My Misadventures with Chalk Paint
My husband and I took the girls to a frog exhibit a few weeks ago. When we passed by the gift shop, the girls noticed the small aquariums with the African Dwarf Frogs for sale. They of course asked if we could buy one and I of course said no and my husband of course said yes and so, of course, I vowed that he will not be coming out with us anywhere ever again.
Luckily we didn’t buy a frog right then – my husband figured they’d be cheaper at a fish store and that we could use one of the five aquariums that we have stashed in the basement. Perfect, I thought. Everyone will forget about buying a frog by the time we get home.
Never underestimate the determination of a man with five empty aquariums.
The next day, my husband wandered from room to room, trying to find an acceptable place to set up. We finally agreed that it would go on top of the credenza that’s behind the couch (and by credenza I mean the old dresser that was passed down to us).
Picking a Paint Colour
You might remember this dresser from my kitchen, pre-reno. White. Kind of boring. I’ve been meaning to paint it for the last year or two or seven but I never had the time or motivation. Suddenly I knew it had to be painted immediately or I wouldn’t get the chance again until we upgrade to a larger tank. And goodness knows I’m going to fight that with every fibre of my being.
When I saw my husband hauling aquariums up from the basement, I knew I didn’t have long. I pulled out my collection of chalk paint sample jars and started holding them up to the couch, squinting at them through one eye and then the other. My husband looked at me with disbelief, certain that I was just looking for ways to stall his aquarium set up.
I promised that if he would just let me paint, everything would be done by the next day. And that it wouldn’t even cost anything since I already had everything I needed. I even had clear wax for finishing.
But first I had to decide on a colour. I knew I had to pick fast – no time to paint sample swatches. I turned to Facebook instead.
I got some good advice and lots of encouragement and one perfectly-timed quip:
The general consensus was that my favourite, the light aqua colour, wouldn’t look terrible. Good enough. That I needed so that evening I grabbed a brush and started painting.
The paint went on beautifully and the colour was gorgeous. But when I stepped back to admire my work, I realized that the aqua was somehow different than I expected and I was pretty sure I hated it. It looked terrible with my couch.
Also? I was running out of paint, which was going to put me over my budget of “spending nothing.”
The next morning, I sat on a chair and stared at the dresser. The morning light was more flattering but I still wasn’t certain that I liked it. Then I threw a chartreuse-coloured table runner over top and suddenly, like magic, it was perfect. The table runner colour matched both my couch AND my new turquoise dresser and I was much happier.
Sealing the Paint with Wax
As soon as my husband woke up, I left him with the kids and drove across town to buy more paint so I could finish up. I also decided to switch my clear wax for dark wax after an hour or two of looking at chalk-painted projects on Pinterest.
The dark wax adds more depth and an aged look and seemed easy enough to use. Thankfully, the store was kind enough to exchange my clear wax for dark wax. I asked if I’d need supplies, since most people used fancy wax brushes in the YouTube tutorials that I watched.
“Nope, just a cloth, like an old t-shirt.”
Perfect. I went home with my paint and new dark wax.
We finished up the painting that afternoon. The drawers were painted a slightly different colour, a green/turquoise blend, on the suggestion of my seven year old and over all, the dresser looked fabulous. I love chalk paint.
My husband wasn’t convince though. “This stuff scratches right off?! It’s useless!”
“Well that’s what the wax is for,” I assured him. “It seals the paint.”
That evening, I was set to wax the dresser. My husband was raring to get the fish tank set up so I had to finish my project ASAP.
“Are you going to do it in the living room?” he asked. I thought I would. I mean, the wax has virtually no odour; I specifically asked about that when I bought my can of clear wax a couple months back. The sweet girl working at the store assuring me that it hardly smells at all – she even let me smell an open can and I could barely detect an odour. After all, it’s wax, right? That word makes me think of happy bees.
My husband looked at the can. “It says you need a layer of clear wax first.”
“What? No it doesn’t.”
“Yes, right here.”
“Nobody told me that!” It was 5:30. The store was closed for the day.
The next morning, as soon as my husband woke up, I left him with the kids and I drove across town to buy more wax.
When I got home, my husband asked once again if I wouldn’t prefer to wax it in the garage. Sigh. Oh, fine. We (okay, he) hauled the dresser downstairs and into the garage and finally I got to work.
