Here was my inspiration. I had an idea of what I wanted for a dining set and had a table I had already painted. I saw these chairs on Craig’s list, FREE, which can be seen here, and they waited in the basement for my inspiration.

This photo is from a French Chateau Hotel in France.
French Chateau Chairs

I also found this dining set created by White Cottage Boutique. So very nice!
When I found these photos, I thought ‘Yes, that’s it! That’s the look I’m going for.’ Only I really like the grey that is so popular right now. So I began.

I gave the chairs a bath with a regular household cleaner.  These were not real dirty, so didn’t need to scrub, just removed dirt and oil.  Let them dry.  I also removed the grungy pads from the bottom of the legs.  I’ll replace them because these were too icky to leave on, and now is the easiest time to remove them.

These are the products I used for this project.

I wanted to make sure the ‘carved’ details remained prominent once I was done painting.  I wanted to accentuate the shadows so I used a regular black craft paint for this.  Some people will use black chalk paint or spray paint.  All I can say is there is no wrong way to do this process.  I’m a believer in using what you have and as long as the results are what you like, it isn’t wrong.
French Chairs 1

I used the FolkArt brand in Wrought Iron which is a dark gray rather than a harsh black.  I just used a small artist brush and painted in the crevices and where dirt would normally accumulate.   I’m pretty sloppy with this step because it is going to be painted over. Let that dry.  Another nice thing about the craft paint is it dries quickly.

As far as chalk paint goes, you could use premixed, like Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, and Home Depot now carries Americana Décor Chalk Paint if you prefer the convenience of just opening a can and not having to mix.  Chalk paint can be made with tile grout, plaster of Paris, or mineral powders if you are concerned about the dust plaster of Paris causes if you sand it.  To be honest, I haven’t used any of these, because what I use works for me. You can decide what you prefer.

Also, people ask, “Why chalk paint?  What is so great about it?” Here is why I like it. 
-It’s ok to paint in any direction.  You don’t need to be worried about the brush strokes.
-NO prep work. You don’t need to sand before painting unless the surface is really rough. Chalk paint will almost always cover the existing finish without flaking off.
-If you are going to sand the chalk paint to get the distressed look, it comes off looking like worn spots.  If you have ever tried to do this with latex, and the paint gets warm from the friction, it comes off like plastic sheets.  Not pretty. 
-I like the finish that chalk paint and wax makes.  It looks old and worn and glows without being shiny. 
Those are my reasons.

If you Google homemade chalk paint, you will get dozens of links. That’s what I did when I was learning about it. If that is what you did and you found this post, hey, glad you are here, and you know exactly what I mean! After reading several pages on the web, I decided on this simple recipe (and I had plaster of Paris on hand):

-3 parts latex paint  Not the kind that is paint and primer in one,  that doesn’t work  well.  I buy the white ceiling paint, or buy a sample. The samples are a very good choice because they usually aren’t the paint and primer in one, and the color will be the same every time if you should want to use the same color again.

-1 part warm, but not extremely hot, tap water

-1 part plaster of Paris

Mix the plaster of Paris into the warm water.  Don’t do it the other way around! Pouring the water into the plaster is like making mud pies!  It is easier to mix as you pour the powder into the water.  Make sure the plaster is dissolved. If the water is really warm it may start to thicken.  You will want to pour it into the paint quickly if that begins to happen.

I store my paint in an old jar with a screw on lid.  I can easily mix a couple cups of paint with the water and plaster.  I will pour some in a disposable cup or bowl and seal the jar.  Leaving it open can make the paint thicken.  If this happens, mix in a little water. Also, the longer you store the paint, the quicker it will thicken up when you use it.  
Chalk Paint Jar

Brushes:  As you can see in the photo, I use the cheap chip brushes.  Paint in different directions instead of just with the grain.  It’s ok to have brush strokes.  The point of chalk paint is so your furniture looks like it has layers and layers of old paint. So, brush strokes from cheap ol’ brushes are ok.  You’ll find out why later. 🙂

I added some of that same Wrought Iron color to half of my mixed white chalk paint. Yes, I mix the acrylic paint into my latex chalk paint to get the colors I want.  Right or wrong, that’s what I do! I tend not to measure, so if I want the exact same color, I am usually out of luck! Again, as I mentioned above, you could also get a sample paint in the color you want and mix with your plaster of Paris.

I liked the Wrought Iron because it seems to be a brown-based black so the gray was not cold.  Just mix a little at a time until you get a shade you like.  The paint will darken when it dries, too, so keep it on the lighter side.  If you want to know for sure how it is going to look, paint a scrap piece of wood for a test to see if you like it when it dries.   

If you have not used chalk paint before, don’t be discouraged with the first coat.  Chalk paint takes two or three coats to cover.  Consider the first coat as a primer coat.  You are still going to see the wood underneath and it’ll be streaky.
French Chair Leg 

The second coat will provide very good coverage.  Painting in different directions will fill in the streaks better.  I have read to wait at least 4 hours to apply the second coat.  I think it depends on the weather and how dry it is.  By the time I finished the first coat on all four chairs, I started on the next in this dry winter air without any problems. I painted two coats of the grey, being careful to use a nearly dry brush in the areas where I had put on the black in the crevices. If too much does get in, just re-apply the black, let dry, and redo the grey.

When I started out, I thought I was going to do the chairs just in grey and leave it at that.  After they were done, they looked kind of flat.French Chair Flat 
I knew that applying the wax would add some depth, but it just seemed lacking somehow.

I used white chalk paint and dry brushed it over the grey. The first coat didn’t show very much, so I applied a second coat, again dry brushing lightly. I took care not to apply too much over the areas I had painted black, but blended the edges.
French Chair Compare
The leg on the right is with the grey only, the left is dry brushed with white. And yeah, I fixed that spot! I loved the way the dry brushing highlighted the brush strokes, adding some depth and texture. Some areas had more white than others, but blended it with the brush dry.

In the next post, I will show you how to cover the chair seat and reveal how they turned out!