Paint with Marian Parsons of Miss Mustard Seed | Home Front

Marian Parsons
May 18, 2017

Marian Parsons founded Mustard Seed Interiors in 2008. What started as a local decorative painting and mural business has grown into the Miss Mustard Seed blog, an antiques and home décor business and Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint. She is a paint enthusiast and is here to answer your paint questions.

If you miss the chat, Parsons is attending Lucketts Spring Market May 19-21 at Clarke County Fairgrounds in Berryville, Va.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Good morning and thanks for being on the chat. Miss Mustard Seed has been around since 2008 and is now a very popular source of information on decorating, vintage shopping, furniture makeovers and paint. What started as a local decorative painting and mural business has grown into a home design business plus Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint. She is a paint enthusiast and is here to answer your paint and other questions.
  Parsons is part of the  Lucketts Spring Market May 19-21, now at Clarke County Fairgrounds in Berryville, Va. This, the 18th annual event,  will showcase more than 200 top vintage dealers with DIY tips.

Good morning from The Clark County Fairgrounds in Berryville, VA where we are setting up our space for the Lucketts Spring Market!  If you don't know me, I'm Marian of the blog Miss Mustard Seed. I am pastor's wife, mother of two boys, a paint enthusiast and a lover of all things home.   I'm looking forward to hanging out and chatting about paint (and whatever else comes up!)    

Hi there. I'm getting estimates on painting three rooms (living, dining, kitchen) in my house. Other than two bedrooms and a bathroom, these are the only rooms on my main level. The kitchen and living rooms are really connected. How do I pick the colors? Could I use the color palettes I see on Pinterest and just pick three of the colors? Any other ideas? Thanks!

Great question!  Picking paint colors can be stressful sometimes, but remember that it's just paint.  It can always be repainted if it doesn't turn out the way you think it will.

Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for paint colors, but the colors might not look the same on your walls as it does on the screen.  The best investment you can make is to get sample paint pots from your local paint store in colors you like and paint out large swatches on your walls.  Watch how the colors look as the light changes to make sure you like it.  You can also paint large pieces of poster board, if you don't want to paint directly on the walls.  

As far as a color palette, I love doing variations of the same color, so if you want to go with blues, paint one room in the blue you like at full strength and then an adjoining room in the same color mixed at 50% or 75% strength.  It gives some variation, but all of the rooms flow nicely.  

I was wondering if you will be selling Luckett's Leftovers on your website? Love your blog, Sarah Jane ( Utah)

I actually will not be selling online this year.  Since we're closing the studio and moving, we'll be having a local leftover sale.  So sorry!  

This is more for Jura: When looking at professional organizers, are there specific certifications that one should look for? I love to organize and create more efficient systems -- I was thinking of taking some classes to see if this was something I wanted to pursue more. Where do I start?

Organizers are in great demand right now. Look at the website of NAPO , the National Association of Professional Organizers. You can find a lot there about what the profession entails and how you can prepare for a career in organizing. Look at the websites of organizers in your area and if you can, ask them for an informational interview so you can learn more about what they do. An organizer is like a cheerleader for eliminating clutter and stuff. A good organizer knows where to donate or sell items that may be of value and how to make closets, drawers and shelves look attractive after the clutter is removed.

Hi! I am having my whole house painted for resale and want to keep it cheap by having the walls and ceilings the same color. Since gray is so popular now, is there a shade of gray that would work for both, without looking too dark or grim? Thanks!

Yes, grays are popular right now!  I really like Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore.  It's more of a blue/gray, but it does read very neutral.  At full strength, it might be too intense for the walls and ceiling, so I would suggest mixing it at 50% strength.  This would give you a nice, neutral color that's not too "in your face"!  You can do that trick with any grays you like, though.  Sometimes it's easier to see the undertones of a color in the darker shade.  I hope that helps!  

