Trying Annie Sloan Chalk Paint And Soft Wax

Dudes and dudettes, I finally tried chalk paint. And yes, I just broke out dudettes. Gutsy move for 2013, eh? Anyway, many of you guys have asked if I’ve given Annie Sloane chalk paint a go, and now that I have, here are the details. First of all, here’s how we used it:

John and I brainstormed a few possibilities for the table that we cut down and the two thrift store chairs that we found in West Virginia (they were $8 each) for a while. Here are a few alternatives that we tossed out there:

  • red chairs with a white table
  • red table with white chairs
  • navy table with red chairs
  • navy table with white chairs
  • one red chair, one navy chair, and a red table

And then we finally landed on something that we thought was interesting enough to make us pull the trigger: wood chairs with red backs and a white table. Of course it was John’s idea (as he is the brains of this operation), although a reader later suggested exactly the same thing, which was a pretty funny “jinx!” moment.

We had a hunch that adding a table and chairs would be something that we’d get some good use out of in there. Sure enough, the day we dragged them into the room to test our theory, this happened.

And this:

And I realized that I even loved Clara’s pj’s layered into the room’s palette. #crazyfabriclady

So after establishing that the table and chairs were a good addition to the room, it was just about getting those chair-backs painted bright red. Our first instinct was to run to the hardware store and grab a $4 test pot of red paint, and get to work sanding and priming. But then I remembered that we had a little sample pot of Annie Sloane chalk paint (everyone at last year’s Haven conference got a bag with a few little pamphlets and samples, one of which was this guy in “Emperor’s Silk”). So I decided to give it a try. I mean I’ve heard it’s really convenient since you don’t have to prep the surface at all (no sanding, no priming, etc).

Update: Chalk paint, although it sounds similar, isn’t the same thing as chalkboard paint (chalk paint is just a flat chalky type of paint, sort of like milk paint or clay paint).

So I brought the chairs out into the sunroom, wiped them down with a liquid deglosser just to be sure they weren’t coated with something weird like oil (you never know with thrift store stuff) and cracked open the red paint. Then I got down to painting the backs of each chair, which took about ten minutes each for each coat.

I used a short handled angled brush (more control) and free-handed things, being careful around the edges to keep them nice and clean (for those who are worried about shaky hands, you can tape off the edges if you’d like). It went on pretty thick even though I did my best not to pile it on (it’s pretty viscous stuff) so there was great coverage and it only took two coats to be completely done. Then I let them dry in the sunroom for a while (it was kinda smelly, so I wouldn’t recommend doing it anywhere that’s not closed off and ventilated – I had the slider wide open in the sunroom while I painted).

But here’s the rub. While chalk paint doesn’t call for any prep before you paint, there’s a step after you paint. I didn’t even realize this going into it, but after a few days of letting them dry in the sunroom I went in to check on them and they felt really dry and chalky. I dragged my finger across the back of one and it actually made a white line (yes, that probably means I left skin cells on the chair, which skeeves me to no end, but the point is that the freshly painted chairs were crazy chalky and dry – not sealed and ready to use at all).

That’s when I learned that Annie Sloane paint gets sealed after the paint dries by applying a coat of Annie Sloane wax over the painted area to seal it and gloss it up for everyday use. Duh. $herdog was not even in on that little fact. The good news is that a friend of mine named Lori (who happens to be Clara’s school friend’s momma) had used Annie Sloane paint and wax on some bookcases in her daughter’s room, so she offered me a few dabs of her wax so I didn’t have to buy a whole tin for two tiny chair backs. Literally, I only needed two dabs, and I used a sock to apply a nice thin coat of wax. Tip: you don’t want to go super thick with the wax or it can have a hard time curing and may stay tacky over time.

It wasn’t really hard or anything, but the thing I still sort of think about is this: if the whole selling point to chalk paint is that there’s no sanding or primer needed, but you have to apply another product afterwards (and buy that as well, unless you have a crafty friend with leftovers) isn’t it sort of the same difference?

I definitely recommend giving it a try if it beckons you, and it didn’t crack and peel or make me hate it or anything, but I’m not convinced that it’s much harder to degloss, prime, and paint (which is what I would have done) instead of deglossing, chalk painting, and waxing. Does that make sense? So my very very honest review is this: I liked chalk paint, but it didn’t change my life. That being said I know there are super crazy chalk paint lovers out there and I totally respect that. Who knows, maybe I’ll use it again and that’s when it’ll change my life. Haha. Ya never know…

In the meantime, there’s one thing I can’t deny. We love our red-backed chairs and we cannot lie.

One more chair pic, just for kicks:

Oh and as for the table, it was stained…

… and peeling down below.

So we gave him a quick sanding…

… followed by a quick primer + paint job. As for the paint specifics, we used semi gloss Benjamin Moore Decorators White in their Advance paint, which is extra durable (we used it on the cabinets in our office when we painted them over a year and a half ago and they’re still taking a licking and ticking like crazy).

As for the placement of the table, we go back and forth between putting it against the wall under the window and pulling it out onto the rug. So we’re living with it both ways to see what ends up being the most functional. We’ll report back as we trial and error our way to a decision. Ha!

This little playroom/big girl room is starting to shape up, right? I mean, we’re only about 35% there, so there’s a ton left on the agenda, but it’s definitely an awesome change to see this room go from Crazy Chaotic Storage Explosion to a room that we can actually all hang out in. Hootie hoo.

