a complete and total fraud.

Remember the pretty sea glass dressing table that I shared a couple of weeks ago?  I mentioned at the time that there were three pieces that I picked up together that night.  Today I’m sharing a story about the 2nd piece, a linen press dresser.

There are four more drawers behind those doors.  Whenever a dresser has drawers behind doors I call it a linen press.  I’m not sure if that is technically accurate, but it works for me.

Since I had so much fun layering milk paint on the desk I painted during milk paint madness week, I decided to try that again on this piece.

So I began with removing the knobs, sanding the piece, cleaning it well and then painting a base coat of Homestead House milk paint in Texas Rose.  I painted the entire outside of the piece, as well as the four inner drawers, both inside and out.  My plan was to use the Texas Rose as a base coat under some Miss Mustard Seed Linen on the outside, but leave the inner drawers in this pretty rosy color.

I’d never used this color before, so before I started I painted a test board in it and tried out a couple of different top coat options.  As you can see, the topcoat can really make a difference in the look of this color.  I wanted to see what my options looked like before I made a decision.

Before moving on to my final color, the Linen, I decided to layer another color under it.  I went through my mostly used bags of milk paint to see what I had and pulled out Homestead House’s Upper Canada Green.  I only had a couple of tablespoons of this paint left, so I mixed it up.  I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to show you what I mean when I tell you to let your milk paint sit for 5 – 10 minutes to be sure all of the pigments are dissolved.

Here is how the paint looked before any mixing at all, just the water and the powder in a cup.

See all of those flecks of blue pigment floating around?  They still need to dissolve.

Here’s is the paint after an initial stir …

You can still see a few darker flecks of color and the overall color is pretty yellowish.

But after waiting five minutes and giving it another stir, you start to see true color of the Upper Canada Green as those blue pigments are finally dissolving.

You can see why you don’t want to start painting before those pigments are all fully dissolved.  You can end up with an entirely different color.

OK.  So you might be wondering at this point why I have mixed up a couple of tablespoons of my next color since this is clearly not going to be enough paint for the entire thing.

This is another little trick I want to show you.  I had someone comment that they hated wasting milk paint for a layer of color that was barely going to show on the finished piece.  I totally get that.  So here’s what you do.  Instead of painting the entire piece in your second color, just paint it over the areas where you want to see it peeking through your distressing/chipping.

So far, so good, or so I thought.

The paint looks pretty well adhered in that photo, doesn’t it?  There were a couple of chippy spots on the legs, but that was about it.

However, fast forward about 18 hours.  The next morning the dresser was chipping pretty much everywhere.  Ugh.  I decided all was not lost, I would just sand it well to get all of the chipping paint off and create a better base for the final color.  So I sanded, vacuumed and then painted on a coat of Miss Mustard Seed’s Linen.

As the Linen started to dry I could see that it was continuing to chip.  In fact, it was chipping even more than before.  And it was chipping all the way down to the wood.  My work applying the layered colors was all just flaking right off.

Ugh.  This was the moment when I felt like a complete and total fraud.  I’d just spent a full week here on my blog proclaiming to be an expert on milk paint and now my own milk paint project was turning into a complete disaster.  Was this the universe’s way of keeping me humble?  Reminding me that I don’t know everything and no matter how much experience I have with milk paint it can still totally backfire on me.

I was mentally beating myself up and wanting to just kick the dresser to the curb.  Suddenly a bonfire seemed like a great idea.

Or maybe I could just hide the dresser under a sheet and never mention it to anyone.  I told Mr. Q I was going to sand it down, paint it with chalk paint and never, ever tell anyone that I’d initially tried to paint it with milk paint and it was a complete failure.

  Instead I did what I usually do in these situations.  I walked away.  I pushed the dresser into a corner and decided to give it a couple of days to think about its behavior.

In the meantime Mr. Q reminded me that I’ve painted well over 100 pieces of furniture with milk paint and this chipping situation has only happened to me a few times (see them here, here and here).  He also suggested that sharing this experience with you guys was the right thing to do.  If it happens to me, it probably happens to other people too.

