Monday, May 19, 2014

Misadventures in Chalk Painting - Troubleshooting Tips

After one of the most fantastically productive weekends I can remember (salvaged guest room side tables in place, new diy queen headboard, suitcase table done, and some new pretty butterfly art on the walls), I just experienced one of the most frustrating I've ever had.

My plan was simple:  fix up my two harp back chairs I have in the basement and make a dress.

The outcome of my weekend?  The dress is cut out with no hope of being put together anytime soon and one of my chairs is half done.  The sister chair is "done" but looks bad.  Like baaaaaaaaaad and will need to be redone.

What happened, pray tell?  I was SO EXCITED about the idea of chalk paint that the crafty peeps in the world have been buzzing about forever.  Paint with no prep that is great to use on salvaged furniture finds? I'm in.  I blogged all about it last weekend when it worked brilliantly on my suitcase table legs.  Due to the cost of boutique chalk paint, I was all about making my own by adding a little plaster of paris and water and the first time around, it worked.  This weekend, it did not work.

Every batch of chalk paint I made with different plaster of paris amounts (starting with the successful ratio of 3 parts paint, 2 parts plaster, 1 part water) started setting up almost immediately.  It was like painting with brownie batter.  I went through 3 different $3 paint samples and every time it completely screwed up.

It was so very, very frustrating.

After analyzing what I had done differently down to wearing socks last weekend and not this weekend, I realized when I had the DIY Chalk Paint success, it was pouring down rain.  The humidity must have made it possible for me to use the 3, 2, 1 ratio and even leave the paint for an hour or two while I grabbed lunch with my husband.  This weekend, if I even looked away, it started to get globbity gooky.

But, not willing to accept defeat, I forged on with my first chair and the result is just horrific.

The hope was that I could do the pair in a nice warm brown to match my already existing dining chairs.  That way I could use them at the table when we needed extra seating.  I mixed the paint with the plaster and almost immediately I was working with grimey paint sludge.  After the paint set up and I really couldn't use it anymore, I noticed these splotches coming through.  Almost like dark sun spots all over the surface of the chair.

Sheldon is also not amused.  Yeah, it's bad.  Even worse is that I thought "distressing" the splotches out would be a great idea!  Now it just looks like a mess.  The new seat is pretty, but that's about the only thing.


1.  My paint ratio was all kinds of off for the beautiful, blue sky, breezy, 70 degree day.  A 7.5 oz paint sample should have 2.5tbsp of Plaster of Paris and 2tbsp of water to start.  If you live in the tropics, you can probably use more plaster!  But the Virginia recipe is much less.

2.  After it got globby, I finally decided to add water and stir.  That worked!  So keep a cup of cold water nearby and when it starts to get funky, just add some water slowly and stir your little heart out.

3.  The splotches on my first chair are from an earlier attempt to save the piece without painting.  I applied some oil to see if it would help with the scratches and really bad parts.  I'm thinking I didn't clean it nearly well enough before I started painting and that is why I have those dark spots.  The fix for this will be to try to clean it down with mineral spirits and paint again.  We'll see if it works.

4.  (added on 7/15/14 as I am constantly learning MORE tricks!)  You're going to mix your chalk paint in a different it a cup or jar or whatever.  So while you're painting, get a rag good and wet and lay it over the open container.  This helps lock moisture in and keeps the paint nice and smooth.

My Sunday night fit of "GRRRRR, I have accomplished nothing" resulted in breaking out the paint again at 7pm and praying for a miracle.  Guess what, it was a miracle:

Much, much better.  The color is Valspar's Woodlawn Snow (yep, Historic Pres collection and it is a really, really pretty off white).  It's not waxed yet, nor have I covered the seat, but I finally got the paint part right after much annoyance, trial & error.

