Annie Sloan on painting | Home Front

Mar 20, 2014

Annie Sloan developed the decorative paint Chalk Paint® over 20 years ago. Sloan has been painting for over 40 years and has written more than 20 books on traditional paints, colors and techniques. Her most recent book, "Color Recipes for Painted Furniture," was released in April, 2013. The U.S. distributor for her paint, Annie Sloan Unfolded, will be at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York City from March 20-23.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Thanks for joining us today from Oxford, England! I am thrilled to have Annie take questions today about her techniques, career and her amazing paint products including Chalk Paint which caused a painted furniture revolution. Trained as a painter, Annie eventually turned to decorative work and has written several books including the latest "Color Recipes for Painted Furniture" (CICO Books) .


Hi Annie I would like to know, who and or what is your inspiration, and especially when you first started out many thanks Liz

So many things inspire me!  But I go back to the things that got me started in the first place.  Fine art, popular culture, the history of colour worldwide, and travelling.

I have had difficulty getting the wax finish looking even and smooth on two chalk painted dressers. They look somewhat blotchy. Wondering if a buffing brush would be helpful?

How are you applying the wax? It's either too little or too much.  Applying wax is like applying handcream.  You have to work it into your hands! I have just brought out a totally wonderful - in my opinion, wax brush that will really really help make application as easy as pie! 

Annie - your Chalk Paint is so wildly successful that you must always be thinking up new takes on it or other new products. Can you tell us what is in your pipeline for the future?

Fragrances!  I have just brought out a beautiful line of candles and room fragrances inspired by 6 wonderful locations in France to complement my colours. Antibes, Aubusson, Paris, Versailles, Provence and Burgundy.  All available in North America from April! That leads me on to Burgundy one of my new colours which I am working on launching in North America soon. 

I know, I know - so many people trip up on clear wax. I really thought I had it. But I painted and clear waxed a little side table about 3 weeks ago. Waited 24 hours and buffed the piece. It looks awesome! The issue is even using the lightest of touches if I use the table to write a note, the handwriting comes through and shows on the table top. I know full curing is 4-6 weeks, but frankly I'm nervous I've done something wrong. Help!!

The wax protects the paint and gives it a lovely finish. It will make it durable when cured but it's not a coat of steel. Even if you wrote on unwaxed or waxed wood, it would mark so take care when writing on your table. 

Do you Still work in your shop?

I certainly do!!  I go to the shop every day and work in my studio at the back, either painting, planning, drawing or writing my books! I have to walk through the shop to get there so I nearly always get caught with a phone call if the others are busy or with a customer!  I love it!! 

Do you ever make personal appearances in the US? Do you have any coming up?

I was just in Canada in October where I did two big Home Shows and I talked and demonstrated!  And I was in California in April and I opened 2 new stores and signed books.  I'd love to do more, but I am so busy this year with 2 new books I am writing. 

Are you Working on a new book and can you tell us anything about it?

Yes I am writing a book right now on colour and style.  I have been photographing in houses in Sweden, Amsterdam, and England so far for the book.  SO SO SO inspiring. we are just at the beginning!  Loads to do and it will be out in October!  AARGH! 

Paint is nice. But any plans to do topics on home renovations, such as working with a contractor, space planning, costs, permits, etc.?

Thanks for the idea.

Hi Annie! I love using your paint! I am interested in learning how to transfer a photograph onto a piece of furniture. Do you have any recommendations on how to go about this?

Well the way I would do it is to use my Decoupage/Transfer Medium for it.  Have a look in my  Colour Recipes book. There's a whole project there!

What's your favorite style of paint finish? Can you create a smooth finish?

Favourite!  I have no favourites because it's just what gets me going at any one time!  It might be that the furniture dictates something or I see an image I want to use. Or a colour combo inspires me! 

And as to a smooth finish? Of course!   You need to use a smooth flat brush like the one I have just launched and will be available in North America very soon. I also add a little water to the paint so it flows beautifully!  

Hi Annie- I am dying to try your chalk paint and I have three of your books. I have an old secretary and an old chint cabinet (both probably from the 1930's so not precious antiques). I don't think I want to paint the whole piece. How do you think it would look to just paint the inside of the china cabinet and secretary?

Yes why not!  Just think of the colur that would work with the wood colour. ie if the wood is warm maybe paint it in a cooler colour such as one of the blues or greys. Post a picture on my Facebok page when you've done it!

Annie, I painted and waxed a piece months ago, doing some accents in Barcelona Orange. It's terrific but the orange is too much. Now I want to re paint just the orange areas with Versailles, but it's been waxed. What do I need to do to that area?Sand? Mineral spirits?

Just repaint!  No need to apply mineral spirits - in fact that will soften the wax and make it more difficult to paint over -  so just get painting.  Have you considered doing a wash over the Barcelona with Versailles?  I think that'd look terrific! 

I am about to tackle both my dining room and kitchen tables and am quite scared to start. What advice can you give me??

Don't be scared!  Just go for it.  It's just paint!  I'ts easy and it's very forgiving! 

