Paris Grey

An Antique Piano and Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

My friend, Anne, recently decided to spruce up her spacious ranch home. Fed up with her carpet, she had it ripped out and replaced with eye-catching porcelain tile. The soft white and grey hues look gorgeous. It’s like pale wooden planks cover her floors. The faux wood tile even has indentations to simulate hand-hewn lumber. I’ve always wanted hardwood flooring and have spent years coveting it while eyeing my budget. This seems to be a realistic alternative. Don’t tell David, but Anne passed along the name of her sales rep. Lucky for him I’m too busy to get to the store at the moment.

Faux Wood Porcelain Tile Floor

Before you get the wrong idea, no, this post isn’t about Anne’s new flooring. The tile merely launched our joint project. Her home looks so bright and cool, which is great to offset the Florida heat. But darkness loomed in the corner. Her antique mahogany piano reverberated stiff Victorian formality, not breezy coastal casual. Having watched us work on many painting projects in our front yard, Anne asked me to help lighten up her piano.

Anne is an interior decorator and definitely knows her way around colors. Getting things started, I loaned her my copy of Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More (2013) by Annie Sloan and by the next morning she had selected Paris Grey.

Take a look at these fantastic intricate carvings. The level of detail required something special, so David and I offered two different suggestions on how to treat them.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

I thought a coat or two of Old White would really let them pop. David, however, didn’t want to lose the wood; he recommended leaving them unpainted. Anne remained undecided. The front carvings caused us the most concern. We not only wanted to do a good job, but also create a piece of art. Read on for more on our decision process.

Challenges Faced

The piano could not be moved from its current wooden blocks. I don’t mean that it was difficult to move, or merely unwieldy. Without wheels it sat, imposing and unyielding. The piano tuner will come soon, we were told, to attach wheels, perform some much-needed mechanical work to the action and tune the instrument.

Further complicating life, the piano stood 15 inches from a side wall. Since we couldn’t shift the mahogany beast, the simple tasks of cleaning, shellacking, painting and waxing would prove tricky. But not impossible. Contortions, head stands and lying flat on the floor in homage to Michelangelo — David’s middle name is Michael — and we managed to cover hard-to-reach detailed carvings in the cabinet structure.

The carved legs, while beautiful, took a lot of time to paint because of its nooks and crannies. We literally lay on our backs to find spots we missed, and there were plenty.

Annie Sloan Paint

We wanted to allow the piano’s beauty and age to show through the minor dings. Anything bigger than a ding, however, got a treatment of wood fill. The piano’s top had the most damage, as you can see in this next photo:

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Cleaning and Stitches

We spent the first day cleaning the wood. Before we could start the transformation process, decades of polishing waxes and oils had to come off. We used Simple Green and Min Wax Cleaner. This job was neither pretty nor easy. For our Bonus Round, David somehow managed to break one of our clip-on lamps. The lamp head with its sharp shards sliced his calf deeply — about 2 inches long. He drove himself to a doc-in-a-box for 6 stitches. Don’t judge me. I would have gone if it were serious; it hardly bled, and thankfully none of it got onto our friends’ floor.

Six Stiches

After two coats of shellac on the side, legs and bottom, followed by a couple coats of Paris Grey, we called it a day.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
Making Progress on Day 2 and No Medical Emergencies

More shellacking and painting, but we left the carved mahogany to discuss with Anne. David still lobbied for the natural wood to remain, enhanced with a coat of Howard’s Restor-A-Finish. The center carvings retained the deep red mahogany. The two side rosettes retained a very dark, dull patina.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

I took this opportunity to research the piano’s origins. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was made by the esteemed Krakhauer Bros. of New York in the early 1900s. Just glance at the lovely lines and intricate details and you can see their master craftsmanship at work. Have I mentioned this piano is absolutely beautiful?

Painting the Carvings with Paris Grey and Whitewashing Them with Old White

I’ll ask that you stick with me here because these carvings are going to go through several changes. Here’s David on the day we painted the carvings Paris Grey. We diluted Old White to create a wash: apply wash and blot.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

But these carvings went through some transformations. Before we get into that ball of snarled twine, which style do you prefer?

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Unraveling the Ball of Twine

Anne spent the evening looking at the paint job shown in the first photo: an Old White wash over Paris Grey. But she remembered David lovingly describing the beauty of the mahogany wood. The next day she asked about the possibility of removing some of the paint to reveal the mahogany’s glory.

We are good friends and I assured her it could be done. I didn’t tell her the amount of work it would take. David and I tried a few different techniques but the one I highly recommend requires a Scotch-Brite Dobie scouring pad. Dip it in water and use a light touch. Remember, we had two coats of shellac already down on the wood so I felt OK using water.

It took a full day but David and I were pretty pleased with our efforts, despite our sore fingers.

After a night studying this new version, Anne asked if it would be at all possible to combine David’s recommendation and my recommendation: whitewash the mahogany. Yes, that would be easy compared to the day before. After another day’s work, here’s how the piano looked with an Old White wash over the mahogany wood, and mostly clear waxed.

Annie Sloan Paint

Anne asked if we could go back to the original design of Paris Grey washed with Old White. Sure. Again, that would be easy.

Drum roll, please, because we have our completed project and it’s stunning.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wishing you bunches of azaleas,

Ann Marie and David
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Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage

Our Baker Beauty and Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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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