We are living in a time where our economy continually perpetuates a false reality of limitless resources, where endless production of the next ‘must- haves’ and the modern convenience of a ‘throwaway culture’ are normalised.
Time magazine first played with the term in 1955 when publishing an article titled ‘Throwaway Living’. It depicts a young couple fervently throwing numerous single – use [namely plastic] items in the air relishing at the prospect of a new age of convenience that unequivocally changed modern life forever. (i)
Yet what has followed is no cause for celebration. Our insatiable appetite for in – built obsoleteness encouraging consumers to continually buy new has devastating consequences for our environment. Environmental charity WWF found that eight million tonnes of plastic waste pollute our waterways and oceans every year [that’s a truckload a minute!]. Our insurmountable waste problem has an undeniable part to play in the breakdown of our ecosystems and the unprecedented decline of wildlife. (ii)
As a global society, we have a collective responsibility to go against the grain and challenge the unsustainable lifestyle we have become so dependent on. One way we can do this is by preserving and consolidating what we have rather than always surrendering to the marketed myth of buying the ‘next best thing’.
This article is a simple step by step guide on how to upcycle your old or second-hand furniture using chalk paint techniques. Whilst navigating the fast pace of modern life, the idea of undergoing an upcycling project can perhaps seem quite daunting yet it doesn’t have to be! As well as having a strong environmental argument, upcycling can be simple, fun and save you money.
This guide will show you how to upcycle your furniture using 3 easy chalk paint techniques [blending, frottage and gilding] to create a textured, aged look.
For this you will need:
- Chalk paint
I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® in Country Grey, Aubusson Blue and Honfleur but hardware stores do sell other brands. Chalk paint is water based and extremely versatile meaning you can create a myriad of different effects. (iii)
- Chalk paint brushes
Chalk paint brushes have hard bristles which makes it easy to apply chalk paint. Annie Sloan® does supply chalk paint brushes but I purchased my Cottom brushes from Amazon! [Image 1]
- Clear and gilding wax
Reusable spray bottle
- Mild detergent
- Lint-free cloth
Step 1: Prepare your piece
Wipe down your furniture piece with a damp cloth and a mild detergent to remove dirt and dust. Chalk paint doesn’t require any sanding or priming beforehand. If your piece is quite worn, you may want to lightly sand down those areas to create an even surface for painting. [Image 3]
Step 2: Blending chalk paint
Keeping your brush wet, start off at the top of your piece using Country Grey working in vertical brush strokes until you reach the middle of the piece. For this effect, it works best if you use the darkest colour at the bottom. [Image 4]
Wetting a different brush, apply Honfleur to the bottom of the piece working your way down until you reach the mid – point. Using the spray bottle and feathered brush strokes, merge the two colours together until you achieve the desired blended look. Once the paint is almost dry, apply an additional 1 -2 coats or as desired. [Image 5 and 6]
Tip: Remove any handles from your piece so blending is smoother.
Step 3: Frottage technique
Once your coats of blended chalk paint have fully dried, mix chalk paint Aubusson Blue with water [1:1 ratio]. [Image 7]
Scrunch up a few sheets of newspaper then flatten them out ready to use. Focusing on one side at a time, apply the paint solution to your piece. Working quickly, place the newspaper over the paint solution and peel away dabbing any excess paint. [Image]
Wait for the paint to dry and repeat the same process another 1 – 2 times [or to the desired effect]. [Image 9]
Step 4: Waxing
Gilding wax can add vibrancy and accentuate detail. For this project, I used gilding wax to emphasise the draw handles. I first painted the handles in Country Grey and once dry, simply used a small paint brush to apply the gilding wax although fingers can be just as effective!
Once all your paint and gilding wax is dry, apply clear wax to seal and enhance your piece using either a lint – free cloth or clean dry chalk paint brush wiping any excess as you go.
Clear wax usually takes around 24 hours to dry. Although it will take around 30 days for the wax to fully cure, you can start using your upcycled piece after 24 hours with care. [Image 10]
- Cosgrove, B. (2014) ‘Throwaway Living’: When Tossing Out Everything Was all the Rage. Time Magazine. 15 May. Available from https://time.com/3879873/throwaway-living-when-tossing-it-all-was-all-the-rage/
- WWF (2019) No Plastic in Nature: A Practical Guide for Business Engagement. WWF. Available from https://www.worldwildlife.org/publications/no-plastic-in-nature-a-practical-guide-for-business-engagement
- Annie Sloan Interiors LTD. (2020) Annie Sloan: Home of Chalk Paint®. Available from https://www.anniesloan.com/