Category - diy

Furniture painting classes in the Chicago area
How to make this silk tassel shade into a ceiling fixture?
DIY: Painting a fireplace
How to get the smell of curry out of furniture (a personal journey)
DIY project: help me reupholster this vintage La-Z-Boy recliner
DIY upcycled A-frame trellis and a tiny urban’ish garden
DIY: How to make a vintage suitcase table
DIY: How to paint furniture with milk paint
FAQ about decorative furniture paints, finishes, brushes, and whatnot (And what is Chalk Paint®?)
How to fix up vintage furniture: Furniture repair / painting / finishing 101 class

Furniture painting classes in the Chicago area

Today was a first for me. We had our furniture painting class in Claudia’s lovely backyard garden. I don’t know about you, but I feel like we really earn our beautiful Chicago summers. Who wants to be inside when you can be outside on a gorgeous day like this?

If you’re interested in hosting a private furniture painting class, drop an email to

I’ve lowered my head count requirement to two people for a class. So if you were hesitant to book before because you didn’t get four people together, I’m not doing that anymore.

The price structure is two people for $95 each, three-four people for $85 each, and five-six people for $75 each. Class times are available in the day or evening. Furniture painting classes may be held in your Chicago area home or in a restaurant/bar party room or similar venue.

I provide all materials and I come to you. I bring brushes paint materials to paint tarps cups… everything. All you need to have is a table, chairs, and people to have fun with!

Click here to save your date today!


How to make this silk tassel shade into a ceiling fixture?

I picked this shade made of silk tassels up a year ago with the intention of turning it into a ceiling fixture in our living room.

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DIY: Painting a fireplace

I found this fuel burning fireplace at an estate sale last summer. It’s been sitting in my garage waiting to be incorporated into our living room decor. So today I finally broke down and painted it in Old White Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan. Here’s the before & after. What do you think?


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How to get the smell of curry out of furniture (a personal journey)

I just bought this cute little vintage recliner off of Craigslist. I knew it came from a non-smoking home, but when we got it back to the house the smell of curry was pretty obvious. Now, I love (love,love) curry. I put it on my popcorn. I love the way it smells, I love the way it tastes. But the scent of it, so strong on a piece of furniture right next to my nose, isn’t a smell that makes for a good napping spot. And we all know that’s what recliners are for, right?

So I set off to ask Google about how to get the smell of curry out of furniture and this is what I found:

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DIY project: help me reupholster this vintage La-Z-Boy recliner

So I’ve been talking on Facebook with you guys about how I injured my shoulder pretty badly a few months ago. And following so many of your recommendations I found a vintage La-Z-Boy recliner to sleep in. It had to have good bones and be cute. I tried to mentally get into the idea of having one of those big, overstuffed, cushy recliners but I just could not do it. I found this one on Craigslist for $45. What I really liked about it is it has that classic La-Z-Boy cush, but looks like a cute little vintage rocker. And I think since the arms aren’t upholstered that it should be a little easier to reupholster. I might try doing this myself.

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DIY upcycled A-frame trellis and a tiny urban’ish garden

Have you ever turned a project over and over in your head and then one day it comes into focus and you’re like, “DOH! I’m an idiot. Why haven’t I thought of this by now?”

I knew I wanted something crafty for the garden. I don’t really tend toward store bought solutions for things like this. I prefer to make something out of something else. An old garden gate holds clematis in the backyard, a livestock tank for a soaking tub…you know, stuff like that. Little substitutions that make the environment a bit more interesting.
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DIY: How to make a vintage suitcase table

We’ve all seen those cute projects on Pinterest showing coffee tables, night stands, and pet beds made out of vintage suitcases, right? Well it’s probably one of the simplest upcycling projects you could tackle and lots of fun to boot. Here’s one I did recently with a chalkboard top. It’ll work as a cute play table with storage for Matchbox cars, Legos, etc. inside, then a game & drawing surface for tic-tac-toe, hangman, checkers, whathaveya.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 sturdy hard-sided, flat (not tapered) suitcase
4 sets of table leg hardware (find it in the decorative wood section at the hardware store)
4 decorative screw-in table legs, available in several lengths
4 sets of screws and nuts (enough for the holes in your hardware). The hardware comes with short wood screws. You won’t use those.
Paint (if you want it)

Step 1
Paint your suitcase (If you like. The surface of mine was pretty messed up.) I used Old Fashioned Milk Paint with Extra Bond mixed in.



Step 2
Place your hardware for the table legs snug in the corners and mark where the holes will be with a pencil. Then drill the holes for your screws. Do this on all 4 corners.


Step 3
Place the table leg hardware, then push the screws through and tighten a nut on the inside. Do this on all 4 corners.






Step 4
Paint or stain your table legs, then once dry, screw into the table leg hardware.

