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How To Easily Give a Chalk Paint Transformation

light grey shelving unit hanging on wall. Jars and boxes on the shelves for storage.
Finished Product

When I saw this small shelving unit at an antique store, I knew it would be perfect for our guest bathroom. It was a little beat up and the dark brown wasn’t great, but I knew I could easily give a chalk paint transformation to these shelves.


If you are someone who learns better by watching, as opposed to reading, here is the link to watch the full tutorial on my YouTube channel:

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I discovered chalk paint more than a decade ago, and I find that it doesn’t only look really good, but it’s easy to use, doesn’t have an odor and you can do so much with it.

Choosing Your Supplies

There are so many brands out there now, so you can find chalk paint at Michael’s, Home Depot, and, of course, Amazon. When I first used chalk paint, there was only one brand out there that I knew of and that was Annie Sloan. In fact, you had to find an Annie Sloan certified dealer, and the closest one to my house was about 40 minutes away. Did I drive there? Absolutely!

Now, as I mentioned, you can find many brands at many stores with many price points. I actually have several brands in different size containers, but for this project, I used Rust-oleum Aged Grey.

In addition to paint, you should think a bit about what brush you want to use. You can use a standard, flat paint brush, and for many projects, that would work fine. They also carry several types of brushes that are specifically made for chalk paint. For the shelves, I used a standard flat brush.

The How-To’s of it all



First, to makeover this little shelf unit, I started with sanding it just a bit to get rid of some nicks in the wood and even out the surface. The nice thing about chalk paint is that you don’t have to use a primer. In fact, in many cases, you can get away with only using one coat of paint, but since these shelves were so dark and I wanted a light color, I gave it two coats of paint.


Whenever you are looking at wooden items, such as these shelves, desks, dressers, etc, look for the shelves or drawers that have “dove-tailing”, which is where the two wooden boards meet and lock together. This is usually a sign of a well-made piece. I’ll show you in the photo, below.

You can see where the shelf hits the other board perpendicularly the boards are dove tailed together



Next, after some light sanding, I cleaned it off really well with a soft rag and was ready to go. I was going to put the shelves in a very small space in a bathroom, so I wanted to use a light color.

After painting one coat, it was easy to see that I needed one more. There were obvious brush strokes showing up with the dark wood underneath. Make sure your paint is dry between coats. That’s actually another of my favorite things about chalk paint – it dries very quickly!

You can see in this photo that the paint coverage was a bit too thin with one coat

After giving it a second coat of paint, I really liked the coverage. Now, here is the ironic part of my project. I took an old, vintage piece and gave it fresh paint, and it looks brand new again. However, I don’t want it to look brand new. I like when pieces look worn and rustic. This is actually where the magic comes in, because you can make it look rustic on your own terms. I didn’t want dark brown shelves with uneven stain. I wanted to give it the color that I liked with the “worn” looks where I wanted them.

sTEP 3


Again, I took my fine grit sandpaper and rubbed it on the edges of the shelves and around corners, just enough to take some of paint off in strategic places. I really like the look of it, now.

You can see in the photo above where I lightly sanded the edges of the shelf to make it look aged



Finally, the last step of chalk painting is sealing the paint with finishing wax. There is clear wax, which is what I used in this project, or you can find tinted wax. In addition to protecting your item, the tinted wax can give it a more antique look.

I made over an old chair a few years ago. I repainted and reupholstered it, and it was completely different. With this chair makeover, I used a brown tinted wax and I was so happy with the look. Zoom in on the wood in the “after” picture, and you can see what I’m talking about with the brown, tinted wax. You can hardly tell that it’s the same chair. I was really proud of this project. I will show you the “Before” and “After”.

antique chair with brown, ornate, wooden arms and orangeish upholstery on seat and back.
antique chair with light grey wood that is very ornate and blue & white ticking fabric.



Whichever wax you choose to use, after you apply it to your piece, use a rag to gently smooth out any clumps of wax and then let it sit for 24 hours because it needs to cure. After the 24 hours, use a soft, clean rag to buff your painted piece, until it no longer feels sticky from the wax.

I was finally able to hang the shelves. I added a few boxes and jars to keep things looking neat, while giving a little bit of storage for things that no longer need to sit on the counter.

light grey shelving unit hanging on wall. Jars and boxes on the shelves for storage.
This is the final product


I hope this inspires you to try a makeover project. The chalk paint is really good for beginner-level makeover projects. You read there is nothing really difficult or magical about what I did for these shelves.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you will probably enjoy my post on the different decorative ways that you can upcycle glass bottles. Here is the link to that post.

Have a great day, and I hope you find something fun to celebrate!

Xoxo Teresa

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