Hi, I would appreciate paint color suggestions. Please lean towards Benjamin Moore. Bathroom for high school boys with white vanity, brushed nickel faucet and shower control, gray tiles in shower and floor, and Caesarstone Clamshell vanity top. depends on how dark you want to go.  With a boy's bathroom, I think you can go darker.  (But you might see soap/toothpaste splatters a little easier!)  Since you have gray in the shower, how a nice mid-tone gray?  Benjamin Moore makes one called Solitude that's pretty.  Or you can go really bold with a black!  Ebony King is a great black in their line and black walls very in right now.  

Hi, Jura and Marian! I have a paint/wallpaper question. My house is about 55 years old and the people from whom we purchased it painted over old wallpaper (looks like a few layers of paint) in the foyer. The wallpaper was applied over the corners, so over time the paint started cracking. Since the wallpaper was applied on the drywall without a primer plus the paint on top, it's proven difficult to take off. We've decided to wallpaper over the whole thing (FWIW, everything is smooth except the corners). The new wallpaper is not pre-pasted. Is there anything I need to do to prep the wall before going forward? Thanks!

Oh, wow.  Painted wall paper is a mess!  I think you're right to cover that over, unless you want to get into replacing the drywall.  Since the walls are smooth and painted, I don't think you need to do anything ahead of time.  You can use a wallpaper primer, but that's more for the purpose of easy removal.  Since there's already wallpaper and a layer of paint, that step might be pointless.  I think you can just go for it!  

One more thing to consider, if you haven't purchased the wallpaper, yet, is starching fabric to the wall.  That is usually less expensive and more forgiving.  You literally just roll liquid starch on the wall with a paint roller and then stick the fabric on.  When you want to change it out, you just peel it off.  You can even wash the fabric and reuse it!  

Hi! Not really a question, just wanted to say how much I've loved reading Marian's blog. She's so very talented and has inspired me to try lots of things in my home that I wouldn't have considered without her blog and photos. I've had a chance to talk with her at Luckett's a few times over the past years, and she's even more lovely than her designs and ideas. I'm getting ready to start a project using MMS Milk Paint week, and can't wait to see what I'll produce (with Marian's help of course!)

Well, thank you so much!!  :)  We're setting up for Lucketts right now and unpacking lots and lots of boxes of ironstone.  We'll also have the Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint and finishes available for sale, for those who can make it.  

Pricing is the hardest part of this business. How do you know if you are charging too much or too little. Also when purchasing pieces to be painted, how do you know if its the right price since everything is one of a kind.

When you buy and sell antique/vintage/used items to resell, pricing is key to being profitable!  I follow the old saying "you make money when you buy" and make sure I'm buying things at a price that is reasonable to resell.  

Every area is different, but I try to buy furniture for less than $100/each, except for very special or large pieces.  I then resell most of my $100 or less pieces for $185-425, depending on the size and quality of the piece.  That might not work for your area, though.  

If you check out my blog, you can find an entire section devoted to running a creative business and I have many posts about pricing that go into more detail. Read it here.

Good luck to you!  

We're about to embark on a kitchen remodel, and the new space will be primarily white: white cabinets, white countertops, white trim, and probably white walls. The flooring will be a lighter hardwood, and we're thinking of adding color by using blue tile for the backsplash--and blue paint for the ceiling. Any thoughts on when/how dark to paint ceilings? Curious about the conventional wisdom. Thanks for your advice!

I happen to love blue ceilings!  I think it's a nice reference to the sky, obviously, but also to "haint blue" ceilings that are classic for southern porches.  With all of the white going on, you just need a whisper of a blue, like Benjamin Moore's Clear Skies or Glass Slipper.  I think you can go a little stronger on the tiles, but keeping it light and fresh will have more staying power, I think.  

Hi all - sorry I had a slip of the finger - here is today's correct Post Point Code


My four-member household (2 adults, 2 kids) is moving / downsizing from a 4 BR into a 2 BR and need a space for a home office. Should we put the home office (desk, bookcase, laptop) in the master bedroom, or try to section off a portion of the living room? TIA

I think that depends on how organized you are and what the home office is used for!  If your home office is heavily used by the entire family, it might need to be in a public place, like off the living room.  If it's for your own personal use, taking up some space in the master bedroom might be a better option.  This is the kind of thing that's easily move, though, and perhaps better decided once  you get in the space and see how your family uses it each day.  

