Ecru woman coats furniture with paint made from earth, other natural ingredients

Cheryl Dillow puts a coat of bright red milk paint on a child’s high chair at The Vintage Village in Ecru. Dillow specializes in painted furniture at the antiques shop, which she opened about a year ago. (Adam Robison)

Cheryl Dillow puts a coat of bright red milk paint on a child’s high chair at The Vintage Village in Ecru. Dillow specializes in painted furniture at the antiques shop, which she opened about a year ago. (Adam Robison)

By Ginna Parsons/Daily Journal

ECRU – Cheryl Dillow has always loved old things, so it’s only natural she would opt to open an antiques shop. But what makes The Vintage Village in Ecru a bit unusual is that it not only carries antiques, handmade crafts and vintage finds, but also a large selection of painted furniture.

“Everybody I know right now is painting furniture,” said Dillow, 37. “People love painted furniture and the brighter the color, the more they like it.”

Dillow got into painting furniture because of her mother-in-law.

“She was always painting stuff and I guess she rubbed off on me,” she said.

The first thing Dillow painted was a pair of night stands from her husband’s childhood bedroom, followed by Eric’s childhood bed.

“It was solid wood furniture from the ‘70s, but it wasn’t antique,” she said. “If something has a beautiful wood finish, I wouldn’t dare touch it with a paintbrush.”

She liked the way the furniture turned out, so she painted the shutter doors leading to her kitchen at home. She has since painted dining tables and chairs, armoires, china hutches, side tables, end tables, dressers, mirrors, bread boxes, high chairs, picture frames, coffee tables, plant stands, benches, boxes and stools.

Dillow painted the high chair, shown at right, in about 20 minutes. The paint takes less than an hour to dry. (Adam Robison)

Dillow painted the high chair, shown at right, in about 20 minutes. The paint takes less than an hour to dry. (Adam Robison)

“It’s kind of addicting,” she said. “You paint one thing and then you wonder what you can do next. If it stays still long enough, I’ll paint it.”

In the beginning, Dillow used latex paint mixed with a glaze to give a two-tone effect. Then one day, she was on the Internet and came across a blog where someone mentioned liking a line of chalk paint by a company called Annie Sloan.

“I’d never heard of chalk paint,” Dillow said. “I did some checking and the closest retailer for Annie Sloan at the time was in Cullman, Ala. Then I found a recipe for making your own using latex paint, calcium carbonate and Plaster of Paris or lime. I opted to make my own.”

Chalk vs. milk

Today, Dillow a mother of four and grandmother of one, is a retailer for both chalk paint and milk paint at The Vintage Village.

Chalk paint, she said, is made with calcium carbonate and pigments from the earth for its coloring. It’s all natural – there are no volatile organic compounds and it comes ready-mixed.

“It will have a little bit of texture because the paint is thick,” Dillow said. “It goes on and gives good coverage and it’s real easy to distress if you want that aged look. It has a matte finish. It feels a little chalky until you wax it. You don’t have to use wax, but if it’s a high-traffic item, I recommend it. It also adds to the patina. It makes it look a little more aged.”

Chalk paint will cover just about anything, Dillow said, including a previously painted piece.

“You don’t even have to sand it,” she said. “Just dust it off and paint.”

Milk paint, she said, comes in a powder form and is made from a recipe that’s been around since the 1800s.

“It has pigments from the earth and crushed limestone,” she said. “You mix it with water and you can do different ratios. The directions say one to one, but if you want a wash, you can add a bit more water to it.”

Dillow said milk paint will naturally distress an item. If a piece of furniture has a slick surface it will resist sticking to it in certain spots, so the paint will naturally chip off. It works best on unpainted wood – the wood can be treated or varnished, but not painted with latex.

“Milk paint will mix in and actually become a part of the wood,” she said. “It will soak right in. Chalk paint sits on top of the wood, on top of the surface. Both dry really quickly. If you’re painting a large piece, you can start your second coat as soon as you finish the first one.”

A quart of American Paint Company chalk paint, which covers up to 75 square feet, sells in Dillow’s store for $29.95. It comes in 32 colors, which can be mixed to create new colors.

A pint of The Real Milk Paint Company milk paint, which covers 35 square feet when mixed with water, sells for $10.95 to $13.50. It comes in 48 colors, which can also be mixed.

“Both of these paints are really safe with no fumes, so you can paint your baby’s bed or a high chair with it and it’s perfectly safe to do so,” she said.

Dillow said chalk and milk paints clean up with soap and water and both are user-friendly, even for the shy or timid.

“I would suggest starting out with a small piece that has no sentimental value to you,” she said. “Then you can build up your confidence from there.”

ginna.parsons@journalinc.com