Here's a close up of how this chalk paint business should look:

Flaws?  Yes.  Apparently some finishes from the 30s and 40s wind up making a weird pink reaction on your piece.  Luckily, mine were all in spots that will be hidden by the seat.  I've read that if this happens, you stop and spray down the spot with some non toxic clear sealant, wait for it to dry, then paint over it again.  That will keep it from discoloring your piece

I finished her off a few weekends later!  The fabric choice is exciting...a bright and colorful ikat from

And the dress?  Lisette Round Trip Dress.  It's cut out, but will probably be another few weeks before I get it done.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Upcycled Suitcase Side Table

While down in the North Carolinas visiting my mother and hanging out at the Metrolina Antique and Collectibles show (which is amazing), I picked up many a treasure.  One of my very favorite finds was a selection of vintage suitcases.  Hard sided, flat on top, and begging to be loved again!

I had to have the bottom two and he priced them at $20 for both.  And then he was kind enough to throw in the top one for free.  I almost turned him down.  Why?  This is why.  Yikes.

Because I honestly didn't believe I could jack it up anymore than it already was, I chose this one to use in my first project.  And de-creepyfication was the first order of business.

Instead of scraping the paint and people off, I thought I could cover the top with a cream canvas hanging out in my fabric stash.  I laid it on top and traced the inside edge of the trim with a chalk dressmaker's pencil.

After trimming, I decided the best mode of attachment which would also be the best looking, would be to use upholstery tacks.  Be warned:  upholstery tacks are tricky little mctrickersons.  I found lining them up with the trim on the suitcase was the best way to ensure they were straight.  But the spacing required a ruler.  The tacks were 1/2" wide.  Measure from the center of one tack and make a mark where the center of the next should go which is 1/2" away.

I got MUCH better as I went along and had to remove the first ten to twenty just to make sure they were perfectly straight.  Yessssss.  No more creepy people.  And I love how the cream fabric brings out the cream trim on the suitcase.  (I wish I could claim that move as being purposeful.  It was not.)

Next step is to gut the base of the suitcase from the inside.  The padding on the bottom should get scooped out and trashed.  It was grosso and I probably should have worn a mask to keep from breathing in years of funk.  Yolo.  I kept the inner satin fabric to replace back once I was done with my tablefication process.

Remember those spindles I painted with my DIY Chalk Paint that I'm parading around calling table legs?  The ones from my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore (every DIYers bestest friend)?  Yep, those.  Come 'er, lil' buddies.

Time to attach.  Mark the bottom where you want the center of your legs to go.  I chose 3" over and 2.5" up.  Mark with a little pencil and drill a hole.  I used a dremmel as my full size drill rights have not been re-granted after the great crooked curtain rod incident of 2013.

Now, from either side of the suitcase, get a screw and attach the leg.  Prop the suitcase on its side and open it.  One hand with a screw driver on the inside, the other with the leg on the outside.

A drill is not a bad idea.  Also, a longer screw than what I'm using is a great idea!  Might need to go back in a place another screw for some more stability.  But to start, make each leg super tight and flush with the bottom of the suitcase with one screw in the center of the leg.

Oh, look.  You have a suitcase table now.  I just love how precious it is!

Make Your Own Chalk Paint!

I shall make my own table.  It shall be weird and quirky, because that is how I roll.  But before we get all into that fun project, I want to show you the magic of DIY Chalk Paint.  Yes, I learned to make my own chalk paint and it was a giant success (and I even screwed up the formula and it still worked).

Every table needs legs.  But table legs are pricey at the Lowes, and since you need four for a table, even more pricey, I decided to take a gander at my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore!  It is an absolutely garden of treasures.  Old furniture, weird building supplies, and the bestest of the best part:  all proceeds go to one of my very favorite organizations.  And guess what?  They had a TON of old spindles waiting to become legs for my new little table.

We can do better than white.  And I've been really interested in chalk paint lately and trying out the process of chalk paint and furniture wax.  But can we say sticker shock?  $40 a quart for paint seemed a bit ridiculous.  Pinterest to the rescue!  You can MAKE YOUR OWN!

The correct formula (which greatly depends on your humidity was POURING down rain the day I did this):

1 7.5oz latex paint sample + 2.5 tbsp Plaster of Paris + 2 tbsp water = DIY Chalk Paint

***If you're in a dry climate, keep a cup of cold water handy.  Should the paints start to set up and become like batter, add water slowly and stir the bejujuice out of it.  I had some MAJOR misadventures the next weekend with this method.  Please read the updated post with tips on how to avoid your chalk paint from "setting up" on dryer days.

