Q&A: Annie Sloan on decorative paint

Jul 09, 2020

Annie Sloan, who is famous for her Chalk Paint, is a British artist, color and paint expert and author of 26 books. Her Chalk Paint became a worldwide sensation due to its many uses, from furniture to other things in the home. She invented Chalk Paint due to a need for a paint which could be used to achieve myriad decorative effects - but that could be applied, left to dry, and waxed in one day. Annie lives and works in Oxford with her husband David, who runs the business.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, answer your decorating, design and decluttering 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 organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A 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 your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Annie Sloan is a great guest to have on right now as lots of us have been doing DIY projects. Refreshing furniture with a coat of paint is something that is easy and fun. Annie has spent decades perfecting her Chalk Paint and painting techniques and showing us the tricks of getting a good result. She wrote her first book on decorative painting techniques in 1988 and has continued to educate us with many more articles, books and videos on the topics of paint effects, interior design and paint finishes. Let's chat.

Hello I'm Annie Sloan. I'm joining from Oxford, UK, where my world famous Chalk Paint® is manufactured and where I have lived for the last thirty years. I'm an expert on paint, design, and my passion is not only COLOUR but spreading confidence about colour -  so everyone can bring it into their homes and their lives.  I studied fine art for 7 years and have written 27 books as well as publishing a quarterly Bookazine, The Colourist. So whatever your questions are,  I think I can help – or at least provide a new perspective 

Hello Annie!. I am currently painting an antique hutch and have had to use three coats of a Old White on it. The tannins on the piece seem to be persistent and are “bleeding through” the paint. Is there a preparation step I should have used to prevent this from happening? Thank You. Christine F Bel Air, MD

Hi Christine! Thanks for your question. I'm sorry to hear you've had this problem, this can happen occasionally particularly with older pieces from the 40s, 50s and 60s. As soon as I notice this is happening I use a Clear Shellac to block the stain, I then paint another coat of  my paint over it and this solves the problem. Thanks again, Annie

When will your wall paint be coming to the states?

SOON!!!! It's been delayed because of the pandemic but we're working to make it happen.

Do I have to use wax after painting with chalk paint. Is there anything else I could use? What is the purpose of the clear wax?

I always advise finishing a piece with either Chalk Paint Wax or Chalk Paint Lacquer. This seals the paint and protects all of your beautiful handiwork. It also makes it wipeable/ water repellant. I personally love using wax to finish my pieces as it gives it a beautiful mellow finish. I can also adjust the overall look by adding a little Black or Dark Wax. Some people prefer Lacquer - I'd always recommend Lacquer on floors. Thanks for the question.

Annie, I love your paint! I have bone/off white trim all throughout the house. I want to paint kitchen cabinets (wish I could do white!) What do you recommend to avoid clashing? THANKS!

Hi there, so pleased you love the paint! I would personally go for a light grey instead of trying to match colours. However, I do have three whites available - Pure is a clean, crisp bright white; Old White is a greyed white and Original is a warm, creamy white. My Stockists have been trained to advise on colour, so perhaps you could visit them to take a look at the colours in person. You can find your local stockist here: https://www.anniesloan.com/stockists#/  

What country or region, other than your own, has significantly influenced your color pallette?

Great question! Initially it would have been Sweden. I think Swedish colours are a complete knockout - I love the colours used in the interiors there from 18th Century. Early on I really loved early American colours, such as the reds found on barns. France has of course inspired me greatly. Everywhere I go I find inspiration - earlier this year, I went to India and that has been very influential on the colours and patterns I've been using recently.

How does she select her agents; what does she look for when doing so, artistic flare etc?

Thank you for this question, it's something that's very important to me! Artistic flare is important, but running a business is too. My Stockists all have a bricks & mortar store, open regular hours. They need to be able to run workshops too. This is very important - we are known for our great customer service and helpful advice! The shops are always inspirational and the people working there are knowledgable and trained well. You can find your nearest one on my website here

Annie Sloan travels the world promoting her chalk paint and pre covid she seemed to be always on the move. Can you ask her about her favourite places to visit and why?

Lovely question! I do love to travel - I find it very inspiring. I always try to go to local galleries, shops and markets when I'm visiting a new place. Recently I went to Austin, TX for Round Top Antique Market. I really loved Austin - the art and the shops were terrific. New York, Chicago and San Francisco are favourites of mine for their fantastic art and architecture. Outside of the U.S, I've loved most European countries. I recently went to India and found it fascinating. The colour blew my mind! India has inspired so much of European design. When travel is reopened and safe again I will be heading back to South Africa - which is one of my favourite countries. I also love Australia as it's where I'm from originally!

