Paint Makeovers

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Photographed and Styled by Gridley + Graves

Whether you’ve got a well-worn dresser that’s due for an update or find a less-than-perfect accent table or chair at a garage sale, thrift store or even on the curb, you can give it a new lease on life with paint.

When Amy Thomas purchased an old cupboard from a New York antiques dealer, she was told it was a former built-in that had later been used in a barn to store small farm tools and feed. “It was stained brown and damaged in many areas, and it also rocked back and forth since it was not originally created to stand on its own,” she recalls. A local shop owner who specializes in refreshing vintage and antique furniture filled some of the large scratches on the side of the cupboard, added feet to the bottom, and painted and distressed it using a custom-blended mineral paint. (You can read more about Amy’s home in the July 2020 issue of Country Sampler. See the Coming Soon section of this newsletter for more information about the issue.)

While you might want to call in a pro for a big project like Amy’s cupboard, even a novice painter can produce an amazing furniture transformation. Start small, selecting a petite chair, accent table or nightstand with no repairs needed. Next, pick your paint type (see below for some options) and desired color. Many paints can be blended, so if you don’t find a color you like, you can often mix up a custom hue.

Prepare your surfaces to be painted by thoroughly cleaning them with a soft, lint-free rag and water, if needed. Many products on the market require little more than that, but if your paint type warrants it, you may need to sand and prime your surfaces before painting. (See the “Tips & Hacks” section for ways to clean and care for brushes.)

Buy a quality brush—you don’t want bristles to fall out and mar the finish of your project. Some paint manufacturers offer specialty brushes, but synthetic angled brushes in sizes ranging from 1 1/2" to 2 1/2" work well for most projects.

Follow your paint manufacturer’s directions for application of the paint and an appropriate topcoat, if needed. Many offer various waxes, glazes and finishes you can use to further enhance your piece, if you like. With just a little creativity and elbow grease, you will have a beautifully customized furnishing that brings a spot of color to your home.

Popular Paints
In addition to latex paint, which is always a solid option but does require more prep work, there are other choices on the market that come in popular country colors and offer ease of application and a soft, matte look. Here are a few of the current favorites:
Chalk-style paint is water-based and dries to a matte, chalky appearance. It acts as a self-primer and will adhere readily to most surfaces and previously applied coatings without a lot of prep work. It is easy to distress and often used to achieve an aged appearance. It is durable but needs a finish coat for protection. Many manufacturers offer a wax finish coat, but matte polyurethane can also be used.
Mineral paint has an acrylic resin base and also dries to a matte appearance. As with chalk-style paint, it does not require a lot of prep work and can also be used to create distressed looks. Unlike chalk-style paint, however, mineral paint has a built-in topcoat due to the acrylic resin and dries to a waterproof finish. This type of paint also has a slightly thinner consistency.
Milkpaint comes in a powder form and is stirred together with water to form a creamy, somewhat runny mixture. It produces a soft, primitive-style finish, which can easily be sanded and distressed for a chippy appearance. Like the other two paints, it doesn’t require much surface preparation, but you will need to add a bonding agent if applying it over a varnished surface. As is the case with chalk-style paint, it requires a wax or matte polyurethane topcoat for durability.