Chalk Paint Workshop at Shabby Chic

Chalk Paint Workshop at Shabby Chic


Shabby Chic Couture, Santa Monica, CA

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend a paint workshop held at Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic Couture store in Santa Monica, California. Featuring the just-released Shabby Chic Paint by Rachel Ashwell, the workshop was led by Chantelle Deimler and Jill Rinner, co-owners of the home shop Bungalow 47.

The Bungalow 47 design team has partnered with Shabby Chic to distribute these chalk & clay paints nationwide, so they have been traveling to various Shabby Chic Couture locations to demonstrate how to use them.

A short drive from my home, Shabby Chic’s Montana Avenue location in Santa Monica looks like a fluffy white delicacy—the crown jewel amont the many high-end boutiques that line this popular shopping street.

Entering the store is like taking a breath of fresh air as you leave the busy street behind and step into Rachel’s world of crystal chandeliers, creamy white walls, soft linens, and tasteful vintage furniture painted in time-worn pastels.

IMG_1747Front and center as I walked in the shop was a small wooden chair sitting on a plastic tarp in preparation for the painting demonstration. Chantelle, Jill and the Shabby Chic staff welcomed me to join a group of other ladies who were seated on fabulous slipcovered sofas arranged around the soon-to-be-painted chair.


Tip: Pre-wash with a 50:50 mix of vinegar and water to eliminate bleeding through of old stains, and “pre-sand” a piece before you begin painting. When painting a chair, always start with it upside down.

I sank into sumptuous sofa cushions and whipped out my notebook and camera as Chantelle and Jill passed around the flyer showing the paint colors and explained that the formula for the paints is low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) and non-toxic.

These paints produce a flat, matte finish and are available in Rachel Ashwell’s signature palette—subdued shades like Lily White, Pink Petals, Dream Linen, and Malibu Bonne Blue. The line also reflects Rachel’s recent foray into deeper hues like Truly Teal, Beige Beauty, and Taupe Treasure.

The Shabby Chic paints are intended for furniture and home accessories (not walls), and will work on wood, plastic, metal or leather, and even on some upholstery (wow, I’ll be trying that!). The line includes a Clear Primer that can be used for better adhesion of the paint to various surfaces, as well as a Clear Coat intended as a top coat that seals the paint finish, once dried. As Chantelle started painting the wood chair in a soft, blush pink, Jill explained that neither the primer nor the top coat is necessary. However, the primer is recommended to prevent old stains in antique furniture from bleeding through over time.


Chantelle flips the chair over and begins painting the underside of the chair first. Tip: Manipulate the object you are painting, rather than moving around it, to save time.

The clear coat is recommended for items that will get heavy use. Chantelle didn’t prime the chair she was painting for the demonstration, and the paint adhered to the wood very well. The Bungalow 47 team advised that if you are repainting a shiny surface (like plastic or metal), it is best to pre-sand the surface to “rough it up” for better paint adhesion.

As she painted, Chantelle said that she prefers to use a brush, but if you don’t want paint strokes to show, you can use a water spritz bottle to soften those lines. You can also use the brush to stipple the paint or create other effects.

Jill told the group that a 50:50 mixture of paint to water is best if you are painting over fabric. Even better, when painting an upholstered chair, add 10% fabric softener to the paint mixture so the painted seat won’t crack when someone sits on it. Jill advised against painting a sofa that gets heavy use.

The 50:50 paint formula works best for lampshades or decorative chairs that will sit in a corner and get only “occasional use.”

Jill also advises that you skip the clear coat when painting upholstered items, and never wax a painted fabric.

Another tip from Jill: to get a crackle effect, use thicker paint and then hit it with a blow dryer on a high setting in certain spots until you see the paint begin to crack as it dries, giving it an aged look.IMG_1774.JPG

Chantelle handed me the brush so I could give it a try, and I found that this paint is very opaque, providing excellent coverage, and is extremely easy to work with. I was also happy to discover that when it dries, this paint doesn’t rub off on your hands or clothes, but “cures” to a solid finish that stays put (thanks to the clay in the mix?).

Watching Chantelle finish painting the chair, I noted how little paint she had used. She explained that if you use just one coat, a small 8-ounce sample of this paint will easily cover two chairs.


Jill provides painting tips during a tour of the Shabby Chic Couture store in Santa Monica, CA.

As Chantelle put the last strokes of “Pink Petals” paint on the chair, Jill gave the workshop group a tour of the store, so she could go over how to achieve the aged finishes seen on many of the furniture pieces on display. 

She explained that you can use various weights of sand paper (220 or 120 weight are best for heavy distressing), or even nails and metal chains, to achieve the chippy paint look that embodies “shabby chic.”

IMG_1731.JPGTip: Make sure distressing is not symmetrical, but heavier on one side than the other as if the furniture piece sat in a sunny window or got bumped frequently. Distress along the grain and along edges—never in the center of a table, for example, or on the front of a dresser where natural wear would not occur.

Jill suggested that to get the heavily chipped look that makes your painted furIMG_1759.JPGniture “Rachel-perfect” for Shabby Chic, you can use a plastic paint scraper along the edges and corners after applying two heavy coats of paint. Once you’ve achieved the level of distressing you want, lock it in with the clear coat product.

Another interesting technique Jill mentioned, was to lay a large sheet of cheesecloth over wet paint to achieve a linear, grid-like web of cracked paint, which can give a piece a nicely textured antique appearance.

We circled back to the front of the store where Chantelle was now distressing the edges and corners of our workshop chair. (She had placed it outside for 30 minutes, where it dried quickly in the hot, California sun—those in other climates are advised to let the Shabby Chic Paint dry for at least 2 hours before beginning the distressing process.)

To my eye, the finished chair looked “Rachel-perfect” and ready to take its place alongside other chairs in the store that had already received the Shabby Chic treatment. I really like the subtle tone of the “Pink Petals” shade, and I plan to purchase a sample size of this color, as well as sample sizes of “Lily White” and “Caribbean Sea,” a faded aquamarine that would work well in my “shabby beach” cottage.


The finished chair, in “Pink Petals” Shabby Chic Paint by Rachel Ashwell.

I thoroughly enjoyed the painting workshop and meeting IMG_1768.JPGthe lovely ladies of Bungalow 47! I’ve ordered some samples of this paint, along with a quart each of Clear Primer and Clear Coat. Please visit this blog again soon to read future posts about my painting projects using these products, and some of the techniques that were shared in the workshop by Chantelle and Jill.

Readers interested in ordering some samples or quarts of this paint to try on their own, can find it for purchase on the Shabby Chic Paint website, managed and distributed by Bungalow 47. Happy painting!

Image credits: Seaside & Sage, with permission from Bungalow 47 and Shabby Chic Couture

DIY French Country Dining Chairs

DIY French Country Dining Chairs

Sometimes a project just kicks your butt. Such was the case with my recent DIY French country dining chairs using that hot trend: chalk paint. Why does no one tell you that chalk paint rubs off? Now, I know that most DIYers use a product called Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, which probably doesn’t rub off. I’ve heard her paints work great for refinishing furniture in the shabby chic and French country styles, among others. Well, I couldn’t find any Annie Sloan paints at my local Michael’s crafts store, so I went with something else.

Recycled cottage chairs

I “recycled” these 2 cottage chairs from a dumpster. Cost? Zero dollars.

That “something else” was sitting on a shelf in the unfinished wood project aisle at Michael’s. There were actually two different chalk paint product lines available there. The first was by Americana Decor, which offers a selection of “Chalky Finish” paints in faded pastels, as well as “Creme Wax” and “Soft-Touch Varnish” as two options for sealants. This company also offers a great line of French Country stencils, to add that touch of Provence to your DIY French-inspired projects.

Americana Decor Chalky Finish paint products

Americana Chalky Finish paint products

Since I was going for a French Country look, I nabbed an adorable French Inn stencil, with the intention of stenciling the motif onto the seat of each dining chair. While I was at it, I also nabbed one bottle each of Americana Decor’s Creme Wax and Soft-Touch Varnish, just in case I needed to seal my roughed-up edges (I’m so thankful I did, but more about that later.)

The second paint product on the shelf was spray on Krylon Chalky Finish Paint. I’ve used Krylon spray paints before for my smaller decorating projects, and they have worked great. I had no idea they were now offering Chalky Finish paints!

Spray on Krylon Chalky Finish Paint

Spray on Krylon Chalky Finish Paint

I spotted a can in “Tidal Blue,” a beautiful shade of teal, and one of my favorite colors. That hue would be perfect for these cottage-style chairs, and would add a nice pop of color to the dining area of my aquamarine-accented “shabby beach” apartment in coastal California.

Another bonus: cottage chairs can be time-consuming to paint, so spray painting can be a real time-saver. Theoretically.

Scraping and cleaning the chairs

Prepping the chairs required some elbow grease: scraping, cleaning and light sanding.

Time to clean up the chairs.

I found these two shabby “chaises” in a dumpster last Sunday (yes, I’m all about recycling and upcycling, and I’m not ashamed to confess to some dumpster diving in my hunt for shabby chic furniture and other treasures), so they were pretty grubby.

I scraped off old dried paint globs, scrubbed the chairs down with dish soap to remove the soot and grime, and gave them a very light sanding with a sanding block of fine sandpaper.

Spray painting the chairs

Spray painting the chairs was messy and smelly…and required 2 cans of paint.

After prepping a work area behind my building with a large drop cloth, I donned my paint scrubs, put on a specially-ventilated face mask (spray painting can get messy, and it smells noxious), and got down to business. I sprayed using short, even spurts, just as instructed by the experts on HGTV.

In no time flat, I had used up my entire can of “Tidal Blue” paint, and it only covered one chair and one-third of the second chair. I headed back to Michael’s for another can of paint. More than an hour later, both chairs were covered with a good coat of paint, and I took a breather. Man, those face masks are hot and that spray on stuff smells bad!

I let the chairs dry for a little over an hour, making sure they were dry to the touch before I handled them. I carried them back to my patio, and looked down to find that my arms and hands were covered with teal chalk. Lesson learned: chalky spray paint is…chalky.

French Country stencil

A French Country stencil for the seat of each chair.

I forged ahead with stenciling the chair seats, figuring I could worry about sealing the chalk paint later. For my stenciling I decided to use white gesso, which is the paint base that artists use to paint their canvases pure white. Gesso works well as a whitewash on unfinished wood, and I’d been wanting to try it as a stenciling medium. Bad idea.

Stenciling with gesso

Stenciling with gesso…not recommended.

Even after I dabbed off the excess paint on a rag, the gesso was far too runny to serve as a good stenciling medium. I persevered, figuring I could worry about tidying up any really messy edges later. From a distance, the chairs were looking beautiful, but this project was not going as smoothly as I’d anticipated.

What a mess!

What a mess!

Should I repaint the seats of the chairs and start over with the stencils? I switched my focus to sanding the edges of the chairs to give them a slightly battered, French Country look. My hands and sanding block were soon covered in teal chalk. What a mess!

Taking a coffee break

Taking a break with a cup of caffe mocha at The Yellow Vase in Palos Verdes, CA.

I decided to take a break. A nice walk along the beach and a cup of java are always a good combination for alleviating frustration and coming up with new solutions! A little chocolate never hurts, either, so I headed out to one of my favorite Parisian-style cafes, The Yellow Vase in Palos Verdes, and ordered an extra large caffe mocha.

Sufficiently caffeinated and re-inspired, I returned home to tackle the “chair problem.” Those sloppy stencils didn’t look so bad after all, especially without my glasses on. The messy paint kind of gave the lettering softened edges, lending them an aged look. I was actually going for an old-world village cafe look, so I left the stencils as they were.

Soft-Touch Varnish from Americana Decor

Applying a coat of Soft-Touch Varnish to seal the chalk paint.

I had two options for sealing the chalk paint: a spray on “Wax Coating” from Krylon or the small bottle of varnish from Americana Decor. I didn’t think I could face another spray painting session, so I opened up the bottle of Soft-Touch Varnish from Americana Decor.

The label on the back promised the varnish was low odor, scratch and rub resistant, easy to apply with a brush, and would seal any chalk paint or acrylic paint.

Wet varnish

The varnish looked milky when wet, but dried clear.

The label on this product was true to its word. The varnish brushed on a bit thick and milky-colored, but dried beautifully–clear and virtually invisible.

This handy varnish left the chalk paint completely sealed, and retained a matte finish.

DIY French Country Dining Chairs

Two DIY French Country dining chairs, dried, sealed and delivered.

I let the varnish dry for the recommended two hours, and then ran a white paper towel over every nook and cranny on each chair. No more “teal chalk” rub off. The chairs were sealed.

Voila! The road to completion was a bit long and bumpy, but I now have two DIY French Country chairs with a touch of coastal chic. Mission accomplie!

My recommendation for anyone who wants to try this: definitely plan on sealing any furniture you refinish with spray on chalk paint. And, be sure to perform a “white glove” test when you’re done and the paint has dried to make sure the paint doesn’t come off on you, or your guests.

I’d like to find two more dining chairs to match or complement these ones, and I’ll try chalk painting again, but will most likely try the brush-on kind next time. I’m more prepared after this experience, and also now that I’ve read this helpful how-to blog post on “How to Paint a Chair with Chalk Paint” from Anne over at White Lace Cottage.

I’m open to suggestions from other furniture DIYers who’ve had success with chalk paints, so feel free to leave a comment with any tips or techniques you’d like to share!