Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Iris Abbey’s All-Star Posts

Happy New Year!

Looking at the activities we’ve undertaken this year and the projects we’ve completed — well, it just takes my breath away. We continue to learn about estate sales and thrift stores, cleaning, appraising, painting, stenciing, gilding and becoming vendors at  Avonlea Antique Mall.  I am so grateful for the encouragement you’ve provided along the way.

I started my blog posts in November 2013 but summer ushered in a gap because of family medical crises. So, I’ve decided to share Iris Abbey’s 10 All Star Posts, the most popular ones, since I began my blog. Just click the title to go to any post.

1. How to Preserve Boxwood, Parts 1 and 2

My finished product looked a bit wilder than the carefully manicured store-bought kind, but I like it here with my dad’s photo and my handblown glass ball from our trip to Venice.

Staged Boxwood 1

2. French Empire Commode

We transformed this Baker Beauty by hand painting her with Annie Sloan’s Paris Grey and Graphite on the exterior and stenciling a gold medallion in each drawer.

French commode original stateFrench commode

3. Aunt Marie’s 1953 Lane Cedar Chest

I was thrilled to honor my Aunt Marie’s memory by updating her cedar chest with chalk paint and a Royal Design stencil.

Lane chest without contact paper


4. Serpentine Chest

This 1940s Serpentine Chest, formerly a banged up mahogany piece from someone’s storage unit, is gorgeous. David devoted months on this because it was his first piece that we intended to sell. Of course, this was a pre-retirement project and it needed a lot of work. I painted the exterior Annie Sloan Paris Grey with Old White trim, and the interior doors Louis Blue with surprise stencils inside.


Serpentine Chest 2

5. Victorian Chairs

We stumbled upon 2 Victorian chairs at an estate sale and promptly grabbed them. They’re in above-average shape for their age — they were originally built in the 1860s. Our cat, Boston, seems satisfied, and I still intend to paint that functioning Grandmother Clock in the background.

Victorian Renaissance Revival Chair 3

6. Verdigris Cherubs

My first attempt at creating the illusion of verdigris with the cherubs David bought for $5 (total) at an estate sale: I used a combination of Annie Sloan’s Louis Blue, Antibes Green, and Old White. David made sure they sat on the table for Christmas dinner.

Metal Cherubs

My Grandmother and Grandfather in their 1913 wedding portrait. Painted cherub candles sit on Grandma's tray, along with some of her jewelry. She was a dressmaker, and the ribbon belonged to her. The teddy bear is made from a suit belonging to their deceased son, Joe.
My Grandmother and Grandfather in their 1913 wedding portrait. Painted cherub candles sit on Grandma’s tray, along with some of her jewelry. She was a dressmaker, and the ribbon belonged to her. The teddy bear is made from a suit belonging to their deceased son, Joe.

 7. DIY Holiday Decorations

In November I went a little craft crazy and whipped up a variety of items that. I now love Paper Cone Wreaths.

DIY Paper Cone Wreath and Autumn Banner


DIY Christmas Decoration Candleholder

8. Old Ochre Pet Bed

We made 2 pet beds and both made this list. We removed the doors off one and I painted it with Annie Sloan Old Ochre. David upholstered the interior and laid down faux tacks. Then, as the pièce de résistance, I stenciled a gold peacock in the center and feather tips at each corner.

Pet Bed 1.1

Pet Bed 1.9

9. A Chance to Paint Fabric and Cane

I found this chair at an estate sale after David went off on his own. I sat down to wait and ahhhhh! Quite comfortable, especially with a lumbar pillow. How could I walk away? It gave me practice painting fabric and cane. I used Annie Sloan’s Arles on the cushions and a combo of Versailles and Olive on the wood so it matched our living room rug. Did I mention? We have 4 cats. Boston and Pepper appear here.

