It’s not ‘chalk’, but paint, and if you have an old piece of furniture needing a makeover, ‘chalk paint’ is your one-stop solution, writes Helen Grange.Restoring a piece of furniture once took a lot of planning. You needed sandpaper to smooth off old paint or sealant, then you had to apply primer before painting, then finally coat it with wax or sealant.
Enter “chalk paint”, the latest trend in furniture restoring technique, and as easy to use as simply brush-stroking the furniture item and leaving it to quick dry. It’s called “chalk paint” because of its velvety, matte finish.
It all started with the UK’s Annie Sloan, one of the world’s most respected experts in the field of decorative painting, instrumental in the painted furniture revolution and the brainchild of Chalk Paint, a unique, eco-friendly, formula that sticks to just about any surface – inside and outside the home – without the need for priming or sanding.
It comes in 33 historic and modern colours which you can also mix, and it can be thinned with water and used as a wash. It can also be used as an impasto (thickly), by just leaving the lid off overnight so the paint thickens.
Since launching in South Africa in 2013, Sloan’s decorative paint has made its way into dozens of retailers across the country and, according to Sloan, it is doing very well. “The paint has been received brilliantly in South Africa,” she says.
Chalk paint can be used on any surface, from wood to metal and matte plastic to terracotta. Sloan’s paint is specifically designed for furniture, but it can also be used on walls and floors as well.
A look on her Facebook page shows most people seem to be using it to reinvent tired wooden furniture that would otherwise be considered for the dump or resale. Chairs, cabinets, tables, doors, stools and picture frames are populating the page, painted in a riot of her colours and some featuring inspired artworks or patterns.
Recently, black and white waxes were added to the product range, and these are ideal for creating different looks and styles. The black wax, well suited to pine or pale oak, is perfect for achieving a warehouse, industrial style and creates a graphic look without it looking aged or antiqued, while the white wax can be used for a coastal, bleached look.
The white wax can also be applied straight on to wood to achieve a lime-washed look, which works particularly well on picture frames or oak beams.
Both black and white waxes are great for bringing out the grain in the wood.
If you’re using a wax to finish pieces painted in chalk paint, simply apply the wax with a soft cloth or a wax brush. You can vary the look by using clear wax as a base or as an eraser to lift off areas of excess colour.
For a really strong, grained look remove any old polish using sandpaper before applying, so you are left with just the wood and apply directly. If the wood is very dry, really push the wax into the grain using a wax brush, so that the wax soaks in and absorbs into the wood. Remove any excess with clear wax or a clean, lint-free cloth.
“Waxes have played an integral part of my chalk paint range over the last 25 years and are critical to achieving some of my most distinctive effects. My clear wax is used to add a layer of protection to painted pieces and dark wax is great for adding a little age to a piece, to give an antiqued effect or mimic a patina developed over time,” says Sloan.
The Annie Sloan white wax can also be used directly on unpainted wood with great effect, but to painted pieces it adds the effect of the piece having been gracefully, subtly faded by sunlight. “It is a look that immediately lends itself to traditional Swedish and coastal, but also farmhouse – gentle, lovely. Or, use it to knock back some of the more vibrant colours in the range,” suggests Sloan.
Her black wax, on the other hand, creates pieces that have a roughened look, which works particularly well with the warehouse trend. “I apply paint in all directions when I want a really textured piece – back and forth in smallish strokes, and I use a fair amount of paint on my brush. A couple of layers really helps to build up texture,” advises Sloan.
A local chalk paint range called Tjhoko Paint has also entered the market, with 27 colours, manufactured by Paint Master in Randfontein. Again, this paint needs no priming and can be painted on any surface imaginable; aluminium and metals included. Visit www.tjhokopaint.co.za.
Also for furniture, walls and floors is Fired Earth Chalk Paint, a dense acrylic coating with a matt finish developed for furniture, walls and floors, but can also be used on plaster, fibre cement, stone, brick, concrete, plastics, glass and metal. It comes in 18 shades. Visit http://www.fired-earth.co.za/chalk-paint/