I like to blame as much as I can on Andy Crichton, yes, him off the Traditional Painter website. 

It's his fault that I've spent lots of time practicing how to use Toupret skim fillers to get a finish smoother than an baby's bottom on walls and ceilings. 

It's his fault that I've had to spend delicious hours experimenting with Little Greene paints to get the most beautiful eggshell finish to woodwork (they're much better than that other 'heritage' brand that most people rave about).

And especially, (yes, we're getting there) it's his fault that I've been scouring the local antiques centres to buy Annie Sloan Chalk Paints to paint furniture. I should have done the garden path by now; I should have replaced the roof on the outhouse by now; I should have painted the upstairs loo by now; but I haven't, I've been too busy brushing and spraying random bits of furniture with Annie Sloan's amazing paints. It’s addictive. Be warned.

It all started quite innocently, as it often does, with some vague question I floated on Twitter (I'm @charliebudd on Twitter, if you're that way inclined). I wanted to know what to use to paint some furniture for my darling Jules' new Sewing Emporium (more on that later). Up pops Andy (@acmasterpainter, if you twish to become twacquainted) with a suggestion to use some 'amazing' paints made by Annie Sloan in Oxford. 

Before you get the wrong end of the stick, (which is highly likely, as I do beat around the bush) I have rather a lot of respect for Andy. He has a huge amount of experience in decorating and does the most gorgeous paint jobs on kitchens. Nevertheless, resteth upon his laurels he doth not! (To coin a phrase.) He's constantly trying to find better ways of doing things, better products to use, trying different brushes for different paints. He never bloody stops. He's constantly updating his website and blogs with 'I used to think the best way of varnishing was this, but now I've found a better way'-kind-of-thing. I mean his old technique would have been outstanding in anyone's book, and then the bugger only goes and does it better. Makes you sick really. 

So, that's the background, which I'm sure you're fascinated by. If not, tough. Anyway, Andy suggests I try using these 'Annie Sloan Chalk Paints'. Now they're different to 'normal paints' he says. They are. Very. 

1. You can paint them directly onto woodwork - whether it's nude, glossed, waxed, whatever, and they stick. Yeeeesss, you can paint them directly onto waxed woodwork. Or glossed woodwork. Without sanding, priming, or anything. Weird. But I tried it. And then I tried it again, and again, and it only works, doesn't it! 

2. They're non-toxic and low odour; so lovely to work with. (Not that I'd put them on my cornflakes, although Andy thinks I do.) 

3.  They come in lovely, heritagey colours (heritagey is a word, from now on). Not just British heritagey, but French and Swedish heritagey. I know because I've read some of Annie Sloan's books now and she gets inspired by colours all over Europe. 

4. You can mix the colours to produce your own. (I did for the table below.)

5. You can paint one colour on, then when it's dry (about an hour, depending on the temperature, humidity etc) you can put a different colour on. Then when you give it a light sand (either before or after waxing, Annie says after) the base colour will show through - which can give some great oldey furniturey (words, from now on) looks.

6. So, you put a couple of coats of the Chalk Paint on. Yes, it is chalky, and not durable – at this point. Then you put a couple of coats of Annie Sloan Soft Wax on to protect it, buffing as needed. (Steady on, I mean the wax, not you! Well, you can if you want.) You can also use dark wax to accentuate detail.

If you want to know more about Annie Sloan Chalk Paints, and Annie’s books (lots of them, all gorgeous, I have about 5) and Annie’s blogs, Annie’s projects, Annie’s favourite Amazonian insect... then go to her website. (I may have made the last one up.)

To cut a long story slightly less long. I painted a few pieces of furniture for my darling Jules’ beautiful sewing emporium ‘Sew Me Something’ in Stratford upon Avon. 9 chairs, a few tables, 2 peg boards and a lovely big dresser. The latter features in one of Andy’s blogs.

So, doing all this painting with Annie Sloan paints got me hooked. I loved the stuff, and what you could do with it. So when someone on the ‘does anybody want this’ web service Freecycle was getting rid of a plain, biro-marked, water-stained coffee table, I thought ‘oooooooooooooooo’! I did. I thought 'ooooooooooooooooo'!

Here it is, poor thing.

Excuse the cat, she's lovely but very weird. 

I wondered how I could beautify it (the table, not the cat). For most tables, as the top gets a lot of wear and tear, it’s best not to paint the top as it gets marked. But this table top was quite marked with ink & water stains - I could have sanded them off,  but I’d been inspired by a few photos I’d seen online of chests of drawers with Union Jacks on. So I got plotting, literally. I found a Union Jack template online, adjusted it to the dimension of the table, and plotted the design onto the table. I made a few mistakes, learned a lot, and loved every minute. So here are the photos of the process:


I coated the whole table with one coat of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in 'Old White'. No priming needed! I then drew on the design in pencil and started to paint the white lines of the flag. 

Started painting in the red lines using a mixture of 'Emperor's Silk' and 'Old White' as I didn't want a strong red, but a slightly faded more 'vintage' look. The brush you see is a Wooster 2" FTP synthetic angle sash brush, one of my favourite professional brushes and perfect for Annie Sloan paints - it gives a good finish, is very hard-wearing and easy to clean.


The red is done. All painted freehand along pencil guidelines except the tip of the thin red lines which I briefly masked with low-tack masking tape as I didn't have a brush fine enough to get the point. Time for a cup of tea! 


I masked off the ends of the blue triangles, and ran the masking tape for longer than on the red as I was getting a bit impatient! The blue I used was Annie Sloan 'Greek Blue' with a little dribble from an empty paint tin of Mythic eggshell paint in 'Blue Bolt' (a Dulux colour) to deepen the colour slightly (don't tell Annie!) Two coats of the blue (as with the red) was enough. 


The table was now painted. I wanted a vintage 'distressed' effect so lightly sanded the paint in areas. The chalk paint comes off very easily, and produces quite a bit of dust. If I was waxing the whole table, I'd have sanded after giving the table the first coat of wax - this creates less dust and it's harder to rub off too much paint. At this point I waxed the legs and frame of the table with Annie Sloan Soft Wax. The top was going to get a different treatment...


This coffee table was going in our sitting room - and however much we tried I knew we'd put a coffee mug down on it at some point. Now, there are different schools of thought on whether two well-dried coats of Annie Sloan Soft Wax would prevent mug rings, but Andy Crichton had been extolling the virtues of a breathable polyurethane varnish called Patina, so I decided to coat the top of the table with it. It's a jelly, and applied with a rag, so it was difficult not to smudge the chalk paint, but as I was going for a vintage distressed effect, a bit of smudging was fine. I'd decided on two coats, but after a hard look decided on three. There's still loads left in the tin! The patina deepens the colours and gives a slightly shiny finish. It is also slighly yellow, which may increase with age. This is fine for this piece as it will fit in with the 'vintage' look.


The finished table! It took about 6 hours to do from design to completion - but that's over several days to allow coats of paint and wax/varnish to dry. I reckon I could do it in about 4 or maybe less now. I've definitely got the furniture painting bug, and I'm working on a few other pieces - but simpler! 

To celebrate the completion of the table, we cracked open a bottle of a little something we'd brewed from elderberries picked in our garden. I kid ye not, it tastes like a sweet, fruity port! Bottoms up!