I really don’t know what was on this piece that caused it to chip like this.  I did prep it properly.  If anything, I sanded and cleaned it more thoroughly than I usually do.  I guess 4 times out of over one hundred or so pieces aren’t terribly bad odds.

A few days later I pulled the dresser out of its corner and I thought to myself ‘you know, that chipping is a little extreme, but some people love a really chippy finish.’  I thought that perhaps if I just added one more coat of the Linen milk paint I could make it work.

Can you guess what happened?  Sigh.  Yep, it chipped even more, if that’s even possible.  Literally to the point that there was very little paint left.  I have run into this phenomenon before, each added layer of paint activating even more chipping.

After knocking off all of the loose paint, this is what was left.

Milk paint just wasn’t meant to be with this piece.

I decided not to throw it on the bonfire, but instead to start over from square one.  After all, under all of that chipping paint is still an adorable linen press dresser that is in great shape.  You’ll have to wait until Friday to see the end result though.  I hope you’ll check back then.  But in the meantime, how about you?  Have you had any colossal paint disasters?  Please tell me I’m not the only one.

 

59 thoughts on “a complete and total fraud.

  1. Wow…can’t wait to see what you ended up with on this piece. How frustrating. At least Me. Q was able to talk you down! Im really glad you didn’t give up…I love the bones of this one!

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  2. As much as I hurt for you that so much work was wasted, I’m so glad that you shared this with us. You can bet others will experience the same issue so we will look forward to how you solved this problem. I’m sure it will be gorgeous in the end.

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  3. I am just a lurker with a bunch of paint and brushes and no projects, so no failures.. I was so looking forward to seeing how that turned out. I will keep watching.

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  4. See, Linda this is what we love about your blog. Your honest approach to projects and great photos to document it all! Most of us would just start a blog post skipping the whoops part and mention the ‘first attempt didn’t work out’ and we’d never see the long time painting and frustration that results part of the first attempt. I guess this was your furniture having a temper tantrum. ‘Put me in the corner for chipping, well I’m going to show you.’ Thanks for showing us that there’s sometimes when the best laid plans just don’t work out. BTW, I love the colors you chose!

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    1. Yes, this was definitely a piece of furniture having a tempter tantrum. You can just picture it throwing itself on the floor kicking and screaming, “I will not wear that milk paint!”

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  5. Yes I have had this happen. I did not take pictures and ended up painting with chalk paint too. Thanks for sharing this “failure” with us. It shows that sometimes with all the best intentions paint just throws a curve. Always a pleasure to read your posts.

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  6. It happened to me on a cute side table where I used a light colored MMS on. I was so sad because I loved the shape of the table and it was such a mess. I ended up just staring at it for months. I finally got motivated and stripped the top and sanded the legs as best I could – they were ornate. I put a General Finishes clear coat on the top and used Colors of Sweden paint and glaze on the legs. The paint covered and the glaze gave it some depth and interest. I now love the table. I was glad to read your post because my bad experience kept me away from MMS. It sounds like it was just a fluke maybe caused by a chemical in the original finish. Time to rip open a bag of MMS again!

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    1. Yes, absolutely Ruth! Like I said, I’ve painted well over 100 pieces in milk paint and have had this happen only 4 times. Don’t let one bad experience turn you off milk paint. I’ve never heard of Colors of Sweden, but sounds like something I would like! I’ll have to check that out.

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  7. It may not be what you wanted but if you put the knobs back on and list it for sale I bet it would sell quickly. That is a look I think a lot of people would love. I see it with some chipped enamel ware and vintage linen faded towels.

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    1. That was exactly my thought with the first round of chipping. But by the end there was very little paint left, and what was left was not stable. In other words, it would have continued to flake off over time despite a top coat (I’ve experimented with that before).

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  8. It does have its own beauty all chipped. I can hardly wait to see what you did with this piece.
    I might have sealed it and used the Blanchisserie De Francaise. 2 Rue de Esplanade. Stencil. The large stencil would add Interest to the large unpainted surface. I think the French Laundry theme would go well with this piece.
    I would have changed the knobs to something gorgeous and viola!
    When I have a disaster , I like to pretend that’s exactly what I had planned.

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      1. I thought after I should have waited for your finished piece before commenting. I have learned a lot from following your posts. So really I think to myself “ what would Linda do ?” when looking at a piece.

