Supplies and Materials

August 17, 2012

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, where have you been all my life?


Remember the first thing you ever painted with ‘real’ grown-up paint, not kiddie watercolour paint?

Remember the exhilaration of gobbing on that first transforming brush full? Remember the utter lack of control and the hashmark-style brush strokes? Well, you can have all of that back.  

Modern painting has become a chore to be avoided. It smells up the house, the prep alone is a lot of trouble, and you have to match the paint to the surface you’re covering, which leads to mistakes (i.e. latex over alkyd, wrong primer, bubbling, blistering or peeling because some genius used Plaster of Paris instead of spackle on the ceiling and the lime goes into solution and starts fizzing under the paint...).  

And let's not forget that modern paint comes in 28,000 colours, only 27 of which actually look good in any known home.  

Well, I found a paint that is so fun, relieving, gorgeous and smart that I'm painting everything in the house, including the most avoided task in the DIY roster: the kitchen cabinets.  

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is finally available in Canada. And it only comes in 27 colours (the ones that look good in houses), which can be diluted with Annie's Pure White or Old White to create lighter shades if you desire. (I covered Annie's paint in my column today. But I didn't have enough room to tell the whole story, so I'm adding some more details here.)

The paint has so little odour that my insanely smell-sensitive husband couldn't even tell I'd been painting the kitchen when he came home from running errands.  

And I'm painting right over 30-year-old alkyd. No prep. It's so easy to work with this paint that I can do a little bit every day rather than shut the kitchen down for a week while I remove all of the cupboard doors, sand them, prime them, roll on a couple of coats, and then replace all of the hardware and re-install them. 

(I went with Versailles green, the colour of the kitchen cabinets in Jasper Dale's kitchen on Road to Avonlea.) 

Annie encourages Chalk Paint users to brush the paint on with abandon, crisscrossing the brushstrokes to add texture and depth. The paint lends itself beautifully to arty effects like layering and distressing. Even on plastic! (This is a thick base coat on my plastic iPhone case) 



I was going for 'rustic barnboard'.  This is how it turned out...



I had a lot of fun painting a beat up old table made from Douglas fir...  

Renoir table
Photo: Nora Duffy

(table top was painted with Versailles green and then immediately rubbed with a rag to create a pickled effect) 

I experimented with mixing some concrete pigment into the paint (Old Ochre) because I hadn't bought enough colours. Concrete pigment tends to be lumpy so it creates streaks in the paint.  I found that using a sponge to apply the paint helped reduce the streaking.  I just swabbed it around till the finish was even. 


(Shiny urethane be gone!)

Chalk Paint creates a very soft, velvety matte finish that you can gloss up with Annie Sloan's soft waxes. They come in clear or dark shades.  Both buff to a silky sheen.  The dark wax is great for creating various grunge effects or for aging a piece.  


You can check Annie Sloan's web site for a dealer near you.  The paint is so loaded with pigment that it covers most surfaces quite nicely with one coat.  If you're in the Greater Toronto Area your closest dealer is Kathie Jordan in New Hamburg, Ontario.  Kathie will ship paint and/or wax to you if you don't want to make the drive.  You can also place an online order for Annie Sloan paints and waxes from The Melon Patch in Bath, Ontario.

It's worth the visit to Kathie's shop if you're in the GTA - she's lovely!

Kathie and Mag

TIP: The online palette looks darker than the paint actually is (on most monitors). The best way to experience the colours is to go to a dealer and see for yourself, or do a search for the glorious projects that people have posted online.

Screen Shot 2012-08-17 at 11.37.20 AM

OTHER TIP: This is the recipe to use if you want to try creating DIY chalk paint formula using PVA (white glue) and chalk whiting.

July 27, 2012

Milk paint experiment; it smells great and boy, does it last

I've been experimenting with making my own interior and exterior non-VOC paint this week after reading about the durability of 9,000-year-old paintings found in Asia and Egypt.  

I didn't have room for all of my findings in my weekly column (recipes included), so this is a little addendum.  

Using concrete colourant, which is available at hardware stores, I tinted my first small batches of paint.  I got some nice golds and reds (one coat).

Bird Feeder

Then I added a little titanium dioxide (available at pottery supply places for less $ than art supply places) to some of my skim milk/Borax base and got a beautiful 'pickling' stain, which I rubbed into a rustic cricket bench.  The pigment built up in the rough texture (it's a little hard to see in the photo).  This formulation would look great on an urban fence or deck.

