Upcycling Old Furniture with New Paint

Today’s post is from StyleBlueprint Louisville Editor Heidi Potter:

A bevy of projects here. Image credit: DC Traveler

Some people see endless possibility here. Me? I see nothing.

Maybe I see nothing because I haven’t a clue how to refinish or fix anything. It all looks like a black hole of unfinished projects around my house. Big plans, with no vision nor implementation skills.

What if you could upcycle all of this furniture, giving it new life? To clarify here, upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. (Wikipedia). In the case of furniture, it involves constructing something new based on the original design, or giving it a facelift.

Although it sounds complicated, upcycling doesn’t have to be. You can give an old piece of furniture new life simply with a coat of paint. I first got the idea at Dress & Dwell in New Alban, IN. Owner Amanda Gibson buys old pieces of furniture at estate sales and yard sales and then paints them. Here’s a once-drab table that is enjoying a renaissance with a new coat of grey paint.

Dining table at Dress & Dwell painted grey and white.

Chairs that didn’t match the table, now painted the same color and reupholstered, coordinate perfectly!

Matching chair to dining table at Dress & Dwell, New Albany.

Here’s the catch with painting old furniture, though: you need to use the right kind of paint. Otherwise, you will enter into a whole world of sanding, stripping, or as I refer to it, a world of hurt.

There are two types of paint on the market that allow you to just paint the furniture with no prep or pre-painting drama. These products are called chalk paint and milk paint.

Chalk Paint

The preeminent chalk paint on the market is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

Photo credit: Crisp Interiors Blog

One look at the Annie Sloan website makes it sound easy. Here’s their pitch (and they are from the UK, hence the spelling “colours”):

Chalk Paint™ is a very special paint for very many reasons

1. It’s the BEST paint for painting furniture by a long way
2. No need to prime or prepare
3. Extremely low VOCs so it is good for the environment
4. You can use it on any surface, indoors and out ( the outside of our shop was painted in it- perfect!)
5. You can use the paint by diluting it with water to make a wash to show the wood grain
6. The colours are mixed intelligently and the web site shows how you can adapt your colours for your use
7. It’s a girls’ paint, but boys can use it too.
8. It’s flexible so you can be creative and change your mind
9. It allows your walls to breathe so it is perfect for cottage walls
10. You can use it as an impasto ( thickly) – leave the lid off to thicken
11. We’ve been making it since 1990 so it’s tried and tested

Photo credit: Elizabeth Lane Boutique

Sounds like Painting for Dummies, which is a perfect fit for me. I asked Amanda Gibson for further guidance:

SB: How do you decide what to paint? Or, how can you tell if a piece will look great painted?

Amanda: I try to find pieces that are interesting to start with. Pieces that have ornate details and trim. But simple pieces that need some life can really turn out well, also. It’s amazing how new paint on an old weathered piece of furniture can bring it back to life!

Photo credit: Born Again Home Accents

SB: So when you do paint it, you don’t have to sand or do anything to the furniture in advance, right? Promise?

Amanda: Right! That’s what’s amazing about Annie Sloan Chalk paint. No sanding necessary. Just start painting!

SB: What are your favorite colors to use on furniture? Or, which colors work best?

Amanda: I personally like to use creams and greys a lot. From Annie Sloan, I like French Linen, Country Grey, Coco, and Cream. Duck Egg is amazing for a splash of color!

Distressing. Photo credit: Annie Sloan

SB: Do you get addicted to painting furniture? I think if I started, I would paint the whole house.

Amanda: It does get addicting. I’ve found myself painting till the wee hours of the night on silly things that I probably won’t end up using, but just want to see how it turns out!

Photo credit: Elizabeth Lane Boutique

Milk Paint

There is a second type of paint you can use to paint furniture with no prep beforehand: milk paint. The preeminent milk paint is Miss Mustard Seed.

Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in powder form. Image credit: Attagirlsays.com.

There is a difference between milk paint and chalk paint. Milk paint comes as a powder that you add water to, to prepare the paint. The consistency is runny and in Amanda Gibson’s opinion “a little harder to work with.”

Before and after using milk Paint by Miss Mustard Seed. Photo credit: Red Shed Antiques Blog.

The Miss Mustard Seed website is very inspirational and the proprietor, Marian Parsons, has some great ideas and insights. Here’s what she says about milk paint and people’s fears about it:

I love it, but I can love it realistically. So, when people tell me they are scared to try it, I understand. It comes in powder form, which is different. It has a different texture, which is…well…different. It doesn’t behave the way modern paints do. All of those things can freak people out. BUT, it’s an amazing paint. Everything that makes it different also makes it special.

I think the key to loving Milk Paint is understanding it. I think it might help to show a piece in progress, so when your milk paint starts to look different from the other paints you’re used to, you don’t freak out.

Miss Mustard Seed paint example. Photo credit: Embellish and Restore blog.

Feeling inspired? I am. But more than that, I’m feeling a little more “capable” now than before. Just like all my crafting plans, we’ll see if I can finish this project.


Retailer Contact information:

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is available locally at:

C’est Moi 
7020 Church Street
Brentwood, TN 37027
Phone: 615-457-3579
Hours: Mon – Fri 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Or online at: www.anniesloan.com.

Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint is available locally at:

Vintage Shabby Chicks
Located at: Time and Again Antiques
158 Belle Forest Circle

Nashville, TN 37221
Hours: Mon – Sat 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.


Or online at: http://missmustardseed.com.