April 27, 2012

Project Personality: Me Like Chalk Paint (and Why)

Project Personality
with Apple Box Boutique founder Leanne Playter Korsos

Hello!  And thank you for stopping in.

A couple of weeks ago I alluded to some changes I've made to the way I paint. But to explain my landing place I will have to start at the take-off point.  Here goes!

Once upon a time, long, looooong ago...
kidding!  Was just curious to see if you'd hang in there with me (especially after that awful post title) and here you are.  So, let me begin by saying that I have always loved to paint.  Whether it was a jewellery box, barn doors, my bedroom wall or my hair (not kidding), if it meant picking up a paint brush, I was all in.  I love the fine arts, but when it comes to that I am more of a paint-by-numbers kind of gal, so I focussed on refreshing big things and painting props and sets during college and for several years afterward in my career in theatre.

When I started painting furniture it was borne of being frugal and wanting to upcycle items for my own home.  When friends and family started asking me to refinish pieces for them as well it became a hobby, and when complete strangers started asking, it became a business.

My training in stagecraft taught me some interesting techniques, but the bulk of what I know was learned from trial and error.  Up until last fall, I used oils and latex paints on all of my client projects as well as in remodelling my own home.  I loved milk paint but found it inconsistent in colour and finish from mix to mix or can to can.

Day 1 Spraying.  Day 2 a respirator was purchased!

In 2010, I moved from hand-painting everything to spraying using a paint gun and a compressor. This meant that I also needed a place to work that had more space and I began working from my studio... a remodelled oversized garage/shop. A paint bay was built, a larger compressor was purchased, as well as several sanders and other equipment, power tools and all the accoutrements, shelving, lighting, supplies like sandpaper, lacquers, and strippers (the liquid kind, not the Thunder from Down Under, though the latter would have brought in their own lighting).  Toxic disposal concerns were addressed as well as pick-up and delivery assistance.

A respirator became one of my key items, which I mentioned in the first Project Personality post leaves an unsightly impression.  It is also hot (not in the good way), uncomfortable and doesn't match any of my outfits.
It didn't take me long to consider that if I need all the ventilation, respirators and toxic disposal that this can't be good for the environment or for me. I love refinishing furniture, but the whole eco-responsibility of upcycling was quickly lost in a chemical fog.  And that needed to change.

Enter Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  I'd been looking for something to work with that was kind to the world and to my conscience, and after months of research I felt I may have found a product that would do everything I need it to do as a paint and live up to my new and lofty eco-expectations.  The discovery was made just as it was time to tie the knot with my lovely fianc√© in his grandfather's village in Greece, so ordering the paint was put on the back burner until our return to the real world a couple of months later.

While in the Mediterranean lounging beside the sea, I noticed a restaurant owner nearby was painting his chairs with a perfect matte paint.  When I asked him about it, he showed me the container... much to my surprise it was Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP).  The laugh came later when I realized he wasn't using Greek Blue.  Ahh well, I've used Chateau Grey on some of my furniture at home and I live in a bungalow.

Upon our return there was some work to do on the studio, so I spent the time perusing blogs that had projects using ASCPAficionados like Patty Seaman and countless designers, refinishers and magazines gave it rave reviews, and still I wondered if it is too good to be true.  That meant just one thing: Time to order a few cans and give it a try.  Now if I could just overcome the price!

In Canada, ASCP wasn't readily available and I had misgivings about having paint shipped in the midst of an Alberta winter, but it had been fairly mild, so I went for it!  Sure enough, the first cold snap arrived and to make matters worse Greyhound misplaced the package.  Ugh!  Not a good feeling at that cost.

When it did arrive, it was just fine, but that event started another ball rolling.  I knew that if it lived up to the hype, I would be using A LOT of it in the studio and I'd have to find a shipping method that was a little more climate-friendly!

The first colour I tried was Provence and it was love at first lid.  As soon as I opened the can, I knew that if things went well I would be using that colour repeatedly.

Painting with it was so easy that I don't doubt people disbelieve what they hear, as I did before trying it.  It dried fast and when I finished the first coat, I was able to go back and start again with the second.  Then it was time to use the clear wax, and that went on like buttering a baking pan.  The only thing left was to test its durability after it cured.  I was happily surprised to find that it held up to the wear and tear I intentionally inflicted.

The most surprising thing was how little paint and wax was used for my project.  Factoring in the time and cost for sandpaper, primer, latex, lacquer and above all, time and energy required for my previous works, using ASCP ended up being a BIG savings.  Go figure!

No wonder Annie Sloan looks so happy!

I still find myself feeling pretty gleeful when I step back from a completed project.  I love the velvety finish and the fact that it is not just "one paint".  In the past I was able to use latex with glazes but for versatility, the chalk paint wins hands-down.  It is aqua-based, so I can water it down to make a wash, use it at canned consistency as an authentic chalk paint, leave it out for a couple of hours to use it as an impasto for a chunkier farmhouse or chateau finish or for a bit longer to use it for cleaner stenciling, painting on mirrors, metal or windows or for arts and crafts.

Distressing is easier than anything I've done in the past with plenty of options for how to go about it.

Finished with clear wax, the paint is even richer and followed with dark wax you can add as much or as little as you like to find just the right patina.  The new Annie Sloan lacquer means even high-wear areas like floors can be painted with it.

This was painted in the showroom without worry.

I used to haul everything out to the studio when I needed a change in the house, but now I paint in the kitchen, the living room, the foyer... wherever a piece of furniture has landed.  Why?  Because clean-up is a breeze; it takes so little time that I find it hard now to be patient with messier mediums.

After reeling off a list of "pros" like that, you'd think that's all there is, but it is also odorless, eco-friendly and I can paint without the big fighter-pilot respirator or the concern I feel with other paints.

I know this is starting to sound like a late night infomercial for Annie Sloan Chalk Paint but the closest it comes to anything ShamWow is that you could use one of those to wipe up if need be.  All I can say is that it turned my doubt into relief, because I paint with so little stress now that I can't wait to get in to the studio... it just doesn't feel like "work" anymore.

I love being able to return to a traditional method of painting.  Paints from earth pigments (minerals like chalk) have been in existence for centuries plus brush painting is a sort-of Zen experience for me... very relaxing as opposed to all the prep and getting into the gear for my previous methods.  I'm not a chalk-snob and will paint with latex or oils if a client insists, but once people see the depth and richness of this chalk paint, most end up choosing it over the finish you get with the others.  And that makes me happy.

If there is a "con" to the chalk paint, I will say this:  It is addictive. There is a running joke that if my husband stood still long enough he'd be Duck Egg Blue.  I warn people about the relationship that will develop with this paint, but to no avail.  Every customer is a repeat customer and I like that, because part of my dream in starting Apple Box Boutique was that it be part of a community, where people feel comfortable shopping or just stopping in to say hi.

So, for those of you still hanging in there with me, thank you for reading all of this.  I likely could have stopped at the title "me like chalk paint" and been done with it, but where is the fun in that?

Happy Friday!


  1. Oh, I'm dying to try chalk paint! I'll need a few more sponsors or an etsy shop first though ;-)

    I got the supplies to make homemade "chalk paint", which I still plan to try, but I know from listening to Tara's talk at the Home Show that the real stuff is so much better (the eco benefits, etc, etc, etc.)

    I love your project personality posts, by the way.

    1. Thanks Joanna! I love writing them :) I've tried homemade chalk paint as well and had mixed experiences (not all bad). Besides the look, I just like the consistency and the ease of use I get with ASCP. I'll be sure to watch your blog for your homemade project... I always like visiting To A Pretty Life and seeing what you've created!


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