general finishes milk paint.

There are several furniture refurbishers out there whose work I really admire and they extol the virtues of General Finishes Milk Paint.  So when I ended up in a shop that sold this product while out shopping with some friends recently I decided to pick some up and give it a try.

The first thing you need to know about General Finishes Milk Paint is that it isn’t really milk paint.  I know, confusing right?

Here is what they say about the paint on their website:  GF’s Milk Paint is not a true Milk Paint – it is premixed and does not contain any casein based ingredients. We named our product Milk Paint with the intention of putting a clear, bright, contemporary spin on an old fashioned furniture paint tradition. It is designed to mimic the low luster finish of old world paints.

So if you are buying this paint and expecting to find a powder you’ll mix with water inside the can, guess again.  And if you are used to using this ‘milk paint’ and then you buy some Miss Mustard Seed or other true milk paint, don’t be surprised to find that it’s totally different.  Also, just know that you won’t get the chippy look that milk paint is known for with this paint.

The fine print on the can says that this is an acrylic paint, and for that reason it didn’t surprise me to find that it is very similar to Fusion paint.  Much like Fusion, it does not require a top coat (whereas chalk paint and milk paint require a top coat to be water resistant).  It also has the same self-leveling properties as Fusion.  It also distresses in a similar fashion, and by that I mean that neither of these paints distresses as easily as a chalk or milk paint.  These paints are meant to be very durable, so the longer you wait between painting and distressing, the harder it will be to sand off the edges for a distressed look.  Just be sure to distress promptly, if you plan to distress at all.  For those who prefer a non-distressed finish, both of these paints are perfect for that.

OK, so now that we have all of that info out of the way, let’s see how it looks.

I started with this petite desk that a friend gave me a while back.

I have to admit, I thought this desk was kind of hideous but it was either me or the Goodwill so I took it.  If nothing else, it provided a great canvas for testing out a different brand of paint.

You got a little sneak peek at this one in my post about my painting chair

Yep, this is where I paint in the winter.  Smack in the middle of my house.  And that chair was the perfect height for painting all of those spindly legs.

And now that it has a couple of coats of General Finishes Milk Paint in Queenstown Gray, well …

it’s kinda cute now, don’t you think?

As you can see, I did distress this piece and I did it about a week after I painted it.  So it can definitely still be done, it just takes a little more effort.

I lined the drawer with some pretty map paper.

Although I’ve called this piece a ‘petite desk’, it’s definitely too small for me to use as a desk.  It would be perfect for a youngster’s desk, but I think it would also work really well as a console table in a foyer or behind a sofa.  It also is the perfect height to be used as a nightstand.

Back in the day, it would have made a great telephone table, but nobody needs those anymore, right?

In the end I think this paint is very comparable to Fusion paint.  It’s just a bit more expensive (at least at the shops where I buy my paint), but not a lot.  If you love working with the General Finishes Milk Paint, you will also love Fusion paint and vice versa.  But obviously, if you’re looking for a true milk paint you aren’t going to find it here.

If you noticed in my first photo, I also bought a can of General Finishes Flat Out Flat topcoat.  I did not use that on this desk.  I have heard really good things about it as well, and I hope to test it out on something soon so stay tuned.

In the meantime, this little desk/nightstand/telephone table is for sale.  Be sure to check my ‘available for local sale’ page for more details.

my mind is just not on painting.

For the last two years or so, Mr. Q and I have been saving up for a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands.  We were planning the trip with my sister and another couple for this fall.  As it turns out, the friends decided they can’t afford a trip this year, and my sister decided to buy a house instead, leaving her with no budget for travel either.  So, there we were.  A healthy travel fund saved up, plenty of vacation time on the books, and no idea what we wanted to do (we are saving the Belgium trip for another time when my sister can join us).

For a little while we entertained the idea of spending some money and time on home improvements instead of travel.  We got a quote for refinishing our wood floors.  It was over $6,000.  And on top of the price, we discovered that you basically have to move out of your house, furniture and all.  Most people rent one of those Pod things, put it in the driveway and move all of their furniture into it for the duration and then stay with friends or in a hotel.

Um, no thank you.

And you know what?  Ten years from now are we going to be glad we spent the money on refinished floors?  Or would we rather have some amazing memories of some fabulous adventures?  In the end, we realized we’d rather spend the money on travel after all.

So, I started researching some new ideas for a trip this year.  It took a couple of months to find just the right thing, but we finally found it!  Mr. Q and I are going on a cruise that starts in Copenhagen, Denmark and then goes to five ports in Norway, followed by three stops in Scotland, one in the Shetland Islands and a final stop in England.

Now if you are a travel snob, you might be turning your nose up at a cruise.  But did you know that even Rick Steves believes there is value in taking a cruise in Europe?  There is a great lecture by Cameron Hewitt on the Rick Steves YouTube channel about cruising in Europe and Cameron points out that it is one of the most efficient ways to travel to multiple destinations.  After all, you get on your ship, unpack your stuff, and then every night while you sleep you are transported to a new spot to explore.  No living out of a suitcase and lugging it onto trains or ferries.  It’s also one of the most cost effective ways to see Northern Europe specifically.  The Scandinavian countries are very expensive places.  With a cruise, your room and meals are already paid for.  And as Cameron points out, Northern Europe is one of the few places where it is actually cheaper to buy a drink on your ship rather than on land.

