I wanted to add some flair into my workspace. I used chalk paint on a desk: It was the perfect opportunity to make something old new again.
How to Paint Vintage Furniture
Vintage and shabby chic furniture has become some of the most coveted décor styles in recent years. A longing for a simpler time and nostalgia from past generations might just be a few of the inspirations for this look and feel that homeowners, decorators, and apartment-dwellers are trying to capture in their own homes.
Have you been looking to add a vintage touch to your living space or dreaming of breathing new life into an old piece of furniture? This easy painted furniture project is the perfect weekend project to instantly add a unique, conversation-starting piece to your home or office space.
I recently painted my home office desk in a vintage olive color chalk paint. My mother-in-law gifted us a 1920s-era wooden desk that had seen better days. When we received it, it had several layers of stain, not to mention the top had been painted over with a heavy, brown paint. As someone who loves everything lace and old world (I even had a vintage themed wedding!), I wanted to add some of that flair into my workspace, and the desk was the perfect opportunity to make something old new again.
You can choose to apply the steps and techniques detailed in this tutorial to other pieces of wooden furniture that you wish to makeover with a fresh coat of paint.
Step 1: Find an Old Piece of Furniture
If you don’t have a piece of furniture or are looking for a piece with a classic design, here are some suggestions for finding the perfect piece for this project:
- Look in the classified ads section in your newspaper
- Search Craigslist. Look up words like “Victorian,” “vintage,” “wood,” or simply type in the piece of furniture you are searching for (i.e., desk, table, chairs, etc.) and see what kinds of results you get back that are available in your area.
- Attend an auction sale. The spring, summer, and fall months are the perfect time to pick up some old pieces for weekend projects all year long.
- Ask your contacts on social media if they have any old pieces they want to get rid of or are willing to sell.
Step 2: Gather Your Supplies
Once you have found your perfect piece, it’s time to get started! But first, you’ll want to gather some much-needed supplies. You can pick up everything listed below in one quick trip to the hardware store.
- Large tarp, drop cloth, or newspapers that you can place your piece on top of to catch any paint splatters or mess during your project.
- Paint cup and stir stick
- Chalk paint in the color of your choice
- Small paint roller
- Sandpaper or a sanding block
- Natural hair paintbrush
Step 3: Choose Your Chalk Paint
Chalk paint makes getting the look and feel you want right on every project. Whether you are going for a pastel furniture theme for a baby’s room or breakfast nook or want to channel vintage Paris or old-world dramatic New York, there is a color for every style. Annie Sloan’s line of paints comes in over 30 colors, all perfectly tuned to give you that perfect vintage feel no matter what color of the spectrum you decide to land.
Choose from any one of these colors below:
What Colors Does Chalk Paint Come in?
Duck Egg Blue
Annie Sloan Explains How to Choose Your Color
Step 4: Prepare the Surface
Once you have chosen your look and feel, picked out the perfect color, and gathered your supplies, it’s time to jump in and get started on your project!
Step 1: Start with a Clean, Dry Surface
This step is fairly easy. Make sure to lay out your drop cloth or newspapers with a large enough area around your piece of furniture to catch extra debris or paint further in the project.
Using a soft, dry cloth wipe down all of the surfaces of your furniture to remove any visible dirt and dust.
Remove any drawers from dressers or desks and remove any hardware like pulls or knobs that you don’t wish to paint over.
Once your surface is wiped and any loose pieces and hardware are removed, you can move onto stripping the surface if you wish to start with a really clean canvas or remove lots of tough, old layers of paint or stain.
Step 2: Strip the Surface
While gathering my supplies, I was ecstatic to find no and low-fume stripper options.
While I performed the project in a well-ventilated garage, it was nice to know there are options that allow you to control chemical fumes if you need to take off several layers.
How to apply the stripper:
- Start by applying the stripper with a foam brush.
- Apply LIBERALLY! I can not stress this enough.
- My husband and I started by applying a thin layer, but it was not effective, and we had to apply a second coat of stripper in thick layers for it to truly penetrated through the old layers of paint.
Wait for the layers to peel.
- Follow the instructions on the bottle and wait for the old layers of paint and stain to bubble and peel.
- Generally, this takes 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Scrape it off.
- Once you see the old surface layers bubble up, simply take a scraper and begin scraping up the excess.
- This step is messy! So the rubber gloves come in very handy.
Step 3: Wipe Off the Excess
Once you have as much of the surface scraped off as possible, wipe off the excess stripper and old paint with a damp cloth.
It helps to bring a small bucket of water so you can dip over and over and continue wiping quickly.
Step 4: Dry and Sand the Surface
Once you have finished wiping with the wet cloth, allow your piece of furniture to dry to the touch. Once the surface dries, wipe any excess dust off with a dry cloth and begin to sand the surface with sandpaper or a handheld sanding block.
How to Sand the Surface
When sanding my desk, I wasn’t concerned with sanding down absolutely every area to get to the bare wood (though I may have been pickier if I planned on re-staining the desk vs. painting).
