When we first toured our house, I knew it was the home for us. Chill bumps prickled all over my arms as I stepped in and Sabine immediately started admiring the many quirky details. As we worked our way through the home, we came to the “purple” bedroom.
“This is Sabine’s room!” my child declared and then started gesturing around the space. “My big girl fairy bed will go here, and my toys will go here, and there will be flowers like New York on my walls!”
Fast-forward a week, and I was in full spreadsheet mode – here are all the things we have to do and purchase before we move in. At the top of the list was a big girl bed for my still crib-bound three-year-old. I knew I wanted something non-Ikea, with character, that was built to last and was under $100. This is not an easy task when it comes to furniture.
Together Sabine and I scoured thrift shops and consignment stores waiting for the perfect bed. One afternoon we popped into the TROSA thrift store and found two French provincial style twin beds. They were in rough shape. One bed had a rotting leg and the other, while structurally sound, needed refinishing. But priced at $60 it came in way under budget and honestly, how much could it cost to buy some chalk paint and sandpaper? “It’s going to be so cute AND cheap!” I texted to the Professor.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA,” laughed Annie Sloan.
We hauled it back to our tiny apartment, and I started researching chalk paint. I wanted a smooth, matte finish to the paint with the look of wax but the durability of varnish. Polyvine makes a Dead Flat Wax Finish Varnish that had glowing reviews from chalk painters and was about $30 for a quart. A little over budget for excellent durability is ok, I justified.
Sabine and I drove to Raleigh to buy our paint from the area Annie Sloan dealer. I showed him pictures of the bed and explained that I wanted a smooth finish. Not a distressed shabby chic look.
“You’ll want to shellac first,” he said. “That will ensure that none of the wood or old finish will bleed through. And you need this brush.”
He held up the most ridiculous looking round rough brush I have ever seen.
“Really? That will give me a smooth finish? I read that I needed a high quality nylon bristle brush?”
Oh no, he insisted. Any other brush will leave strokes. You NEED this $40 brush to go with your $40 paint. And then you need wax and a wax brush… I was able to stop him at the wax since I had already ordered the wax finish varnish. He sneered at this but happily rang up the expensive brush and paint.
Then off to Home Depot for $40 in sandpaper and shellac. Do you see where I am going with this? $60 bargain bed, $30 in fancy varnish, $40 chalk paint, $40 rip-off brush, $40 in shellac and sandpaper… this is NOT a $100 project.
I sanded the bed outside the apartment, then brought it into Sabine’s room to shellac, paint, and varnish. This was supposed to be a two-day project with one day to shellac and paint and one day to varnish. SEVEN days later I finished. The fancy pants, expensive-ass brush left tons of brush strokes, so every coat of chalk paint required a light sanding. It also dropped bristles like my Maine Coon cat drops fur, so I was constantly pulling bristles out of the paint. It was a never-ending painting nightmare. Six coats later and I waved my white flag. Yes, there were some brush strokes, but this was getting ridiculous. It was for a little kids room. Chances are it would be covered in puppy stickers within 24 hours anyways. Three coats of varnish and 3 additional days of cure time and it was finally ready to wrap up and add to the growing pile of stuff for the new house.
So the moral of this story is that chalk paint is NOT a one day project, Polyvine Dead Flat Wax Finish Varnish is badass, expensive Annie Sloan brushes are a piece of crap, and no DIY refinishing project is every “cheap” or “quick!”
Thankfully I am thrilled with the end result and, most importantly, so is Sabine. We set the bed up the first night in the house, and she was so excited that she could not wait to go to sleep – which is a VERY big thing for my sleep fighting child.