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  9. Umm, it might just be me but I love the way it looks now. What some people see as failure, I see as chippy, patina gorgeousness. I wouldn’t want all my furniture to look like this, but one or two brings texture and character to a home. If I lived near you, I would buy it as is. But I am looking forward to see how it ends up.

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    1. As I mentioned in the post, I knew there would be some people who would love the massive chippy-ness! And actually I am one of them. I have several fairly chippy pieces in my own home (although not quite this chippy). That’s why I was tempted to try and save it until the bitter end. But even that little bit of paint that was left would have chipped off eventually. It would have been like a piece of furniture with a bad case of dandruff.

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  10. Shoot I hate this for you. I love that you keep it real. Contrary to what some might think I believe it only adds more credibility. Love the lines of this piece it’s so pretty. Seriously looking forward to it’s next reincarnation. 😘

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  11. Well truthfully I gasp when I saw the picture of the bonfire and thought “oh she didn’t” and I’m so glad you didn’t…rescue it…we need to see how you bring this stubborn beauty back to it’s glory.

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    1. LOL, I ‘borrowed’ that bonfire photo from the world wide web, but after I added it to my post I realized it did almost look like the very same dresser and people might think I actually did burn it!

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  12. And I quote “””….Instead of painting the entire piece in your second color, just paint it over the areas where you want to see it peeking through your distressing/chipping…….””” GENIUS!!!!! 🙂

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    1. It would have been more genius had it actually worked on this piece, LOL. But yes, it is still an awesome idea that does work great. I especially like to use it when I don’t have enough paint left to paint the entire piece. It’s a great way to use up those last dregs of a particular paint color.

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  13. I had that happen on the last two pieces I’ve done and like you I’ve done many. One I coated with Tough coat and left it that way. I thought maybe it was because I store them in my cold garage. But I warmed them up first. I actually cleaned them with deglosser. And then washed them with dish soap as I was out of tsp. And sanded them. I also was beginning to think that I don’t know what I’m doing. Lol. On another note, one of my favorite dressers I painted with MMS Apron Strings. Used resist and painted with linen. I can’t post a picture here but it turned out fab!

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    1. Hmmmm. I store the pieces in my cold garage prior to painting them too. But, like you, I pulled it in the house the night before I started work on it, so it was warmed up. It doesn’t seem like that should be a problem. I’d love to see that Apron Strings dresser, email me a pic at qisforquandie@gmail.com

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  14. Since I haven’t painted any furniture yet, I have no failures to share. Mr Q can really be a reasonable fella sometimes, can’t he? I can’t wait to see the finished dresser!

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  15. I am very happy to learn from YOUR experiences and I look forward to seeing the transformation of this piece, and maybe some insights as to why it was so resistant to the milk paint. Interestingly, I recently read on another paint blog that furniture can be affected by chemicals/fumes in the home which will leave a residue on the wood, preventing it from taking paint. While probably rare, we just never know the history of pieces we buy to paint and are stymied when a relatively predictable product suddenly doesn’t work within the range of “expected.”

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    1. That’s so true Kim, you never know what kinds of residue might be left on a piece of furniture. I’m sure there was something on this wood that resisted the milk paint. If you look back at the ‘before’ photo you can see that the piece does have a sort of filmy look to it. That was before I sanded and cleaned it though. Still … there was definitely some sort of residue left behind that resisted the paint in a big way.

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  16. I think when you work with vintage pieces it’s always trial and error. I have no doubt that you will make this piece beautiful. And yes, my biggest fail was many years ago when I tried some kind of new sealer. Long story short, I was on the verge of tears and had to call in the reenforcements, my dad, who saved the day. I learned a lot that day and all was well again.😀

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    1. It’s always good to have reinforcements! And thank you for reminding me that working with vintage pieces can be trial and error. You’re so right about that Becky! There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to working with previously owned pieces.