Accent Chair with Boston and Pepper

Accent Chair with Boston

10. Emperor’s Silk Pet Bed

This second pet bed sold in a flash. We kept the doors on and painted it Annie Sloan’s Emperor’s Silk after running into trouble with Old White and the dark wood. David and I struggled with the interior fabric after the flannel proved particularly floppy to work  with. He took care of the faux tacking and our son, Michael, shined up the hardware, while Starbuck struck a pose.

Red Pet Bed Unpainted

Luxurious Red Pet Bed SOLDWe hope you enjoyed this year’s journey. We certainly did. Thanks again to all who visit. An even bigger thank-you bouquet goes to those of you who leave comments. We love comments. So many lovely people welcomed us in this, our first, year. We look forward to the 2015 and wish you a heartfelt, joyous New Year.

Ann Marie and David

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Boho Chic or Nursery Lullaby?

David lucked into a project for us at the thrift store. Initially disappointed by the lackluster selection, he headed to the exit, empty handed. There he stumbled upon the thrift store truck returning from a pick-up. Holding the door for them, he noticed a solid looking dresser among the items the men were carrying in. After a quick exam, David bought it on the spot.

She was sturdier — and dirtier — then we thought. We scrubbed her down until she was spotless and sweet smelling. It was no picnic. I’m telling you, I think somebody had eaten lunch in one of the drawers.

David did some repairs but I forgot to take any pictures in her unpainted state. Oops. I can describe her, though: heavy, well-built and plain.

We hatched a plan to dress her up. I sketched out some ideas and this is the winner:

Nursery Dresser Sketch

Stripes along the two upper shelves, with the remaining shelves a solid color. You can read about my stripe-painting technique here.

I experimented combining ASCP Arles with different amounts of Old White but decided to stay with uncut Arles. By itself, Arles is a rich, yellow ochre with hints of orange. I toned down the vibrancy of Antibes Green with Old White and covered the body of the dresser with it.

Nursery Dresser Detail 1

We painted the inside drawers to match the light green outside.

Nursery Dresser Drawer Inside

I had a goal: I wanted this dresser to appeal to a diverse audience. On the one hand, she is perfect for the nursery, as an all-in-one changing table and diaper storage unit. As the infant grows, the changing table transitions into a child’s dresser.

Nursery Dresser with Gown

On the other hand, I wanted her to have a boho chic vibe to appeal to artsy, adventurous adults interested in unconventional furniture. You’ll have to tell me if I’ve achieved my goal.

Nursery Dresser 3

We don’t have room at Avonlea Antique Mall right now to show her off — the holidays are underway. We may try to post her on Craigslist, which I’ve never done.

Nursery Dresser 2She’s a charmer and I so hope she finds a great home.

Thanks for stopping by,

Ann Marie and David

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Vintage End Table Converted to Luxurious Pet Bed

My son and I rescued another end table from an estate sale. Solid wood and weighing around a hernia, we found ourselves drawn to its intriguing carvings. Red Pet Bed Unpainted Unlike our earlier pet bed converted from an end table, we decided to leave the doors on because of the eternal pet debate: when company visits, should you close up your pet’s sleep space if you are able? Or should you leave it out because your pet is part of the family? I see it as a personal preference. This should have been a quick job but we ran into obstacles at every turn. It was very dirty. Every job begins with a thorough scrubbing using Simple Green cleaning solution. Inside and out, with sponge and a clear water rinse. A pet’s home should be pristine. Zinsser Shellac came next, exterior and interior, followed by a couple of coats of Annie Sloan’s Old White. We planned to have a white pet bed, but the dark wood and oils kept bleeding through.

Old White
Old White

We shellacked again over the Old White and opted for a stronger color: Emperor’s Silk, a  striking red.

