Since it’s not an area we often use, though, I really didn’t want to spend any significant amount of money to make it more cheerful. Instead, I was on the hunt for more modest upgrades: When a friend, awhile back, was looking to sell a sleek new sink fixture set she chose not to use in her own renovation, I replaced the rusty drain plug and awful plastic knobs.
But I was stymied for a long time by the cheap finish on the fake-oak vanity and built-in medicine cabinet, which was not even a wood-like veneer but was, on the sides anyway, a wood-image sticker. The deadly dull, cheap light fixture also did nothing to improve the room.
(Sorry for the cloudy pictures. It’s not an attempt to make it look worse, I swear! My camera got jammed and needed repairs, so these were done with my phone. Anyway, you get the gist: fugly and totally uninteresting.)
Then I discovered chalk paint. Because it sticks to most surfaces, is low-emissions and relatively green, and can be sealed for repeated use with wax, it can be used to create a fresh look for little cost.
And obviously, this is far less hassle, dust and expense than replacing the vanity, cabinet and light. Most vanities and cabinets are press-board and composite woods anyway, which off-gas glues and just generally annoy me. And repainting saves our current stuff from becoming trash.
I chose a green-blue tone for the vanity and light, Florence, from Annie Sloan because its intensity was a nice pairing with the navy tiles in the standing shower, but was still bright enough to create interest and pop. For the medicine cabinet, I used a bright white, called Pure. Because the fixtures couldn’t be easily fixed if I made a mistake, I also enlisted some help from a friend, also named Laura, who knows what she is doing and has done a ton of work refinishing pieces with chalk paint.
In terms of equipment, I used:
- tape for the edges and dropcloths;
- paint (you can either use chalk paint or DIY paint from a chalk paint recipe and a zero-VOC paint like Mythic brand);
- a paint brush (for a cleaner look, Laura swears by Purdy brand brushes, which have smooth fibers that help to keep brush lines out of the paint);
- a brush to apply the wax (these come in several sizes, for example this large one; for smaller jobs, though, a paper towel works just fine);
- something for buffing the wax (a low-lint cloth like an old cloth diaper or sock works). For large jobs, using a brush for buffing the wax that fits onto a electric drill is a time-saver, though it is a few dollars more.
We started by washing all the dust off the vanity, light and cabinet. After that dried, we removed the handles from the door and other fixtures and began painting.
Laura showed me how to thin the paint with water by dipping it in a cup of a water prior to dipping it in the paint. A small amount goes a long way.
Multiple coats make a real difference, and, as Laura told me, thin layers sit better than laying it on thick. Laura had a much more meticulous eye than I do for uneven areas that required more sanding as well as spots missing paint.
But after a few layers dried, and with lots of angling of the brush, the paint eventually held on. I originally had in mind to distress it a bit to see the silver. We tried that, then decided it looked better with the color uniform.
After we were happy with the colors and when the paint had dried, we moved to the wax stage. Using a dry round brush designed for wax application, we added a fairly thin coat of clear wax to the entire surface of the vanity, cabinet and light. We let it sit for just a few minutes, and then buffed it using a large round brush as a drill attachment. (For the sides that were closest to the wall and unreachable with the drill, we didn’t bother buffing the wax.)
I was very pleased about the result. And with the cost. Because I had help from Laura, who brought along her drill brush attachment, the cost for the new-but-used sink fixtures, paint, some tape and my brushes kept the whole project under $100. Which helped to pay for the new camera!
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