“You’re not actually going to paint that?”
“That’s exactly what I am going to do.”
“It’s sacrilegious. It’s covering up beautiful timber.”
There was nothing beautiful about this piece. The coffee table just sat there – worn, weather beaten from being outside for too long – as we discussed its merits. It was a dirty brown. Not even a nice brown.
“But it’s solid timber. Why not sand the whole thing down and simply varnish it?”
I eyed its beautifully turned legs and shuddered. Sanding that would take forever. Patience is not my friend. One of the things that attracted me to chalk painting was it’s lack of requirement for too much prep. A good clean and you are good to go.
“I am sanding the top, white washing it and putting a top coat on. You will be able to see the grain.”
“But the rest of it will be white.”
He sighed and walked away. Exasperated. He knew that there was no point in trying to convince me otherwise. Once my mind is made up, there is no stopping me. Even I am powerless to stop it. My mom used to call it my impulsivity and it used to drive her crazy. Now I just call it my drive and I am grateful for it every day. I now get things done.
I eyed the little piece in front of me. I softly stroked my hands across its top. It had been neglected, but was in good fettle. A bit of love is all that it needed. Isn’t that the truth for all of us?
I plugged in my sander. I knew that I was serious about furniture painting when I walked into Bunnings and bought this sander. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing but I knew I needed an orbital sander. I bought a really inexpensive one figuring if furniture painting and I didn’t become firm friends, the investment wouldn’t have broken the bank. Turns out this cheap little thing is a beast!
“Right little table, let’s take off this tat shall we.”
Thankfully, the weather had done a lot of the work for me. Immediately the sander hit the table, the blonde pine began to show through. There is something wonderful about this stage of the process. Removing the gunk to reveal the wood. As much as I like painting furniture, I don’t like to cover all the wood. I will only do that if there is no alternative. But for the most part, I like to leave some part of the piece exposed, to let the piece beam in the glory of who it is.
That’s right, I personify my pieces. I kind of love them.
As I guided the sander up and down the top, more of its grain was revealed to me. It is going to be beautiful.
Sanding outside is best I feel. The dust is prolific and despite wearing a mask, I do worry about dust in lungs. It’s a family thing. Lungs are a weakness. But once the sanding is done, I take it inside. I prop it on a couple of blocks and some painting pyramids and begin.
First of all, I white wash the top. This was initially a difficult process for me. Life experience had taught me to be quite careful in how I approach things. Failure in any degree led to abuse, so fear became my friend. White washing cannot be controlled. No two projects will ever be the same. There is a large degree of committing and letting go. Trusting that no matter what happens, it will be okay. Oh, the liberation in that letting go, and the ability to be able to trust! Even if it is just a chunk of wood that cannot really hurt me. Now, I am excited to see how the white wash will go and what will be revealed.
My solution is very diluted, so it takes three coats. Slosh on, spread a little bit, wipe off. Slosh on, spread a little bit, wipe off. The grain is looking lovely and the yellow tones are being toned down a bit. “You’re a beautiful old girl, aren’t you.”
I now turn to the legs. The piece is solid and the weather hasn’t been as harsh to the legs. I’m grateful I don’t have to sand them. There are many curves, nooks and crannies. No patience for that.
I take the primer and begin to do my work. The reddy-brown varnish risks bleeding through and this will prevent that. It is white. Already I can see that it is going to look amazing. I love watching the paint glide onto the wood. Back, forward, feather into a corner for full coverage. I like to hold my brush right at the bottom of the handle, right on the ferrule. I have more control that way. I tease the paint to where I need it to go.
Less is more. It took me a while to learn this. Get it done and get it done quick was my default setting. Always on the go, never stopping. Running away from myself if I am honest. With furniture painting, for best results, less really is more. By slapping on the paint haphazardly more work is needed at the end – sanding out bumps, drips, brush strokes. By taking some time at the beginning and loading up your brush less, you can cajole the paint with more precision, but also run less risk of creating work for yourself later. It’s an exercise in learning to slow things down. It’s a good lesson.
The brown tones peak through the white primer. Two coats of chalk paint make short work of that. Chalk paint is a medium I adore. It is transformative, and self levelling. I love that a smooth result is created, but not so smooth it looks machine done. It was a human labour of love after all and surely that should be reflected in the piece itself?
I stand back to admire her. She is small, but perfectly formed. She has been revived. She stands proud, staring back at me. Once destined to the tip, she will now provide many more years of comfort, holding cups of coffee, books, remotes, and even the odd pair feet or two when no one is looking. She will stand strong for the family that needs her.
I always love it when a piece is finished. Completion of a project was something that never really came easy to me. Perhaps it was fear of failure, or just plain laziness, I don’t know. But furniture painting enables me to finish.
I love the coming together of it all, the meditativeness of it, the losing myself in it. It helps me to heal, in a way. As much as I bring that piece to life, so she too brings me to life. It’s a kind of contract really. A mutual understanding. And it’s a beautiful thing.