Emperor's Silk
Emperor’s Silk

Once painted, David waxed the top. Big Red Flag: he forgot to put down the Clear Wax first; he just spread Dark Wax directly on the paint which darkened the piece far too much. Frustrated, he brought it to me and asked what was wrong. Luckily, I knew a simple solution to this problem. I simply erased the Dark Wax using Clear Wax. The technique is to dip a cloth into some Clear Wax that you’ve put on a palette and go to town. Over and over again until your cloth is brown with Dark Wax. I love Emperor’s Silk and it looks terrifically opulent with Dark Wax, but I always start with Clear Wax. Red Pet Bed 2 Next, I chose the wrong fabric for the upholstery. The red and white flannel matched the Emperor’s Silk but lacked the stiffness to make the fabric manageable. It took lots of time and patience to get the seams right and everything glued into place. But it looked like snug little home once I finished. Kind of like a logger’s warm flannel shirt. Red Pet Bed 1 Let’s just skip to the end. David nailed in the faux tacks to glitz it up and we added a new, cushy pet bed. Unfortunately we forgot to take an updated photo of the tacks outlining the flannel on the doors. The Dark Wax really emphasized the exterior carvings, and we used Rub N’ Buff on the hardware. Luxurious Red Pet Bed SOLD We carted the Luxurious Pet Bed to our shop at Avonlea Antique Mall and, within 48 hours, it went home to a lucky kitty or pup — just not this curious kitty. Her name is Starbuck and unlike this table she will be staying with us.

Ann Marie and David

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Glamorous Swans

Brass SwansThe large brass swans on the hearth called to me. Up to that point we had only acquired unique and unusual furniture to paint. But these tall swans looked amazing. I’ve seen them labeled Mid-Century Modern or Hollywood Regency style. They exuded glamour and personality despite a few dings. I couldn’t believe our luck and snatched them up. Unfortunately they were brass, extremely popular several decades ago, but not so in vogue these days. Real swans have an average lifespan of about 15 years, but these lovelies easily surpassed that and are still going strong. One thing was clear: time for a makeover. The day arrived when we settled the female, called a pen, into our car’s back seat, seat-belted her in, and headed for the beach. Lugging her into Mid-Life Crisis by the Beach — they are surprisingly heavy — I showed her to Pat. Mid-Life Crisis by the Beach If I haven’t described Pat before, she embodies enthusiasm, creativity and encouragement. A visit to her shop inevitably refreshes my spirit. We talked about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint colors and some new products from Artisan Enhancements. The eyes would be the key to this project, Pat advised. Make them regally Egyptian. In her enthusiasm, Pat picked up a brush and began painting an eye violet, then blue, soon adding eye shadow and black mascara. Just practicing.


Armed with inspiration, we headed home. Zinsser Shellac went on first because it just makes life easier. I started with the male swan, or cob, and mixed Artisan Enhancements’ Pearl Plaster with ASCP Pure White. I simulated feathers with long brush strokes. This was a strikingly different look from my previous time using Pearl Plaster when I gave a pair of elephants rough skin with Fine Stone and finished them up with a pearly shimmer. Studying the finished product, I decided the cob wasn’t pearly enough. I covered him with a thin coat of Pearl Plaster. It provided a lovely iridescent sheen. Painted Swan I applied a mixture of Old White and Arles to highlight their beaks. But the eyes. Ah, the eyes challenged me. When I know I must draw a straight line, my hand plays tricks. After failing to achieve the look I wanted, I turned to index cards and practiced with multiple brushes to get it right. Statistically, one has to achieve success eventually but it took me a while. The day finally came when I decided I was, in fact, satisfied with their eyes. I lightly brushed Pearl Plaster over them, using a cloth to wipe away any thickness. Painted Swans 1 The final step: finding a way to accentuate those long necks. Amanda, the floral designer at Michael’s was delightful. She found ribbon that matched the eyes, eye shadow, and snowy feathers, and created the beautiful bows. She suggested a nautical theme with a rope and strands of shells but I didn’t want to go in that direction. We agreed on the ivy, which she carefully arranged, and topped off with delicate white butterflies. And here they are. They’ve shed their outdated brassy coats and donned softer, fluffy feathers. Their eyes are so expressive and Amanda’s ivy and ribbons complete their  ensemble. They could hold their own at any red carpet event. Painted Swans 5 Painted Swans 3     Let us know what you think about the swans. If you’d like to receive our posts, just sign up below.