Step 5
Marvel at your crafty upcycling skills.
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Such an easy and fun project. What do you think?

DIY: How to paint furniture with milk paint

We paint about a piece of furniture a day at the shop, so we like to mix it up. Today was “painting stuff with milk paint” day, so I decided it might be fun to share the steps with you.

Milk paint is thousands of years old. There is evidence that it was used in ancient Egypt and the colors remain nearly as vibrant as the day they were applied. When applied to a porous surface, it bonds incredibly well and soaks into the grain. Milk paint is non-toxic and typically all-natural with zero VOC’s.

Here I’ve pulled out an old dresser that’s just begging for a beautiful ebony patina.

Painting a dresser with milk paint

The “before” pic

Some folks like to mix their milk paint powder with a fork, whisk, or mixer. Me, I’m lazy, so I just pour the powder into a canning jar and shake it up. Then I can see to measure it and close it up when I’m done with a project or just want to take a break. Typically it’s 1 part warm water to 1 part milk paint powder. The milk paint we carry is all natural, containing no preservatives, so you’ll want to mix it fresh for your project and use it within a day.

How to use milk paint

How to use milk paint

Shake it!

Here I’m using Pitch Black by Old Fashioned Milk Paint. You can go a couple of ways with milk paint. If you are into that whole “Let’s just see what it does” vibe, then paint right onto the old surface. It’ll chip and flake in the most beautiful random ways. But ya gotta be zen about it. It is what it is. Just let the flake flake, man.

Let the awesomely random peeling begin.

Let the awesomely random peeling begin.

How to use milk paint

Here you can see where it’s starting to dry. Milk paint dries very flat.

You don’t have to go the flakey-chippy route when using milk paint. Just mix in a bonding agent (like Extra Bond) and it’ll adhere without sanding or priming. This option is great for mid-century pieces and control freaks.

How to use milk paint

Adding bonding agent to milk paint keeps it from chipping. Great for modern pieces.

An example of milk paint on an MCM piece. No distressing or flaking. (It's still a tad wet in this pic and hasn't been waxed yet. I'm impatient.)

An example of milk paint on an MCM piece. No distressing or flaking. (It’s still a tad wet in this pic and hasn’t been waxed yet. I’m impatient.)

Once the paint is dry, I take a putty knife, razor, or whatever’s handy and run it over the surface to get rid of any flaking paint. Other great tools for distressing include old keys, a wet rag, pocket knife, and of course sandpaper. (I totally should have said “of coarse, sandpaper” but I thought you’d think I couldn’t spell.)

How to use milk paint

Painting, flaking, and scraping done. Ready to wax.

For a protective finish today I used Daddy Van’s Lavender Beeswax furniture polish. It’s kind of like a little aromatherapy treatment while you work. It’s a soft furniture wax, not hard like paste wax (so it spreads easily), and smells delightful.

Daddy Van's Furniture Polish

There are lots of options for a protective finish once your piece is dry. I love Annie Sloan Soft Wax (made to pair with her Chalk Paint®, but it works great with other paints, too) as well as tung oil, hemp oil, and Miss Mustard Seed’s furniture wax (made by Clapham’s). That’s good stuff. It’s beautiful on dry wood and all sorts of other surfaces that need a refreshing moisture treatment.

How to use milk paint

The final result. A coat of wax brings out the beautiful character of milk paint.

How to use milk paint

Detail of the aged patina look that milk paint creates. The bubbled texture is a result of the old varnish, not from the paint.

Once the solvents in the wax evaporate, give the piece a good buffing with a soft, lint-free cloth and you’re good to go!

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them below. Don’t feel shy! If I don’t know the answer, I’ll get one from an expert I respect.

FAQ about decorative furniture paints, finishes, brushes, and whatnot (And what is Chalk Paint®?)

faq-chalk-paint-milk-paintWhen you’re tackling a furniture painting project, there are so many options out there and a lot of truly bogus information. This all just makes a simple task so intimidating and complicated. Let’s cut through some of this nuttiness, shall we?


Surface Prep. Is it needed?
Yes and no.

When the answer is YES: If you’re using latex or oil-based paint. (But really, who uses oil paint anymore?) Sand it enough to give the surface a bit of a tooth, then do a coat of primer, then at least 2 coats of your favorite latex paint. Or you can do the primer-and-paint-in-one thing. The surface will take about 30 days to fully cure, or you can use a hardener. Curing is not the same thing as “dry”. It’ll feel dry, but have you ever sat a dish on a recently painted piece, then when you go to pick it up it sticks a little bit? That’s because it’s not fully cured yet.

When the answer is NO: If you’re using Chalk Paint® Decorative Paint by Annie Sloan, Milk Paint (for example, Miss Mustard Seed) with a bonder mixed in, or some of the other mineral-based paints, such as CeCe Caldwell’s. (Disclaimer: I do not sell any of these paints, but I’ve used them and sold them in the past.)

