How to make a beautiful antique paint finish

June 07, 2013

Everyone loves a good antique paint finish.  And it's so easy to do yourself.  Use it to breathe new life into an old piece of furniture, or as a way of giving character to something boring.  At Seven Boot Lane we're collecting / making bits of furniture to fit out our new store which opens in August.  We want them to look honest and individual, so they feel they have been used and loved for years.

So here's the Seven Boot Lane step-by-step guide to antique paint finishing.  Let's start with the ingredients:

Paint - we used Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint - beautiful stuff, basically liquid chalk, amazing for furniture or floors

Sanding blocks - medium grade, we found the slightly spongy black variety to be easiest to use

Dust masks - very important, and don't get the really cheap ones

Wax - we used Annie Sloan's Soft Wax

Brushes and soft cloths

Assorted metal items to bash up your furniture (if you're after the distressed look)


 We finished two things - an old wooden double sided ladder, which we want to put shelves on to use as a display, and some brand new trestles (£25 from Ikea - good value, nice quality, low on personality).  We're going to put an old zinc table top on these.

 If you need to, take off any existing paint you don't want to show on your piece, as we did with the ladder.  You can go heavy-handed with the sandpaper (or power sander).   If you don't mind some of the existing layers showing through at the end, just sand it enough for the paint to have something to grip onto.

OK, time to start painting.  We used a single layer of charcoal, which we then sanded off quite lightly.  After this you need to wipe over gently with a dampened cloth, just enough to remove loose dust.  If you want to rough up your furniture a bit (we did with the trestles) then this is the time: I found a hammer, a kitchen knife and a screwdriver to be highly effective and therapeutic.  Then apply your top colour coat - we used 'Country Grey'.  You can use as many layers of colour as you want - highlights of red and blue can be really effective and you can just paint these highlights around the edges where you will be sanding, to save time and paint.  You must leave 24 hours between coats.  Be patient, it's worth the wait.
Now it gets exciting: don your mask, and start sanding.  Think carefully about where you apply more pressure - things wear around the edges, and rarely in the areas which have less contact.  I think the best finish comes when you can see a bit of the bare wood and then the separate colours blending out.  It's very satisfying to watch the new personality of your piece slowly coming through as you sand.
Last step.  A coat of wax will seal in all your hard work and give your furniture a beautifully aged look.  You can use darker coloured waxes here as well if you want to go for a more vintage look.  Apply the wax with a brush or soft cloth - I found a cloth to be most effective and it gives a more consistent finish.  Once it's dry, give a little buff with a clean cloth.  Then stand back to admire your work!

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