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How to Restore a Sideboard with Milk Paint

Get a gorgeous color-washed effect without the hassle of the stripping-and-priming process.

By Suzonne Stirling

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Decorated Sideboard
Bryan McCay
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While I was cruising one of my favorite vintage furniture haunts the other day, an old sideboard caught my eye. I hesitated about buying the piece—I wasn't looking forward to the time-consuming stripping-and-priming process. That's when I thought of milk paint. Yes, milk is the main ingredient that gives surfaces a saturated color-washed effect. The paint needs no priming, and it's durable and eco-friendly (no VOCs). It's just the ticket for getting a rich, matte finish in a flash.

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Step 1: Mix milk paint powder with water in a plastic or metal container and stir until smooth following label directions. Use one of the colors available or customize your own. I used a blend of cobalt, white and French gray (from realmilkpaint.com) for this project.

Step 2: To prepare for painting, remove all hardware and strip furniture to bare wood with a nontoxic stripper.

Step 3: Apply a coat of milk paint using foam brushes, wide widths for broad surfaces, narrow for legs and trim. The first coat will absorb quickly and look streaked. Let dry for about two hours—the surface should not be tacky to the touch—then apply the second coat. Milk paint gives opaque coverage and a somewhat variegated look, which is why it's popular for refinishing antique furniture.

Step 4: To create a lightly distressed look, sand the edges of the furniture with a medium-grit sanding sponge and wipe clean with a damp cloth. Smooth any roughness on the surface with a fine-grit sanding sponge.

Step 5: The resulting finish will be matte. Apply Mylands wax to the surface if you prefer some sheen.

Useful Tip: If hardware is in good shape, there's no need to replace it. Strip off any paint residue and sponge on a light coat of metallic acrylic craft paint using a damp sponge.

Originally published in the June 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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