That time I painted a Victorian sofa…with PAINT.

I recently got into using chalk paints at the shop. I saw a video where another retailer had painted a sofa hot pink, which made my eyes open extra wide as I thought, “NO WAY”. So when Sara showed up one day with an amazing sofa she picked up at a favorite haunt for $20, I kinda figured there was nothing to lose in experimenting.

This is what we started off with. Unfortunately you can’t see how gross the fabric was. Eugh. The paint was going to serve both as visual refreshment and sealer of gross yuckiness.

I chose a teal/green. It took 1 coat for decent coverage, but 2 for perfect, solid color. In the shot below you can see where the paint is still wet. It dries much lighter, but you get that color back when you seal it with wax or the brand’s satin finish.

I painted the wood trim (don’t hate, anti-wood painting people) in dark gray, then did a dry brush of the teal over it so I wouldn’t lose the details in the carving. Then I sealed it with a coat of soft wax.

Once I gave it a coat satin finish, the color really came to life. It changed so dramatically I was literally grinning ear to ear. I love it so much. It reminds me of an old pair of vintage cowgirl boots. The stitching makes it look and feel like worn embossed leather.

Bummed that I had to use a flash on this, but the real color just wasn’t coming through with my camera otherwise.




  1. 1

    Emily Doucher says

    What was the fabric that you painted? You probably said, but I missed it. What kind of paint is it and did the sofa feel like it had been painted? It really is beautiful! How do you clean it if you get a stain. Sorry for so many questions, just really curios. I might try this. Thanks, Emily

    • 2

      Alana Waters-Piper says

      Hi Emily,

      Yes, I painted the fabric as well as the wood trim. It’s CeCe Caldwell’s Chalk + Clay Paint (I sell it on this website). It doesn’t feel painted, but it does feel different. Kind of like leather.

      With the satin finish over the top, you’d just wipe it up. If the stain is really bad, I imagine you’d just paint over it! :)

  2. 3

    Teri says

    Hi, I think this is a great way to avoid the hefty cost of reupholstering. I am currently doing a chair, but ran out of paint, and need to reorder. I have questions for you. First, how much nap did you have on that fabric? Secondly, did you dilute the paint at all? Did you dilute the Satin Finish at all? How many coats of SF?


    • 4

      Alana Waters-Piper says

      Hi Teri,

      There isn’t a nap on this fabric at all. It’s a pretty tightly woven damask, almost like a fine canvas. I didn’t dilute the paint, though if you’re just wanting to add opacity in thinner spots and are running out of paint I think that would be fine. I did not dilute the satin finish and did 2 coats.

      Thank you and good luck!


  3. 5

    trudy says

    I am thrilled with this idea! so you do one coat of paint that has a flat finish, then another coat of paint that has a satin finish? how long does it take to dry so you can use it? is it comfortable to sit on? what do you estimate the cost of product for this project? actually, this technique could be revolutionary for us do it yourselfers! thanks! t

  4. 6

    Erin says

    Does this technique make the couch weatherproof? For example, can I buy a vintage couch, paint and seal, and keep it outside on my deck?

    • 7

      Alana Waters-Piper says

      Hi Erin, Sorry for just now seeing this! I do not think it would make it weatherproof. These paints are mineral-based, and I don’t believe it would waterproof it like that.

  5. 8

    Monica says

    Id love to use this on my new victorian style couch, what brand of paint for the satin finish? because i ddnt see that on the site. also I have two loveseat, how many cans do you think i need for two coats each?

    • 9

      Alana Waters-Piper says

      I used 2 cans of chalk paint on the large sofa, so maybe plan on 2 more for the love seat. Regarding the satin finish, I’m searching out a better brand. I’m not thrilled with the quality of the one I used for this project.

      I can highly recommend Annie Sloan Chalk Paints for the color portion, though. I’m trying to find out if they make a comparable sealant. That would be the icing on the cake.

  6. 10

    vern says

    What a beautiful couch…I was sorry to see it get ruined with the paint not only on the fabric but also the beautifull wood. Its furniture like that I have been looking for , for my living room, but in its original victorian grace.

    • 11


      Hi Vern,

      I wish you could have seen (and smelled) it before we painted. It was *not* good. The fabric was beyond repair and the wood was very damaged. This was definitely one of those times where if it hadn’t been painted, it would have gone to the landfill.

  7. 13

    Dee says

    Were you ever able to find a better sealant, I just painted a wing back chair and its not drying as “soft” as I would like so I figured I’d make it a “leather” chair, but will have to wait until the CeCe satin is shipped and would like a quicker fix that I could pick up like today. Any Ideas?

    • 14


      Hi Dee,

      Thanks for your note. I have tried sealing this with Mod Podge for fabric and actually liked it quite a bit. If I had to bet, I’d guess it’s just about the same thing as the Satin Finish. Hmm. :)

  8. 16


    I painted some vintage chairs with plain ol’ interior house paint. The fabric was thin printed cotton. Eventually something ran into the back of the chair and ripped it. I am not sure if the paint made the fabric more susceptible to tearing, or if this would have happened anyway. Since it was just an acrylic paint, I didn’t need to seal it, like an “open” chalk finish needs. Alana, have you compared/contrasted acrylic vs chalk paint? Hmmm, maybe I should do a side by side challenge!

    • 17


      Hi Jenni, I haven’t encountered an issue where it would weaken fabric. I do know the biggest difference between acrylic paint and Chalk Paint (by Annie Sloan) is that acrylic will eventually cure to a hard finish where Chalk Paint remains pliable. That kind of paint really bonds with the surface where latex will harden and crack. You can actually use Chalk Paint to dye fabrics because it’ll stay flexible.

  9. 18


    That is a great point Alana! I have a chair with small chenille squares on a canvas background. Maybe chalk paint will work on that. It has arm protectors, so I can start with that. I’ve made my own chalk paint with plaster, with great success on wood. Will have to test on fabric.

  10. 19


    Hi Alana, I have read so many sites on painting upholstery, that I am cross-eyed. It appears that your technique is the simplest. But I do want to verify your steps. Seems too good to be true.
    1. Chalk paint (Anne Sloan
    2. Wax sealant? Modge podge? Any other recommendation in using a sealant

  11. 20

    Sara says

    How does this method work on microfiber? I have a living room sofa set that is very comfy but unfortunately very ugly. I have thought about re-uphoulstering but it would be a huge project and I really do not have the time. Painting it however seems ideal. Will it still be comfortable and soft? What happens to the feel of the material after painting?

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