Try This Painting Technique: Layering

Dark wood takes me back to my grandparents’ home in Rochester, NY. A two-story structure built in the late 1800s, it contained massive pieces of darkly stained furniture. I felt as though the furniture, heavy and looming, dug into the floorboards and rooted somewhere below the cellar. Yet the forest didn’t frighten me; my thoughts of that home remain a warm memory.

The piece we’re looking at today is an antique American Empire Revival library table. It’s a dark wood, solid mahogany and made around 1900. I love its size — rather diminutive compared to most tables — and the pleasing curves of its scrolled legs. Although the table is solid, built-in wheels allow for easy movement.
American Empire Revival Library Table

As you can see, this table came to us in rough shape. Check out that large white ring mark. Did someone put a washtub on top of it, maybe enthusiastic college students looking to ice their beers?

We couldn’t retain the dark mahogany and still hope to sell the table here in the Sunshine State. I started to piece together a plan. I wanted to paint the bottom part with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. The question at hand: Could the top be saved? Luckily, David came to the rescue. The top absolutely could be saved, but first we had to clean off over a hundred years of grime with Simple Green and some mineral spirits.
American Empire Revival Style

Once we flipped it over, we found number 377 stenciled on the bottom. That’s the only identifying characteristic but not enough to lead us to a manufacturer.
American Empire Revival Style
David shellacked the lower part in preparation for the paint. It’s essential to shellac mahogany if you are going to use ASCP or else you’ll face red bleed through from the wood. We applied two coats of Zinsser Clear Shellac just to be safe.

On the tabletop, David used Citristrip Paint and Varnish Removing Gel to remove the old finish and stain. Two applications. Once he discovered that the top consisted of solid planks, not just a thin veneer over the subsurface, he grabbed the orbital sander. Using a power sander on veneer is a bad idea. The sander will eat through veneer in a heartbeat. But he now had solid planks. He whirred his way down to the natural wood grain — which is beautiful with rich tones and pronounced graining.
American Empire Revival Style

Here’s Pepper Popcorn checking out our work before being whisked back inside.
American Empire Revival Style

David didn’t fill in the dings and dents. We decided to maintain the integrity of the wood, which was still in very good condition. We feel there are times a piece should show its age and use. The rounded edge of the lower shelf, caused by hundreds of shoes resting and rubbing, are reminders of how many lives have touched this table. Sometimes, dings and excessive wear should be celebrated.American Empire Revival Style

On to the painting. Inspired by Leslie Stocker of Colorways, I wanted to try a new technique. Leslie layers paint tones to create light and shadows. I didn’t plan to use Dark Wax on this table; I wanted tonal highlights to carry the effect. Here’s Leslie’s inspirational image:
Leslie Stocker, Colorways

Before moving on to my tonal technique, I first painted two coats of Old White.
American Empire Revival Style
Next, I created my mixture. Moving from top to bottom, the containers hold

  • Old White
  • Arles : Old White, 2:2
  • Arles : Old White, 4:3
  • Arles

I anticipated my color to be a bit lighter than Leslie’s cabinet.
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

I relied on the two Arles/Old White mixtures the most, using the Old White for highlights and  pure Arles for shadow. Here’s the beginning of my paint going down. As you see, I’m just applying patches of different tones randomly. A simple layering technique.
ASCP Arles and Old White

After I finished painting, David put on the first coat of MinWax Polyurethane. That’s where we are in this next picture. No wax on the paint yet, but light and shadows coming through. It’s subtle.
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Arles and Old White

A problem cropped up with the polyurethane. David brushed it on in the shade and left it to dry but when the unseasonably warm sun came out, bubbles formed and dried on the table top. An unhappy David snatched up his sandpaper (180 and 220-grit) and set to it.

Four coats of the polyurethane went on. Between each coat David used 220-grit sandpaper  to smooth out imperfections caused by dust or a slightly uneven application. He sanded the final coat of Poly with 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper and lemon oil. The table top feels as smooth and satisfying as soft ice cream on a sizzling day.
MinWax Polyurethane

Meanwhile, I brushed on ASCP Clear Wax and wiped it off with a cloth. We snapped a few pictures and loaded the table into our SUV. American Empire Revival Style
This table is inherently heavy and utilitarian but the lines and upswept curves of its design give lightness to the piece.  It now sits at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, ready for anyone looking for a desk, or computer table, or television stand.

Our French Bombé is another example of this layering technique.

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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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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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