Turn Your Crappy Furniture Into Shabby Chic Fast And Cheap


Chalk paint is popular right now. Chalk Paint appeals to those who love shabby chic or distressed style of decor.

I don’t write DIY posts often. The main reason is money. You need supplies to craft and complete DIY projects. Most of us don't have the supplies we need lying around.

A lot of us are struggling. For someone like me after 17 years of marriage my furniture is old. If money is an issue, you do repairs or fix up your old stuff.

I see a lot of bloggers posting about a Spring refresh and I am over here looking at my house thinking I need one too. A refresh could mean new couch pillows and lampshades or redecorating your entire house. That’s on you.

But I cannot afford to buy new stuff. Our kitchen table is from Walmart. The varnish on the chairs and the table legs were too shiny, and they chipped easily. At the time I needed the kitchen table I couldn’t afford to buy the one I wanted, so I settled. 

Do-it-yourself projects are my idea of fun. I watched YouTube videos and read blog posts from professionals that distress furniture. I wanted to do this right. If I screw up my table, I won’t be able to use it anymore so I didn’t want to make any mistakes. Which I did. So here I am telling you what I learned.

Let's talk about chalk paint first. Chalk paint needs no prepping. Whatever you’re painting needs to be clean. You need not strip it and you need not sand it. You can paint almost anything with chalk paint. Chalk Paint is cheap and they sell a quart at Walmart for Under $10. Chalk paint goes a long way a quart can paint a lot of furniture.

Chalk paint will leave brush strokes on furniture. Many of the blogs I read said if you hate brush strokes skip chalk paint or use a sprayer.  I decided if I distressed my chairs and table then the brush strokes would be ok. Another reason I picked Chalk Paint is there are no VOCs which means you can paint indoors. Chalk Paint is also very forgiving and if you make a mistake, you can fix those mistakes. Chalk Paint dries quick.

Buying Chalk Paint on the cheap can be tricky. I wanted a specific color and I couldn’t afford to buy it. I had to settle for a different color. Now if you’re good at mixing paints, you could mix your own. Remember the ratio in case you need to mix more paint later.

After watching all the videos I knew I had to use a natural hair paint brush which will be problematic. Natural hair paint brushes leave brush strokes and they shed hair. Once you pull that hair it will take the paint with it. Consider doing one coat with the natural hair brush and a second coat with a smooth roller. The roller will waste a lot of paint but it will make the paint look so much better. Consider getting a natural hair stencil or detail brush to get in the grooves and nooks and crannies. My chairs had spindles which can be hard to paint. 

The stripper would not coat my table evenly.

The stripper would not coat my table evenly.

I wanted to discuss chalk paint. If you are staining any part of the furniture sand or strip before painting. Do your research. There are chemical and natural liquid stripping agents but that may not be the best way of doing things. I picked a spray one that seemed easy to use and natural with no fumes. It was lies. All lies. The stripping agent made a huge mess, and it took forever. Sanding would take me perhaps half an hour and then I would vacuum and dust up the residue.

Liquid stripping can take a long time. Apply it. Wait. Then scrape it off. Do a wash. I used water myself. Then wait for the wood to dry. It took hours. I still had to sand the table because it did not remove all seal. The stripping agent melted stuff and made a huge mess. The moisture can damage the wood too. Be careful. Even my thick plastic Playtex gloves melted. I should have never used a chemical stripping agent. Sanding would have been faster. Easier. Cleaner.

Fill in dings and large chips before you stain with wood filler. Let the filler dry and sand. Then stain.

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Another big mistake I made was I used a brush that was for stains to apply my gel stain and it was a hot mess. I found that an old cloth diaper made of Bird's-eye was a hundred percent better for the second coat. I recommend you go to town with an old soft cloth to apply gel stain. Go with the grain. 

Distressing is so easy. Pick the spots you would touch and wear the furniture down. A light stroke may lighten the paint up which can be a nice effect. If you want the old paint to show a few strokes with a medium grit sandpaper does the job. The process goes by fast. Do not get carried away.

Before I started this project, I painted our picture frames first. That is when I figured out it's easier to do one or two coats with the brush then use the roller. Most projects only need two coats but I dry brushed a third coat for detail. 


You need to seal your piece. Many recommend wax for chalk paint. The issue with waxes is it’s not permanent! Wax needs an application every few months that is a lot of maintenance. A dining table where people are spilling things and wiping them up wax is not the best method. Use a polyurethane sealer. I used a sponge brush it made it easy. Two coats and your good.

So long story short is chalk paint worth doing? Yes. You can finish your project in a day. Be aware it can take a few days if you're stripping and staining part of the piece. In my case I have kids need I say more? 

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So here are some of my final thoughts and tips.

Don’t paint an item you’re not sure about. A family heirloom or piece you had for 25 years and you love it do nothing to it. Can you remove chalk paint? For sure you can but you may hurt the wood when removing it. So only paint something you can bear to part with.

You don’t have to buy Annie Sloan chalk paint. Walmart has chalk paint for under $10. Or join Michael’s rewards club you get a 40% off coupon. Sixteen ounces should be enough to do a kitchen table. Don't spend more than $15 on the paint and stain. Google what you want and find the lowest price. Stores that let you use coupons like 25% any item can make it possible to buy fancier paint.

If you will stain try sandpapering. It's not that hard at all. Sanding won't take as long as a solvent for smaller pieces.

 Consider using a chalk spray paint if your nervous about using a brush and not on a tight budget. It’s more expensive but if you have the money to spend, it will make your project go by fast and it’s easier.

 If you have children and have no help with these projects, you will get sidetracked. This is a commitment and whatever you are painting won't be something you can use. It can take longer to get this done if your kids keep bugging you and it can test your patience. The result is worthwhile though if you need to spruce up your home.

Hang onto things like empty plastic food containers. You can use them to hold wet brushes and mix paint.

The dollar store is a great place to get some of your supplies but I would avoid buying a plastic dropcloth. Every single one I tried ripped to shreds. Old newspaper works well and if you get a paper, it's free.

Wear thick gloves if you use any solvents or stains.

Enjoy your project. Painting and staining was hard with no help but I felt great.  I did this all by myself and that made me feel like I accomplished something.

Happy crafting everyone.

It's not perfect but we like it.

It's not perfect but we like it.

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