Of course, I turned to Valspar Historic Preservation Goodness again like I did for my amazing bamboo side tables, and like I will for my Metrolina cabinet when it comes back from its vacation in NC as I couldn't fit it in the car to take home.  This time it was Homestead Resort Spa Green.  I was married at the Homestead Resort five years ago to my darling husband who I adore so naturally, I always look for those paint colors first.  My kitchen is Homestead Resort Tea Room yellow and I will never have a kitchen that is any other color.  It is truly the perfect shade of yellow in every light.

That brings me to my next reason for making my own Chalk Paint.  The boutique selection of chalk paint has a very limited color options so the freedom of making my own was a glorious revelation because I could use any latex paint I wanted.  First, mix up your Plaster of Paris and water.  Stir until smooth, then add in the paint.  I only had to buy a sample as this wasn't a big project.  I would think that the amount of Chalk Paint I made could paint a chair.  Maybe two.

Using a foam brush, I got to painting.  I mixed up the recipe a bit, so my Chalk Paint was too thin....added two parts paint instead of three.  Sigh.  I know better next time!  But it had little bearing on the project as I didn't want a super heavy finish.  Still looks awesome especially with two coats.  You can see the difference (top = one coat, bottom = two coats) below and the texture it gives you:

Once all desired coats are dry, how do you finish chalk painted pieces?  How about some Miniwax Paste Finishing Wax?  I am IN LOVE with this stuff.

Using a rag, I scooped it out and rubbed on a good coat.  These spindles had a ton of little grooves and notches and I didn't want the wax to settle and live there, so I made sure to rub really well.  For that, I was glad I was not using a brush.  Set aside to dry then go back and buff with a clean rag.  You'll see the color and surface change and it's quite amazing.  It also tones down your paint color a notch.  I don't think I would use this brand if I was painting something white as it might leave a slight tint.  I'll have to do some more research to find a wax to use on light colored paint should I ever paint a light colored piece!  Maybe the Annie Sloan Clear Wax would be a good choice in that situation.

I really loved the waxing was relaxing and the change in surface was immediately noticeable.  The top spindle is waxed, the bottom is not.  Pretty, right?

I would highly recommend trying to make your own chalk paint vs. buying the boutique stuff.  Granted, I've never bought the boutique stuff, so I don't know how different they are.  I'm sure there are pros and cons to each, but this seemed like a good starting point for someone looking to try out the concept of chalk painting.  And I really love the outcome and can't WAIT to show you the rest of the project!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

DIY Queen Fabric Covered Headboard

Carrying on with a theme:  the guest bedroom.  I like to create a pinterest board for every room in my house so I can keep my ideas and list of projects straight and organized.  Otherwise the chaos muppet in me will go in a million directions that makes my rooms start to look manic.  I am also very visual, so I find it helpful to continue making room mood boards so I can see it all come together before it actually does. My guest bedroom, I dream would look like this:

The thing that will make the biggest difference?  That awesome headboard with the lovely Swavelle/Mill Creek Donetta in Gold that I've had for months waiting to be turned into something glorious.  Oh Donetta, you are a classy broad.

I've done it before for my king bed, but if you haven't read that post, my preferred method of DIY headboards revolves around artist canvases.  Why?  Because they're cheap.  Big impact on a small budget!  And secondly, they're lightweight.  So you don't have to do any of that finding studs, tearing up your wall stuff to hang them securely.  This is especially awesome if you're a renter.  Me, I can tear up my walls all I want...but those of you with a deposit might want to consider that before taking a nail gun to your drywall.  And the outcome?  Awesome!

This time, I wanted bigger.  I wanted better.  I wanted STATEMENT!  Instead of using three 18x24 artist canvases like I did for my bedroom, I used six 16x20s from the amazing Dick Blick.  Handsome husband and photo bombing puppy not included.

Using the same method, I took 14 flat metal connectors/brackets (in the hinge aisle of your local hardware store) and connected the canvases so the entire board measured 32 tall by 60 wide.

