A couple weeks ago we picked up another empire dresser from a craigslist ad. There were two actually, but one was in really bad shape, so I passed on it (you are shocked I know! ;)).
This was the one I DID take home, however:
I know this isn’t a complete “before” but it’s all I got. So, let’s look carefully at this, shall we? The top pull was obviously replaced recently, because it is a shinier brass (almost silverish) and doesn’t match the style at all. So I knew I was going to replace the top hardware. Also, notice the chipping already happening with the finish. This was curious to me, because I’d never seen a wood finish chip, the same way paint does. So I put on a little stripper to see what would happen. Not much. Turns out the finish was a type of paper and my gel stripper turned kinda liquid-y and it came off a little, but not much. I did notice, however, solid oak beneath it, no veneer. The papery finish was supposed to look like quarter-sawn oak, which is more expensive. First time I’d seen a faux-quarter sawn finish over solid oak! So weird.
Anyhow, that got my wheels turning. Lately, I’ve been trying to try new or different techniques and finishes. Besides enjoying the challenge, I like to show clients some versatility. So when I saw the papery finish chipping, I knew I wanted to try a chippy paint finish.
So naturally, I bought some milk paint.
Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Ironstone, because all the cool kids are using it. 😉
And here is the result:
I was actually worried with the papery finish that was already there, that the milk paint would adhere really well even without a bonding agent. So I bought some Hemp Oil to act as a resist.
I brushed on a little Hemp Oil on edges and areas that were already chipping a little. Then I mixed up a 1:1 ratio of the milk paint powder and water. It ended up a little waterier than they recommend for light colors, but that was okay, I was happy with the color variations that occurred.
After I applied the first and second coat, the paint wasn’t chipping or flaking a lot but was crackling like CRAZY!I didn’t use a hair dryer, I swear!
I also noticed quite a bit of a yellow stain seeping through. It was looking beastly overall. But I had faith it would still turn out, so I applied a little clear wax on the areas that had the worst of the staining, and then put on another coat.
I also noticed that the super white pigments settle to the bottom easily, so when I was about out of paint, I smashed up those pigments and brushed them on the areas that were still a little yellow.
Once all the coats were dry, it still felt cool to the touch, so I left for a couple hours and let the chipping magic happen.
I came back with a metal spatula and got to scraping.
My husband was skeptical of how the milk paint finish would turn out at this point, because it was not smooth once dry. Maybe it was my fault because I stirred it up with a stir stick and not the fancy frother? I don’t know, but it was a little bumpy or gritty to the feel. Once I got to scraping, however, it got quite smooth very fast. After all the loose paint was scraped off, I got my 220 grit sanding sponge and quickly went over the entire thing. It now is SO smooth, both my husband and I agree it is a smoother finish than we typically achieve with Chalk Paint. And it is SO much more interesting, visually. Have you ever seen such crackling?
I was unsure, at first, about that big chippy spot in the middle of the drawer. It seemed so unnatural to me and I seriously contemplated using bonding agent to paint a couple layers on that spot. But it really did happen naturally, and I figured it would be obvious if I tried to cover it up. So I let it be, even if it did make me twitchy for a couple days. I have control issues, can you tell? 😉
I forgot to mention, before I started painting, I replaced the drawer bottoms, glued and clamped the drawers secure, and filled the holes from the drawer pulls on the top 2 drawers. (Are you still with me?) Then I measured and drilled 2 new holes, further apart, because I had imagined from the beginning some pretty glass knobs.
Probably my favorite parts of this dresser are the keyholes (love those fancy escutcheons!)…
…And the wooden casters!
And here she is again, in all her chippy-crackly glory!