Singapore is slowly opening up again, and we’ve been experiencing some stormy weather (and flooding!). There isn’t a better time to stay in, turn on some music, pick up your brushes and get started on those furniture upcycling projects you’ve been holding off.

I’ve begun painting some pieces right here at the Big Blue Trunk store and I’ve been eying  several old pieces of furniture at home that desperately need a makeover. Here’s a little run-down of how that’s been going. If any of this makes you laugh and inspires you, head over to the store, chat with us, pick up some paints to see what you can do as well! 

Chalk Painting is a workout!
Your local gym was open. Then it closed. Now it’s open again, but you’ve gotten a bit too disoriented from all the changes to schedule in a regular workout. Nevermind. Grab a worn piece of furniture in your house and Chalk Paint® it. By the end, even a little stool will have you bending, flexing and arching, getting into positions your yoga teacher or gym coach would be proud of. Also: you'll get wrists strong enough to win the gold medal in badminton at the next Olympics!

Every piece is art
Annie Sloan reminds us that you're not supposed to feel inhibited or second-guess your strokes. Be bold, particularly when you’re applying that first coat on a dull, worn piece of furniture. The paint allows textures and character to emerge and this is your unique signature. Of course, there are established techniques to follow (two-colour distress, textured effect, washed look) and you can find plenty of videos online to find the finish you’re looking for.

Nooks and crannies are tricky
Big, bold strokes are fine, but it's getting into those nooks you want to practice. Every piece of furniture has it (where there's a hinge, a joint, a bolt, there's little nooks). Before diving in, I learned that it's good to step back and look at a piece - even a modest little stool. Figure out where you want to start first so you can still have a spot to hold as you work on covering the entire piece. Perhaps you'll want to do the underside of the stool and all the legs, leaving one to hold onto, so that you can work last on the base/top. Handles of drawers need to be removed and you’ll want to make sure you cover every bit, including the parts where the bolt/screw goes in. Brushes are everything! The Annie Sloan brushes are high quality, hardy, do not leave behind stray hairs on your pieces and there are all kinds and sizes to cover every bit of your piece. 

Getting more texture with just one paint
Annie suggests starting a second coat when the first isn't quite dry if you want more texture and to show brush strokes. Keeping the paint thick also helps with getting a textured finish. I tried this with Louis Blue on a dinky little stool I had at home and liked the effect. I ended up with three layers: the original wood, the first coat of Louis Blue and the second coat which came in more white. You’ll want to go for a nice creamy, flowing consistency.

Everything can be upcycled, but some projects are harder than others
I was starting work on upcycling a chest of drawers for a customer’s nursery with Chalk Paint®. The drawers had been painted with some kind of commercial paint that had a lacquered appearance. So far, nothing to worry about. The fantastic thing about using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® is that you don’t have to sand and prime your pieces before you dive in. 

But in this instance, we were in for a surprise. We saw some parts had chipped off and decided these could be lightly sanded to remove bumps and flaky edges, before we started painting the piece. We found a bit of paint peeling and just tugged at it (I bet you’re thinking of peeling cuticles and sunburnt skin now). To our horror, the paint came off like black scotch tape, and gave way to a peeling marathon! So we carefully examined the whole piece and peeled anything that yielded to a tug or light prodding. What we were left with was a beautiful untreated pine wood piece. We removed the handles and now, the piece was ready for its makeover. 

I felt that inexplicable emotion that so many furniture painting artists speak about, when they look at a piece and let it speak to them. In this instance, I could almost hear the pine chest of drawers say, Ahhh, I’m free! This is my skin and I’m beautiful. The intimacy matters because you’re going to spend some time with a piece of furniture you’re working on and the more you see it as alive, the more inspired you feel, as you strip it back, dress  it up and accessorise it (with stencilling? metal gold leaf? Perhaps a two-colour distress finish?). Ah, so many options!

Departing from the usual approach, we had to sand the piece down to make sure there weren’t any bits of peeling paint left sticking to the wood. This exposed kinks, grooves and little holes (character!). After that, we applied two coats of primer (at least an hour apart), to ensure we had an even surface to work on and prevent bleeding of the pine wood. In 95% of cases, you wouldn’t need to sand or prime your furniture when using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®, so this was quite an exception!

And now the piece was ready for its new look! Our customer wanted a Svenska Blue with a White Wax finish for her nursery, to go with a beautiful rug she had purchased. I realised this would create a lovely modern farmhouse look, which is still very much in vogue in 2021. 

Two coats of Svenska Blue later, we were ready to apply White Wax. Waxing feels deceptively simple. If you apply too much, it feels like you should go easy. If you apply too little, you need to be a bit more liberal. But the wonderful thing is, you needn’t panic. When we started waxing, I was a little conservative and applied less than needed and focused a little too much on the large surfaces (top of chest of drawers and the sides). I rubbed it using circular motions and medium pressure, and did the gentle sweep and wipe with a white cotton cloth. A day later, I realised the grooves in the drawers weren’t fully waxed. Not an issue! I got back in there with my wax brush, and went for those ridges and grooves. The White Wax lightens and brightens any colour, and brings out the brush strokes in the paint so beautifully. A short while later, all done!  

Hardware Love
Ah but not quite! Don’t forget the hardware: handles, hinges, bolts, knobs and bail pulls. Sometimes these are made of solid brass, porcelain or antique copper and our customers want them to be left alone because they’re already beautiful and complement the finish we’ve created perfectly. In other instances, they need a makeover as well. For our Svenska Blue chest of drawers, the metal drawer handles were going to be painted Aubusson Blue and finished with several coats of Lacquer. Lacquering is a must when you’re dealing with high-touch surfaces like handles/knobs. And yes, you can paint metal with Chalk Paint®.

Et voilà! We are done.

We installed the drawer handles after everything had dried nicely overnight. It was so wonderful to see this piece with a whole new look, and to have given it a new lease of life! We hope our customer smiles everytime she uses this beautiful new chest of drawers in her nursery!  

- Written by Vinita Ramani
August 27, 2021 — Deepti Chadda

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