This one was still a bit wobbly due to the larger size and double stacked construction, so for extra fun, we added an additional six brackets on the front.  If your headboard starts to bow, loosen the screws.  You've got it all kinds of too tight.

Next up is spray adhesive and batting.   Spray adhesive is the very devil and will get bloody everywhere if you're not careful.  So only use just enough so the batting doesn't shift and do it in small sections so you can adjust as you go.  Then wash your hands a million times so everything doesn't stick to you like you're made out of fly paper.  I do so hate that stuff.

Flip and trim...then add your fabric, no spray adhesive necessary.  I got 2 yards of Donetta and had stitch it together in one yard wide panels.   As most home dec is only 54" wide, it's not going to be wide enough.  So if you've picked a one way pattern, you'll need to split your two yards into two 1 yard sections and stitch.  I got fancy and made it a three panel, but you can use your imagination.  I just realized how CUTE this would be if it was quilted.

Once that's done, lay it down wrong side up, put the headboard with attached batting on top and staple your little heart out.  Corners are annoying, so follow this pin which is amazing and simple and makes it look awesome.

Now, this bad gal isn't going to hang herself.  Because the artist canvases aren't that heavy, my husband who is brilliant recommends these little hooky thingies:

One on either side of the board (two total) should do it just fine.  We used picture hanging hooks on the wall.

YESSSSSS.  Lookin' good, Donetta!  Quick price check:
Six canvases = $25
20 metal brackets = $15
2 yards of Donetta = $20

That is $60 of awesome.  Not bad when you consider that most headboards (even the thrifted ones you still have to put work and supplies into) run around $150.

Now let's see it all together:

Salvaged Furniture Redo: Bamboo Bedside Tables

Let's recap:  we have guests arriving!  The guest bedrooms are in various states of mayhem and shenanigans!  Ruh roh.

Not to panic.  I've had several projects in limbo, just waiting for the time and energy to tackle them, and this weekend, I snapped into gear.  Like, whoa...snapped.

My favorite of the projects are my new (to me!) bedside bamboo tables.  I found these babies back in March for $10 a piece.  YES...$20 for both and they are SOLID WOOD with dovetail construction.  I always look for that and good drawer action before buying junk furniture. When I found them in the store and immediately ran to the counter and yelled "CLAIMED" at the woman like I was Norman Reedus and this was the zombie apocalypse.  Luckily, no one else saw the immense potential I did and I didn't have to get all kinds of crossbow on anyone.

That heinous shade of peach was NOT going to cut it.  And while I was tempted to see what was under all that mess, I was afraid trying to strip it would damage the rattan/bamboo.  So painting was the best option.

Y'all.  I talk about Valspar's National Trust for Historic Preservation paints all the time.  And you know why?  Because they're amazing.  Here is the chosen one this time:  Hotel St. Francis Spirit Blue. know you love it.

Mmmmkay.  First let's tackle those brass handles.  They were so awesome, the idea of having to replace them made me sad.  So in hopes of restoring, I picked up some Brasso and tried to clean them.  Using my finger nail (a highly specialized tool), I managed to remove the remnants of peach hell which had gotten all over the handles due to the previous owner's lack of a screwdriver.  That's the only logical reason I can come up with for someone painting a piece and not bothering to remove the handles.  Honestly, people.  Anyway, Brasso alone did not do the trick.  It cleaned them up a bit, but I wanted SHINY.  So a little Rub N' Buff in Gold Leaf was required.


After.  The bottom one is so shiny compared to the not done one!

I've gone over painting furniture before.  Basically, Centsational Girl has that down to a science.  We did not deviate.  The paint was a little bit of a panic attack however.  Before it was totally dry, it was smurf-tastic.  And actually, a few of these pictures look a little true life, they are anything but.  Trust the Valspar:

GAAAAH!  I love them.  And how about those shiny handles?

Mmhmmm.  Bamboo goodness and so pretty with my Valspar Hubble House Clayo walls.  Yeah.  Let's recap:  from peach nightmare to sweet dreams.