  • Chalk Paint: Just clean the surface and paint. 2 coats usually does the trick.
  • Milk Paint: Clean the surface, mix in the bonder (Miss Mustard Seed makes her own), then paint at least 2 coats.
  • CeCe Caldwell’s (and similar paints): If the wood has any oily residue on it (like pine knots) then touch those up with a bit of Kilz latex primer, then go ahead and paint your usual 2+ coats. Since these paints have clay in them, they tend to draw oils out just like a facial mask would. Most of the time they work great. If you do a coat and see some seepage coming through, touch those areas up with a little primer and then keep on painting.

Since we’re chatting about it, what Chalk Paint IS NOT:
It’s not plaster or grout mixed into latex. If you like that finish, that’s great and you should enjoy it. —But don’t consider this an even swap out for Chalk Paint®, which is a trademarked and proprietary product produced by Annie Sloan. It’s not latex, it’s not acrylic, it’s a different paint altogether. Ooh! And (just in case) it is also not chalkboard paint. You don’t paint it onto things you want to be able to write on with chalk. -But that’s pretty cute on projects, too!

Should you go the latex/plaster route, make sure you prep your surface as you would with the standard latex process. Sand, prime, paint, and if necessary, seal. If anyone tells you different, just keep on movin’. You know better than that! And what should you do if someone is selling that stuff and claims you don’t have to sand & prime? Yeah…you’re learning well, grasshopper. I’m so proud!

Why wouldn’t I just use latex paint from the hardware store?

You totally could! Lots of beautiful furniture is painted using plain ol’ latex paint. Even spray paint. But when you explore the world of decorative paints, man, awesome stuff happens. Magical little things that make your projects so much prettier. The colors are richer, the finishes have so much character. It’s worth giving some of the options a try. Still not convinced? Here’s the tie-breaker: IT’S FUN!

Topping it off

Depending on your end use, there are lots of beautiful ways to finish your project off, including just leaving it alone. If you’ve gone the traditional latex route, you may choose to just let it be. If it’s a tabletop or some other piece which will endure a lot of wear and tear, you might like to add a clear poly or soft wax finish for added durability. Just be sure to clarify that you are purchasing a clear, non-yellowing product or there’s gonna be some tears.

For Chalk Paint, Milk Paint, and other mineral-based paints you’ll almost always want to seal the finish. With CeCe Caldwell paint, you have to in order to get the true color to come back. I’ve painted outdoor pieces with Chalk Paint and skipped the wax, opting for a beautiful weathered finish. Most of the time you’ll go with a soft wax, which is the consistency of soft margarine. That goes on in very-very thin coats, just enough to moisturize the surface of the paint. You may choose to use a wax brush, I like to use wide strips of muslin. Let it dry (a couple of hours) then buff with a soft, lint-free cloth. Old shoe shine brushes are great for buffing the dry wax to a soft sheen. If it’s a tabletop or other high traffic surface, I’d do a couple rounds of wax. Or you can still just go back and poly, but that kind of defeats the beautiful chalky finish. Miss Mustard Seed makes a wonderful hemp oil that is easy to use, smells great, and leaves a lovely finish.


(You know who you are.) You just spent all this time and money on expensive paint and finishing products, but you’re going to put it on with a 75 cent brush? You deserve better than that! Be nice to yourself. Get yourself just one high-quality natural bristle brush. It’s your tool! The tool that’s going to make your project glow with happiness. At the very least go for a Purdee, available at most hardware stores. I love Annie Sloan’s paintbrushes. They’re round instead of flat, hold lots of paint, and aren’t drippy. Chalk Pro makes great brushes, too. Just about anything, including using your husband’s dirty old T Shirt, is better than a chip brush. (Really, there is a time and place for them, just not on your labor-intensive furniture project.)

Now you know lots more stuff about painting furniture. Go forth and make AWESOME happen! It’s fun! The best part is that it’s nearly impossible to mess up. Have faith in yourself and remember it’s supposed to be fun. I believe you can do it. :)

Here are some really cool products for you to check out:

Do you have any other questions about painting furniture? Please feel free to post them below. If I don’t know the answer, I will ask someone I respect for their expert input. I didn’t even get started on stains! That’s for another time. 

How to fix up vintage furniture: Furniture repair / painting / finishing 101 class

Want to learn how to fix up your vintage furniture find?

How do you repair a chair? How do you fill in chips in veneer? What are all the options for refinishing a piece? How can you distress furniture? How do you wax or finish it? How do you recover a seat cushion? How can you fix a loose and wobbly old dresser? How do you do all those things and then make your vintage treasure AWESOME? Learn these things and more in our next class:

FURNITURE REPAIR/PAINTING/FINISHING 101 (Limited seating…click here to save your spot!)

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