Good luck with your move!!

I bought an old china hutch on Craigslist, and it was advertised as having been chalk-painted. I want to change the color -- is there anything I should know about painting over chalk paint vs regular paint? I'm not sure what kind of paint I would be using. (Suggestions for that are welcome as well!)

Many pieces painted with a chalk/clay paint have been finished with the wax.  If there isn't a finish, chalk/clay paint is very "grippy" and you can paint directly over it with pretty much any kind of paint and zero additional prep (unless drips and sloppy brush strokes need to be sanded out.)  If it has been waxed, I would suggest sanding with a 100 grit paper to rough it up and wipe it down with mineral spirits to remove some of the wax.  Some paints have a difficult time adhering to waxes.  You can also use a quality bonding primer to help with adhesion. 

As far as what paint to use over it, of course I'm going to suggest milk paint!  :)  If you use that, just lightly sand the wax, wipe it down with mineral spirits and you can paint directly over it.  

I'm not good at DIY but I have a lot of furniture that could use a refresh. Can I spray paint it?

I love your honesty!  The nice thing about DIy is that it's a learned skill!  You can get better at it.  

To answer your question, yes, you can spray paint furniture.  I will admit that it's not my favorite paint option for furniture.  It can be hard to apply without getting some spray marks and drips.  If you use spray paint, just make sure to apply thin coats and keep the paint can moving when you spraying.  That will give you a better finish.  

I hope that helps!  

I have never been to Lucketts. Is this your first one? What can I expect to find there?

No, this is my ninth Lucketts, I think, and this year it's bigger than ever.  It's mainly an antique market, but they also have home decor, plants/flowers, food, a beer tent, pony rides and games for kids, a "Glamping" exhibit.  If you're local and can make it, it'll be great for the entire family.  

You can get all of the details about the market HERE.  

I have just moved into my mother's old condo and the kitchen cabinets are in fantastic shape but desperately need painting. What paint do you recommend for this job?

I like using a paint with a very hard finish.  My favorite is Benjamin Moore's Waterborne Satin Impervo.  It gives a hard finish and is wipeable.  I would suggest using a quality primer before painting (like a Zinsser) and allow it to cure on the cabinets for about 2-3 days before applying the paint.  

As far as prep, sand the cabinets lightly to scuff them up and wipe down with a TSP to remove grease build-up.  

It's a big, long, job, so make sure you have a clear schedule for a week or two.  Most of the dings and damage happens to paint when it's rushed!  Remember that most paints and finished require 30 days to fully cure, so be gentle with them during that time.  

Looking for a pale blue paint for my bedroom. Any ideas?

I love Glass Slipper by Benjamin Moore!  My family room has been that color for years and I never get tired of it.  You can see a picture of it HERE.  

I'd like to change my wood bathroom cabinet from medium oak to a darker brown/black. Any experience with Rust-oleum Transformations? Or should I just give it a good sanding and paint in a dark brown/black paint? If the latter, can you recommend a specific color for that transitional look?

I have not personally tested out that product.  I have seen samples and they look nice, though.  Any time someone is painting kitchen cabinets, I suggest painting one door to make sure you like the look.  

I suggested to another person in the chat asking about cabinets to use Benjamin Moore's Waterborne Impervo.  It's a great paint for cabinets.  

What other vintage shows do you do besides Lucketts?

This is the only one!  I used to do more retail, but I also have a blog, a paint line, I do freelance writing/styling/photography, and I've recently starting designing products, so that means I can only do one market a year.  

Did milk paint originally have milk in the formula?

Yes, and it actually still does!  The base for milk paint is casein, which is the protein found in milk.  You can check out our milk paint line HERE.  

