Asked on Jun 19, 2013

Painting a bookshelf to look distressed and old....

SharonSpheramid EnterprisesJuneolsen


Can anyone please advice me on the best way to paint a wooden bookshelf(it is red at the moment....wants to be white) so that it looks old and distressed....can you reccomend any paints or methods etc? please let me know...thank you
10 answers
  • Vintage Storehouse & Co.
    on Jun 19, 2013

    Hi June, I've been painting furniture for a long time and I personally use Chalk Paint. The reason is because you don't have to strip/sand or prime your piece before painting. (This can be a huge pain when your working on something big like a bookshelf). Chalk Paint also sands/distresses beautifully. There are 2 main brands in the U.S. - Annie Sloan and CeCe Caldwell. Both will run you around $36-$40 per quart. I personally use Blue Minerals Chalk Paint Powder, which is a powder additive that you can add to any brand of regular latex paint to create chalk paint. Its much less expensive this way and your color options are unlimited. None are available in your local hardware store. You'll either have to purchase online or find a local retailer near you. I have tons of tutorials on my blog to help you along the way. If you do choose to use Chalk Paint, you can distress with either a cabinet scraper or sand paper (I use sandpaper). You can also use a glaze or dark wax to get an even more dramatic effect! Then you definitely will want to protect your finish with either polycrylic (because it's going to be white - don't use polyurethane or anything oil based - it will tint your color.) or clear wax. I like wax - its much easier to use.

  • Kat =^.^=
    on Jun 20, 2013

    Hi there, well I paint a lot of furniture as well, I always use Kilz first, a good coat to cover the red, let it dry a couple of days, but I make my own chalk paint, found on bloggland, basically tester paint (small can) plaster of paris, a couple of tablespoons and a little water, wa la, chalk paint and it is way less than Annie Sloan. You can just keep adding water if it gets dry, you want it to be like whipped cream. It sands well and then I always wax to protect the surfaces. I love Minwax. But to each their own on choices of paint :) good luck with your bookshelf, I love them myself! You could also modge podge book pages on the back wall of the shelves for character, just something i've done myself a while back, I liked how it turned out, it was a bookcase for a child so I used vintage childrens book pages. Most of all have fun with your project! I hope you post the before and afters? :)

  • Spheramid Enterprises
    on Jun 20, 2013

    be aware that a lot of latex and acrylic can do what is known as "blocking" , it means books can get stuck to it.

  • Siobhan Smith
    on Jun 20, 2013

    Since you live in the UK you have easier access to annie sloane paints and waxes. I also make my own chalk paint but would love to try some ascp

  • Chipped and Charming
    on Jun 21, 2013

    I have used all the expensive brands of chalk paint and they work fine. I usually do it the old fashioned way - sand, prime, paint, distress and wax or poly to protect the finish. I have found, at least for me, if I use FLAT latex paint and mix in some calcium carbonate (powder form) to make my own chalk paint it works great and is economical. Here's a recipe I found on Pinterest: Red is a tough color to paint over. I would definitely prime first. Hope this helps! Good luck.

  • Sherrie
    on Jun 21, 2013

    You can buy little samples of chalk paint for about $5.00 and it would be enough to do your shelf. I also make mine. I am always on a budget we have kids in college so everything I do is cheap. But I also always sand and prime. I use different kinds of paint to try different things. If you buy small sample bottles you can get a feel for chalk paint. Or I cam link a zillion recipes from everything to lime paint. I bet everyone can!

  • Vintage Storehouse & Co.
    on Jun 21, 2013

    That's a good point Spheramid! Blocking happens with latex paint if its not left to cure long enough. The hard thing with Latex is that it usually takes a few weeks before it has fully cured, and if you set something heavy down on it before it's cured, leave it for a little while - then try to remove it, the paint will stick to the bottom of the heavy item and you'll have a big mess on your hands, even if you use a top coat like polyurethane. This is why I like using Chalk Paint... Once you've applied the protective wax and let it cure for 24-48 hours, you can use the piece as normal. Calcium carbonate is the best DIY version of Chalk Paint out there, but it doesn't give you the same "gripping" power as regular Chalk Paint, so as Chipped and Charming said, you would still want to sand, prime and prep your piece as normal. Chalk Paint Powder and Chalk Paint both have additional ingredients that allow you to apply the paint to glossy surfaces without priming or sanding. (Another side note - Plaster of Paris can be very hazardous to your health. It has been shown to cause lung cancer and if you choose to make your chalk paint with it - ALWAYS wear a respirator! even if your paint is Low or No VOC)

  • Juneolsen
    on Jun 21, 2013

    Thanks for the answers, but I'm still hoping for more ideas. you hometalkers are amazing!!!

  • Spheramid Enterprises
    on Jun 22, 2013

    Never used the chalk stuff and glad some can share the benefits, being a woodworker, I like a clear finish. LOL

  • Sharon
    on Jun 23, 2013

    Check out Petticoat painting-workshop... I saw some awesome ideas !

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