Upcycling Sunday #2 - The Test Project

Last week I wrote an introduction about how I got into upcycling and my first haul of materials. This time I thought I'd talk about my first project - although it feels a bit generous to call that because literally all I did was paint a bookcase. The point was that I wanted to get a feel for the materials and just practice my painting technique.

Mostly I was curious about how well the chalk paint I'd bought would go onto the bookcase which was the type of cheap, shiny wood that I could envisage normal emulsion just sliding off. I can guarantee that if you Google 'upcycling' within a few clicks you will see the words 'chalk paint' and the name 'Annie Sloan'. I hadn't heard of either before and I certainly hadn't had any experience of using chalk paint but the write ups online all sounded very positive. Not only can chalk paint be applied to most surfaces without the need for sanding or priming beforehand, but it is ideal for giving a rustic style because it dries to give a matte finish that can be easily distressed. All of that felt a bit beyond me at this stage so all I really wanted to see was how well it would go on to the slippy, slidey bookcase.

I didn't use Annie Sloan paint because it's pretty expensive and only seems to be stocked in independent, specialist shops. I would like to use it in the future (if I can ever hunt it down) but this time I used B&Q's chalk paint brand, Rust-oleum, which I thought was pretty good value given the coverage and choice of colours.

As I said, no sanding or priming was required so after a quick hoover and clean down I literally began slapping some paint on the bookcase, going in the same direction as the grain of the wood. It dried really quickly and gives this grainy looking effect where you can still see the wood underneath. I'm still not sure if this is the desired effect or if I'm just really bad at painting, but I quite like it. If you wanted to distress a piece of furniture you could use two different colours for your base and top coat - that way the colour underneath would come through like this and also when you're sanding.

Afterwards I had the bright idea of lobbing some glitter paint on. I really don't know what possessed me. The two styles just don't go together well and I also found that the glitter paint acted like a varnish which made the paintwork look glossier than I wanted. Luckily I only did the bottom shelf with glitter before I realised it looked a bit pants, so all was not lost.

Most tutorials advise that you should seal and protect your paintwork using varnish or wax - especiallly if it is a piece that is going to be well used. I bought wax because it's supposed to work well with chalk paint to give a matte finish but I left it a few days just to see if it was really necessary. It was. Jack is not gentle about removing books from his shelf and within a day or two he'd caused some pretty big scratches. No matter, it all adds to the rustic effect. At this point I used an old cloth to rub Rust-oleum furniture wax over the bookcase, taking care to buff it up and not leave any sticky patches. After a few hours of drying, the books were back on and there have been no more scratches to the paintwork since.

So here is the obligatory before and after picture:
I know it's hardly groundbreaking but I felt that it gave me the opportunity to get a feel for using chalk paint and the lovely blue colour (Balmoral blue, I believe) has really brightened up Jack's bedroom. Next time I'll talk about my second project which was a bit more faffy but quite impressive upon completion!

As ever, I'd love to hear from anyone else who has experience, thoughts or ideas on upcycling.


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