Aqua-White Side Table

Aqua Side Table Before Photo    aqua-white side table

I found this little side table through  It started out with a shabby chic look but I wanted to convert it with a splash of colour!

So the first thing to do was remove the old paint. It looked like a single layer only, without primer beneath, which can often be a stripping problem when paint seeps into wood. However, because the side wood and top veneer was hardwood, it slid off fairly easily. I wonder if chalk paint had been used because I’ve found that when I strip this type of paint, it bubbles quickly and peels off with a soft rubbery feel to it.  Plus, dare I say, whenever I come across furniture done in the shabby chic way, it’s highly likely it’s been done with chalk paint. Continue reading “Aqua-White Side Table”


Splashy Fabric-Backed Shelves

coral fabric shelves as initially black only

coral-fabric shelves

These laminate side shelves were in pretty good shape but certainly in need of a splash of colour! Besides being basic black and therefore not destined for my finished inventory(!), they were identical – that is, the doors opened in the same direction, which had to be a pain for whoever was on the side with the “away” handle!  I could not reverse the door without creating more damage than seemed necessary, so they sat in my workshop for several weeks while I contemplated them.  Then one day I opted for something a bit radical! Continue reading “Splashy Fabric-Backed Shelves”

Comparing Chalk Paint and Milk Paint


Chalk paint is latex paint with calcium carbonate added in the form of baking soda, grout, or plaster of Paris to act as a porous bonding agent. When it dries it resembles a chalkboard that can be written on with chalk but this only works when there is no additional finish on the surface.

The biggest attraction is that it doesn’t need primer, and will often require fewer coats to cover. It will adhere better to non-porous surfaces than milk paint does.

The biggest downside is that it requires waxing to protect the finish, and waxing can be a very time consuming task that takes practice to achieve good results. In addition, regular maintenance waxing may be required.


Milk paint is a water-based mix of milk, lime and colour pigments used primarily to give an antique look to furniture. With milk as the main ingredient, it must be used within a few days, even if refrigerated.

The milk binds the colour pigments in the same way that polymers do in latex paints and oils do in oil-based ones. It doesn’t give off noxious vapors (often called VOCs – volatile organic compounds) so is appealing to today’s green community.

Milk paint is designed to seep into porous materials so that it won’t chip or peel.  If it is to be painted on non-porous materials, it will need bonding additives to adhere.

There is a lot of information in this fascinating page called A Brief History of Milk Paint which reviews its beginnings thousands of years ago through its transitions to the recipes used today.

Water is added to milk paint to achieve the desired consistency: less creates a translucent colour like stains while more produces a thicker layer. Any mixture will likely need regular stirring to prevent settling during use.

Most milk paint comes in a powder form that must be mixed in a blender along with bonding agents if required.

If you are interested in trying it, this link has a recipe Milk Paint Recipe.

The “Shabby Chic” Look

I’ve been reading about “Shabby Chic” furniture because I see so many second-items labelled this way.

Wikipedia describes it like this…

“Furniture and furnishings are either chosen for their appearance of age and signs of wear and tear or where new items are distressed to achieve the appearance of an antique. At the same time, a soft, opulent, yet cottage-style decor, often with an affected feel is emphasised to differentiate it from genuine period decor.”

“Shabby chic items are often heavily painted through the years, with many layers showing through obviously time-worn areas. The style is imitated in faux painting using glaze or by painting then rubbing and sanding away the top coat to show the wood or base coats, known as “distressing” the finish of the furniture. Furniture pieces that are not genuine antiques are usually selected for their resemblance to older furniture styles, and may be reproduction furniture with a distressed finish.”

“Besides white, the Shabby Chic style also includes soft neutral colors such as sky blue, rose pink and beige tones.”

The big name in Shabby Chic on this continent is Rachel Ashwell, who opened stores in the United States in the 1980s full of vintage, worn, pastel furniture and their associated wares, maintaining the traditional style of the name and a very distinctive look. Her Couture web site has some remarkably expensive items – thousands of dollars for small bureaus, etc.

I envision furniture that’s white or cream or pastel in colour and accessorized with lots of embellishments and soft fabrics in the same tones.

