I opted for flat color, but to create more variety from the other pieces in “the set”, I decided to go with a two-tone effect. One color for the base and a lighter color for the drawer fronts.
I chose Classico North Sea Silt for the base of the chest and painted on the first coat. Do not be fooled by the streaky look. I was concerned at this point that I would need three coats, but that was absolutely not the case.
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The Second Coat
The paint dries fairly quickly and if you start early enough, you can get both coats done in the same day. The second coat offered excellent coverage and I was already able to see that lovely matte velvet finish.
(Note: If I was doing a more antiqued look with several colors, I would start with the darkest color as my base and then add highlights in lighter colors, particularly around the areas with raised embellishments, always waiting for the pain to dry between coats.)
Next I slid the drawers in to paint their fronts in the lighter color. I used Classico Old Linen for the lighter tone and again it needed only two coats.
Full disclosure: as I hinted above, I tend to be pretty lazy and didn’t bother to remove the clothing from the drawers. This is a risky proposition, so I painted the drawers nearly closed, but I don’t recommend it if you’re worried about your things… 😉
Fortunately there were no splatters!
I next had to decide what to do with the second chest. Since I didn’t want another stack of drawers around the room, I decided to paint the drawers first on the second piece, and then move the whole piece out to paint the body once I move the first piece back in place.
At this point, I was thinking I would keep the artwork above the chests and I preferred to move them one at a time so that it would be easy to get them back in place.
Spoiler alert: I decided to remove the artwork after the fact… LOL!
Adding Wax Protection
After the two coats of chalk paint were applied, the last step is adding a coat of clear wax for protection. I use Pure & Original’s Classico Italian Wax which provides a lovely flat invisible finish when dry. I buff lightly, after it dries overnight, so as not to bring out much of a sheen.
And there you have the two pieces put back in place, with the new hardware attached. It was at this point that I decided the old artwork was too heavy and needed to be replaced. I’m still on the fence as to what to change it to. I was thinking botanicals, but I may just use a pair of large ginger jars or vases with flowers.
I also made one other decision.
When I painted over the green walls that used to be in this room, I expected to replace the carpet with a more neutral color. But with the lighter furniture, I miss my green walls. The new color will be more subtle that the color we had before, but it will be decidedly green.
I should have known not to follow the crowd…
If you don’t have a piece to paint, but don’t want to spend thousands on a new piece, consider purchasing an inexpensive vintage piece and painting it. I’ve curated a selection of items that are available for purchase as of this publishing. They sell fast, so I’ll come back and update from time to time.
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