Furniture Painting, Distressing & Glazing

Painted French Chair Baroque Chair Raymond Goins

The next time you get ready to paint a french accent chair, consider painting the frame a color and keeping the upholstery neutral.

This chair is one of the nicest painted french chairs I have ever come across. I cannot say if it is the lighting, but it appears to be like there are two shades of green that appear on this chair. The inside of the frame looks to be a lighter shade of mint than the rest of the chair. The gold details really highlight the spectacular details of the frame. A white is used for the upholstery giving way for the carved details of the frame to shine.

There are several ways of painting this look.

1.  Milk /Chalk paints have a saturated color making them an industry favorite.  Their chalk like appearance along with being very easy to distress make the paints a favorite amongst painters.

Simply paint your piece and let it dry.  As usual, distress your piece of furniture, and apply a tinted wax to the surface of your furniture giving it an aged effect.

2.  Using Regular Paints:

Any typical paint will work with this finish.  Ideally, starting with a brighter paint is always better.  The reason for this is, as additional layers of paint are added, the final paint finish will still have lots of pigment to the overall appearance even though additional dark glazes were added on top of the original color.

Consider using a brighter blue or green in the pastel range in a flat finish for your project french chairs.

Flat sheens allow you to work with the additional glazes much easier.  Flat or eggshell work very well, so either one can be used.  A satin or semi gloss tend to not eat up the glaze as well as an eggshell finish.

Lets get started:

Paint your entire frame and let it dry.  Once it is dry, distress the frame using a sponge sander.

Sponge sanders are great because they can give a natural distressed look compared to belt or electric hand sanders.  Norton has a 6 pack for $5 which is the price of two sanders in most stores.  The next step is to add the decorative finishes.

There are several ways of going about this.

A)  Dry Brushing: Is basically the effect of using a small amount of paint feathered on to a piece of furniture.  The overall look is subtle.  Much like applying blush to your cheeks over foundation.  The effect is light, and not rustic what so ever.

For example if you are working with a bright mint color, consider dry brushing 2 or 3 shades of the same hue (darker or lighter ) on to your furniture.

This is simply done by having a very small amount of paint on your brush, and wiping the excess off on a cloth and lightly going over your furniture. If you are finding streaks or lines with the paint brush, you have too much paint on your brush.

The overall effect should show no indication of what medium you used to create the effect.

An oversized badger brush is ideal for this.

B: Painting On – Wiping Off

This is one of the easiest techniques around, and one I am very comfortable using.  Not only is it easier than dry brushing, but it allows you to not over think the process.

This effect looks terrific on distressed furniture, so distress the heck out of your piece!

Again, mix up some paint a couple shades darker or lighter than your base color.  This doesn’t have to be complicated, add black or white in your original paint color.

This technique is simply achieved by brushing it on and wiping it off with a rag.  Working with a damp but dry rag works the best for me.

If you are working with a fairly large piece, consider working with glaze.  Glaze gives you additional time to get the paint off the furniture, compared to regular satin paint.

Going back a few steps……

At first, I recommended a flat finish as your base coat, and the reason for that is flat paint covers well.  It sands very easily, and it takes less coats to cover evenly.  Additionally it allows the glaze to stick well, and move around easier than a semi gloss base coat.

Glazing on the other hand- When it comes to using paint (not glaze) to dull your furniture down, a satin finish will give your piece a bit of a shine, and also allow you to move around the paint easier with a cloth. The product “glaze” purchased in a store will give your piece a bit of shine as well.

Working with glaze gives you extra time to move around your paint.  If you plan on working with paint only as your dulling medium, you have to work extra fast.  It takes some practice, especially on larger furniture.  Glaze is always easier on bigger pieces, and smaller pieces alike.

Ideally if you start off using a very bright color, dull it down with a couple shades lighter than the base color (see the color chart above) and then finish it off using a very thin coat of brown or olive glaze. I buy my glaze UNTINTED, and tint the paint myself as I go along, because I have a variety of painted projects that I use with glaze.

Glaze is usually mixed half paint to half glaze.  Again, eye ball it, you don’t have to measure it. 

I find sometimes the nicest finishes are those which I paint on a very light coat of brown glaze.  Instead of the other finishes which I take off with a damp rag, this finish is just a thin layer of glaze.  The overall effect just dulls down the overall color.  Brown glaze can make a huge difference with colored paints.  It also makes a impact on white paint as well.

