Here’s the problem with furnishing your house with kids. You want your home to look pleasant and tasteful, because by the time you’ve got kids, you’re probably well past the college dorm look. But since you’ve got kids, furnishing your house with pieces to last is just foolish. We inherited a perfect antique dining room set and put more nicks in it in one week than my grandparents made in 50 years.
But rather than settle for Target, which is not even so cheap when you add it all up, we’ve done pretty well refurbishing well-made-but-oh-so-ugly furniture. Some of it was free (as in from the alley), but most of what I refinish comes from thrift stores or estate sales for next to nothing.
Now, you have to be a little bit crafty to manage this, but I assure you, a little is all you need. This is not hard. And if you mess up, you can always start over with a new color. Worse case scenario, you give up, and all you’ve lost is a little time and not much money.
1. Start by finding the furniture you need. If you’re in the Chicago area, the ARK thrift shop is fabulous. Look for pieces that are solid wood and have an interesting shape. Don’t worry if the handles are ugly. Those come off with a screw driver. Once you find a piece you like, bargain. Then ask the guys to load it into your van.
2. Once you’ve got your piece home, put it in a well-ventilated area, like your garage. Start by sanding it with coarse sand paper. You could do a more professional job with a real sander, but if you’re a real professional, you’re probably not reading my blog for decorating advice. Do wear a mask, though. Who knows what they varnished that piece with 60 years ago?
3. To paint your piece, I like using the leftover paint from the walls of my house. I mix colors to make a new one I like. I also have bought paint from the oops pile at Home Depot or Lowes. Then, I add Plaster of Paris (purchase in the paint section) and water:
CHALK PAINT RECIPE
3 parts paint (you can mix your own colors)
1 part Plaster of Paris
Water to mix
Slowly add water to Plaster of Paris until it is all blended. Mix plaster into paint.
You can paint your whole piece one color or do layers of colors. If you do layers, be patient and let it dry. If you want layers of colors to come through your piece at the end when you distress it, you can rub a wax candle in the spots where you will later sand.
4. Lightly sand your pieces in a few spots at the edges where there would be natural wear and tear. When your kids run into the piece with a toy shopping cart, the new nicks and dents will just add more character. I also save a bit of the paint in a glass jar for later, in case someone scrapes across the new table with a scissors.
5. Seal your piece with Miniwax Water Based Polycrylic once it is fully dry.