Ann Marie and David

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Sophisticated Whimsey

This mahogany Serpentine from the 1940s tested us. We knew it needed work when we bought it, but we had no idea how much.


David has written about his woodworking efforts on this piece here and here. Remember her Before photo? Sturdy, but unassuming.


Four of the handles didn’t match the original brass hardware. I pored over vintage hardware websites and finally found a good match in Canada, our friendly, frozen neighbor. FYI, I found a disconnect between web listings and the in-stock product. More than once I heard, “Oh, that set has been sold. We need to update our webpage.”

This sophisticated beauty is now ready. Her drawers glide so smoothly thanks to David beeswaxing all the runners.

She looks elegant. Here she is in a different vignette, and yes — azaleas are blooming in northern Florida. If you were here, I’d give you a bouquet of azaleas!


We handpainted her with Annie Sloan Paris Grey. I outlined the upper drawer trim in Old White and painted the twelve handles. Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax covers the exterior. Louis Blue, on the drawers’ interiors, gives a lovely pop of color.



As I  eased into the homestretch I received a free Lotus stencil (African Protea Flower) from Royal Design Studio. It looked  delightful and I needed to use it . . . immediately. I surveyed our in-progress projects and landed on the Louis Blue drawers.


Using Royal Design’s Antique Gold  and Orange Ice cremes, and Annie Sloan’s Antibes Green, I stenciled a lotus on each side panel and waxed them. They offer a bit of whimsey.


This Serpentine lovely has emerged from her spa treatment rejuvenated and looking more radiant than ever. She’ll be on sale at the Rustapalooza Spring Market at the end of the month, our very first market.


Wishing you bunches of azaleas,

Ann Marie and David
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Verdigris Cherubs

My Grandmother and Grandfather in their 1913 wedding portrait. Painted cherub candles sit on Grandma's tray, along with some of her jewelry. She was a dressmaker, and the ribbon belonged to her. The teddy bear is made from a suit belonging to their deceased son, Joe.
My Grandmother and Grandfather in their 1913 wedding portrait. Painted cherub candles sit on Grandma’s tray, along with some of her jewelry. She was a dressmaker, and the ribbon belonged to her. The teddy bear is made from a suit belonging to their deceased son, my Uncle Joe.

David and I stopped by an estate sale near our house last weekend. Alas, most of the furniture was gone so we poked through the small items. I found two cherub candlesticks, minus the candle cups, from the late 19th or early 20th century. David examined them and immediately dismissed them. They aren’t high quality, he reassured me on the way home. Sure, they are cast metal of some kind, most likely an alloy. And a piece on one of the bases has been broken and repaired. Nope.

Metal Cherubs

But I liked them. After dinner I asked how much he’d pay for those cherubs. Five dollars.

The next afternoon I sent him back to pick up those cherubs for five dollars. “I didn’t say I could buy them for five,” he said. “I said I’d pay that amount for them.”

He returned with the cherubs. Because of a series of amazing flukes and a little crafty negotiating, he got them for five dollars. This is one of a million reasons why I love him.

I recently  saw a tutorial for a verdigris dresser at A Bit O’Whimsy’s site and admired the technique. Verdigris is the greenish blue color that occurs when a metal like bronze or copper is weathered. Think of the Statue of Liberty. Anyway, I wanted to test out this paint style and these little ones provided the perfect opportunity.

Since my two cherubs were made of some kind of metal already, I skipped the step of applying metallic paint. I had Antibes and Louis Blue Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on hand, so my blue was lighter than shown on A Bit O’Whimsy.

Cherubs and open paint

I used a small, dry brush for each color, dabbing the brush on a paper toweling to get off excess paint. I did not mix the colors beforehand. I simply applied them with the brush randomly, working in small patches and moving on. This method allowed me to control the amounts of blue and green.

