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By Clementene Coates, Jul 5 2015 07:00AM

Most of us at one time or another have owned at least one old piece of furniture that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of our décor at home. Perhaps it has been in the family for several generations and you don’t want to get rid of it. Maybe you bought it on a whim thinking you’d do something with it, but you don’t quite know what. Or, possibly you’re looking for a new project and you’re thinking of buying a piece of furniture to paint, but you need a bit of inspiration first!

I’ve been painting furniture for a number of years and I’ve learnt a lot of tricks along the way. Through this I’ve acquired my own style, but I’m always experimenting and looking for new techniques. This is a photo of me and the bureau I painted above which I named Beau. Whilst this may appear a little adventurous for your first painting project, I hope it shows you what you can achieve.

A lot of people are daunted by the thought of painting furniture. The truth is, you can make it as simple or as complicated a process as you like. However, when you’re just starting out, I always think it best to keep things simple. The last thing you need is to be overwhelmed with too much information about the different processes, but at the same time you want to be sure that your efforts will pay off and you’ll end up with a finished piece of furniture which you can be proud of.

This is a sweet little nest of tables that I restored and painted and named Laurie. This would be a nice starting point...

My simple step-by-step guide will give you the tools you need to get you started painting your own furniture. So, grab your brushes (and the rest of the bits and pieces you’ll need!) and let's get painting…

What you’ll need

- a piece of furniture to paint (obvious, but necessary! I suggest you start small and build up to something bigger)

- a plastic or cloth sheet to protect your floor

- fine sandpaper (220 grade)

- paint brushes

- primer (if required)

- paint or paints

- paint pot to decant paint into

- wax or varnish (if necessary)

- gold leaf and/or a tassel


1. First, lay down a protective sheet to avoid getting dirt or paint on your floor. Then, give your piece of furniture a light sand to create a smooth surface and to get rid of any loose bits of wood, varnish and paint. Sanding also helps to create a ‘key’ which enables the paint to properly adhere to the wood.

2. Next you will need to clean your furniture with soap and water. I use sugar soap which is great for cutting through grease and grime. Rinse off the soap with some clean water and wait for the furniture to dry before painting it. I tend to leave it overnight if possible.

3. If necessary, apply a coat or two of primer. Some paint manufacturers claim that you don’t need to prime. My rule of thumb is to always apply one if you’re using a light coloured paint and the piece you are painting is susceptible to bleed through (for example, antique mahogany furniture).

4. Once you have chosen your paint colour(s), give the paint a good stir to ensure all of its components are thoroughly mixed together. Decant the amount of paint you need into a paint pot so you don’t contaminate the paint in the tin. I use lots of different paints, but I love to use Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint® as it’s specifically designed for furniture and it’s environmentally friendly too. She also offers a gorgeous range of colours to suit every style.

5. Choose a paint brush. It sounds an obvious thing to say, but the type of brush you use makes a big difference to the overall finish. I love to use an oval, pure bristle brush to get into nooks and crannies and to create a textured look with the paint. For a smooth finish I use a flat, synthetic brush, although any good quality brush will do. Also, try thinning the paint out with a little water.

6. Apply your first layer of paint to your piece, making sure you use long even strokes (unless of course you want to create texture with short, more random ones). Avoid paint drips by not overloading your paintbrush with paint.

7. Once the first layer of paint has dried, apply your second coat. If you’re going for a smooth finish, try sanding inbetween coats. For a completely unique touch, why not use two different colour paints – one colour for the exterior of a piece and another for the interior. Or, apply one paint lightly over the top of the other so you can just see the first coat peeking through.

8. When the second coat of paint is dry, distress the piece for a natural, weatherworn look. Aim for the corners and raised areas which is where natural wear would occur. Use a fine grade sandpaper and start by sanding small sections, then build it up until you achieve the look you want. Alternatively, for a more contemporary and clean look, don’t distress at all.

