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Upcycling and chalk paint have grown in popularity over the last 5 years. Why spends hundreds on a brand spanking new piece and break the bank when you can repurpose the furniture you already have! Not only is up cycling cost effective and easy to do; it also gives you the freedom to personalise and coordinate your decor in a way you just can’t do by buying from a shop.
I first turned my hand to upcycling back in 2016. I’d lived in my house for about a year, slowly working my way from room to room decorating and improving the style. My kitchen was the space I’d left til last. It had been functional up until that point but I wanted more out of it. It was the heart of the home and I wanted it to feel inviting and look beautiful. I had a large bare wall which I decided was the perfect space for a welsh dresser. Not only would have a beautiful piece of furniture, I’d be able to display my glasses and crockery too!
I was about 7 months pregnant and chalk paint was all the rage! How easy it is to change, improve and refresh your tired furniture! No need to sand or prep, just paint! I was sold. I mean if all I had to do was paint it then get me a tin now! But first I had to find the perfect welsh dresser that I had envisioned in my head!
Finding The Right Welsh Dresser
After shopping about I found a plain Pine Welsh Dresser in a local charity shop. Purchase and delivery cost me £100, a fraction of what a new, already painted one would cost had I bought it elsewhere. I did a bit of reading up on the best paints and brushes to use then walked – yes WALKED! – 2 miles to B&Q to stock up on supplies. I think I spent about £30 in total on Chalk Paint, Wax, 2 brushes and wood stain. I wanted quite a neutral finish which could work with all kinds of decor; so I decided to use Rust-Oleum’s Chalk paint in a creamy shade. Teaming this with a walnut wax for the top and doors added contrast as well as tying in with the colour of my walnut kitchen.
I was so excited to crack on. There was a vision in my head of what it would look like when finished and how it would add to the room. Painting furniture with a then 2 year old around is not advisable, but come bed time I had free reign!
Preparation Is Key
First, I took the dresser apart, removing the top section so I could focus on the base. I removed glass doors from the top as well as I wanted to use wood stain on them to give a contrast effect. After that it was plain sailing. Chalk Paint is amazing as it can be applied straight to surface with minimal preparation. Leave it to dry for an hour, until touch dry, then apply a second coat. Once that’s fully dry (preferably overnight) Sand lightly to remove brush strokes and destress in areas you want to destress – corners and edges work best! – and then wax. Bob’s your uncle, one upcycled Dresser!
I loved my finished result but I definitely learnt some lessons along the way!
4 Top Tips I learnt From Making Mistakes With Chalk Paint
1. Don’t Touch Up Wet Chalk Paint
Chalk Paint is reasonably thick to apply and a completely different consistency to wall paint which so many of us are familiar with. One of the biggest mistakes I made was going back to areas I’d already applied the paint, to ‘touch them up’. As the paint starts to dry straight away, dragging a brush through them creates drag and smudges, ruining the overall effect. Think of it when you apply your nail polish; if you go back to that slightly not right nail while the polish is setting. It becomes claggy, lumpy and smudged, leaving you with two options: Leave as is, or remove and start again.
Don’t make my mistake. Apply paint and then leave it! Don’t be tempted to go over it until it is touch dry (about an hour).
2. DO Sand, Even Though They Say You Don’t Need To!
As I mentioned above a big selling point of chalk paint is the minimal preparation needed. This is completely true. You don’t need to sand down your furniture before painting. But. I would highly advise it, even if you just go over it lightly with fine sandpaper. Preparing the wood in this way gives the paint a better surface to grip to when its applied, meaning better application and nicer finish.
Sanding between coats I think is also really important. You don’t need to distress the piece at this point but going over your first coat with sandpaper will help to lessen any obvious brush marks and create a smoother finish.
3. Thin Down The Chalk Paint For Your 2nd AND 3rd Coats
When I upcycled my Welsh Dresser, I just whacked on a second coat straight from the tin. It was tough. Because of the thickness of the paint, getting an even second coat was difficult. It clung to the first layer and didn’t spread out evenly meaning I made mistake no.1 and kept going back – which only made things worse! I’ve since learned that tinning the paint slightly for the second coat makes life a lot easier, application smoother and the finish better.
Thin down your paint by combining 2 parts paint with 1 part water and away you go. I’d recommend doing a second and 3rd coat to get the best finish, but play it by ear and apply until you have the desired finish.
4. Wax, Wax and wax again!
Finally, my last tip and mistake avoider is to make sure you’re heavy handed with the wax, especially if the item you’re upcycling is going to be in a busy part of the home. Grubby fingers and smudges can ruin the look of all your hard work. The wax protects your paint from all these marks and makes it easy to clean.
Make sure you apply the wax well and add a second coat. I didn’t and my doors really suffered from all the little fingers opening them constantly. I’d also suggest topping up your wax coat every few months if you start to see some wear and tear developing.
Now whatever piece of furniture you’re upcycling with Chalk Paint, you’ll know exactly what to do and what not to do so that your left with a feature piece you’ll be proud to show off to guests. You don’t have to be as reserved colour or pattern wise either. Let your creativity run wild and create something you really love!