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Time for a Fresh Coat?

Give New Life to an Old Piece with Paint By Nikki Luttmann, Seven Bee Interiors For Sandpoint Furniture, Carpet One and Selkirk Glass and Cabinets

Sometimes the best option for creating something new is by using something old or recreating something that we already have. One of my favorite ways to give something new life is by giving it a coat of paint. I have painted cabinetry, furniture and even textiles in this way, and have nearly always been happy with the results.

My dad was a very talented carpenter and craftsman, and one thing that he always stressed was using the right tool for the job. This is especially true with paint. To try to paint something like a table or chair using wall paint is just setting yourself up for failure. It doesn’t have the right consistency and staying power—and will not last. (Read on to find out which paints I’ve had the best luck with!)

Dad also stressed the importance of proper preparation for any project. For painting furniture, this means taking off any upholstered parts, such as seat pads, and cleaning the wood thoroughly with a product like TSP, which removes any residual grease or other buildup that would otherwise affect the paint adherence. Primer is optional for most pieces, depending on the paint, so be sure to read directions.

For cabinetry, the prep phase is a little more involved. It’s not fun, but you must remove the doors, drawers and any hardware, including hinges. Use the TSP (no need to strip surfaces with a solvent), then sand with a fine-grit sandpaper, making sure the surface is dust-free by wiping with a clean microfiber or cotton cloth. Next, even if the paint you have chosen says that primer is not required, add a coat of primer anyway. Make sure your primer coat somewhat matches the tone of the paint you are using. If you are painting your cabinets a fresh white, use white primer; if your paint is darker, use gray. I like Kilz or Zinsser primer brands, available at home improvement or paint stores.

Here is where things get a little tricky. Paint selection for your project is key. There are a variety of alternative “furniture” paints out there on the market. I have used many of them—including the expensive and, in my opinion, overrated Annie Sloane paints from England; and the ones I’ve had the best luck with include General Finishes Milk paint, available online in a variety of colors, and their entire line of topcoats, which are amazing. I especially love their matte finish topcoat, which has very little sheen to it but does an amazing job of protecting any painted surface. I have also had great luck with Dixie Belle’s line of paints.

Home Depot sells a Behr brand of chalk paint that I used to paint my piano. Though the texture was not nearly as good as the Dixie Belle, it can be tinted to match any color in the store, and I wanted the piano to match my wall color, which it does, but not without a lot of work (five coats!). Should you choose to go out on a limb and paint upholstery, please note that chalk paint is your best option for this. But you must water it down substantially! I used the aforementioned Annie Sloane brand of paint to do this, and I watered it down by 50 percent, and then applied the paint in thin coats. This worked but of course completely changed the texture of the fabric. The piece wasn’t nearly as comfortable as it had been pre-painting, so it eventually found its way out of our home and into the donation center.

That said, some projects are just destined not to be as great as we see them in our mind’s eye. For something like cabinetry or heirloom pianos, where failure is not an option, please be sure you use the prep methods outlined above and do purchase the right products for the job to avoid any headaches or frustrations.

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