9. If you’re using a water-based paint, seal it with either a water-based varnish or wax. With decorative pieces of furniture (i.e. ones which have a lot of detailed carvings) I tend to use wax as I love the feel and texture of wax on paint. With pieces which are likely to get a lot of use, I will use varnish as it provides a more durable finish. Whichever option you choose, make sure you follow the instructions to a tee.

10. For an extra special touch, why not finish your piece with a little gold leaf applied to decorative carvings, corners etc. You’ll need to read the instructions carefully as you will most likely have to apply this prior to using the wax or varnish. Alternatively, attach a pretty tassel to a handle (or even do both!)

Here are some pictures I took of a gorgeous little piece that I restored and painted a short while ago called Teddie. He's made of oak and is dated around the early 1900s. He was used to store fine cutlery and would have doubled up as a side table.

I used Annie Sloan’s Graphite Chalk Paint® on the exterior and Florence Chalk Paint® on the interior. I applied Annie Sloan’s dark soft wax over the Graphite and her clear soft wax over the Florence. I then covered the whole piece with a further layer of clear wax and then buffed the whole piece to create a subtle sheen. I rubbed a little gold leaf on the detailed trim around the bottom of the box and added a stunning, long gold tassel to the key.

Happy painting!

For more information about me and my business visit my website where I sell a selection of beautiful and unique up-cycled hand painted furniture.

My furniture is for hire and I also accept commissions too.

And make sure you check out my other blog posts by visiting my blog where I regularly post design tips and tricks.

I buy all my Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®, waxes, brushes and other bits and pieces from Dovetails Vintage - do check them out.

By Clementene Coates, Mar 23 2015 01:31AM

Four days of painting now at the Country Living Spring Fair at the BDC in Angel, London. I still haven’t grown tired of it, although my feet might have - just a little!

By the end of Day 4 we’d painted a total of 10 pieces in a range of colours from the Marston & Langinger Country Living palette.

First up was a lovely pair of wooden step stools, both of which belonged to the lovely Catherine Gee (Fairs Consultant at Country Living), who’d brought them in from home to let us demonstrate the versatility of the paints.

As both step stools were off to an already decorated room (one for the kitchen, the other for the bathroom), it was important to select the right colours to complement Catherine’s home. After consulting the colour palette in the brochure we decided to go with ‘Twine’ and ‘Swedish Blue’, The Swedish Blue went on a treat; however, after painting the first coat of Twine we realised this wasn’t quite the right shade of grey. As such, we decided to paint over the Twine with ‘Icicle’ – a very subtle shade of blue which in certain lights looks almost white.

After a couple of additional coats of Icicle the stool looked splendid, as did the one painted in Swedish Blue.

This was a gentle reminder of the importance of using sample pots to make sure you’re happy with the colours you’ve chosen. Regardless of what paint you use on furniture, walls or ceilings the actual colour can vary significantly from the ones you see on paper, so you should always be sure to test it out first.

A new coat of paint doesn’t always have to be for large pieces of furniture; smaller items can be up-cycled too. In order to prove this, the next two pieces I painted, which were also for Catherine, were a pair of small desk organisers.

For the piece with two drawers, I painted this in ‘Inky Blue’. At the last minute I decided to leave the fronts of the drawers unpainted. If I’m totally honest, this was because it was impossible to remove the metal label holders and in the interests of time, (I didn’t have enough of it to get out my detail brushes and get up and in behind the fixings) I had to leave the drawers as they were. Pleasingly, however, it worked a treat and it shows that you don’t have to paint an entire piece to give it a new look.

As for the piece with six little drawers, I used ‘Charcoal’ on the main outer section and on two of the drawers and then I mixed different quantities of ‘Eiderdown’ with the Charcoal to create two other unique shades of grey which I used on the remaining drawers. This shows that you don’t have to restrict yourself to the Country Living palette (as gorgeous as it is!) and you can have fun with these paints by mixing them to create your very own bespoke shades.

When 6 o’clock finally came round I stood back and looked at the lovely portfolio of pieces I’d painted.

