Painted shabby Chic furniture that will last a lifetime.

OP Woodcraft – Witney, Oxfordshire

Here are my tips which will allow you to refinish a piece of furniture which can last a lifetime. It takes a great deal of skill to finish a piece to a professional standard but following the easy steps should allow you to get to the standard you desire.

There are many processes when painting furniture. Many items i’ve seen for sale have been finished with chalk paint. Normally without any preparation. I personally use chalk paint if asked so have no qualms using the product but only when its used correctly with the correct prep.

  1. Source and buy in a piece of furniture as close to home as possible limiting overheads. Gumtree, preloved, facebook selling sites, freecycle, local auctions and eBay are all great ways of sourcing at a relatively low price.
  2. Create a design in your head, put the design into concept and visual imagery. This will allow you to foresee the painted furniture before you’ve even started. Any concept imagery and hand painted artwork can really help the client visualise the final piece and may well get you more commissioned work.
  3. Cost in all materials and buy good quality. I’ll mention what products I use below.
  4. If painted I tend to strip the piece with paramose gel stripper. This is industrial strength and can be found at many woodcare oulets. I get mine from AG Woodcare in Bidford on Avon. The stripper penetrates the paint and not the wood/patina below. This allows for the top coats to be scraped off leaving the solid wood or veneer below.
  5. If I’m working with a solid piece (ie pine) I normally strip with an orbital sander. I use an Abranet kit which attaches to my Festool extraction hoover resulting in a dust free working environment. Carefully work away slowly removing paint or the previous finish. Even with the extraction i always wear a mask (vapour and dust filters).
  6. Once stripped I would sand through the grades. Up to 400 grit on pine, 240 on oak as it’s open grain. This will leave a superior finish to start applying paint on. You can then neutralise with a thinner (gunwash) and wire wool. A fully clean and dust free piece is needed to start applying paint.
  7. Mask areas you don’t want to get any paint splashes on. I usually frog tape clean lines in side cupboards and on sides of drawers. Use the thick green version of frog tape. The yellow can be used on more delicate artwork (ie on mirrors and thin veneers).
  8. My first coat would be applied with a roller for large flat spaces and Purdy brushes for smaller decorative areas. I use a stain block from the Zinsser range (either 123 bullseye or BIN shellac sealer). They stain block omitting any bleed through and spot priming with the BIN shallac sealer will stop any pine knots bleeding through.
  9. I apply two coats getting the furniture sealed fully. You can get white and tinted to help as under coats. In between coats I use a 3M silicone carbide abrasive to cut back each layer of paint. This will give you a smooth surface to re-apply the next coat. The idea is to achieve the smoothest finish possible without the lumps and bumps when applying paint thickly.
  10. I then start to apply the top coats. My preference is Little Greene paint company (Water based Acrylic eggshell). This paint has a good amount of acrylic in the mixture meaning it flows and spreads evenly. It also works well in hot and cold temperatures. Ideally you would work in air conditioned conditions but that’s not always achievable. The paint and synthetic purdy brushes is a match made in heaven. You may not have to cut back in-between coats if the purdy brush and your careful strokes result in a flawless finish. I tend to work with water based products to make cleaning more easy and to do my part for the environment.
  11. From left to right apply the paint getting it spread evenly with long soft strokes. Keep the brush flat to the surface using its width. I usually use a 1.5 or 2 inch. The idea is to limit any brush marks. Easier to explain in practise but will be noticeable when you try. Remove any build up of paint in decorative areas with a dry brush.
  12. Cut back with the 400 grit 3M silicone carbide abrasive if necessary and repeat process.
  13. I normally go for 3 coats to make sure of a thorough covering. Always check in good natural light to check for any areas which haven’t covered evenly. The paint will dry within 4 hours in room temperature. Try to avoid moisture in the air. A dehumidifier can help in the workshop a huge amount.
  14. On the last coat chalk paints will cut back nicely before sealing but with eggshell save your best coat until last as I tend not to cut back before sealing. The eggshell finish doesn’t look great when sanded (even with a 400/600 grit).
  15. I personally like to seal with a water based varnish. This is a product called polyvine which comes in satin and matt. For pieces which are not going to be used all of the time i’d go for a matt finish. If you wanted a matt finish but the furniture was used daily i’d do a coat of satin followed by a coat of matt giving the surface a more durable finish. Apply the varnish with a super soft purdy varnish brush. As per the egghell this will give you a flawless finish. Please note the pot the varnish dispensed to and the workshop needs to be as dust free as possible.
  16. If you wish to strip and leave a solid tops or drawers natural then if possible remove and work separately. If you can’t with the top then mask up with frog tape.
  17. Buy in any fixtures and fittings you wish to take the piece of painted furniture to the next level. A new set of handles, knobs or hinges can always make the difference.

Here’s a selection of pictures showing processes and final pieces of painted furniture created here in the workshop in Witney, Oxfordshire.



Teachers Drawers sanded through the grades   Orbital sander - stripped pine tops ready to be primed and painted


drawers spot primed with zinsser BIN Two coats of 123 bullseye stain block and primer Two coats of 123 bullseye stain block and primer


white ducal drawers finished in first light little green eggshell final image of teachers desk, finished in first light eggshell and natural oak drawers

TV Cabinet finished in farrow and ball purbeck stone