DIY Upcycling/Refinishing Tutorial: How to Use Chalk Paint on Vintage Furniture

Updated on May 20, 2020
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I LOVE refinishing vintage wood furniture!! And doing it with chalk paint makes it so much easier.

My Love Affair with Chalk Paint

In early 2015, I visited a small shop located in Stroudsburg, PA. I fell in love with the many refinished pieces she had in the shop. She took me to a back room where she had a lovely display of Southern Honey Chalk Paints. From then on I have been painting like crazy.

I have been refinishing vintage pieces for over 20 years. I remember my first piece was a large table and I started out by removing the finish using a caustic product. I had to wear long sleeves, pants, thick gloves, and a mask. It took me weeks to dissolve and remove the finish. Then I had to sand and finally begin painting by using a primer.

No more! Now I can finish painting a piece in one day, wax on the next, and—voila!—a work of art is complete. Read below for instructions on how I refinished this chair.

What You'll Need

  • A vintage piece of furniture. It does not have to be solid wood like the chair I used. You can even use formica and the chalk paint will adhere nicely.
  • Chalk paint. You can make your own or use store bought. For this project, I used Southern Honey. The Nanny is the brightest white made by this company. The website states the color is actually "Stark Fresh White." I like the color but it did not go as far as some of the other colors and was quite thick. I also used Lucy, which is a wonderful vintage yellow and one of my favorite colors by Southern Honey. The blue I used is actually a mixture of chalk paint and acrylic art paint. The original color is Maurice but I found it was too dark for most of the pieces I wanted to decorate. I added some Titanium White by Americana. I kept adding the white until I liked the color.
  • Natural bristle paint brushes.
  • 220 grit sandpaper.
  • Paste Finishing Wax (I used Minwax).
  • Soft lint-free polishing cloth.

Step 1: Sand When Necessary

When using chalk paint, you don't have to sand to get the paint to adhere to the surface. However, in this case the seat had a lot of scratches, so it did need a little sanding. Also, as you can see in the first photo there were some paint drips on the chair. I sanded all the drips off as well as some of the deeper scratches on the seat.

Step 2: Add Color

My next step was to put down my first layer of paint. I used the Nanny. I knew that I would need two coats and that I was going to use more than one color. Honestly, at this point I wasn't sure what colors I was going to use but I knew I didn't want the entire chair to be white.

After allowing the white paint to dry for about an hour, I started adding the color. I began with Lucy, the yellow paint. And then added the blue. As I stated in the supplies list, I didn't like the dark blue, Maurice. I added Titanium White to achieve the shade of blue I wanted which is more of a Country or Colonial Blue.

Layering Colors

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Step 3: Apply Second Coat

At this point I added a second coat of white to the seat and bottom of the chair. If I wanted a more distressed look, I probably could have stopped here and done some sanding. I considered using a stain to get a more primitive look, but in the end I decided to go with a more chic and shabby look.

Chalk Paint

Have You Tried Chalk Paint?

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Step 4: Let It Dry Completely

At this point, I allow my paint to dry completely. Whenever possible, I like to let it dry outdoors. The day was perfect with low humidity and off-and-on sunshine.

Step 5: Sanding and Distressing

The day after painting, I used 220 grit sandpaper to lightly sand the seat and back of the chair. It was amazing how smooth the surface felt after this light sanding!! I used a 150 grit to distress a few corners, legs, etc. For this piece I didn't want it too distressed. I just want a county kitchen look.

Step 6: Clean

Use a lint-free cloth to apply and buff the piece.

Step 7: Wax

I did not wax this piece before I took these photos because the weather forecast called for high humidity for the next few days, but I will later. I do like the look and feel of this piece but I think it needs the wax as a protective coating. I will use the Minwax Paste Wax, which I used on all my previously-painted pieces and love it! It dries to a protective hard finish and is easy to apply. I just put it on being careful to wipe off excess as I go. (If you let the excess dry, it is very difficult to remove.) I buff after the piece has been drying for about 24 hours.

So get out there to your auctions, flea markets, side walk offerings, and thrift shops! Find a piece, choose a color, and most of all, have fun!

Other Finished Pieces

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Here I have a small dresser for a child's room, a table I refinished for my daughter, the top portion of a china cabinet, and a small shelf which I backed with floral paper.This is my night table. One of m favorite pieces!!!
Here I have a small dresser for a child's room, a table I refinished for my daughter, the top portion of a china cabinet, and a small shelf which I backed with floral paper.
Here I have a small dresser for a child's room, a table I refinished for my daughter, the top portion of a china cabinet, and a small shelf which I backed with floral paper.
This is my night table. One of m favorite pieces!!!
This is my night table. One of m favorite pieces!!!

Questions & Answers

  • Can I paint a fabric chair with chalk paint?

    Yes. There are a lot of YouTube videos that demonstrate how to paint fabric with chalk paint. Most if not all advise to dilute your paint with water. Some suggest using a spray bottle to dampen the fabric with water as you paint.

© 2016 Veronica Lewis


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