P1310046 - Version 2

Next, I used an exterior grade formulation made from cottage cheese and lime (which I learned about here) to coat this bench top (tinted with 'medium buff' concrete colourant).  On the buttermilk-coloured legs and base I used a two-layer cross-linking alkaline/acid formulation that I learned about from this very smart person. (To get the warm colour on the legs/base, I tinted the acidic topcoat with titanium dioxide and a tiny bit of 'lemon yellow' concrete colourant.)


I literally did NO PREP on this bench - no brushing, scraping, or even wiping with a rag. Okay, I removed one old coccoon, but that's it.  The bench had been outside for about 10 years and the original 5 coats of water-based urethane had flaked into oblivion.  Note to self: never use water-based urethane for exterior applications; it can't hack the Canadian climate.

This is the bench after a borate-laced coat of casein (milk) paint, which I made from skim millk and Borax laundry additive. 


After all of the experimenting, I think the milk/Borax formulation is the easiest to work with.  It produces a clear matte finish on bare wood (bye bye forever water-based urethane) and can be tinted easily by making a paste of water and concrete colourant and then mixing it into the milk/Borax base.  


You can make the milk/Borax stuff into an opaque white by adding lime and titanium dioxide till it's nice and thick.

Of course you can order milk paint powder from either of these two places if you don't want to go the wet 'n' wild route:

The Real Milk Paint Company (U.S.)

HomeStead House Milk Paint (Canada)

I'm aiming to paint 400 feet of fence with my own homemade milk paint later this fall. Anybody want to help?




April 03, 2012

World's best fix-it compound Sugru now in primary colors!

Great news for hackers and fixers - Sugru, the mouldable silicone putty that air-cures to resilient toughness so you can repair or improve ANYTHING - is now available in primary colours that combine to create ANY SHADE on earth!!!


December 13, 2011

DIY Chalkboard Paint

You can buy chalkboard paint in green or black, but why limit yourself to those scholastic-y colours? Maybe you want to make a chalkboard wall in the kitchen for a family communication center, or maybe you're making a kids' art table like this...


...and it would be fun to use a colour other than black or green.  

So get a quart size can of flat paint in any shade you like (I used Olympic Premium Zero VOC because it dries in an hour, has no odour and carries a lifetime warranty) and pour the amount of paint you'll need into a separate container.  Then add unsanded grout powder (available in the tile aisle) with the ratio of 1 rounded tablespoon of unsanded grout to 1 cup of flat paint.  Stir it up well and then roll out 2 or 3 coats on the surface you want to transform into a chalkboard.  You can use a hair dryer to speed up the drying time if you're rushed.  Cool eh?  

November 28, 2011

Christmas sugru! (A wee holiday offer.)


The folks at Sugru are running a special; you get a 4th pack when you buy 3. In case you haven't heard of Sugru, it's a fantastic, moldable silicon compound that cures to a semi-flexible toughness and it bonds chemically with so many substances that you will be hard pressed to find anything you can't fix or improve with Sugru.  It's the perfect antidote to the culture of obsolescence!  Sugru comes in black, white, green, orange and blue, and you can blend colours to get a huge range of shades.  I always have some in my purse, in my make-up bag and in my toolbox to mend or append anything made of metal, plastic, stone, leather, ceramic, glass, wood and fabric.  Cures at room temperature to waterproof, dishwasher-proof, freeze-proof ruggedness.   

October 23, 2011

Post-it watches


These are brilliant. I wonder how many you could get on your wrist at once. 

September 26, 2011

How To Remove an Ink Stain with Milk and Vinegar


I've soiled myself with ink more often than any known human, so this little experiment is going down tonight. Will post results.

September 21, 2011

How to repair damaged computer cables in 3 easy steps


This really works. I've repaired two cables so far.  And I admire the woman who invented the plasticky repair-all compound you see in the photos (comes in orange, white, black, blue and green) because she says things like this:


August 30, 2011

3M security film foils hipster

Love this dude's persistence.  Nobody told him about security film (which also helps protect glass from shattering in hurricane force winds).


Toronto's Green Building Supply Showroom and Design Center


Toronto's got its own Green Design Center, so if you need cabinetry, flooring or carpeting that's eco-friendly and energy-efficient, start in their showroom. It's a great collection of 'what's out there' and it may give you ideas for what's possible.

If the pricing seems too high you can probably find similar products elsewhere, but watch out for wood and bamboo products; many suppliers claim that their wood products are certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) but they're SO not. (Please, please, please be especially careful about the bamboo you buy.  Some bamboo suppliers are tearing out panda habitat to plant the kind of bamboo they can turn into flooring.  That sucks for the giant pandas, which are already on the endangered species list since they were driven out of their lowlands home years ago by farming and deforestation.  End of lecture.)


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Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie