To some extent, I think I'm cursed with a good eye. Put 5 pieces of nearly identical furniture in a row and without knowing details, I will fall in love with the most expensive piece every single time. This drives me slightly insane because while I instinctively recognize quality, I rarely (never) have the budget for it. The upside is that it's forced me to be creative in my home. I look for reasonably priced knockoffs I can work with, better pieces at thrift stores, and I mix everything with enough personality that it works, hopefully (which is also an ongoing process).
This chair is a good example of my personal approach. I purchased it from Overstock as a prop for a photo shoot. I didn't have a huge budget, so I focused more on form than finish, figuring I could work a little magic if necessary. The chair in the Overstock photo seemed to fit the bill. I didn't even mind the wood color, though I would have preferred the burnt oak finish that I found at Restoration Hardware. But when it arrived, I discovered that the wood wasn't matte at all. Instead, it was finished with a glossy coating that, while protective, frankly made it feel cheap.
Admittedly, this next part was an experiment, but it worked so well for me that I thought I'd share. I decided to try aging the frame with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and a very small, flat paintbrush (as in a 3/8-inch brush from Michaels). The reason for the small paintbrush is that I was going to be painting the frame of the chair with the upholstery intact. I thought it might take forever, but it only took me a couple of hours and a single coat. To make it even easier, I didn't even bother waxing it (it was just a prop, after all). Since then, this chair has lived in my house as an accent chair and it's been used and moved around a bit. The paint has worn very well, even without waxing, and I couldn't be happier with it.
The Chair from Overstock:
The look I was after (from Restoration Hardware):
Recipe for Success:
The reason this worked had a lot to do with the original chair. The carving of the frame, the rough texture of the wood (under its glossy protective coating), and the white streaks in the finish all helped in creating the final version. Don't expect the same results from a perfectly smooth, sanded, polished chair frame! But if you have a chair that's a rough, vintage European wannabe, go for it.
Manage your expectations - You will not achieve a factory finished piece unless you're a whiz with the paintbrush and/or an artist, in which case I'm sure you have a few things to teach me. But if you're like me, average when it comes to faux finishing, you can still achieve an effect that's comfortable and worn without being perfect, and in the overall context of a room, the imperfections are even less noticeable.
Chalk Paints I used:
I probably could have gotten away with using just Graphite and French Linen, but I also included a touch of Paris Grey and Coco because I had them on hand. The trick is to put a little bit of all the colors on the paintbrush at one time, then offload some of the excess on a stack of paper towels before putting your brush to the wood. If your paint does get too concentrated in some areas, just go back over it with a dampened brush, dragging out the color until you get the translucency you're aiming for. You can also add more of another color over the first layer if you're not satisfied. In that case, offload the excess paint first (until the brush is almost dry), then brush it on with quick strokes.
The beauty of the Chalk Paint is that it dries with a matte finish and it goes on right over the existing finish, no stripping or priming necessary, making the whole process even easier. In my book, a quick upgrade to the original!
For more product info and inspiration: Annie Sloan Unfolded