This chalk paint ottoman project was one of my favorites when we first moved into our new house. Redoing it was necessary to blend in with a new home and to cover up 10 years of abuse from kids and pets. After all, why throw out a good piece of furniture that you can bring back to life? This ottoman made it through 10 moves in 15 years. It was host to hundreds of feet, butts, nerf gun battles, plates of food, and even diaper changes. It was practically a member of our family. It was also the first expensive piece of furniture my husband and I purchased together.
So in the end was it worth it to use chalk paint rather than re-upholster it? See the project times, costs, tips, and pros & cons below to decide for yourself and see what I think.
Before/After/2 Years After:
We purchased this ottoman around 2003 from Pottery Barn. It used to be a beautiful cranberry color before I put it in a room with too much sun. The color faded and the more we used it, the more the leather cracked.
After years of neglect and cross-country moves, I knew a reno project was sorely needed. I painted it at the end of 2015 with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey and finished it with a clear Annie Sloan Wax. I was immediately thrilled with the results.
Flip to 2 years later after more abuse from 2 rowdy young boys. Their hobbies include playing soccer in the house and eating messy snacks. Jumping from the couch to the ottoman to see who will fall first is also quite fun.
*Note: I have never cleaned this ottoman with a commercial cleaner, re-waxed or re-painted it.
Chalk Paint Reno Schedule:
Day 1: Buy chalk paint, wax, a paintbrush & wax brush. Gather up old rags, a drop cloth, painters tape, and disposable plates, cups and spoons. Move your piece to a place you can work and not have kids/pets climbing on top of you. Remove obvious crumbs and dirt - you can also vacuum in the crevices. Put painters tape around any parts (like wooden legs) that you don't wish to paint.
Day 2: Wipe your leather with a damp cloth to get the paint to adhere better before painting. Pour some of the paint into a disposable cup and add a bit of water to thin it out. This is done to make the paint smooth and not crackle because I wasn't going for that look (though some do). Be sure to seal up the paint can so it doesn't dry out and refill this paint/water mix if necessary. The best thing is to mix enough to do a full coat the first time without having to refill, but it's a guessing game. This is not an exact science so my advice is to find a consistency that works with your piece and mix it well. Then man up and start painting. I used very thin coats thinking I could always add more later and it worked quite well. Marvel at your fancy handiwork. Don't obsess about the paint streaks showing through on the first coat because they will. The second coat will even things out, or at least mine did. Apply as many coats as you need to reach your desired color - I did 2. Don't let the kids touch anything. Let it dry for 24 hours before applying wax.
Day 3: Using a spoon, place a little bit of the wax on a disposable plate. This way you can swirl your brush into it without contaminating the entire jar of wax. Then pick a technique: swirl your brush or use brushstrokes in the same direction. Whatever you do, stick with the same technique for your whole piece. The wax will be a little darker than the paint so you can see where you've yet to apply it. It's also what softens up the chalk paint so it was a must-do step for me to replicate the leather like feel. Plus I felt that it kept the leather in better shape and more protected. Again, apply as many coats as you need to achieve your desired finish - I did 1. Wait 24 hours before buffing.
Day 4: Using clean rags, buff your piece to get it to shine (if you are going for that look, which I was). If you are going for a distressed look you can scuff it up with sandpaper instead of buffing. I was aiming for a smooth finish so there was no distressing needed. My kids did that plenty for me afterwards. Although it's recommended to let your piece cure for 30 days before use, that was about impossible for us. I tried as best I could to keep the kids off it for a few weeks and then gave up. Project complete!
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
I purchased my Chalk Paint, wax and brush from a local store in Round Rock, TX called The Dowdy House. They are an official Stockist of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and were extremely helpful. In their store they had sample boards painted of various coats of each color, with different coats of wax. I am positive I would not have taken on the project without their helpful tips (literally a tip sheet they gave me). That and the goading of my mom to "just do it already and see what happens."
