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. Taya says

    Love the way the chairs look and that you got to do it with what you had around (except for borrowing the wax)! My only question is how does the little play kitchen and dresser all fit into that little room? Can we get an updated panoramic tour of the big girl room in progress?!

    • says

      Oh yes we’ll share lots more photos as we inch along, we still have plans to refinish or paint the dresser and hang something over the play kitchen to tie it in :)


  2. says

    i’m in the same boat! don’t love chalk paint… i think it’s probably really just best for the distressed look, because if you are doing any sort of sanding or distressing, it takes that very well, and much easier than regular paint.

  3. hannah says

    Totally agree about chalk paint. Old varnish can bleed through and you won’t know whether the varnish on your furniture will bleed through until it actually does, so in many cases you actually DO have to prep the furniture beforehand with a coat of shellac or primer. The paint itself is thick and dries fast so it can be tricky not to leave brush marks, and for something that gets more wear than the back of a chair (like a tabletop) you’d want to apply multiple coats of wax over a period of days. So I think the claim that chalk paint is somehow a timesaver is silly. I use it more to achieve a slightly old-fashioned look than to save time – it distresses well and is matte, and the wax gives a nice glow and protects the paint from water marks.

  4. says

    I have a friend who does chalk paint exclusively ( and it seems that it’s one of those paints used best when you’re going for an effect–specifically kind of aged or french country. That way the waxing brings out some of the details of the furniture, and sanding can let colors through, etc. I think I’m with you–for a project like this, I don’t think chalk paint is bad, but isn’t some kind of magic time saver. I have a few older pieces I’m going to try chalking, sanding, and waxing (my friend’s site has great video tutorials!) and see how that goes. But this was a great post to clue me in that for my normal coat-of-paint stuff, I should stick with a normal coat of paint. :)

  5. says

    I love the chairs! This question isn’t totally related to this particular post, but I found a few posts that mention you guys wanting to change out some of the doors to french doors. We just purchased our first home (EEK!) and our current french door has wood rot, so we’re going to replace it. I’m all for french doors (love the look and feel) but everyone keeps telling me to go with sliding because it saves space. Any major reason why you guys lean towards french doors? (Have fun in ATL!)

    • says

      All the amazing houses that we have fallen in love with have French doors (and pocket doors! Gorgeous!) so we’re huge fans of the character and architecture they maintain. Sliders are definitely cheaper though :)


    • Amy says

      Also, sliders afford you easier use of a screen door, nice if you want to leave the door open for ventilation.

  6. says

    LOVE the red back chairs! Although I originally said I liked the idea of the red table – as always, you guys nailed it!! Perfect and adorable! One of your other readers said it was ‘so cherry and makes you want to play’ – Yes, that is it!!
    Have fun on the last of your book signing tour! Visit with the Bowers en route?

  7. Marissa says

    We painted our (old almond colored) fridge in chalkboard spray paint. We LOVE it! It seriously provides endless entertainment when we have family and friends over! We are actually fixing to give it another coat of paint because so much use has worn some it.

  8. says

    Love the pop of color on the backs of the chairs! Do you think that if you painted the seats of the chairs, the chalkboard paint/wax treatment would hold up?

    • Leslie says

      I used the chalk paint on our kitchen table and love it! I did two costs paint and two coats wax. It has held up great and very easy to clean, even with a messy toddler

  9. Kristin says

    I’m sure it’s obvious in real life that the chair-backs are painted, but it’s funny how in these photos (to me, at least) it kinda looks like they’re just reflecting the hot pink of the rug!

  10. says

    I have not used chalk or clay paint yet, but all the vintage lovers in KC rave about it. I suppose if you had a four-piece set of 1970s grandma bedroom furniture like I do, that would require a ton of sanding and priming, this stuff might be worth it. I’m not sure I could even sand these pieces. The people I know love how easy it is to distress (if you’re into that sort of thing) and how versatile it is. You can mix customized colors easily and use different colors of wax for different effects. Anyway, I’m glad you got to use it and give an honest review. I’ll have to let you know how the bedroom furniture painting goes…

  11. Renee says

    haven’t actually painted w/the chalk paint yet (starting today though on girls’ dresser!), but from what i’ve researched you do save the sanding and priming steps. and even though you have to wax, it’s the same as having to add poly to it – so i guess you’re really still saving 2 steps?? also, from what i hear, a little goes a long way (both with the paint and wax), so even though it’s more expensive, it lasts longer than a gallon of regular paint. plus there are tons of easy layering/buffing/distressing techniques you can do that are harder or more time consuming to do on regular paint.

    again, don’t know from experience, but have talked to several furniture painters and done lots of research, and that’s what i’ve gathered. we’ll see this afternoon! ha!

    Clara’s table and chairs look great!

    also, when in Atlanta you should stop by the Varsity to eat dinner. greasy hotdogs and onion rings that are sure to give you an instant heart attack, but it’s a landmark and fun and you get silly hats to wear there, which Clara would like if she’s with you! have fun :)

    • says

      Oh yes it’s two steps if you always sand and oly. I usually only poly things that get super wet/beat like a kitchen tabletop, so for these chairs I’d just degloss, prime, and use semi-gloss paint (that finish is protective like poly). Even on our kitchen cabinets we used a paint made for cabs that doesn’t call for poly :)


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