I would like to use chalk paint on an end table. After the table is painted, do I need to apply a wax finish or another type of finish? Or, can I simply use the freshly painted table as is? I assume wax or another type of finish will protect the paint and give the table a more finished appearance.

Yep!  You need to wax it to protect and to give it a beautiful mellow look.  If you want it to be matte then just rub the wax in and don't polish it.  If you want it to be shiny then leave it until the next day and then polish it for a beauful easy obtained shine. 

Annie, Can you suggest a color for a living and dining room combination. I have a large rug under the dining table (blue/yellow cream color). Most of the furniture is dark wood and a chocolate color leather sofa. How can I make this room look sophisticated and brighter? What is a good neutral color to paint the walls? Thanks.

Cream, blue and chocolate?  I'd go for a wall in Aubusson Blue.  I'd even wax it- a bit of a job but so so sophisticated looking! I know that Aubusson  is not a neutral but it would sort of look like it!  

Since you have been painting for so long, what do you do to get out of a creative rut? Stacey C

Great question Stacey!   I go to an art gallery and see an exhibition.  The last one I went to that gave me a real boost was a show in London on an artist called Paul Klee, who I had admired for a very long time.  His work resparked so many ideas! Not every show gets me going so much but there's often a colour combo or texture that inpires me. 

Hi, the interior of my home needs to be repainted and I want to add color to the walls, but I'm at a complete loss where to begin. Are there interior designers who would take a small job like this? Are there specialists in paint colors only? Do you have any recommendations? Many thanks for taking my question.

Yes. You are in luck. The local chapter of ASID - the Washington Metro chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers - is having their annual design event right now. They are offering local residents a one or two hour consultation with an interior designer for $100 an hour. It's called Spring Spruce Up and it's a great way to get some advice and feedback and meet designers you might want to work with. For more information and how to sign up go to

I'm wondering what advice you can give me on painting on fabric. Should one always use water either mixed in the paint or spray bottle??

Yay!  Painting fabric is such fun with my paint!  So the key is to add lots of water! I just dip my brush in the water and rub it into the fabric on the chair and then follow it up with some paint. There's a terrific video of me paintiing some fabric on an American TV show on my Annie Sloan YouTube channel.  Have a look! 

Hi All, I want marble slab countertops in my (low-use) kitchen. While conventional wisdom is that marble is too porous/soft/delicate for kitchen countertops, a couple of tile places that I need to find a fabricator who is up on the latest sealant treatments because current technology allows marble countertops to be just as durable as other natural stone. But they couldnt recommend a specific fabricator in the DC area. Any advice/insight before i start calling every fabricator and asking "do you have the latest technology for sealing marble countertops for the kitchen???" thanks!

I do not know the answer to this so an throwing it out for our very informed audience to reply. Anyone?

I have the hardest time getting it to not look muddy on a bench I painted in cream. Any suggestions?

If you find the cream not 'clean' enough for you maybe add some Pure White and maybe a little bit of English Yellow too.  Mixing colour is so enjoyable and all Annie Sloan stockists are trained in colour mixing. 

How do you decide on the paint colors you create? Are there any new ones coming out soon?

They are all based on pigments and the colours of old and modern furniture paint. And yes, I am working on bringing out Burgundy in North America soon. I have other colours up my sleeve, but they are staying there for now!! 

Is your chalk paint VOC free? And how safe is it for sanding and accidentally breathing in? What precautions do you suggest?

Yes, it is zero VOC.   It's a water based paint and completely non toxic. No precautions are needed.  When you use my wax, like all waxes, you need to work in a place that has a good flow of air. 

I've seen chalk paint on floors. How durable is it really? Can you apply poly on top?

Yes and yes!  

What would you say the current interior and furniture colors are for a beach condo? We have one in the family that needs a facelift. Thanks!

A great combo of Greek Blue, Antibes Green and then some Old White or Pure added.   Greens and blues are the way to go! 

Dark wax straight onto Graphite & Primer Red? Or clear wax first? Cheers. Sarah.

I always add clear wax first then apply the dark -  more wriggle room so I can change my mind and make it darker or lighter as I work.

Hello Annie, Kity from the Netherlands here. I really would like to know why sanding before using your chalk paint is not needed. I got this old fashioned house painter education and I do;t get it how tha paint will stick to the surface?

Hi Kity. It just does!! Try it and you will see!  


Annie, I am painting lampshades in my bedroom. Do I need to wax them?

What a terrific idea.  I would paint them with the light on so you can see what the brush marks are doing.  Then I would leave it and not wax.  They will be lovely and matte. 

What a great chat today - thanks so much to Annie Sloan for all the wonderful wisdom she shared with us about painting furniture, painting techniques and Chalk Paint details. She also gave us a lot of inspiration to give something new a try. Thanks to all of you for writing in. Many thanks again to Annie.

Thanks so much for having me on the web chat. Good fun!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Annie Sloan
Annie Sloan developed the decorative paint Chalk Paint® over 20 years ago. Sloan has been painting for over 40 years and has written more than 20 books on traditional paints, colors and techniques. Her most recent book, "Color Recipes for Painted Furniture," was released in April, 2013.
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