I am going to purchase a table from Pottery Barn that describes the frame as a Limestone White finish. https://www.potterybarn.com/products/hart-reclaimed-wood-extending-dining-table-mp/ I am planning to paint my China cabinet with a white to match. Can you recommend a white? The wall behind the China cabinet will be Sherwin Williams Morning Glory. Thanks!!

Hi there, I'm afraid we can't get the link to work in the UK! I have three whites: Pure is a clean, crisp bright white; Old White is a greyed white and Original is a warm, creamy white. Or, you could use White Chalk Paint Wax - I've got a tutorial on that here

My Stockists have been trained to advise on colour, so perhaps you could visit them to take a look at the colours in person. You can find your local stockist here: https://www.anniesloan.com/stockists#/  

Can we buy the paint, brushes, your magazine, etc on line while the pandemic keeps us at home

A lot of my Stockists are now selling online - I encourage you to find a local Stockist who is selling if possible, as I'm really keen for people to shop locally. You can find a list of my Stockists here: https://www.anniesloan.com/stockists#/  

I have a late 1800’s foyer table with very intricately carved areas, including the ‘skirt’ border, the actual pedestal and the claw-footed legs. The top is inlaid marble. The carvings vary in design & in depth. I want to paint this table in two different, layered Annie Sloan paints and perhaps use a light glaze for wiping off, to really bring out details in the carvings. I wish to avoid filling up some of the shallower carvings with too much paint. Would I use the lighter tint chalk paint first, then come back with the darker tint and wipe off a bit or vice versa? Should I use a light glaze or just wax when done painting? This is an elegant table and the carvings are intricate. I want to retain its elegance while making the beautiful carvings really stand out. I am leaving the marble top alone. Thank you for considering my question. I have hesitated beginning this particular project for fear of getting the layering tones in the wrong order. If I error, I will not be able to re-do as the paint will have ‘filled’ some of the carving depth and I will lose the delicate details. So, the table sits there, ‘staring at me’. I certainly appreciate suggestions & advise. Best! Kerry Warren-Couch

Hi Kerry, thanks for your question. I can remember being scared of this myself, but I've found the solution is to use the paint thinly and spread it out. I would use a darker colour underneath and the lighter colour over it. You could use my White Wax which will help to soften it and highlight carving, or my Gilding Wax to add a little gold or silver.

I am going to be painting furniture for our Toddler class. Want to use primary colors. Yellow is the wall coloring. Any suggestions on colors for table and chairs and bookshelves. Also, what finish would work best? Wax, Poly, etc? Thanks!

How lovely! What a fun project. I think primary colours would be good but you do need to add in some neutrals and I'd suggest using several blues and greens with the yellow to make sure it's a bit more cohesive. You can use either Chalk Paint Wax or Lacquer to finish, but both these will need time to cure (fully seal) over a 10-14 days, so keep out of toddler's sticky hands until that point!  

When will be available the lacquer?

Demand is very very high at the moment - we've been overwhelmed with sales during the pandemic. Everyone seems to be painting with Chalk Paint! At the beginning of the pandemic we did close production to ensure the safety of our staff. We are now busy working 7 days a week (with social distance measures in place) to get stock out to you. So the answer is soon - I apologise I haven't got a more solid date for you. 

When did you start your business and why? How old were you when you started . What advice do you have for new furniture painters who want to start a business?

Fab question! I started my business when I was 41, with three young children. Before that I had been writing books, painting and teaching. Along the way I had found it hard to find the perfect paint, and one day I thought to myself, I'll make it myself! Of course it wasn't that easy, but that's more-or-less what happened.  

For new furniture painters who want to start a business, I really think now is the best time - you're so lucky to be starting now because social media has made it easier than ever to reach new people. Photography is incredibly important so spend some time learning - you can use a phone camera, but light and styling are key. 

What is a good way to incorporate a bold color into my home without overwhelming it. I am afraid doing an accent wall will just cut my room short visually. I am looking at Benjamin Moore Newburyport blue. Thank you!!

Chalk Paint can be used on walls and looks AMAZING! It creates a beautiful, velvety finish. I would use Napoleonic Blue or Aubusson Blue which gives incredible depth and actually makes a room feel bigger.

