Friday, July 2, 2010

Guest Post from E. Lee: Painting Tips from a Pro

I am delighted (again) to share the genius insight and tips of famous fine finisher, E. Lee Jahncke Mead.  She agreed to pen an extra-special guest post in honor of our three day weekend about a burning question that comes up pretty darn often over here at The Gimlet Eye.   Let's hear what the expert has to say, shall we?

Hi, Gimlet Nation.  E. Lee here again!

A few of you Gimleters and my Facebook fans have written me lately to ask, "How do I paint my table and/or chairs (or other wooden furniture) a solid color?"

Well, you are in luck. In honor of Jessie's recent past post regarding de-bachelorizing for her sister and brother-in-law, I am doing just the same here at the Mead Manor and I am no longer a newlywed!

This table and these chairs came with my marriage.

They are not my dream for a dining room but actually perfect for our condo at present. Not sure exactly who they belonged to, but they are my problem now! The table looked just like the chairs, had a cherry-brown stain and factory lacquer finish, but after some stripper and a little wax, it looks more natural and casual and less like it belongs in Jason's Auntee's home.

I have been a little slow with my work lately so I am tackling the chairs this week.

The stripper wax/routine was a little labor intensive, so for the chairs I decided I would paint them a plain shiny white and cover the seats in an ikat, similar to one that I saw on Habitually Chic.

The inspiration.

Let's get started:

1. If your piece has been previously finished (not raw wood) and is relatively smooth, use a deglosser (liquid sander) with a rag as your first step. Read the instructions on the can and use in a well ventilated area. If you are working with raw wood, or something that is a little rough you will need to sand (220 paper) to smooth out your surface and then continue to step 2.

2. Next is priming. I know, no one likes to do this but your finished product is only as good as your base! A primer not only makes your top coats look excellent (especially if you go the shiny route) but it prevents chipping and ensures longevity of your finish. In this case, I suggest an alcohol based primer because it blocks stains.

3. Use a good brush. I would recommend a Purdy or Corona with natural bristles and a straight edge, the size depends on whatever you are painting.

4. Choose a color. I am going with Benjamin Moore metal paint in high gloss white.

I am a fan of industrial coatings for many reasons (shine, durability), but an oil based enamel in any sheen will be just fine.

5. Apply 2 coats of your paint. Allow a day to dry in between.

6. Clean up. Use a bucket or metal coffee can with a little bit of white mineral spirits to clean your brush. In between your 2 coats you can wrap your brush bristles in a plastic grocery bag and leave it in the freezer to use the next day (I learned this from my mother long before I knew I would do this for a living!).

Notes: If you wish, you can use spray paint for steps 2 and/or 3. In that case, I would recommend BIN or Kilz primer and Rustoleum protective enamel.

I don't have an after picture to show you yet and my fabric will not be in until the end of July, but here is a chair I found and painted and upholstered to go with my desk from my single girl apartment.

I painted it in white metal paint about 3 years ago, and still looking great! Again, same deal... 1940-50s furniture, with an unfortunate finish.  Side note, much of the wooden furniture from the 40s-50s 1) has great lines and 2) is well made/solid wood.    I highly suggest highlighting those features with your favorite color of paint!

Thanks so much, E. Lee, for your professional advice.  Gimleters, if you have questions for E.Lee, you can email me, leave them in the comments, or visit E. Lee's Facebook page (I suggest that you "Like" it anyway as she is always posting nifty projects and "before/afters" for our viewing pleasure!)

Cannot WAIT to see what you chickens come up me your work!



P.S.  Don't fret.  E. Lee is one of the most loyal Gimleters out there and has promised to send us pics of her "afters" of the ikat-y gorgeousness that is certain to follow from this project!


  1. Thanks so much! I am inspired! Can't wait to see the finished product!

  2. Another great post. Thanks!!!