Don't Get Scared
I was super intimidated to take on this project. I didn't want to ruin my "good furniture" which, let's be honest, looked crazy worn down at this point. So really, what did I have to lose? Well, I had Googled lots of Chalk Paint Tutorials and a lot said not to paint leather if you used the piece regularly. Regularly? We jump on this thing every day. Build Legos on it. Eat dinner on it when we're lazy. It gets more than regular use. But I figured I could always recover it if I ruined it... and whew, I didn't. Not by a long shot. The above picture shows some of the wear after 2 years and still going strong.
It's Not Rocket Science
Are there a bunch of steps of steps involved? For sure. But it wasn't the most difficult project I've ever taken on. Take a look at my Master Bedroom Closet Renovation with IKEA's PAX Wardrobes post for that. There wasn't anything to build, but it took a bit of patience and time. That and a lip-biting/cringing/hey I really can do this attitude.
After 2 years it doesn't look like it used to when first painted, but what does? The biggest flaws and scratches pre-Chalk Paint are becoming much more pronounced again. But it's still perfectly presentable, especially if I pretend it's distressed on purpose. We live close enough to the Fixer Upper silos in Waco to totally get away with that. And I've got a piece that my kids can use, not fancy guests only furniture, which is much more our family's style.
Since Chalk Paint doesn't have fumes, I was able to paint and wax inside the house. You don't have to haul your piece back and forth between tasks. You don't have to worry about the smell with your kids. And if you need to put your face right in there to make sure you've painted all those cracks, you won't get a headache.
You may be reading this blog post directly before or after another one that told you to do it differently. Yep, there are a lot of ways to use Chalk Paint. I used clear wax, not dark. I painted leather, not wood. I aimed for a smooth finish, not distressed. If that's you, too - bravo. Most important to me - I am letting you know how my project held up after years of kids using it as a launch pad (see the above picture 2 years later). This is not Grandma's beloved china hutch here. It's an honest look at the realistic scars of a well-loved piece of furniture.
(1) quart (32 oz) of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint = $38.95
(1) small can (16.9 oz) of Chalk Paint Wax - Clear = $29.99
(7) Chalk Paint Wax Brush = about $50 at the time
Disposable plates, cups, spoons = FREE
Misc. paintbrush, rags, painter's tape, drop cloth (we had on hand in the garage) = FREE
Approximate total costs (minus sales tax): $120.00
*Keep in mind that I have A LOT of paint & wax leftover for future projects
I will say this about the costs: compared to the price of reupholstering my piece, this was a steal. But yes, it still stung to see how much it was. If I could go back in time, I would use rags instead of the fancy brush to apply the wax. But I was determined to "do it right" so I I bought the right tools. I still don't regret spending a week's worth of grocery money on paint, so that's saying something. We use this ottoman every single stinking day. I can't remember what I ate last week.
Pros & Cons of my Chalk Paint Experiment
It hasn't held up perfectly, but I had a hunch that wouldn't happen with regular use.
The Chalk Paint was way more than I usually spend on paint. But I still have half a can leftover for other projects.
It was difficult to decide upon a color because it varies depending on how many coats of paint and wax.
I was intimidated to use Chalk Paint and especially on leather. There aren't many online tutorials about it working in a kid friendly home. Especially not ones with after pictures.
I got to save a treasured piece that I really loved.
Chalk Paint seemed overwhelming at first, but now I'm ready to tackle other projects as well.
It was much cheaper than getting my ottoman reupholstered.
It has survived 2 years with my kids!
I love that my husband liked the finished result. He was pushing to get rid of our ottoman altogether because it was past it's prime. He has since changed his mind.
So... Would I Do It Again?
Would I do it again? YES! Even though it has worn down in the past 2 years, my ottoman still looks way better than when I started. It was minimal cost, minimal work, and I'm thinking about doing it again in a year or two because I loved the results so much. So if you are reading this and trying to decide if you should go for it, you know what I'm going to say. Just do it! And if you would more like advice on this project, re-purposing/recycling your furniture, organizing or any of our other Organized Joy projects, please contact me at any time.