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  17. Thank you for sharing this post! I too have had this happen. I just bought a desk that I can’t wait to get started on. I spent 2 hours cleaning it with Krudcutter. The piece is quite old. Kind of that pumpkin orange pine. It seemed to me that the stain just kept coming off on the rag. It was an never ending job. Finally I decided to spray with Shellac, chalk paint and then use milk paint. Am I thinking right? Two heads are better then one. 😂

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    1. Absolutely. Sounds like a good plan. The shellac should prevent any bleed through of that orange stain, the chalk paint will adhere and provide a nice undercoat for the milk paint.

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  18. Linda, yes & yes!! It has happened to me a few times. One time, almost all of the paint came completely off and I wanted to die because you cant just paint over it unless you remove it clean, but…last year I did a piece where it mostly chipped off and so I decided to go with chalk paint, and I went right over all the chippy paint instead of sanding it all down and it ended up being one of my favorite pieces and it sold in hours. Everyone wanted to know how I got that look and I told them it was an accident lol. I recently realized that the more coats I apply, the more it chips.Milk paint is so unpredictable! Can’t wait to see what you do with this one. :))

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    1. I totally think you can make the texture that results from painting over chippy milk paint with chalk paint work in your favor, as you discovered with your piece!

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  19. I am so glad you decided to share this post – especially for someone like me that is brand new to painting furniture with milk paint. Now I know that if and when I run into this issue that it might not be me but just some pieces are not meant to be painted with milk paint 🙂 – We all learn not only from our own mistakes but from those we look up to for inspiration and guess what, it’s not the end of the world as you realized after a few days. There is always another paint option at the end of the tunnel! Can’t wait to see what you will be doing with it. Have a lovely day! 🙂

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  20. It’s great to hear that others put their misbehaving furniture in the corner too! Unfortunately, my corners are full!
    The thing I always have to remind myself of is that milk paint is so unpredictable and when you are dealing with older furniture (that was probably lovingly waxed and oiled over time) you never know how it’s going to turn out.
    It’s a beautiful piece and I am so glad you did not burn it!

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    1. Well, I might have a couple of corners that are full at the moment too 😉 Although my corners are mostly full of pieces that need some repairs from my handyman Ken. He doesn’t work in cold weather, so I’m patiently waiting for it to warm up so I can put Ken to work and get those corners emptied out!

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    1. Yep, there is a bonding agent you can add to milk paint to prevent chipping. But you mix it directly into the paint before painting the piece. Since the bonding agent pretty much totally prevents chipping and I wanted to get some chipping on this piece, I opted to not use it. It’s a bit of a gamble not knowing when you’re going to get this degree of chipping. I was hoping that all of the steps I took would give me just the right amount of chipping, but no. Hindsight is 20/20. Bonding agent would have been the best way to go on this particular piece.

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  21. Hi Linda, I love your blog. In fact yours is the only one I subscribe to! I am in MN also and we are having a barn sale May 10-13 In Taylor’s Falls and we would love it if you join us. Our fees are REALLY inexpensive. Please check us out on FB and Instagram @Palmdalebarnsale Please let me know if you have any questions or are interested and I can send you our vendor info. Thanks and hope to hear from you soon. Thanks, Margaret Burns 651-336-1742

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    1. I think you might have stumbled onto the wrong blog. This blog is mainly about painted furniture. And actually, the piece wasn’t fine. It might look that way in the photo, but up close and personal this piece needed to be refinished. The top was very scratched up and the finish was ruined. I know there are people out there who prefer to strip, stain and re-varnish pieces, and although I have done that on occasion, in general I prefer to paint.

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      1. No stumble, love your blog and painted pieces . I was just attracted to the warm wood finish . I just saw the finished piece and it’s beautiful! Now knowing that the wood was in poor condition, I understand.

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      2. I think I tend to make pieces look a little too good in my ‘before’ shots. Maybe I need to work on showing the flaws so it’s more obvious why I resorted to paint. I actually pass up purchasing pieces that I think deserve to retain their wood finish. I tell myself that those pieces will go to a home with someone who appreciates the beauty of the wood 🙂

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  22. Really nice of you to share this encounter! Looking forward to the final reveal and nice to know the you can fix a piece that seems unsalvageable. Love the piece, and that color is really nice too!

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  23. Oh my heavens, sake. I hope that Mom does not see this, I love the cabinet and am anxiously awaiting the end result. Of course I loved it the way it was. Needless to say you know who this is.

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