Making Old Furniture New…ish
Dahlia’s Vintage Marketplace, Camano Island
Trying new things is at the top of my goal list for 2018, heck it is a big part of why I even created the Me Time section in the first place. It is about exploring and building hobbies, making time to stop and enjoy the things that you love doing. Thankfully my job involves doing what I love most, writing and taking photographs, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other things.
With that in mind, I’ve been working on finding new ways to express my creative side. That’s another one of my goals for 2018. So far, I have explored throwing paint to canvas and improving on my frosting skills. This time around, I am trying out something that blends my creative side with something else I am growing to love, antique and vintage things.
My social media feeds are constantly full of cool finds, repurposed goodies, and furniture made new…ish again from the local shops I follow along with, including Dahlia’s Vintage Marketplace of Camano Island. My house would probably be full of the furniture pieces found at them if I could afford it. Not being able to led me to an option that was a bit more in my budget, doing a bit of old furniture painting of my own.
That’s something I had no idea how to do. I’ve made a disaster of trying to stain furniture before, so there was a good chance I would do the same with paint. Not wanting to be someonone who was responsible for destroying something old, I did the right thingm I went to an expert.
Vintage shops across Snohomish County offer furniture painting classes, but many are as costly as buying a piece that has already been painted for you. That wasn’t an option. Lucky for me Hanna out at Dahlia’s offers not only a free class that lets you get to know the paint lines that she carries and how they work, but a beginners painting class that, at $65, doesn’t break the bank.
Once I had signed up, the next challenge was finding the piece that I was going to paint. After asking Hanna for suggestions, I was shocked to find that people show up to classes with brand new pieces. I would never think of doing that. Yes the new piece may end up looking old, but that doesn’t make it actually old. It doesn’t give it the same character or stories that something truly old have. It is a good thing that I feel that way too, because new pieces don’t usually make for good painting.
As always we scoured the local antique and vintage shops. I’m only just beginning to learn about places to go to find things that are in need of some love and fixing up, so it was not an easy task. I was not going to repaint something that had already been painted by someone else and I certainly wasn’t going to paint something that was already stunning despite its age.
Luckily for me, I found just the thing at Finders Keepers on 3rd Street in Marysvile. It was not only a piece that was a more than a bit scratched and beaten up, it just also happened to be on sale for $35. Bonus! It is vintage Martha Washington style sewing table, made during the great depression (1920-1930’s), complete with its drawer insert. It is about 10 or so years shy of being 100 years old and an official antique, so I didn’t do to bad.
I don’t sew, so I had no intention of using it for that. Instead It will be filling the role of night stand one of many furniture needs in my bedroom. I bought it not knowing what it was, but intrigued by the deep side compartments, which seemed just the place for hiding things from my giant puppy when I don’t feel like getting out of bed to put them away.
Real wood isn’t weightless (I think I can see the benefits of bringing something new), but we managed to get it from the car and into Dahlia’s new workshop space without too much trouble. Once up on the table, we headed into the shop to pick our paint type and color. Hanna has paint lines to choose from. First up is the Sweet Pickens line, a milk paint which is perfect for creating a chippy look as it naturally chips, flakes, and crackles.
Second, she offers Fat Paint, a chalk-style line which goes on smooth, has great coverage, and distresses well. This is what we chose for our first time around, going with their Navy State of Mind color in homage to the beautiful blue vintage secretary desk I purchased a back in December from Reclaimed Heart in Arlington and am considering putting in my bedroom as well. If I needed a sign that my color choice was the right one, I got it, because it turns out that Tina, the owner of Reclaimed Heart, was taking the class too. It seemed meant to be to me. So the SnoCo Kid and I got our blue and started sanding and painting away.
After my previous staining debacle, I thought painting my piece was going to be difficult. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad. Most of the credit for that goes to Hanna’s teaching and how easy it is to use Fat Paint. It really does go on smooth, and other than keeping an eye out for pesky drips, I think we did a pretty good job.
The most difficult part ended up being the waiting. It is a three hour class, and you probably spend only half of that actually painting or sealing up your piece, the rest is all dry time. On the plus side, waiting for that first coat to dry gave me time to pop over to the shop and pick up a few things. I have a very hard time going into antique or vintage shops and coming out empty handed. It’s just impossible.
Dahlia’s happens to be one of my favorite vintage shops, and it is well worth the 45 minute drive from Lake Stevens to Camano Island. That trip is made a lot easier by a stop by the Cookie Mill in Stanwood to get some of their amazing Lemon Doodle Cookies. They are a must try, as well as their cinnamon rolls if they happen to have any left.
Shopping bag tucked away, and our first coat dry, we got back to painting. I’d say it was our second coat, but honestly the Fat Paint covered so well the first time, that we barely needed more paint. Hanna likes to call that a coat and a half. The funny part is that it felt like that half coat took longer to dry, but I’m guessing that had more to do with not having shopping to distract me.
Once dry, there was a bit of sanding to do. It was a bit hard doing a bit of destruction to our freshly painted piece, but the end result was worth it (I did go a bit overboard here and there). It is that sanding that gives a painted piece a distressed look, allowing it to still look old even though you’ve given it a bit of a pick me up. It gives it back some of the character that might have been painted over.
You are probably noticing that I left some of my piece as I brought it, that was intentional. It offers a nice contrast, but the decision was more than that. I wanted to keep some of the original look and character, especially when it came to the drawers which are so cool when you pull them out and look at how they are put together. As for the top, my dog would most likely destroy the paint trying to get to things sitting on it and I would probably destroy it with glasses and more. I think I made a good choice.
After sanding it was on to the final step, applying a layer of beeswax and rubbing it in real good. Waxing is an important step, it not only can give your piece a smoother look and feel but helps protect it over time as well. While that was the final step for the painted portions of the piece, I do still have the drawer fronts and top to deal with. Haven’t decided whether or not to leave them as is or try to polish them up a bit and fill in some of the scratches. I’m thinking I might just leave it as is, just like the gray streak in my hair. Feels right.
If you are interested in learning how to paint furniture (please let it be old pieces and not new ones, not only that, ones that actually need it), I would recommend giving Hanna’s class a try. It is a great price, she is an amazing teacher, and the paint is beyond easy to work with. You can find upcoming classes for furniture painting and other class offerings by following along with Dahlia’s Vintage Marketplace on Facebook HERE.
Did you know that this article, as well as all of the others featured on our website are part of a monthly magazine. It is all about shopping, eating, drinking, and playing local in Snohomish County. More importantly, it is about the ways that local choices can make your life better. Our monthly magazine is available in both electronic and print form (yes, you read right, print!). As if that wasn’t awesome enough, each issue contains exclusive content that can’t be found on our website or social media accounts. So if you aren’t getting a copy each month you are missing out.
Single issues can be bought HERE. Monthly and annual subscriptions, which include exclusive giveaways and discounts, can be signed up for HERE. Finally, a limited number of printed copies are available at The Chic Boatique and Artisans Mercantile in Snohomish and Reclaimed Heart in Arlington, Vintage Company No. 7 in Bothell, and Dahlia’s Vintage Marketplace on Camano Island.