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Revive an old chest of drawers

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Clever use of paint techniques can breathe new life into old furniture. Internationally renowned Annie Sloan paints were used here to upcycle an old and tired chest of drawers


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Paint: we used two Annie Sloan paints, colours olive and cream
Mutton cloth
3 Paint brushes – Addis or Hamilton brushes may be used. You’ll need one for the cream paint, one for texture and one for the olive paint
Annie Sloan Clear Wax
Sandpaper: 120 grit and 800 grit
Old T-shirt, preferably a light colour, to cut up for cloths
Ice cream tubs or buckets for water on han

For a chest of drawers of this size, you can get away with using a sample pot of the Annie Sloan cream paint, which is more cost-effective.


1. Prepare the piece of furniture by stripping the old paint off it and removing all the hardware (handles). Then clean the piece from top to floor using mutton cloth and methylated spirits to get rid of dust and residue.
2. Once the furniture has dried (approximately 10 – 15 minutes max), decant the cream paint into two tubs (ice cream tubs are ideal) and thin one batch of cream paint to a ratio of 80% paint, 20% water. The reason for doing this is to achieve a comfortable working consistency, as Annie Sloan paint is very thick.



You can use white spirits, but this is often harder to find in South Africa. Methylated spirits is a bit harsher than white spirits, but in this case it doesn’t make a difference to the piece of furniture. However, if you were working with an antique, you may feel more comfortable using white spirits.



3. Using the first brush, apply the thinned paint to all the details of the piece that stand out. Touch all the embellishments, outer rims and areas that you might naturally bump against on a piece of furniture as you walk past it. This is where you will distress the finish later, so by doing this, you are pre-empting the distressing process.


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4. This particular paint eats up water and gets thicker as it stands. Once you have finished covering all the embellishments, corners and feet, take the other clean brush and using the thicker cream paint, create a stipple effect to form peaks. Do this on the front of drawer and countertop, just for effect. You can do this effect randomly, aiming for it to be thicker on the outer rim.

5. After drying the furniture for approximately 12 – 15 minutes, take the olive paint and thin it with water, using a ratio of about 70% paint to 30% water. Now apply the olive paint over the entire piece of furniture top to bottom. The paint should be thick enough to cover the cream, but not so thick that the cream will not be visible when you begin distressing the piece. Make sure you cover every corner, back included. The paint can be further watered down for back of the piece, up to a ratio of 40% paint, 60% water. You will have enough paint to do the back.


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6. Wait for the paint to dry and go chalky. Now start to distress the piece along all the areas you painted the cream, using the sandpaper. There will be lots of paint dust, so be warned. If you are working inside, you might want to wax the piece first. Start with rougher grit sandpaper, then graduate to a finer grit. Use the rough grit on the top where you’ve applied the stipple effect, moving lightly from left to right. Aim to ‘cut the peaks’ of the olive paint off the stippled area.


Step away from the piece as you are distressing to keep checking your progress. Start with the main areas, then slowly work at certain areas, but be careful – you should never distress too much, as you don’t want a forced look. Have as much fun as you want. If you look at the piece and feel that you’ve gone too far, you can repaint the cream, layer the olive over it and distress again.

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7. Now it’s time to apply the Annie Sloan wax to your distressed chest of drawers. When you wax, don’t be scared of the wax. Think of applying it as you would hand cream – it must not be dolloped on, but must be worked in to get that great finish. Working in small circular motions works best. If the paint underneath starts to look too creamy or chalky, add more wax immediately. Work in small areas, and work systematically, one area at a time, for example drawer front by drawer front. The wax will start to dry immediately and form a layer within 12 – 28 hours, depending on weather conditions.


The wax takes two weeks to cure properly. However, you can start using your furniture or place décor pieces on top of it within the 12 – 28 hours.


8. Before you put the handles and hardware back onto the finished piece, take a dry brush and a bit of the thickened, semi-dried cream paint and dig this into the filigree on the handles and hardware. Use the same brushes to dust off the excess. This subtle finish on the hardware ties it back to the piece and adds to the final overall look.



If you’d like to know more or want to learn more techniques – including how to mix Annie Sloan paints – before you tackle this project on your own, workshops are available through Annie Sloan South Africa stockists. Go to www.anniesloansa.co.za for more details of a stockist in your area.


This project was supplied courtesy of Roxanne Jansen of Ye Olde Collector, 154 Queen Street, Kensington, Johannesburg. E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.