The Pinterest Project Chronicles: A homemade chalk paint for summer garage sale scores

By Rebecca Hermance
Columnist for the Journal

Summer garage sales are in full swing and it is absolutely the best time to score used furniture. That dining table with water rings and marker stains, the multi-colored dining chairs of someone’s previously attempted project or the cute little headboard that would be perfect in your daughter’s room. It’s a plethora of furniture with so much potential!

There are about as many different ideas about how to paint furniture as there are pieces of furniture. Whether you are a first-timer or a practiced pro, the type of paint you use can make a big difference in how well you like the finished product. After many years of being a huge fan of spray paint or latex for its ease of application and smooth finishes, I gave ‘chalk paint’ a try.

While brand-name chalk paint has been around for over 20 years, it has rocketed to extreme popularity in recent years along with the trend of ‘distressing’ furniture. Not to be confused with chalkboard paint (although you can write on it with chalk before you wax it), chalk paint is a thick, matte paint that dries quickly and adheres well to most surfaces. The biggest benefit of chalk paint is that you typically don’t have to sand or prime the surface before painting. It can be layered and sanded to create the popular distressed or aged look, but it can also be left pristine for a more modern look.  Because chalk paint is so porous it does need to be waxed or varnished to seal the paint when using it on furniture, otherwise you risk smudged hand prints and stains from anything that touches it. Once sealed, chalk paint is washable and durable.

Chalk paint can be purchased ready-made at specialty stores or online, and a few lesser known brands have been showing up recently at big box hardware and craft stores. These are fine if you like the color selection available and don’t mind spending a little more money. On the other hand, if you are trying to get a very specific color, you might want to try making your own!

Pinterest is full of recipes for DIY Chalk Paint, most of them involving a mixture of Plaster of Paris or Calcium Carbonate Powder and latex paint. My favorite (and the least expensive) is Plaster of Paris. I have used varying ratios of paint to Plaster of Paris, all with favorable results.  A pretty common ‘recipe’ is the ratio of 3 parts latex paint to 1 part Plaster of Paris.  You can mix the Plaster powder straight into the paint, but for a smoother texture most people recommend mixing some water into the Plaster of Paris and then mixing in the paint. Most DIY recipes say any sheen of paint will work, but to avoid paint that also contains primer. When I am working on a small project, I will often just purchase one or two paint sample. Experiment a bit to find out what works best for you. 

My latest project was a beautiful bentwood chair purchased at an estate sale. The existing finish wasn’t in great shape, but the caned seat was still in good condition.  I decided to paint the chair with chalk paint and leave the caned seat natural. I used two coats of white chalk paint, followed by a thin coat of wax to seal the paint. 

Simple designs on the caned seat with colorful embroidery thread makes the chair extra special.  For less than $30, I now have a completely unique and personalized chair to sit on while I work.

Rebecca is a local interior designer, educator and all-around fun mom. Check out more of her projects at


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