Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Cabinet Makeover: Chalk Paint with Antique Wax

As you may know if you've read some of my recent posts, I'm no stranger to chalk paint. I've painted all our kitchen cabinets, plus a coffee table and a couple other small pieces of furniture with various brands of chalk paint (aka miracle paint). However, up until now I've only used clear wax to protect said pieces. 

This past weekend, however, that all changed. *cue dramatic music* On a whim, I decided to paint a small cabinet in our dining room which holds all our kitchen towels and such. Several years ago I had actually re-stained the cabinet a dark espresso brown. But since then we've installed new flooring (also very dark brown), so this little corner was feeling pretty heavy and monotone. And to be honest, I was feeling antsy and in need of a smallish, weekend DIY project to feel productive.

For those of you that need immediate gratification (trust me, I get it), I'm just going to show a "before & after" right now. Of course, hopefully you'll still read the rest of this post to see the whole process and more pictures of the final result!

Initially I thought of painting the cabinet Annie Sloan Graphite to match our lower kitchen cabinets. But that just seemed too matchy-matchy, plus we just have a lot of gray shades happening in our house already. No, it needed to be a color with a bit more punch — yet still tie in to our other decor. Digging through my stash of chalk paint, I pulled out a bottle called Teal Lagoon, which seemed like a solid choice given we have some other teal accents. 

It also seemed like a good time to be more adventurous with this chalk paint makeover — enter the antiquing (dark) wax. I bought a bottle of it a couple years ago but had never used it yet. Something about dark wax intimidated me, but I decided to give it a whirl. I did watch a few quick video tutorials just to see how other people use this wax, and it seemed fairly simple. 

I literally did no prep to the cabinet (other than dusting it and taping off a few areas for clean lines) before painting on the first layer of Teal Lagoon. After letting that dry a couple hours, I added a second coat which was enough to give it a nice, even, opaque color. On its own, this aqua color was pretty bright for the look I was going for. Most of our other furniture has a worn, distressed style which was ultimately the goal here.

At first I thought about sanding all the edges to reveal the darker wood underneath (like I typically do with chalk painted pieces), but then decided to forgo that idea and get straight to the antique wax since it would darken everything anyway. And, quite frankly, I didn't feel like taking the cabinet outside and making a mess with sanding.

But first, I rubbed on one coat of clear wax over the teal paint with a rag and let that dry. According to the instructions that was supposed to help the antique wax apply more evenly. 

Then I got out one of my wax brushes, dipped it into the dark wax, took a deep breath, and started brushing it on. I was fairly liberal with it and tried to apply wax to one entire section or side of the cabinet at a time before wiping the entire thing off with a rag after 20 or so seconds. Keeping long strokes and applying consistent pressure when rubbing the wax off helped to avoid splotchiness (very technical term).

In case you're wondering, the rags I used were just old cut-up t-shirts, and I went through several of them because they get filled up with excess wax pretty quickly. Basically you just want to use something that has little or no lint. And as far as brushes, the wide brush on the left below is the one I use to chalk paint large, flat surfaces. The brush on the right is similar to the one I used for wax.


Overall the antiquing wax was pretty forgiving. It's a little scary how dark it goes on, but once you start rubbing it off you can control how light or dark the end result is. Antique or dark wax is really good for bringing out intricate details in your furniture because it stays in all the carvings, nooks and crannies. This is why it's important to use a stiff wax brush because you really need to push the wax into all those crevices. Also, this Buttercream brand wax was pretty liquid-y; but others (Annie Sloan, for example) have a more paste-like texture. 

Now this cabinet in particular is mostly smooth, but it does have some dents, dings and nail holes which — once waxed — add to the character and weathered effect. And depending how you brush on your chalk paint (i.e. thick or thin layers; with straight strokes or more varied strokes such as cross-hatching), the antiquing wax will also pick up on that texture. Overall, the wax just helped by toning down that bright aqua color.

After applying antique wax over the entire piece (and getting an arm workout in the process), I let it dry and then rubbed on another coat of clear wax for extra protection. The next morning, I put the hinges and knob back on the door. Since the brass hardware already had an antique feel to it, I decided not to spray paint it as originally planned. 

While this whole painting/waxing process was playing out, I had a pretty good feeling it was going to be a success. And this feeling was confirmed once the cabinet returned to its place in our dining room. It. Was. Perfect!

All the heart eyes!!!

The muted aqua color pops against the gray wall, and looks so nice with the framed Hawaii art prints that hang above it. Not only does the weathered/distressed style coordinate with our other furnishings, but the color was a close match to our dining chairs (purchased from Amazon). Woot! 

For a standalone piece that was bought at Goodwill many years ago, I couldn't be happier with the new life this cute cabinet has after its chalk paint transformation. Forgive me for sounding overly dramatic, but it's like it was meant to look this way all along.

Although we have a lot of "mix and match" furniture, chalk paint has allowed me to create a cohesive look among pieces while still maintaining their individuality. And now, I have more confidence when it comes to using dark wax (not to mention a paint color other than gray or white). Bring on the next painting project!

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