Wish list - BOLD wall mural/stencil/paint simple window treatment Please help. Do you have any suggestions for the accent wall behind my bed and window treatments?

I love geometrics! A simple geometric wall behind the bed would look brilliant. Have a look on Pinterest for inspiration. 2 or 3 colours would work best. My bedroom at home is painted all over in Aubusson Blue which I find incredibly calming, so you could use that as an accent colour. 

Hi Annie, I want to spruce my home up a bit, but I'm scared of too much colour! Where would you recommend I start?

Colour is really important in a room - it brings joy! Think of the room and the wall colours as a neutral background and find one colour that you introduce in to the room - perhaps on a chest of drawers at one end and a chair at the other. Remember, you can paint lamp bases too for an extra pop of colour! Also, if you decide you don't like your colour choice, don't worry - you can paint over it!

WHY is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint so hard to buy! I wish they would sell it in Walmart or Target. i LOVE it but I find it HARD to get hold off.

Great question, because we're always on the look out for new Stockists all over America. We want to be accessible to all our customers, however it's very important to me to support local businesses and communities, this is why I am not in the big box stores. 

How do you achieve a perfectly smooth finish with your paint?

Use the paint thinly and apply it with one of my Flat Brushes. Add the smallest bit of water to the paint to make it easier to apply if necessary. Once the first coat is dry you can lightly sand back any brush stroke marks. Here's a slightly old video - but it helps with the technique: https://www.anniesloan.com/techniques/painting-a-smooth-finish 

What is your favorite colour combination?? I love blues but never know what to match them with

I love blue as well! I love it with greens, I love it with browns, I love it with orangey-terracottas! It's an incredibly versatile colour - and is a perfect colour right now because it's calming. Blue will work with most colours, it really depend on the hue. If you're looking for a golden easy rule to follow, use a complementary hue. That's a system that will always work. 

I've been seeing painted floors as the new craze - I really want to do this, but have no idea where to begin. What should I know before getting started, and how to choose a color? And, what do I seal it with?

Yes, painting floors is brilliant. The sky is the limit! I've had floors painted in every colour possible - even a red one and that was amazing. For a room without much light, such as a hallway you can go for a really strong colour. My hallway is Antibes Green at the moment and the staircase is Barcelona Orange! But in my bedroom, where I want it to be calming, I've got Old White on the floors and the walls are Aubusson Blue and Versailles.

This video should help with getting started and how to seal it: https://www.anniesloan.com/techniques/how-to-paint-floorboards-with-chalk-paint-by-annie-sloan

How many colors do you now produce, and are they different depending on what country they are sold?

I have 44 colours and they are all produced here in my factory in Oxford, UK, except for South Africa where we manufacture locally. So the colours across the globe are the same. 

One amazing thing about my paint that a lot of people don't know is that I use very little black pigment. Black is often used to darken colours as it is cheap to use, however it will make mixing colours murky and greyed. By not using black, it means you can mix my paints to create incredible bright new colours!

What proportion of DIY projects should be in a room compared to non-DIY projects?

I would say that it's all down to the person who lives there.  Some people love DIY and make it look fabulous! I'd always have at least one DIY project in a house - I think it makes it look like a home. 

I'm painting an old antique bar Aubusson Blue, but it's very decorative, nooks and crannies that I have to get to - are detail brushes the best route or should I water down the paint to make sure it gets them all without being too thick?

Hello, sounds beautiful. I'd love to see a picture when you're done, please share with us on Instagram if you're on there! Use hashtag #AnnieSloan and #AubussonBlue.


My Chalk Paint Brushes have been designed to get into nooks and crannies because of their shape. You could thin the paint slightly to help but I don't think absolutely necessary. Detail Brushes are a good option too. I painted this little ornate chair with Aubusson Blue (and Giverny, watch to find out the result!) using my Chalk Paint Brushes, so you can see how I dealt with the carvings: https://www.anniesloan.com/techniques/how-to-create-a-two-colour-distress-using-chalk-paint 

Can your paints and other equipment and magazine be ordered on line for delivery?

Yes they can! I recommend seeing if your local Stockist is delivering. You can find them by typing in your Zip Code on this page: https://www.anniesloan.com/stockists#/ 

Do you like to mix paints? Is there anything to consider when doing this? How do you know which ones will look good combined?

