Experience 5: Furniture Refinisher
I’ve always found mowing lawns quite satisfying. You’re in the zone. Working hard to get the job done. Waving to the neighbours. Shrugging your shoulders at the kids when you can’t hear what they’re saying. Directing them with hand signals to go and tell their dad. Very satisfying indeed! But the best bit is that once you’ve finished mowing you get to stand back with your hands on your hips, smile and admire your work. You made the yard look great again.
I felt the same way about my work with Danielle from Joli Bluebird this week. We started with an old table and chairs and literally turned them into something beautiful, new and ready for sale.
What did I do?
Danielle recently moved her Joli Bluebird business from her shop in the Ipswich City Mall to her home, due to a redevelopment that is taking place shortly. As a result, her garage is jam-packed full of furniture, paint and tools, with homewares taking pride of place in her entryway and filtering down through her house (and might I add, it looks quite lovely).
We rearranged some furniture in order to take a dining table and six mismatched chairs outside to Danielle’s driveway – her makeshift workshop. To be honest I couldn’t think of a better way to work. Outside on a sunny Brisbane Winter’s day with my dog Lexie, and Danielle of course, for company.
The table Danielle chose to repaint was an old, paint-splattered pine dining table with a gorgeous decorative trim. My first job was to sand the table back using an electric sander to get rid of the paint marks and to even out the surface as much as possible. I have to admit I quite like using power tools…I wonder if I’ll get to use any more on this journey?
After sanding the table we set to work painting the chairs. Danielle has used many different paints over time, but has found the best product for painting furniture in the style she does is the chalk paint by Annie Sloan. She loves it so much she is now also a stockist. We mixed some Pure and Old White chalk paint together to make the shade of white that Danielle was after.
The beauty with Annie Sloan paint is that it is super easy to apply and so quick to dry. By the time I’d moved on to the second chair, the first one was dry. This means there is hardly any wait time between coats. The other benefit is that you don’t need to use a primer, sealer or undercoat product.
Now I thought I was pretty nifty with a paintbrush after doing a lot of door, skirting board and wall painting at home over the years (usually with a bit of dance music on to make me go faster), but Danielle was able to smash out two chairs in the time it took me to do one. Impressive! We then dusted off the table and gave it a coat of paint. Each item required three coats.
We were then ready for the next stage…which involved my new favourite power tool. As I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining the centre piece by gouging into the paint with the electric sander, Danielle took charge and sanded the table top, feeling as she went to make sure the surface was lovely and smooth. Next, she shabbied the edges of the tabletop and in spots on the turned legs using the edge of the sander. After three coats of paint you don’t want to make a mistake so you could use sandpaper instead, but of course Danielle’s a pro with the sander and it makes the job a lot quicker. She insisted I had a go though, so after watching her demonstrate it was my turn to sand one of the chairs. My worry about taking a chunk of paint off led to me being a bit too light-handed, but it wasn’t too bad for a first attempt, and Danielle was able to tidy it up.
After sanding, the last job was to give the furniture another dust and a coat of varnish. When it was dry, we moved the table and chairs into position and styled the table using a variety of homewares from Danielle’s home. She has some very pretty things! After standing back to admire our handiwork, we took lots of photos of the gorgeous dining setting. Later that night Danielle posted the table and chairs for sale on her Joli Bluebird Facebook page.
Luckily for me, Danielle asked if I had anything small at home I’d like to paint. I brought around 3 old timber stools with scuffed, white legs that had been stored in my garage. It took no time for me to give the legs the three coats of paint and a quick coat of varnish. As the light was starting to fade Danielle brought out her trusty friend the sander and removed the old varnish from the top of the stools to reveal the beautiful raw timber underneath. A quick coat of Annie Sloan wax was rubbed in to the timber and just like that I had some gorgeous new stools to take home with me. What a nice souvenir!
What did I learn?
Aside from learning how to paint and refinish furniture from start to finish, it was great to talk to Danielle about the way she runs her small business, and her aspirations for the future of her business. She has a brilliant rapport with her customers which I saw each time a new one came to her door to buy furniture, homewares or paint, and I really like how she took the time to talk and happily answer their questions. I know I like to be treated like that as a customer and can only imagine that would lead to repeat business.
If you’re interested in Danielle’s refinished furniture, check out her Joli Bluebird Facebook page.
If you’d like to read my interview with Danielle about her job as a Furniture Upcycler, head over to the Interviews page or click here.