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

Painted Furniture: Finding the Perfect Shabby Chic Cabinet

Painted Furniture: Finding the Perfect Shabby Chic Cabinet

How a shabby chic furniture refurbisher took an unexpected detour and found a one-of-a-kind treasure with sentimental value.

Painted cabinet

A one-of-a-kind painted cabinet is a treasured find for a shabby chic home.

My heart fluttered when I saw it. A vintage cabinet that had been beautifully hand-painted with a rendering of a hummingbird hovering among wisteria vines and lilacs. This work of art was already perfect—no refurbishing required—and it instantly reminded me of my maternal grandmother who had adored hummingbirds. I had to have it!

I’d popped into this thrift store while I was running my weekend errands, just for a quick browse to see if they had any vintage furniture pieces that might lend themselves to a white-washed, chippy paint, shabby chic look.

Hummingbird cabinet

The hummingbird painting on front of the cabinet.

After hunting among a limited selection of boxy media cabinets from the 1980s for my next furniture project, I’d almost given up. Then I spotted a small vintage wooden magazine rack that I could immediately imagine refurbished with white paint. I picked it up to get a closer look, and that’s when my eyes strayed down to the cabinet upon which it had been placed.

The top and sides of the cabinet had been painted a sage green with chipped corners, which was nice. But the front was the real surprise. It had been painted a creamy color, and then covered with a delicate study of flowers and a single hummingbird—all done in pale lavenders, blues, greens, and pinks, which were all my grandmother’s favorite colors. (I stood there thinking: Are you seeing this, Grandma?) I have a quilt at home that was handmade by my aunt in fabrics of the very same hues, which I love, too.

Inside cabinetI found a price tag taped to the inside of the cabinet’s door. It had been priced at $124, then had been marked down to $99, and now had a 40% off sticker taped over that. Yay! Why hadn’t this thing of beauty sold at $124? It was worth twice that. Never mind, it was mine now!

I couldn’t see a clerk anywhere in sight, and I didn’t dare leave the cabinet for a second for fear someone else might nab it. (Did I already mention that it matched my heirloom quilt exactly?) So, fool that I am, I dragged the cabinet by myself to the back of the store, and stood guard beside it while trying to flag down a clerk to help me.

Wipe down the cabinet

The cabinet just needed a light cleaning with a moist wipe to remove surface dirt.

A clerk eventually spotted me and rang up my purchase. As he was helping me load the the cabinet into the back of the car, he told me, “You have impeccable taste. I can’t believe someone didn’t buy this cabinet sooner.” I replied with a breezy, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” (Inside I was thinking: “Score!!”)

Once I got it home, my hummingbird cabinet didn’t need more than a gentle cleaning with a moist baby wipe. Otherwise, it’s chippy paint finish is perfect as it is, and looks quite at home in my shabby chic apartment as a storage cupboard for my art supplies.  A functional and beautiful treasure with an aged patina…a perfect combination.

A Tale of Two Hummingbirds

There is another hummingbird that figures into this story. Sure, painted furniture is a key component of shabby chic style, so sourcing one-of-a-kind painted furniture pieces like this falls within the parameters of a shabby chic treasure hunt. But…the real reason I fell in love with this cabinet was because it reminded me so much of my grandma. It was almost like she’d been shopping with me and noticed it at the exact moment that I did.

Hummingbird quilt

My heirloom hummingbird quilt.

Grandma loved hummingbirds. For as long as I can remember, she kept hummingbird feeders hanging outside her kitchen window and loved to to watch them fluttering about those feeders with their jet-speed wings.

Grandma received a lot of gifts over the years that carried the hummingbird motif. She even bought kleenex boxes that were decorated with hummingbirds. One of those kleenex boxes figures into this story, too.

My aunt once made a gorgeous watercolor quilt — a quilting style that looks more like an impressionist painting than a patterned quilt. This quilt was crafted with floral fabrics of purple, blue, pink and green, with a plain, cream-colored circle at the center of the design. After my aunt hung the quilt on the wall, grandma decided it needed something in the center. One day while my aunt was out, grandma cut out a hummingbird image from her kleenex box and pinned the little bird to the center of that quilt.

Cardboard hummingbirdDays later, my aunt noticed the little bird hovering at the center of her quilt and said, “Oh, look! Where did he come from?”
Grandma smiled and said, “He just needed to be there.”

Painted hummingbirdAfter grandma died two years ago at the ripe old age of 100, my aunt had to pack up the house and let it go. Knowing how much I love that quilt, she gifted it to me. After she’d washed it and was packing it up for me, I asked her if I could also have the little cardboard hummingbird that Grandma had pinned to its center.

“Of course,” she said, “they belong together.” And she tucked it into my suitcase with the quilt.