However, when I look locally at items declared to be “shabby chic”, they are mostly painted in pretty colours, neutral or bold, and then distressed, though often not particularly well. My impression is that the term represents a catch-all phrase for looking worn but cutesy. It’s not my style and certainly not what I’ll be producing, though I might give it a whirl now and then.

Thoughts on Primers


Alkyd paints and primers are virtually off the market now. When I first started painting, I was told that oil was superior because of the wear and tear it withstood. However today’s latex bases are so good that there is little difference, and safety factors and ease of cleaning make the decision simple for most.

zinsser bin primerI’ve been really, really impressed with the shellac-based Zinsser BIN Primer when there are knots or stains (food, oil, etc.). I’ve had success with one coat only, though often add a second spot layer over stains or knots. I also use this when covering plastic or metal or laminate. It apparently sticks to any surface without sanding although I sand EVERYTHING. It also dries quickly, usually within 30 minutes.

Mild disadvantages of a shellac-based primer, which may actually turn some painters away, include:

  • You must stir and stir and stir and STIR to get the contents mixed thoroughly, and then use it immediately.
  • It is fairly strong smelling.
  • The brushes do not clean up with water.  Soap and ammonia are needed – see more about my technique under “Paintbrushes and How I Clean Them”.
  • It is runnier than most so care must be taken to avoid drips. Coverage is always semi-transparent and seems thin.
  • It is wise to use it up within 6 months. The cans don’t show an expiry date but after 6 months most shellac mixes lose their potency.

I have used a variety of latex primers when the wood is knot-free, stain-free, and odour-free. I purchase top quality brands because one can lasts long enough to make the higher price of no concern… and coverage is better.  Latex primers are almost odour-free and tools wash easily with water.


Use white primer under whites or pale colours like creams, soft yellows and pastels.

Light grey primer is perfect for bolder yellows, oranges and reds, plus greens, blues, and purples. These colours layer nicely over it with the paint colour popping right from the first coat.  Perhaps it’s because the grey beneath is simply gentler on the eye. Grey primers do NOT work well with pastels – more coats are required, and at first the grey gives a dusky cast.

Colour-tinted primers work well under their respective colours, but remember they’re never as bold.  For instance, a “red-tinted” primer will startle you when it turns out bubblegum pink! They’re really useful for walls, but in my case, when the same primer is used for many small items, the unusual tint is of little value since I may not use the same colour for some time. I’m then left with a weird primer that I try to get rid of under a completely different paint.  It seals as perfectly as ever, but any scratch or dent on the finished product reveals the oddly coloured primer beneath. This leaves no room for error in detailed areas such as corners or carvings.

A final note: Despite what anyone may say or whatever brand of paint is used, I repeatedly discover that satisfactory paint colour coverage requires at least two coats.



C is for Calcium

L is for Lime

R is for Rust

The purpose of CLR is to dissolve calcium and lime deposits and to lessen rust stains, without a lot of rubbing or scraping. However some reviews do mention that a little “elbow grease” may still be required.  Also don’t be too quick – let it sit for a few minutes to work.

Its main ingredients include:

Water – keeps the solution from being too toxic.

Citric acid – softens the water and makes it smell better.

Gluconic acid  – dissolves mineral deposits.

Lactic acid – keeps the mixture from evaporating too quickly.

Glycolic acid – helps penetrate the surfaces to lift and remove deep stains.

Sulfamic acid – cleans metal and removes rust.

For more information, I found this to be a very useful page.

Added surfactants (“surface active agents”) make it easier for the liquid to spread out so that the chemicals can work. For a simple explanation of this, check here (I always want to know more about all this stuff, and sometimes find myself getting sidetracked, then sidetracked some more!).

CLR is supposed to work in all of these areas, although I certainly have not tried them all:

  • Tubs
  • Toilet bowls
  • Sinks
  • Glass
  • Chrome
  • Fiberglass
  • Stainless steel
  • Coffee makers
  • Humidifiers
  • Dishwashers
  • Washing machines
  • Shower heads

I must say that it was quickly effective at dissolving all the mineral deposits inside plant pots!