As the World Turns
The wax actually did have an odor once you start to work with it, but it was tolerable. I happily worked on the six drawers, and then I stood up straight the garage suddenly tilted a bit to the left.
Whoa. I attributed my shakiness to the sudden change in temperature – the garage is way colder than our living room.
Just to be safe, I closed the door from the garage to the house so that they wouldn’t smell it upstairs.
I began to work on the dresser body. My head started to feel terrible. I opened the garage door, despite the fact that it was 15° below zero. I worked as fast as I could so that I could get away from the wax. What kind of sadistic bees made this stuff? Probably the petroleum-based, man-made kind of bees.
Finally I went upstairs and casually mentioned to my husband that I didn’t feel so good.
“Because you’re as high as a kite?” he asked.
Um … what? I was confused. I definitely wasn’t as high as a kite – maybe a telephone pole, but certainly not a kite. And the thought of a kite spinning through the air was making my head feel worse. Do kites spin? I don’t know. I leaned against the refrigerator.
My husband walked to the back of the house to open the bedroom windows.
“We can smell it back here,” he called. “I was just coming to open the garage door.”
I sank to the floor, still leaning against the fridge. “I opened the door 15 minutes ago, but I didn’t know it it was that bad.” I responded weakly.
This was actually comical – I’m always complaining that his model paints stink and opening the windows dramatically while my husband swears he doesn’t smell a thing.
I closed my eyes. “Some of the YouTube tutorial videos were inside. Nobody mentioned the smell in them.”
My husband came back to the kitchen and opened both windows wide.
“One video even had a kid making faces behind her mother. And another one had a baby laughing adorably somewhere off camera.” I continued feebly.
“Maybe they used a different wax.” he suggested.
I lay across the floor. “No, it’s the same name brand and there are only two options, clear and dark.”
“Well then maybe the laughing baby was high too.” he responded.
“That’s a terrible thing to say!” then suddenly I realized my three children were all exposed to this horrid stuff too and immediately began to cry. Because, you know, I was pretty loopy.
“I’ve damaged our baby!” I blubbered. “Can he breathe? Is he okay?” And then I whispered “Am I going to die?”
I should probably mention at this point that I have the same reaction to fabric softener and perfume and scented room plug-ins. Walking down the detergent aisle at the grocery store is akin to torture. I might be a teeny bit sensitive to chemicals. And a touch hypocondriac.
My husband looked at me and gave me an encouraging hug. Because sometimes the only thing you can do when your overly-sensitive wife is sprawled across the kitchen floor crying that the baby has just caught cancer is to just humour her as best you can. And hide your laughter.
“No, Tamara, people huff turpentine and paint thinner and stuff like that to get high. On purpose.”
I don’t know if that’s true, but it was encouraging.
We left the garage door open for the rest of the day.
The next day, I woke up with a sore throat but a clear head. My husband asked me if I was planning to do coat of dark wax. Are you kidding me? I told him that I wanted that stuff out of my house as soon as possible.
For some reason, my husband decided that he would do it himself. He assured me that he would wear a mask and gloves and have the garage door open and even seal the door between the house and the garage with duct tape before he started. I told him that I wasn’t certain that I wanted to sacrifice my husband in the pursuit of pretty furniture but he didn’t listen and off he went to the garage.
An hour later, he came back inside and had a coffee. He wasn’t bothered in the least. That’s annoying.
We left the garage door open all day again. The next day, we brought the drawers up to the living room, but even though I tried to pretend they weren’t bothering me, my husband brought them right back down with barely a word and opened the garage door again to air them out.
The next day, we brought everything up and admired our work. It was over zero outside and I figured this might be out only chance to throw open all the windows if we needed to (clearly I had no idea today was going to be so nice).
Anyway, it’s done. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the colours so, so much.
I don’t know if I’m ready to paint anything else though. I might try something small and using a different brand of wax. I’ve heard of a Canadian brand that uses actual beeswax and is supposed to smell amazing. I might even try my own concoction. Or I might just wait until a windy summer when I can be sure the breeze will carry any offending odor quickly away. From my husband. I’m not touching that stuff again.
I’ve had a sore throat for a couple days now but I’m not sure if it’s related to this adventure. I’m not seeing double anymore, although I suppose that wouldn’t be the worst thing. This dresser turned out so well that I wouldn’t even mind seeing two of them, spinning around above me with a kite or two as I lay on the kitchen floor.