I lightly sanded any rough spots, corners, and edges that might have left an unsightly or uneven finish after painting.
After removing the old desk drawer handles, I was also pretty thorough to sand around the edges to smooth the areas where old hardware was removed.
Step 5: Apply the First Coat of Paint
Whew, the hard part is over! Now you get to start playing with that fun new color you picked out and breathe some new life into your project!
Crack open your paint can and be sure you thoroughly mix the color. Use a deep stir stick, stirring in figure-8 patterns, and going back and forth several times to ensure the color will be applied evenly.
I recommend using a natural hair brush and keeping a small, short roller handy for finishing top surfaces and drawer fronts.
Some tips for even application:
- Apply the paint in the same direction.
- Watch for any brush strokes – go over the same area more than once if necessary to minimize the look of bristle strokes that may be left behind.
- Change the angle of the brush in your hand to fill all cracks, crevices and ensure no spots are missed, especially if your light casts shadows in different directions.
- Be picky on the first coat! If you are picky when applying your first coat of paint, applying your second coat will be much easier.
Once you have your first layer of paint applied, cover your can of paint, rinse and pat dry your paintbrush, and allow the piece to dry to the touch before moving to the next step.
In my case, after about an hour and a half, the first coat was completely dry. You can wait a little longer if you’d like to ensure no wet spots are left behind.
Step 6: Apply the Second Coat
Once the first coat is dry, give your paint another stir to make sure it hasn’t separated or settled while waiting for the first coat to dry. Then take your clean brush and apply the second coat. Keep in mind that this is the coat that is going to show so keep an eye on making all brush strokes go in the same direction for an optimal finish.
I used the small roller for the top and sides of the desk and the drawer tops for an even coat. This helps you finish painting much faster, too!
Once your last coat is evenly applied, allow it to dry. Chalk paint typically dries very quickly. An hour or so will probably be long enough to touch or move your piece of furniture. For this project, I allowed to dry most of the afternoon before moving the desk back into the house later that evening.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
Finally, it’s time for the exciting part!
You get to apply the finishing touches and see your completed piece come together!
Reapply any hardware to drawers, handles, pulls, etc.
We removed the original wooden drawer pulls of our desk and replaced them with antique bronze drawer pulls by simply adding a screw to the back of the drawer fronts and attaching them with a drill.
Once all of your hardware is in place, you might consider using soft wax as an optional finish.
I noticed that the “chalky” finish can easily show marks if you place objects on top of your furniture surfaces.
The soft wax can help protect surfaces. Check out the soft wax from the same paint developer, Annie Sloan.
Enjoy Your New Piece
Congratulations—you did it! Move your new piece back into its space and enjoy your new do-it-yourself décor!
Have you ever attempted a painted furniture project? What piece/pieces have you refinished or hope to refinish? Are you an aficionado of the shabby chic or vintage décor style? Tell us about your furniture and style preferences in the comments below.
What Is Chalk Paint?
You may be asking yourself, so what is chalk paint anyway? First of all, chalk paint is not to be confused with chalkboard paint. Don’t worry. I was confused at first, too. Chalk paint was developed by designer Annie Sloan to have a soft, matte finish in soft, old-world colors that complement almost any décor or design space.
The best part about chalk paint? It allows you to paint right over any surface without much prep work needed! In this tutorial, I went the extra step of stripping and lighting sanding my desk due to all of the layers of stain and old paint build-up, but chalk paint allows users to apply to furniture without much of the grunt work required.
Who Is Annie Sloan?
While chalk paint has recently become all the rage, creator Annie Sloan actually first developed it back in 1990 as an answer to her desire to find a furniture paint to cover well without all the prep work and dry quickly. It got its name because of the “chalky” matte finish it leaves after drying.
McKenna Meyers on November 05, 2015:
Thanks for the inspiration. I've never used chalk paint but have always been curious. Your desk look great so I think I'll try it!
Chantelle Porter from Ann Arbor on November 05, 2015:
Congrats on HOTD. I love chalk paint and have done many pieces. Nicely done. Shared.
RTalloni on November 05, 2015:
Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this beautiful project. It's a very classy piece, and your tutorial will be useful to any who want to do a similar project.
Have you checked out CeCe Caldwell's paints? You might like to do a comparison, and if you do, it would be great to see a hub on the differences.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on November 05, 2015:
Wow! That chalk paint job is pretty cool, awesome and easy to do with your instructions on how to make something old new again. Great photos for this hub. Congrats on HOTD, too!
Clearissa Coward's Command Center from Cary,NC on July 29, 2015:
Love your hub. I have just painted my first two pieces using chalk paint and I love it. As a matter of fact, I am writing a blog about both. One this week and another next week. However, I did learn from your hub. Thanks for sharing.
Jill Spencer from United States on July 29, 2015:
Your finished piece looks great. I really like the hardware, too. I've been wanting to use chalk paint on a console table. I understand you can "rub it away" to give a worn look to the edges.