I love mixing colours! One of the things I'm so proud of is the fact that my colours have very little black in them - this means they can be mixed really easily without going murky or grey. A lot of paint companies add black as it's a cheap way of making colours darker.


When combining colours; if you take a look at my Colour Card, it's set out like a colour wheel and explains a bit about colour theory. I suggest using complementary colours which sit opposite each other on the wheel, so blue with orange, green with red and purple with yellow. I know that sounds a little scary, but think of it as a blush pink with an olive, or an aubergine with a cream. I can promise, it'll look great! 

I painted and waxed my hall table last year but now I've changed my mind and want a different color. What should I do?

No problem at all! If you used my paint and wax you can paint straight over it with Chalk Paint, no need to remove the prior finish. I'm always changing my mind and repainting things...my husband is very used to it by now! 

Do you think it's too much to paint your dresser and bedside tables the same color? Is it possible to pull this off without it looking too matchy matchy?

Well actually I've got this in my bedroom and it works! My bedroom isn't enormous though... if it was, I'd do it differently, but because my room is quite small it seems to work well. One way of getting round this, is by adding a little white to the main colour and creating a lighter tone!

Can I use your Chalk Paint to paint my kitchen cabinets?

Yes, yes, yes! It's such a great way to update a kitchen. Especially on a budget. I've made a video giving the best tips and tricks on this. You can see this here: https://www.anniesloan.com/techniques/how-to-paint-your-kitchen-cabinets-with-chalk-paint

Hi, Annie! Do you recommend a piece of painted furniture in every room? Or a roomful of painted furniture? Do you think "one can never have enough painted furniture?" I love your paint, by the way!!! Thank you!

Hello! Thank you, I'm so pleased you like it. Well, my house is covered in painted furniture and I'm pretty sure it looks okay! LOL! I definitely veer on that side, however I do have a few unpainted pieces in the house, usually antiques.

Hi Annie! I love your paint and its potential for all kinds of use. We use your Chalk Paint (Paris Gray) on our coffee table. We use the plain wax to cover it all. We do have small kids and eat and drink on the table sometimes so we find that spilled milk sometimes takes off paint, food stains get embedded, and wiping it up with water sometimes also takes off layers of wax and paint. Should we be adding a layer of protection on the top of the coffee table? Or just keep painting it occasionally when it gets too dirty? Thanks!

Hello, so pleased you like the paint :) You could re-wax/repaint and re-wax over time when it's looking a little dirty. OR I'd recommend painting again and using my Chalk Paint Lacquer. The Gloss is particularly hard-wearing, just make sure it cures properly before you begin using it. I also recommend using coasters and avoiding placing hot dishes on the painted surface.

Is there anything you advise not to paint? I know your paint adheres to pretty much anything...everything. But, anything to stray away from? Any antiques? Or Ikea?

Good question! I've had a couple of issues in the past with really oily teak, but other than that, it will adhere to pretty much anything - including laminate, glass and most plastics. Cheap plastics are problematic however, as they're too oily and the paint really easily chips off or doesn't stick at all. I've painted many IKEA pieces in my time and I know lots of others that have too, and it's a great way to make something mass-produced your own. I do tend to stray away from painting real antiques, unless it's damaged/ beyond repair!

Annie What are your recommendations for storing partially used cans of your paint? What is the shelf life? Thank you & love your paints!

Thank you. If you have paint leftover that you won't be using for a while, put a little bit of water on top, under an inch, and then seal the lid REALLY well! We say a year, but I've used paint that's 15 years old - it's really down to the way it's stored. Avoid it getting too hot or too cold. You can also mix in a little water if it gets thick over time. 

You inspire creativity in so many people around the world and I’d like to know who inspires you?

This is such a lovely question. I have many influences from the art world - Ben Nicholson and Eric Ravillious are two favourites. I've been doing Art Talks on my personal Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/anniesloanstagram/ - every Friday at 2pm CT. During the Lives I highlight an artist whose work I am inspired by. This week it's Howard Hodgkins and Indian mural painting. Hope to see you there!

Annie Sloan - thank you.  What a great mother lode of information. Next week join me for Andrew Wynn of Hippo Home Care on virtual home care. Bye now.

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been an honour talking to you all and to work with The Washington Post! If you enjoyed the chat you can find plenty more inspiration, information - and pick my brains some more on my Instagram, Facebook or Twitter pages @anniesloanhome. Thank you for all your questions. See you all soon, Annie xxx

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 and organizing.

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