when is rusty just a little too rusty?

My friend Sue snagged this rusty old Cosco stool for me last summer.  I posted it on my Facebook page at the time with this caption.

I struggle with this question.  More so when I’m going to sell something rather than keep it.  Personally I like distressed, beat up items that show their age (no wise cracks about Mr. Q here please).  I sometimes cringe when people cover up a beautiful distressed patina with fresh new paint.  If I had been keeping this for myself, and if I liked the yellow and white, I would have cleaned it up and kept it as is.

But alas, I don’t need another stool, and I really feel like this item will sell better with a paint job.  This led to the next question, how should I prep it?  I have found that if you don’t seal a rusty metal piece, the rust will seep through your new paint.  Again, I don’t necessarily mind that.  It’s a fun way to change up the color of a metal item, but to instantly re-gain some of that rusty patina.

But again, how rusty is too rusty?  This stool had a lot of rust.  So I decided to go ahead and seal it.  I started by vigorously sanding the seat and back fairly smooth and lightly sanding the rest.  Then I painted on a coat of the Rachel Ashwell Clear Primer.  Once dry, I painted a coat of Fusion’s Laurentien on the base and Fusion’s Raw Silk on the seat back.

I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating.  I absolutely love Laurentien.  It’s a gorgeous pop of turquoise!

When the paint was dry, I felt like the stool looked far too crisp and freshly painted though.  So I sanded down the edges of the seat back.  And the tops of the steps.

But when I started sanding the edges of the seat itself I quickly realized that I didn’t like seeing the yellow peek through, so I decided against any further sanding.

As I studied the ‘finished’ stool, I really felt like it needed just a little something more.  So I pulled out my Iron Orchid Designs transfers.  The bottom section of the small “Richardson Seeds” transfer was a perfect fit for the seat back (I used the full transfer on the green window recently).  This is another of the cool things about these transfers, you can use just a portion of one and save the other part for another project.

To give the transfer a little extra protection, I waxed over it with clear furniture wax.  But I assume the future owner of this stool won’t actually be sitting in it leaning against the back too terribly often.  If I was expecting that kind of use I would add a matte finish poly over the transfer.

Although this would be adorable in a potting shed, I think the comments on my post for the Blue Alligator dresser on Monday pretty much established the fact that most of us aren’t lucky enough to have one.

 So, how about just using it in your kitchen as intended?

After all, when a step stool is handy, everything else is too!

23 thoughts on “when is rusty just a little too rusty?

  1. I have a small stool or youth chair (metal) that I bought when my children were small – and it was old back then. (The kids are now in their 40s) It’s white with a lot of paint wearing off and newsprint got absorbed on the back. I use it now for grands. That said, I think I would be sorely tempted to update it with paint and make it wonderful like your stool that already SOLD! And don’t you find it interesting that Cosco stools get called Costco? Although when I just typed that it autocorrected to costco, so that may be the issue!


    1. Actually, I always thought it was Costco! But when I did some research to find that adorable ad that I used in my post I realized there was no ‘t’ in it. As for your stool, it’s always so much fun to take on small projects like these that can be done in an afternoon. I say go for it!


  2. OMG – first I was going to ask how you knew it was a Cosco stool, then I saw the step. Love the color!! Funny ad – I think that needs to be added to the stool somehow.


  3. Rust….we contrive to creat a faux-rusty finish or we struggle to get rid of it! In my mind an item which is going to be hung on the wall or otherwise used for decor; the more rust, the better. When it is a piece that could potentially be used, I would desire less. Maybe the invisible wainscoting line on the wall is the dividing line for rust acceptability? I recall seeing most of these stools in kitchens so clean paint would be called for. This gem clearly tugged the heartstrings of one fortunate buyer!


  4. I really liked the stool. Maybe something I will look for this garage sale season. I agree with Kim on the rust line. Above and below the imaginary wainscoting line.


  5. Linda, I have one sitting in my garage right now that’s pretty rusty. It belonged to my mother in law and was designated to the rafters of their garage when she received a new one in the 70s. Her new one was that brown-copper color that was popular then. This one is a dark forest green and it is rusty. You’ve inspired me to paint it. Now, if I can just figure out what color. 🙂


  6. Darling stool. I love the color. Thank you for explaining how to get rid of the rusty metal. I have a potting shed and a lot of metal pieces. My husband built it for me last summer(yes I am blessed). I too like the primitive look but not on everything. Thanks again. Happy Easter🐣 May God Bless you and yours.


  7. I have been itching to write to you ever since I saw this post this morning, but, I had my hands n bread dough, then pierogi dough and then my butt in church. Now, finally…on my blog, hopeandsalvage.com, on August 23, 2013, I posted a similar Cosco stool that I was restoring for a family. This chair was a 4 year-old’s place at the table.I did not dare leave any rust behind then, but happy to know that now is an option. I titled that post Transformation and that is exactly what I would call yours. Just lovely. I need to step up my game.happy Easter to all.


  8. Quandie
    I love what you did with the cute little stool, and the advice on rust was very good advice. I find it a challenge because I keep thinking everyone likes rust like I do?
    So, I wanted to ask a couple of questions:
    1) I have followed all your advice and knowledge on the transfers. But, I’m doing something wrong. I’m either using the wrong type of paper, not using enough transfer gel, rubbing too hard, not waiting long enough…I just can’ figure it out. But, I rarely get a transfer to come off without losing some of the graphics. And, then I start to look at things and tell myself…hmmm…is someone going to like the look of a transfer that is not all there? Can you just make sure I’m doing things correctly?
    2) Fusion Paint. After watching many of your beautiful pieces come out looking great with Fusion Paint, I travel 45 minutes to a local dealer of Fusion. I do like the paint very much and the texture. It goes on very easy, and the colors have been great. But, this has happen about three times…if I use painters tape on the surface it lifts off completely. And, it seems to remove itself also when using water to remove transfers. I have had several projects where the transfer removes and along comes a chunk of paint. So, that also makes me wonder….what am I doing wrong?

    Sorry for so much…I just perplexed? Thanks for any help.



    1. Hi Kim! I just found your comment in my spam folder! Not sure why the filter thought you were spam. I hope you didn’t think I was ignoring you! First of all, transfers. I want to make sure that you know that the ‘transfer’ used on this stool is a rub-on (not a gel transfer), two very different techniques. As for a gel transfer, I would say that I almost always lose at least some of the graphic. I mentioned that in my post about the cutting board that I did with a gel transfer (here). Comically, I think I asked myself the same question you did, ‘is someone going to like the look …’? I’d say this is one of the ‘cons’ to doing gel transfers. They will not be perfect. As for the Fusion paint, I am perplexed. I use painters tape over Fusion all the time (check out this post about that). If I had to guess, I would say that you might not be prepping your piece well enough. You really should be sanding your items before painting them, I’d say more so with Fusion and with milk paint than with chalk paint. And especially if the surface you are painting is even a little glossy. My second tip would be to make sure you give the paint some time to dry/cure before using tape (overnight, or 24 hours). Finally, what kind of tape are you using? I generally use the yellow Frog tape for delicate/painted surfaces. Best of luck!


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