The ladies from Marston & Langiner also painted a little stool in ‘Gentle Green’, which looked very pretty indeed and sang of spring.

The last of the fair’s visitors who’d just been sipping tea in Birchall’s Tea Room passed by to say hello, ask some questions, take some sample paint pots and of course enter the competition to win the gorgeous oak washstand painted in ‘Deep Teal’, ‘Teal’ and ‘Polar Blue’. I can’t wait to find out who the lucky winner is (and I’m a little jealous that I’m not taking the piece home myself!).

Over the course of the day, Pete and I finally had the chance to get out and see some of the rest of the fair. It was great to see so many talented people showcasing their talent. It’s inspiring to know that others have also followed their dreams to create something truly original. Once I’m back in Yorkshire I’ll be writing a post showcasing the work of a selection of the exhibitors we met, but in the meantime, I’ve included some of my highlights below.

Jane Means @JaneMeans

Jane has developed a beautiful range of gift wrap and ribbons and even offers courses across the country for those who want to learn the art of perfectly wrapping gifts (Pete has even offered to go on one of these to improve his Christmas present wrapping skills, which, by his own admission, need a bit of work!).

Sophie Allport @SophieAllport

Sophie’s range of homewares featuring her unique animal designs have always been a particular favourite of mine. I can’t help but think, like me, she must have been an avid reader of the Beatrix Potter books as a young girl because, while her work is entirely original, it conjures up memories of Peter Rabbit running through Farmer McGregor’s garden. This particular design (although a Labrador) always makes me think of Oscar snuffling around in the kitchen looking for scraps!

Heck Food @HeckFood

Fellow Yorkshire-folk and unbelievably good sausage-makers - these were some of the best sausages we’ve ever eaten. We saw many of their uniquely branded cool bags in the hands of show visitors as they wandered around the BDC, which is always a good sign!

Fiona Sciolti @ScioltiChocs

Fiona is an artisan chocolatier and a very good one at that. We took my brother John, his wife Jenny and my niece and nephew, Amber and Gideon, along to her stand. Needless to say Amber and Gideon were big fans and Pete made sure he took a bar of her Hazelnut Praline Chocolate home with him (although I doubt it will make it back as far as Yorkshire!).

Uniquely Eclectic @uniquelyeclecti

Anna & Wendy from Uniquely eclectic are such lovely ladies. They sell their carefully curated range of contemporary homewares and accessories onlinet. Anna was kind enough to share some of her own experiences of setting up and growing her business too, which was very kind of her.

Whinberry & Antler @WhinberryAntler

Jacinta is a wonderful artist and produces some of the most beautiful illustrations of British wildlife, which she screen prints on to fabrics to make into lovely cushions, lampshades and tea towels (as well as a range of Tankard mugs as well). She sources her fabrics from Bradford (another shameless Yorkshire plug, I know) and produces it all from a little workshop in her back garden in Shropshire. Jacinta is one of my middle names too!

Giraffe & Hobbit @GiraffeHobbitUK

A great couple who plied Pete with multiple samples of their delicious red wine. If you ever get the chance to meet them, you’ll understand their brand name, which is testament to their good humour and friendly nature. Well worth checking out if, like Pete, you’re partial to a drop of the red (or white) stuff. They do a couple of great Chateau Neuf Du Pape varieties that are far nicer and better value than what you’ll find in the supermarkets.

Tomorrow I will post the highlights from Day 5 before finally getting in the car to drive back to Yorkshire to see Oscar & Aoife again for the first time in over a week. We miss them dearly…

Please read the rest of my Country Living Spring Fair blog series if you haven't yet had the chance.

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Here's the place to find out what Clementene's been up to. She'll post updates on new projects; features she's written for Country Living Magazine UK; design tips and tricks; and 'how to' guides for ways to paint your own furniture. Clementene's blog is regularly updated so make sure you keep coming back. You can follow Clementene on social media too (check out the links above) and don’t forget to post your comments - Clementene would love to hear from you. And, for those wanting the latest news, sign up for Clementene's Newletter...

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