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Review: Refinishing a beat up tool chest with Annie Sloan chalk paint

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint


I needed a new nightstand with plenty of storage so when I came across what I thought was an old dresser in a flea market, I was sold. It was only $60 but I soon discovered why it was so cheap. It was on wheels and had been used as a tool chest, probably in a garage. Not only was it filthy, but the wood was badly splintered on the top, sides and on the drawers. The vendor had given it a fast paint job in a light green in the hopes of a quick sale, but it needed much more to make it usable.

This old tool chest was rough and splintered on the top and sides. Sanding would not have done much because surface damage was so deep.
Cheryl Dangel Bartolini
You would never believe that this used to be a rough hewn tool chest but after a makeover with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint it is a shabby chic nightstand.
Cheryl Dangel Bartolini

This antique chest was an ideal candidate for a makeover with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Why? Because when painting with Annie Sloan Chalk paint, you do not need to sand or prime the old surface, which was a big plus. Now, that's not the same as paint that claims to be a paint and primer in one. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is different. It adheres to virtually any surface from wood to metal, plastic and concrete -- indoors or outdoors. It is a very forgiving paint, easy to work with and it hides flaws inherent in many surfaces.

Specifically, at Annie Sloan Unfolded, it claims that the paint:

  • Is the best for painting furniture.
  • Can be used on most surfaces--even floors.
  • Can be distressed and then waxed to create an old world patina.
  • Does not require the surface to be prepared or prepared in any way.

The old surface on this chest was splintered so badly and the recent coat of paint by the flea market vendor had seeped into every crack, crevice and splinter, yet the surface was very rough. Removing the paint with a scraper or heat gun would have further damaged the surface and still would have left paint behind. To many, the surface would have been beyond repair and it would have snagged any fabric that came near it.

With nothing to lose, I chose to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Florence, a vibrant turquoise, for the outside of the chest and the color Old White for the interior of the drawers. I won't include a tutorial for using the paint here; there are plenty online, including this one from the Annie Sloan website. NOTE: Applying Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is different from painting with traditional paints. Please refer to the tutorial.

I applied two coats of paint to the chest without doing any advance prep work. No sanding. Nothing. The paint filled in the cracks--not all of them, of course, this was a tool chest after all--but it did make the surface smoother and eliminated many of the splinters. The paint dries fast, so by the time I was finished with the first coat on the drawers, I could go back and start the second coat on the chest.

Next, I gave two coats of Old White to the interiors of the drawers.

I let that dry, per the instructions, and then applied the soft wax in clear. All Annie Sloan Chalk Paint must be finished off with an application of wax, either clear or dark, depending upon your preference. This gives the paint its velvety finish.

You rub the wax on or apply it with a brush and buff it off. The result is an incredibly smooth finish, even on this beaten up tool chest. The difference between the before and the after surface to the touch was remarkable.

Next, I sanded the edges to give the chest a distressed look. Believe me, it was already pretty distressed, but the sanding further smoothed any rough edges and simply removed some of the paint from spots where it would have worn away over time, which was fitting for this particular piece. I didn't want it to look like it had just received a fresh paint job.

The transformation was everything I hoped it would be and best of all, it took only a day.

I'd highly recommend Annie Sloan Chalk Paint for projects where the existing finish is less than desirable. It works wonders.

Only selected retailers sell Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. For a list of dealers, click here. In Frankfort, Ill., the White Street Market sells Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and offers classes as well.

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