I picked up a mahogany china cabinet at a thrift store and knew all it needed was a paint job and some new hardware to turn it around. The piece was solid and the drawers intact. The only structural flaw was the back panel, which was nothing more than thin fiberboard anyway. But I will be honest with you. I rescue pieces of furniture and they sit in my house, awaiting their transformation. Sometimes I'm indecisive or afraid to mess something up. Sometimes I'm just plain lazy, which is what happened here. But I was working on my June column for Family Circle and tried out milk paint for the first time. I fell in love with it and knew I'd found my answer for this cabinet.
The cabinet had to be stripped - and needed to be stripped indoors - so we went with an eco-friendly stripper with minimal odor. (Look for brands like Citristrip, Peel Away, and Ready Strip.) After that, I mixed up a custom shade using milk paint powder and water. I gave the cabinet two coats of paint and finished it with Mylands Wax in a clear finish. I replaced the hardware as well as the back panel, using another piece of fiberboard covered with wallpaper remnants left over from another project.
So what do I love about milk paint? First of all, it doesn't require primer (!!) If the wood is bare or has been stripped, you just apply the milk paint directly to the wood. If you're painting over another finish, you can purchase an additive for the paint that allows it to adhere. (I used the bonder for some chairs that had a light coat of varnish on them and it worked, though I'll need to be a little more careful with them than the cabinet.) Second, it dries quickly and you can use your piece within a few hours, without having to wait for curing. Third, it's fun to work with. Apply it with a foam brush for more opaque coverage, a natural bristle brush if you want more texture, or a natural sponge for a more variegated effect. Use the colors straight or mix them to your heart's content. It can go modern or vintage, depending on the application. I also like that it dries to a matte finish. You can leave it that way if you like a chalky finish or you can apply a wax like Mylands, which deepens the color and gives it a nice satin sheen without the slightest bit of tackiness.
I've become a huge fan. I'm using it to paint chairs and I hope to finally tackle the kitchen cabinets and pretty much paint everything I can get my hands on. The brand I used was Real Milk Paint and I find their website to be a wealth of information. You can also email them with any questions and they're quick to respond and very helpful. If you decide to try milk paint, I urge you to read everything on their site first. You'll find out what to expect from milk paint, how to apply it, what products are best for your particular application, etc. Also, if you like more subtle colors, I'd suggest buying a box of white milk paint (quart size) and smaller amounts of colors like Black, Cream, and Raw Umber. I find these colors give me more flexibility when I'm trying to get a color just right. (See below for the color recipe I created for this cabinet. I call it Mushroom. Others might call it Greige.)
Before and After:
2 cups white paint powder
3/4 cup raw umber paint powder
1/4 cup black
(Mix with about 2 3/4 cups water.)
I thought this wallpaper from Neisha Crosland gave the cabinet some depth and brought a more modern sensibility to a traditional piece of furniture.