Cherub Being Painted 1

Cherub Being Painted 2

Cherub Being Painted 3

Next I poured a teaspoon of Old White paint into a container and added two teaspoons of water. I wanted it very watery. Using a larger brush, I slapped on the white liquid.

Cherub Being Painted 4

Grabbing a spray bottle of water and a clean cloth, I headed outside with a painted cherub. I must have misted the first cherub a bit too enthusiastically because the spray and the cloth stripped off some of the blue and green paint down to the metal. I was more careful with the second one. Both, however, needed quick touchups with the Antibes and Louis Blue.

I still needed candle cups so I nabbed a couple of frosted votive cups until I can buy age appropriate ones off Ebay or Esty. I also need to wax them, but, all in all, this was an easy, inexpensive project that brings me joy whenever I look at them.

Verdigris Cherubs

Ann Marie

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Our Baker Beauty and Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Take a look at this Baker beauty that we’ve just finished. Baker Furniture produced some of the finest furniture of the 20th century. This stunning commode/chest is French Empire style, very elegant, and boasts wooden columns with solid brass bases and capitals. The original hardware is gorgeous. Image
She is solid wood and meant to last. “In the mid part of the 20th century, Baker was the premier high quality furniture company that set the bench mark for other companies. Classic and timeless designs, high quality production processes and attention to detail make many of these older Baker pieces a great value.” — Stenella Antiques, Philadelphia.

Here’s her before photo, although it’s difficult to see the faded spots and dings:
French commode original state
I took special care cleaning her and was puzzled when I heard something sliding between the drawers. After I pulled them all out I found a key. Image
This mid century piece still has its key. Correction. Two keys for the top drawer’s lock. The previous owner took exceptional care of her. I added the tassels. Image
We’ve reimagined this beauty in Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint. A soft Paris Grey, warmed by Clear Wax, makes her very versatile. We stenciled a specially made diamond design above each column in Graphite. It was an homage to the previous owner who used a black sharpie to draw diamonds. The columns, too, are Graphite, a color that’s more of a slate than true black. And we polished the hardware. She looks very sophisticated. Imagine her gracing your entrance hall, a living room, or even a bedroom. You are only limited by your imagination.

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How To Preserve Boxwood – Part 1

Serendipity occurs when you discover something you weren’t looking for. Follow me here and I’ll lead you through a tale not too far from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

I bought a metal plant container at an estate sale because I wanted to practice my two-color painting technique. I covered it in Annie Sloan Paris Grey and then covered that in Old White. I distressed it by sanding parts of the raised design on the container. I finished it off with wax.


It looked good to me but I needed something to put in it. So I started looking at blogs and Facebook pages. Preserved boxwood offered me the answer. Because it’s preserved, I won’t have to water it and it’ll last a good while. It’s green. It’s popular. It’s perfect. Here’s Restoration Hardware’s photo of some of their preserved boxwoods:


Wait a minute. Preserved boxwood is not inexpensive. But — and this is where serendipity comes in — I had six boxwood bushes in need of pruning just steps from my front door. I returned to studying online tutorials, this time focusing on preserving boxwood. I combined the instructions provided by Crafting Rebellion and WikiHow.

I bought three random items suitable for a scavenger hunt. Hobby Lobby had an 8-oz. bottle of glycerin in their soap-making section. Over at my grocery store, I gave a stockboy an assignment. Now, I regularly shop at Publix and have no qualms dispatching enthusiastic young men to find obscure items. The mission this time: find citric acid. He had to ask a few people but returned with Ball’s Fruit-Fresh Produce Protector. “My manager says this is citric acid,” he announced. Well done. The most problematic item was Absorbit green floral dye. Not fabric dye. Floral dye. I called around with no success and decided to order it online from Direct Floral.

