Bell Jar Interiors

Vintage, reclaimed and handcrafted furnishings


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Distressed side table in grey

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I purchased this solid oak side table on kijiji for $20. I had seen a beautiful distressed-finished table at a studio I stayed at recently, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this little gem.

I purchased a parchment coloured chalk paint at my local craft store. It can be very pricey, but fortunately chalk paint goes a long way. I paid $19 for half a pint of paint and it was very easy to work with. Chalk paint is usually very thick, with the consistency of liquid honey. It is beautiful to work with as it is almost odorless and cleans up with soap and water.

First I sanded all surfaces with a heavy grit sandpaper. A mouse sander is perfect for this task, but you can do it by hand as well. You really just have to rough up the surface just a little bit. Once it was sanded, I wiped it down to remove remaining dust and applied a thin coat of chalk paint. If you want a thin coat the paint should be thinned with water so that it is closer to a normal acrylic paint consistency.  I wanted thin coats because I wanted to make sure that some of the original colour showed through the finished product.

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I sanded again after the first coat, to ensure there were spots that there was little or no paint. After one more thin coat of paint, I sanded lightly with a fine grit (200-220) until there were some patches of brown showing through. This is a fun part of the process, because you really get a sense of how furniture really wears over time. edges and corners will be exposed first, and it really does look like a piece that has been banged around by a family for years.

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Finally, I used a clear wax that I tinted grey with some acrylic paint. A tinted wax will give you a real aged/antiqued look, as it adds a depth of colour and texture that just paint won’t give you.  You can put the wax on thicker in spots or just a light coat all over. Wax can be applied with a soft cloth or a paintbrush. I find both are effective, depending on what works best for you. Once the wax dries (20 minutes or so), buff with a soft cloth to achieve a beautiful soft sheen. The wax seems to interact with the paint and the grain of the wood in such a way that you see fine brush or grain marks that are raised and give a beautiful texture to the finish.

I wanted an antique/handcrafted look and added some painted detail in grey, light grey, and gold.  I like how the medium brown showing through the distressed finish is accented by the little bit of gold in the design on the table top.

This table is now available on Ellemenno Interiors’ page on Etsy.com for $120.

Vintage window becomes photo frame and bulletin board. Oh yeah, and coat rack too!

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I just finished this with chalk paint from American Decor in the colour Primitive, with clear wax.  I really love how the cork parts turned out, too. Unfortunately I donated it to a silent auction and it won’t end up in my front hall.  But it was a fairly easy project, so bring on the old windows!


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Life is good – when you can spend a sunny afternoon painting outdoors

I got a good start on my two new pieces today – the chair and the golden oak (gag) table.  The paint – it’s called American Dream – is very thick and goes on very nicely, but it seems important to put on a very thin coat, almost dry-brushing.  The colour is quite lovely – it looks almost white out in the sun but on my arm it looks like a nice antique grey-white.  I have sanded the table lightly and the honey-oak showing through is a good contrast to the grey – the grey tones it town just enough that I think after two coats it will be a nice aged but warm look.

I am also working on an old window that I am turning into a picture frame with coat hooks.  Photos tomorrow!


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Chalk paint, milk paint, how do I distress thee

I finally ventured into Michael’s and paid more for a couple of little vials of chalk and milk paint than some cognacs cost by the ounce.  I fully expect that I will be making my own, but I suppose I need to start with the real thing so that I can accurately compare.  

I’m pretty excited. These are the two pieces that I am going to do first: 

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I purchased an antique white chalk paint with a taupe undertone, and both the clear and dark waxes.  I had been holding onto the coffee table waiting for the right mood and inspiration to strike. And I think it will look gorgeous with this antique white, likely with the dark wax to give it a real aged patina.

There was also milk paint in little sample jars that intrigued me somewhat, but I elected to go with the chalk paint.  I have mixed up my own at home with some recipes I found online, but I am still a little bit sceptical that mixing the chalk medium with a latex paint will be as easy to work with.  And I love the idea that the pre-mixed chalk paints are usually very environmentally friendly and low-odour.  

Wish me luck – tomorrow I begin!