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On a Roll With Cottage Paint

Antique chairs painted in cottage paint make the whole room lighter
Antique chairs painted in cottage paint make the whole room lighter

Sometimes we keep things in our homes for their sentimental memories and do not pause to evaluate how well they reflect our own taste and personality.  In other words do we really like the piece?

In my home I have a pair of parlor chairs, circa 1920, that I inherited from my paternal grandmother.  When I got them I changed the original mahogany stain to a dark brown walnut and reupholstered in velvet.  They endured unscathed many moves, children, and life lived.   They were a regal but ominous presence in my living room.

Co-ordinating upholstery fabric on the sides and back add interest
Co-ordinating upholstery fabric on the sides and back add interest

I took the first step by re-upholstering them in pink and white striped fabric for the front, and a green-backed floral pattern on the sides and back.  This helped but the dark stained wood still looked more formal than I wanted…I wanted to change the color but was held back by practicality – ‘they are in pristine condition,’ ‘paint will devalue them,’ ‘sacrilege,’ and other vacillating mind chatter.  As Malcolm Gladwell posits in, The Tipping Point, I needed permission to act.  This came from the renowned and respected decorator Carolyne Roehm in her beautiful coffee table book, A Passion For Interiors, who describes spray painting an antique sculpture to make it match what she wanted. (Ref. p. 114)  It is important that the pieces in a room please you, touch your psyche in some way.  Ergo, I painted the platform rocker and the arm chair and am thrilled with the results.

What You Will Need

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Green painters tape
Cottage paint furniture clean & prep
Cottage paint, color “French Lavender”—for base
Cottage paint metallic wax, color “Old Gold”—for embellishing and a nod to this year’s metallic trend
Cottage Paint varnish-flat
1 1/2” and 2” brush
B.I.N. primer-sealer by Zinsser
Denatured alcohol or household ammonia – for B.I.N. cleanup

How To Paint

See our post on painting an accent table with cottage paint for more detailed instructions.

1.  Tape off upholstery and any part not to be painted.

2.  Clean the wood with Clean & Prep. Make sure all old wax is removed or the paint will crack.

3.  My old chairs had originally been stained with an alcohol aniline dye mixture in blood-red mahogany. This bleeds through any top coats unless the wood is sealed.  I applied 2 coats of B.I.N. sealer.  I let the first coat dry overnight before proceeding with the second.  Note:  B.I.N. cleanup requires a mixture of equal parts water and household ammonia or denatured alcohol.

4.  When dry, paint the base coat, in this case, French lavender.

5.  Dry for 2 hrs.

Gold painted accents make the details stand out
Gold painted accents make the details stand out

6.  Paint the accents with gold.

7.  Repaint 2nd coat of French Lavender over the entire chair.

8.  Then rub off the paint from the accents using a soft cloth.  This allows the gold to shine through.

9.  I then retouched-up the gold to make it more pronounced.

10. Protect with a coat of Cottage Paint flat varnish.

One of my friends has commented that the chairs look like they should have always been this way!

This post was originally published on January 14, 2015 but was updated with new content on August 18, 2022.

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