On to the process: Mix the items with water and pour the solution into a couple of containers. I used a glass vase a a shorter plastic container. Insert the stems that my son had clipped and smashed with a hammer, and we’re ready to wait a week or so until the liquid is absorbed. Wait another week or more until they’re dried. I’m less certain about these steps because I only have reached the absorption stage. Once they’re dry I’ll get a brick of floral foam and pop in my boxwood.


My enthusiasm led me to buy another container — all brass — the day I mixed the solution. It came from a Thrift Store by way of India. I tried to get a discount because of the heavy spotting and tarnish. No deal. But I took it home and scrubbed it with lemon juice and salt, over and over. Next I switched to a paste of vinegar, flour and salt and let that sit. After rinsing off the smelly stuff I decided that was enough polishing. I’d paint it using my two-paint distressed technique. Yes, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint adheres to metal. I put Paris Grey on the inside, with the outside a combo on Antibes, Old White, and Louis Blue. I plan to make a ball or a semi-circle of boxwood for this container, either with the remaining batch now soaking or another batch.


I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you have any experience preserving boxwoods, let me know your secrets.

Preserving Boxwood, Part 2 is here.

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How To Paint Stripes

Painting crisp stripes on furniture isn’t difficult. It takes a bit of time and patience, but the result can knock you out.

In this tutorial I’ll show how I paint stripes.

Step 1: Paint the entire surface of the drawer in the lighter color. I used 2 to 3 coats of Annie Sloan’s Old White cut with a small amount of water.


Step 2: Measure out your stripes. I wanted 2-inch stripes so I used two strips of 1-inch painter’s take for one stripe. I had blue tape on hand and that worked fine.


Step 3: Use a plastic card to smooth down your tape because any gaps can cause unwanted bleeding.Image

Step 4: This may sound counterintuitive, but it works: use that same lighter color once again. This time you are going to paint just over the edges of the painter’s tape and fill in the existing stripe. Yes, I’m painting a white stripe over a white stripe. It will seal the edge abutting the tape and not allow paint to seep through.

White drawer painted blue tape

Step 5: Change your paint color. Now repeat Step 4 using this second color. You are going to paint over the edges of the painter’s tape and fill in the existing stripe — right over the lighter color — with your second color. I laid down four coats of Arles cut with a small amount of water.

white drawer second color added

Step 6: Take off the tape while your final coat of the second color is wet. I painted two stripes with Arles, paused, and pulled of the tape to reveal one Old White stripe. Then I moved on to paint another Arles stripe and removed the tape from Old White. You’ll create beautiful sharp, crisp lines.

Striped drawer

Hope this tutorial helps.

Almost Overlooked: Barrel-back Chair

We almost overlooked this sturdy little chair as we prowled for wooden dressers and chests. I sat in it simply to regroup. How comfortable. Here, let me put this pillow behind me. Ah, just right. Take your time, David.

At $22 the barrel-back chair, with side caning and tufted back, seemed an OK purchase. For a nanosecond I considered reupholstering it, but I’m neither skilled nor ambitious enough to undertake tufting. I knew I had paint at home and could personalize it to our living room. And — this is big — I could use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint to paint fabric, which would be a first.

Here’s the before picture, with little Pepper Popcorn making herself comfortable on the chair while Boston lounges above. The mahogany wood color contrasts a little too boldly with the ivory fabric.

Barrel-back chair

I matched the sage tones of our rug by mixing Versailles and Olive. That was the easy part. This is what the chair looked like after a couple of coats. If you look hard, you can see the remnants of a red stain on the right side of the seat cushion.

Chair with painted wood

Then I faced mixing the gold. How about Arles, a yellow named for the town in southern France, and a bit of Versailles? I didn’t measure. I just mixed until it looked right.

If you’re interested in how to paint fabric, Annie Sloan demonstrates in this video:


I gave my chair fabric two coats, with 24 hours between coats, and I waxed everything, including the fabric, with Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax. I’m delighted with the results.

Barrel-back Chair

Ann Marie and David

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