When painting with white, consider a creamy paint, not stark white as your base paint.  When glazing over white, paint on the brown glaze, and take it off very very quickly.  This is especially so using flat paint. The flat paint will soak up the brown pigments so don’t leave your glaze on too long.  In fact, I would suggest using more glaze to paint ratio when glazing white furniture.  Experiment for yourself to get the timing right.

C)The best method I have used is oil paint to create surface glazes. I love working with oils because they produce an effect like nothing else.  I do the first two steps the same as above….1 (base coat), 2 (distressing) but when it comes to adding a glaze, I tend to work with a satin oil paint from my local Sherwin & Williams.  You can get custom colors mixed, and I tend to work with a yellow that is between the top two colors in the color chart above.  The yellow works over almost every color I paint with.  Over brown it produces the gray you see in this photographHere is another dresser which I used the color.  You can see remnants of the paint in the details.  With oil, you have to work pretty quick, because it can get very thick quickly, making it more difficult to create a nice even finish.

 CAST IRON URN Terra Finish From Desgin Studio D

(This is as close as I can describe what a finish looks like using oil paint.  Oil paint allows you to move the paint around the piece with a damp cloth leaving a textured finish behind.  You can see that in some areas the paint was removed more than others)

For dressers I work in very small sections.  Smaller pieces of furniture I quickly apply paint to the entire piece and work like mad to get it off.

I simply paint on the oil paint, over the entire piece (or small sections if it is a big piece of furniture) and use an old facecloth to take off the paint. 

If you do more pieces at the same time, I find my cloth gets saturated with oil, (which dries) and makes my later pieces much better. 

I have used a muted dulled yellow over blue, and green, and the effect is terrific!  Nothing comes close to oil paint.  Painting can be fun, experiment, and make the pieces your own. 

Swedish French Decorating - Shannon BowersShannon Bowers- French / Swedish Painting Ideas

This french chair appeared in Shannon Bowers’s Swedish styled home, which was featured in Veranda Magazine. The frame is painted a pastel green, and heavily distressed, while the upholstery is in a clean linen white finished with nail head trim.

French Provence / Painting Finishes- Twenty Six Twenty Antique Store Featured on Cote De Texas

On the armoire above you can see how attractive muted blue paint looks against white painted details.  The settee has a light blue painted frame, with heavy distressing.

Painted Antique Furniture Using Pastel Greens - Picture Credited to Cote De TexasPainted Antique Furniture Using Pastel Greens – Picture Credited to Cote De Texas

6 Tips For Painting Plaster Wall Finishes


I was running through the Style Files Blog, and I stumbled across one of my favorite pictures, and until now, I didn’t know the story behind the photos.

An antique dealer Aurélien and his wife Pascale discovered a small chateau built around 1700 by an abbot who was knighted by Louis XIV.  The chateau has survived the centuries almost intact. With restoration, they re-created this old century styled home by filling it with antiques that would have been common through that time period.  A Louis XV daybed is covered with a a gold silk quilt and decorated with simple canvas cushions.  A large Florentine candlestick rests on the Gustavian style table.  You can find some more great photos of this home on the Inspiraci Online Blog.

You can really see how the right faux finished walls can make all the difference in a home that is decorated around 17th and 18th style decorating.  Shown in most of these photos is what is called a faux Venetian plaster finish on the walls.   These finishes are achieved using paint, and sometimes plaster. In the old days the paint was so semi transparent, that the walls appeared to have incredible depth in the paint, which created the wonderful finishes we see on the walls.  Their paint was probably much like mixing linseed oil and pigment, which is nothing compared to our modern day paint.  Today we can paint a wall in 2 coats or less, and call it finished.   There are a variety of Venetian plaster finishes that you can buy at your local hardware store that can be tinted custom colors.  Some look much like glossed marbled walls, and others take the form of plastered walls that you would find in Europe.


Venetian Plaster Finishes From Better Home and Gardens

As you can see this Venetian Plaster finish that appeared in Better Homes and Gardens magazine is a very advanced finish.   Working with lighter colors at the top is easier to combine than darker colors at the bottom of the photo.   As you look closely at the lighter colors in this Venetian plastered wall, the artist worked with a sponge to add some texture into the finish.