What are you guys painting? Have you ever painted just the top or the back of something? Did you eye it or tape it off? Have you tried chalk paint? Did it sweep you off your feet? Does it take a few tries for it to really make you swoon? Or are you a stodgy old traditionalist like me who doesn’t mind primer before instead of waxing after?


  1. Shannon says

    If you have time before the signing today, you can walk over to Jonathan Adler- it is right near Flor (along with a bunch of other very awesome shops!)! I am totally going to get one of those zebra rug dishes myself! And if you need a place for dinner/lunch, the grain bowl with spicy shrimp at nearby West Egg is amazing (as are the Coca-Cola cupcakes!)!

  2. Kaitlin says

    Just the color on the back of the chairs is gorgeous! And yes, painting than waxing seems to be no different than priming and painting.

  3. says

    I love the red backed chairs. What a fun room that is. So cherry and makes you just want to play. Great job, can’t wait to see how it all looks when you guys are 100% done!

  4. Julianne says

    So here’s my chalk paint saga. I bought a 1930’s bed that’s super intricate and in rough shape. I was daunted by the thought of sanding, priming and painting all the crevices so I thought, hey, maybe I’ll use chalk paint and skip the sanding! But then I read that furniture from the 30’s and 40’s often bleeds through the paint so you have to seal it with shellac first. Then paint. Then wax. It was at that moment that you posted about using a magic eraser to remove old grime and I figured I’d do that first, just to see. So I did and then Old Englished the snot out of it and now it’s gleaming and beautiful. Okay, not really helpful but that’s my experience with almost using chalk paint.

  5. Patti says

    So happy to see this post, I recently bought ASCP in French Linen to paint a cabinet for my dining room. I heard so many good things about it so I took the plunge. I haven’t gotten to it yet but thanks for the tips! And the chairs look great!

    • says

      I was thinking of chalk board paint the whole time too! Might be good to clarify that at some point. The chairs look great!

    • DawnSC says

      Ditto to being confused that it was chalk BOARD paint – I specifically came to the comments because I KNEW somebody would’ve asked for clarification! :) I was excited to hear about how it worked too (as chalkboard paint), as I’m almost at the point of starting my art wall project – converting the lower half of our hall wall into a chalkboard for our little one. Small house + minimal storage for art supplies = multitask the walls. :) I’m still a little hesitant as to how it’ll look in the long run, though. Plus we have textured walls so I’m going to just use some wood or something for a smooth surface and reversibility.

    • Liz E. says

      My question exactly! I kept expecting the chalk to come out any minute. I feel both dumb and enlightened haha!

    • Jen M. says

      I also thought these were chalkboard painted, and kept waiting for the point where you drew on the backs of the chairs with chalk, glad to see this thread of comments to clear that up!

    • Sandra T says

      Oh, man! Me too! I was kinda wondering why Clara would want to use chalk on the back of her chairs, but I shrugged and figured she’d want to differentiate between Daddy’s chair and Gee’s chair. Now that’s sort of funny, right?

    • Claire says

      Oh this makes sense now! I was thinking what’s the big deal, just use a different make of chalk board paint that doesn’t require a waxing. I was also trying to work out how the chalk would work on a waxy layer and getting very confused. Got it now!

    • says

      Omg I totally thought it was chalk board paint too. I had no idea there was a distinction. This whole post I was waiting to see some of Clara’s artwork on the backs! lol

    • Blanca Green says

      Whew!I was thinking chalk board paint too! I started thinking I’ve been using it wrong for awhile :)

  6. Katie says

    I love the Lois Vuitton shoe vibe you got going on with those chairs! I never would have thought to paint just the back in a million years, but it looks so much more chic that way than if you had painted the whole chair red. I also like that you left some of the natural wood to show on the front of the chair – it ties in nicely with that one natural wood frame on the opposing wall collage (the frame housing the paint chips). What a fun room!

  7. rachel says

    chalk paint doesn’t give off toxic gases over time the way regular paint does… that’s one advantage, right? i prefer the finish on some pieces (my bookcases & china cabinet), but want a hard, glossy finish on others (bunk beds, tables). love the chairs! : )

    • says

      I didn’t know that! Definitely a perk. It was pretty stinky when I put it on and I think the label had warnings about not using while pregnant or in front of children, so I assumed it wasn’t as eco.


    • says

      This is an old post, I know, but I had to chime in. Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint is low-voc and safe to use. However the WAX is pretty stinky and they recommend letting it air for 4-6 before using around babies and such.

      That being said, it is a neat paint because you can thicken it or thin it, depending on your finish. and the chalky finish is neat! I didnt have any weird issues with the furniture I chose not to max after

  8. Carly says

    I think chalk paint is best on a piece you want to distress. For normal painting, I agree it’s not much easier. (Although I’ve never used Annie Sloan, I just make my own with paint + Plaster of Paris).

  9. Mari says

    I love the way the room is shaping up. We are getting ready to paint my daughter’s desk hot pink. I hope it turns out as well as the chairs did.

  10. Tina says

    at least you don’t have to clean your brushes or rollers twice when you use the chalk paint. i guess that’s something…plus it makes great use of those unpaired socks!

  11. April says

    I totally get not being crazy about chalk paint. I am a new convert to it but my first project with it was a huge two-piece hutch that was in rough shape. Sanding could have actually damaged it. So I went with cleaning it and then just painting it. I did not wax my entire piece after though because I didn’t mind the texture it let. I just waxed the surface areas that would get the most touch or wear. I think if you tried it on a large piece you might see the benefits of not sanding, priming, etc.

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