Coming from a background of antiques-lovers/collectors and refinishers, the concept of painting wood has been a bit hard to swallow. But I do love the fad (ME? Loving a fad while it’s actually IN FASHION ? IMPOSSIBLE!) of shabby chic, or French Country/Provincial styling. This style includes crackled painted furniture, and a LOT of white and sepia’d tones, so as our dining room was out of necessity becoming our big bedroom (due to Mom having all the upstairs rooms as her suite) I decided it should be made a historical replica of French country life, in order to lighten it. The story and how-to’s are told in the photos’ and text that follows them, below. I LOVE this room (and its amazing view).
When we purchased the farm in March, the dining room (just off the kitchen, of which you have already seen its before and afters, done in an aged blue pioneer/checked theme with red and yellow accents and pine furniture) was a baby blue, with three different types of wood-stain, which I can’t stand. Absolutely hate it when wood colours are mixed up in the same room! So, as above, and disregarding the previous owners’ furniture, the floor was/is a light hardwood, the bay window and built in cupboard were that cheesy orange-stained wood from the 1970s and the moldings and other two windows were stained dark brown. The entire room was a baby blue with a beige ceiling, and it was tinted with dirty hand prints and cigarette-smoke smudges. So – a big overhaul was needed!
The bedroom furniture (bed and dresser) are both antique REPLICAS, and I’ve lived with them dark for about 10 years, so I felt a change was in order! It was time to make them both match my shabby chic vision for this new French Farmhouse theme, also being made popular by HGTV’s Fixer-Upper designer Joanna Gaines. Click on each photo to see it larger:
To begin the transformation, I decided to only ‘crackle’ (looks like chippy paint, very popular in today’s beloved ‘shabby chic’ style) the four-posters of the bed and the built-in cupboard. Crackling looks best when there’s a light colour over a dark colour, so I painted these parts a dark royal blue – could just as easily have been black, as I knew the accents in the room would be black. However, it must be a latex paint for crackle to work, and the only black I had was an oil-based. From experience, I knew that wouldn’t work! I lightly hand and electrically sanded the varnish off these pieces. I knew I didn’t want to do the headboard proper OR the replica ‘spool’ footboard, as a) the intricacies of the sanding and painting would be enormous and b) I’d probably want to go back to a ‘real’ wood look in another decade or so! Once the blue paint was dried, I added a thick coat of the ‘crackle’ (I used store-bought this time, but there are recipes online to make your own – just didn’t want to risk it not working for such a big and important project!) The thicker and more runnier the crackle is, the better I’ve found, on past projects, it will turn out! So I let it run and only let it dry about 20 min. (although the can usually advises it dry completely, I’ve often had it not work as well. So I just wait until it’s ‘sticky’ dry.)
I was very proud indeed, after I’d painted it with just one coat of white chalk paint (latex, but with the chalky look of the early pioneers’ paint) of the effect of the distressed crackling and ‘chippy’ old paint look! I then applied two decorative decals to the cupboard and painted black the 1970s hardware and put it back on the drawers/doors. If one wished, one could varnish/shellac over this to protect from dirty fingerprints, etc., but knowing I’ll likely change this again in a decade, I didn’t want to make my job more difficult, and shellac certainly isn’t ECO-FRIENDLY, and I also hate the glossy shine of even a flat matte varnish. Crackled effect doesn’t NEED a ‘finish’ on it because it isn’t ACTUALLY chippy, though it looks that way. So for me, for many reasons – NO to the varnish. The whole point of using chalk paint is to make it look old…
Now, for the ceiling and walls. The ceiling was a nightmare – two coats of rolling white (latex, but NOT chalk) paint over it and it still wasn’t totally covering the old beige, but I had to let it go… too much pain in the old joints and too much left to do… I wanted the ‘fad’ (still can’t believe it!) colour that is seen with a lot of shabby chic/vintage ‘brightening’ techniques – a sort of frosted peppermint. I had as close to it as possible mixed at the hardware store (little Mom and Pop store- I don’t buy ANYTHING at big box/corporate stores, and neither should any of us – they’ve put enough families out of business, not to mention entire historic downtown streets!). But when I tested it, it wasn’t QUITE right, so I added some more green I had on hand. Then I experimented with dragging it, combing it and strie-ing it – all old techniques for texture on the walls, before the days of wall-paper. I still didn’t like the look, so I decided to fall back on one of my old favourites: Rag-rolling. However, I didn’t have many rags, and I DID have a plethora of clear plastic (yuck!) garbage bags from our move. So, as many of them had holes in them and couldn’t be re-used for garbage/recycling, and as I NEVER just use something ONCE, for a one-time purpose, I decided to “plastic bag roll” my bedroom walls, and LOVED THE EFFECT. The old colour, the light blue, was just ‘off’ the frosted mint enough to give texture without being too obvious. In fact, I also liked it coming through so much I decided to go one step further and make it look like REALLY old wall-paper all ’round. So I masked a line every few feet (wide, then narrower, then wide again) so that when I rolled on the first coat of frosted mint it wouldn’t cover those lines and the baby blue would show afterwards. If you’re doing any paint effect, you can’t roll on an enormous amount, because you want the paint wettish when you do your effect (ie: sponging, strie, rolling, etc.) So about a 6 ft. radius patch at a time was all I did. Then I’d take the plastic bag, STICK it on the wet-but-drying paint, leave it about 30 seconds, scrumple it around with my hands, and then peel it off. Lovely! After I’d done the entire room and pulled off the masking tape I was happy with the effect, but felt it was still not looking like old wallpaper enough. So I researched, and found that stencilling (not like we all did in the 1980s, with horizontal borders, but rather vertically) was quite common in Colonial times. So I made from a piece of packaging that something came in from a store (again, REUSE, RECYCLE!) my own primitive willow tree stencil (the willow means longevity and ‘home’). I then had to decide on a subtle, historically accurate colour that would be contrasting to the colour of the wall, but also be subtle and not stick out like a you-know-what. ALSO, I don’t run into town (40 min. away) for just any old thing. Once a week is the standard ‘rule’. So it had to come from some paints I already had on hand. I had some yellows left over from accenting the kitchen here and there, and I mixed this with some of the original frosty peppermint and came up with a mustard gold. Photos of the whole wall process incl. making the stencils are here, just click on each photo to see it larger!
And the finished result of the texture and wall-paper effect:
The walls are obviously much lighter than they appear in the photos, I’ve darkened them a bit to show the contrast showing through with the rag-rolling.
This whole process, just the ceiling and walls took 3 and a half days with little or no rest during the day. By now I was exhausted, so decided to work on something for the bedroom, but which I could SIT DOWN and do. I took one of the original 1880s doors form the upstairs (Mom’s now kitchen, where she didn’t WANT a door) and stripped it down and left it plain on one side, so it matches from the kitchen OR our room, or painted white on the other, so it looks good when shut (and because I simply didn’t have the energy to strip off 3 layers of very old shiny shellac and stain). Between sanding, stripping, scraping and then painting, I couldn’t really SIT too much, but at least I did it outside on the porch and thus got the advantage of fresh air and the lovely views.
I wanted a dressing table to sit at and look at the views, and wanted the little white wicker chest I’ve had since I was about 3 years old to be my seat. I put castors on it, and gave it a lick more white chalk paint to brighten it up, then used one of the old wrought iron legs from an old sewing table that’s been in my mother’s house since the 1970s and a huge slab of an old outdoor step that I white-washed then distressed as the top. I also re-did a few old picture frames I knew I wanted to hang in our room, and finally got to work on the last two projects: 1) sewing burlap/hemp fabrics for the head and footboard (I had to reshape the furniture by adding stuffing/quilt batting and old blankets first, then sewing on to the bed right in place, then finally stencilling with letters) and 2) re-doing the replicated antique bureau/dresser I’d tried to yard sale off in Ontario and couldn’t. And now I’m so glad I didn’t! Love how it looks with a chalk-painted, black-accented, sanded-edged distressed and stripped top surface! Here it is, before (to the far left in first photo), and after/now!:
And finally, after more than two weeks of work, 8-10 hours a day (remember, I had to do two coats on all the mouldings and windows as well!) Here are the photos of this lovely, light, breezy, ‘room with a view’. The fabrics (hemp, linen and cotton) are entirely all natural, and the two lace curtains are also from my mother’s living room – like the sewing machine table end- circa 1975! So everything is either natural, or recycled or both. Historically accurate AND eco-friendly as much as possible. Love it! And when Richard finally got here, so did he!
Click on each of the following ‘vignette’ photos of the room to enlarge and to read the corresponding caption.