Working with lighter colors in your home will also open up the rooms, than the darker colors, and will be easier to live with as the months and years go by.  Consider hues of orange, peach, or beiges as undertones.  Always practice this technique before applying it to your walls, because in the case of rough plaster, you have to sand it off to have bare walls again.  Trust me, I had to sand down the walls of our old apartment, and it was messy and time consuming*

How to do this finish

You simply trowel on thin layers of semi-gloss paint using 3 different hues of paint.  You need some sort of pliable texture mixed in the paint to achieve the finish as just paint alone doesn’t work.  Many hardware stores sell this finish in gallon sized cans which can be mixed in with the color of your choice.  Simply using paint alone won’t work.

To best achieve this finish use AT LEAST three colors for this technique. 

  • Choose at least one pale hue, one medium hue, and one dark hue all in the same color for this technique to look genuine.  
  • Don’t wipe excess paint off the trowel; the randomness of the paint application is what creates the illusion of depth. 
  • Use different trowels to break up the flow of like size designs.

Most importantly in all faux finishes, apply a final, lightly tinted glaze over the entire wall to add depth and unite the colors.  Adding a final glaze coat to the walls in any faux wall painting is a critical step most people miss.  It is kind of acts like a blurring agent to your mistakes or your paint marks.  Glaze is simply a formula that is semi transparent, but softens the overall effect.

I would recommend buying the glaze that is NOT pre-mixed with a color. The reason for this is you are not bound by that one color.  I have three gallons of mixed glaze in my garage, which are all in one color.  I cannot use it for my random projects that require other colors. 

The general rule of glaze that I use is basically pouring half paint and half glaze together. It is as simple as that.  It is always better to add a little bit more glaze than paint.  With the final coat, I often just roll it on the wall for an even finish. 

Experiment to see what works best for you.  I have used Ralph Lauren Glaze in the past and have been very impressed.  The final glaze coat makes the world of difference.  How marvelous it is to decorate in the 17th and 18th century styles, and venetian plaster will pull your look together faster than anything else you can add in the room.



Swedish Antiques

I was searching through flicker recently only to stumble upon Avolli’s Photostream. For those of you who do not know who Avolli is, they are a Swedish, Danish, and Scandinavian antique furniture dealer who specializes in the decorative arts from Europe. They import their greatest finds to their showroom in Scarborough, Maine. Katy Elliott did a lovely post showing pictures of their vast showroom filled with Swedish furniture. Tricia Mitchell, owner of Avolli began her career in the interior design industry eighteen years ago specializing in the design of window treatments. After many years in the industry, Tricia went in different direction creating Avolli which allowed her passion for antiques to become a full time business. She focused on Swedish, Danish and northern European antique furniture.

A beautifully restored 19th century Gustavian style Swedish antique bench. This bench is elegantly shaped and proportioned upholstered sides accented with delicate scroll, pearl and floral carving details and sitting upon four square and tapered legs.

A lovely pair of French armchairs with an authentically restored warm white paint finish. Well proportioned and very comfortable, this pair of chairs has classic carving details along the frame with notched cornered back rests and turned, fluted and tapered legs.

Beautiful Swedish Neoclassical chairs in the Gustavian style from the second quarter of the 19thcentury. Expertly carved with egg and dart detail around the rectangular upholstered back rest which is supported by round leaf embellished uprights and a decorative X splat over a carved Griffon frieze. The upholstered seat is supported by egg and dart carved rails and four round and tapered legs surmounted with applied floral carvings.

A traditional Gustavian style dining table from the mid 19th century and restored in a traditional Swedish white/grey. Half moon ends form a round table, while the one or two new leaves provide seating for up to eight. The simple apron meets floral embellished square, tapered and fluted legs.

Swedish Gustavian Antiques From Avolli Antiques


In the February 2002 issue of Architectural Digest features an article on Emily Todhunter as she explores some of her favorite shops in London. One of the pictures features herself and owner of Talisman, Ken Bolan sitting on an 18th century Swedish Bench flanked by Swedish armchairs. The backdrop features a wonderful tromp d’oeil painting.

Todhunter Earle Interiors is a collaboration between two architectural designers; Emily Todhunter and Kate Earle. Emily Todhunter began her career as a specialist painter, which makes her all the more interesting as a designer.