I just had two bathrooms remodeled, and I've been doing the painting of walls, ceilings, and doors myself. I bought Valspar paint from Lowe's (the mid-grade product, not the cheapest or most expensive). I bought satin for the walls and semi-gloss for the doors and trim. With any nick or scratch on the paint, or my attempts to lightly sand some drips, the paint will actually peel off. Is this normal? Does it need to cure longer? This is happening days or weeks after painting.

Oh no!  Are you painting new drywall?  If so, did you use a primer prior to painting?  It is not normal for a quality (or middle of the road) latex paint to peel off of walls.  Something is definitely amiss.  I would snap some pictures and take them to the Lowe's paint counter to ask what's going on.  

If you didn't apply primer, then definitely apply primer and repaint.  

How do you keep all your DIY supplies and paint organized? It's all such a messy business...

ha, yes it is!  The key for me is not letting my "stash" get out of hand.  If I don't use a paint, craft supply, or tool in a year, I sell it/donate it/pitch it.  I think "creatives" tend to like to keep things, because "I might need it one day."  I have found, though, that too much clutter stifles my creativity, so I keep my craft hoard to a reasonable size!  

It's very freeing, too!!  

We used the product to take our kitchen cabinets from oak to white. It definitely worked, but kitchen cabinets were a ton of work! If you're just doing a bathroom cabinet, I'd recommend it.

Thanks so much for chiming in with your experience!  

Hi! I am looking to repaint (over wallpaper) our small master bath without windows that is part of an old remodeling job from 1987. The wallpaper is attached to virgin drywall and is in excellent shape, so I think it's easiest to paint over. In any case, I always seem to pick too-bold, too-saturated color. I am attracted to neutrals, grays, and perhaps some warmer ones. Do you some favorite choices for a small room with zero natural light and lots of funny ceiling angles? Thank you!!

The one problem with painting over wallpaper is that the moisture from the paint can cause that paper to bubble, which doesn't look good.  I would test it out on a small section to make sure you're going to be happy with the results.  

As far as color, I love Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore, which is more of a blue/gray.  Muslin and Edgecomb Beige are popular beiges in in their line.  

What's the best kind of sandpaper to use on old furniture? Do you ever use an electric sander?

I usually use 100-120 grit paper, because it's rough enough to give the surface tooth, but it's not not so rough that it gouges the surface.  

I use an electric sander when I'm prepping big pieces, but I do most prepping and distressing by hand.  

How do you run several businesses and run a family at the same time? Looking for tips!

I wrote a post all about balance a couple of years ago.  It's something I always struggle with a strive for. 

You can find that post HERE.  

I know armoires are now out of favor since the rise of the flatscreen TV. I have an old pine armoire that is really large and I'm not sure what to do with it. Any ideas?

These are still great pieces to use for storage!  Add shelves and use it in place of a dresser (I started using a wardrobe for my clothes a few years ago and it's so better better than digging around in drawers!)  I've also seen them converted to small offices or craft closets.  

It's not time to get rid of it, yet!  

My front porch needs to be painted. I recall reading that painting the ceiling a light blue is a nice touch. Do you have any blues to recommend?

Yes, I love that!  Just look up "haint blue" on Pinterest and you'll get all sort of suggested colors for just that purpose!  

Really enjoyed having you on the chat, Marian. Hope you have a wonderful weekend in Luckett's and the weather is not too hot. Next week we'll have the story of a beautiful modern farmhouse on the West River south of Annapolis. The designer of the house, Amy Zantzinger, will join me to answer questions on the chat next Thursday. Have a good week.

Thanks so much for all of your questions!  I talk a lot about paint, refinishing furniture, decorating, and running a creative business on my blog, Miss Mustard Seed, so you can find more information and tutorials there.  

If you're in the DC metro area, come out the Lucketts Spring Market in Berryville, VA this weekend.  I'll be there!  

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.

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Marian Parsons
Marian Parsons writes the Miss Mustard Seed blog. Her paint line, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, is sold worldwide.
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