Thrift Store Chairs with Milk Paint Reveal

chairs before and after milk paint_vertical2

My husband and I often check out our local Value Village for deals, and the last time we went there we found a pair of tired chairs. With a bit of paint and some new fabric and padding, they had the potential to be really cute. Someone had thought they made better foot stools than chairs I guess?

thrift store chair for milk paint makeover

To fix them up, I chose Miss Mustard Seed’s (MMS) Milk Paint in Lucketts Green. Ever since I first tried Chalk Paint and read about the differences between Chalk Paint and Milk Paint, I had been wanting to try it. The main difference between Chalk Paint and Milk Paint is that Milk Paint comes as a powder, and you have to mix it freshly before applying it by diluting it 1:1 with water. One of the things I noticed when I was using it was that some of the pigments separate a bit while painting. This means that if you’re not careful to stir it before dipping your brush in periodically, you may get tiny streaks of the pigments that make up the colour. I kind of dug this look to be honest, because it gave it a really cool multidimensional quality. If you don’t want this to happen, just stir like a madman as you paint.

Since I had two matching chairs, I thought it would be neat to try out the paint with and without MMS bonding agent. The paint will adhere differently to areas of previously stained or painted wood, and the finish can be famously variable. This is part of the charm of MMS Milk Paint, because you end up getting a true vintage/worn look where the paint will flake and chip off. To avoid any chipping or flaking, you can add a bonding agent in equal parts to the powder and the water (1:1:1, or 1:2 of prepared paint). So I opted to add the bonding agent to the first chair and left it out for the second. And here they are!

chairs painted with milk paint luckett's green

Much improved, n’est-ce pas? I like the mentality that MMS has about painting furniture, where you just go with it and don’t stress too much about how the paint will take to a given piece. If it ends up flaking too much and you don’t like the “chippy” look, then you can always apply the second coat with the bonding agent. I had to embrace this mentality on the second chair that I did without bonding agent, when something terrible/wonderful happened: I didn’t add enough water when I prepared the paint for the first coat, and when it dried it had a chunky finish with bits of undissolved powder visible. I freaked out a bit and thought I’d ruined it, but after minimal sanding, the raised bits of powder disappeared into the paint and it gained a really neat texture! That just goes to show how forgiving the paint can be, so don’t be scared to jump in and try it.

The lighting inside our apartment is crappy (obviously) so I took them outside for a photo shoot. Here you can see the two different finishes side by side, with bonding agent on the left and without on the right:

thrifted chairs painted with milk paint

See how there are areas where the paint has flaked off on the chair without bonding agent (right)? This is known as the “chippy” look. If you look closely, the other chair does have a bit of wood showing through in places, but this was from light distressing with sand paper. If I hadn’t touched it, the finish would not have worn off. Here’s a close-up of the chair I did with bonding agent:

thrifted chairs painted with milk paint

Compare that to the chair without bonding agent. In order to get the “chippy” look, I just looked where the paint was starting to resist on the chair and gently rubbed or sanded it. Once I had the amount of chippyness I was going for, I applied the wax to seal it.

thrifted chairs painted with milk paint

thrifted chairs painted with milk paint

I didn’t notice it when I bought them, but one of the chairs also had some pretty gnarly bite marks (?) on the legs. Just adds to the vintage charm, right?

chair without bonding agent 3_watermarked

Love them! Have you tried or are you thinking about trying Milk Paint? Let me know how it goes!

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