But we aren’t going into this blindly.  We know that there is also a trade-off.  You don’t have the same opportunity to become fully immersed in the culture, and you also don’t have a chance to experience the nightlife since your ship will usually be leaving port by 6 p.m. or so.  In addition, you have to be very careful to not get sucked into incredibly over-priced ship sponsored shore excursions with 500 other people.  In other words, you have to do your research.  So that is what I have been focused on lately.

Here’s a good example.  One of our stops is in Flam, Norway.  A popular tourist activity there is to take a train up to the top of the mountains for beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and the fjord.

The ship offers this excursion for $149.95 per person.  But guess what?  The spot where you get on the train is about a five minute walk from the ship’s dock.  And you can buy tickets for the train online ahead of time for about $50 per person, thus cutting out the middle man.  Granted, the ship’s excursion includes a cup of coffee and a waffle at the café on top of the mountain, but do you think that is worth the extra $99.95?  You might find the markup on this shocking, but it’s not unusual for ship sponsored excursions to be ridiculously overpriced.

But actually, Mr. Q and I aren’t going to take that train at all.  I’ve discovered that there are also several really lovely walking/biking trails in Flam, and doing those on our own is free. And this, by the way, is what Flam, Norway looks like …

So we are going to hope that most of the people on our ship get on that train and leave the rest of Flam to us.  We like nothing better than just wandering around exploring a place on our own.  See that path along the river?  That’s the way we’ll be headed when we disembark our ship in Flam.

Anyway, since there are 10 ports of call on our cruise plus we’re spending a couple of days in Copenhagen before we sail, I have been spending all of my free time researching all of our destinations.  And when I’m not doing that, I’m going to look at houses with my sister.  She had a fantastic 1894 farmhouse picked out last week and for the 2nd time she was outbid by another buyer.  We’re heading out again tomorrow to see some more potential houses, so keep your fingers crossed.

 Unfortunately for you, dear reader, this doesn’t leave much time for painting furniture or for blogging about it.  My mind is just not on painting furniture at the moment.

But I will return to it soon.  I just brought home this buffet and plan to start work on it tonight.

 In the meantime, do any of you have suggestions about what to do or see at any of our destinations?  If so, I’d love to hear them!

the shoemaker’s children go barefoot.

The shoemaker’s children go barefoot.  You’ve heard that expression, right?  In this case it’s more like the shoemaker herself who is barefoot.  I am always painting things to sell and often don’t get around to projects for myself.

But it has been a slow couple of months in the world of furniture sales, or at least for me it has been.  So this past weekend I decided to tackle something of my own that I’ve been meaning to paint for quite some time.

It’s another small chair that I use while painting furniture.


This chair is nice and low and allows me to paint the bottom half of furniture in comfort.  Normally it’s out in my carriage house workshop and it really doesn’t matter what it looks like, but in the winter I bring it in the house.  When I’m not using it, it sits in the corner somewhere, so it would be nice if it weren’t quite so ugly.

Initially I was going to paint it in Fusion’s Laurentien, which is a pretty turquoise, but after finishing the cutting board makeover I did last week I decided to go with those colors instead.

So I started by painting the entire chair in Fusion’s Putty.


Hmmmm, pretty blah, right?  I almost switched gears again at this point and just painted it turquoise.  But then I reminded myself that I still had to add a few details.

So I added some grain sack stripes in a creamy white, and then a fun stencil.


I ordered this stencil from Etsy a while back, but hadn’t had a chance to use it yet.  It fit perfectly on my chair seat.



Now I have a charming little chair to sit on while I paint furniture smack in the middle of my piano room (which is where I paint in the winter).

And I won’t have to hide it in a closet when people drop by for a visit.

What do you think?

another do-over.

Did you happen to catch my blog post over on the Reclaiming Beautiful blog yesterday?


If not, you should pop over there and check it out!

I used Fusion paint and transfer gel to upgrade an old bucket.  But I didn’t want my own blog readers to feel left out, so I did a second paint & transfer gel project for you guys too.

Every once in a while I throw in the towel and decide something needs a do-over.  In this case, it’s a cutting board that I added a stencil to.  I probably did this two years ago or so.  I’ve had it for sale at my occasional sale, but there were no takers.  So, I decided to pull it out and try again.


First I gave the entire board a coat of paint in Fusion’s Limestone.  I was surprised to find that only one coat was enough to cover the black stencil.  Nice.

Next I taped off some grain sack style stripes using my favorite skinny tape (Painter’s Mate, .23″ wide).

I painted the stripes with some of Fusion’s Putty.

Next I used Fusion’s Transfer Gel to transfer a graphic I found on pinterest.

This time I tried a new technique.  Instead of adding the transfer gel to the cutting board and then placing the paper on it, I brushed the transfer gel onto the face of the paper and then placed it on the board. This was far less messy.

I did end up with a couple of spots where the transfer didn’t ‘take’ real well though.  Mainly the “C” and the “M” of cream.


It may be that I had air bubbles in those two spots, or perhaps I didn’t have enough gel in those spots, I’m not really sure.

But regardless, I am still quite happy with how it turned out.  I like a distressed look.


This little cutting board is perfect for leaning against the back-splash on your kitchen counter (and if you’re wondering, no, I would no longer use this as a cutting board, I don’t think it would hold up well to a sharp knife).


You can always check the “where to buy” page on the Fusion website to find a local retailer for both the paint and the transfer gel.

an office terrarium.

A short while ago Danielle from Finding Silver Pennies wrote a blog post about making terrariums and it got me thinking about making one myself for my desk at the day job.

You have to get a nice close look to really properly admire a terrarium.  And since I have a desk job, well, I’m sitting right there for 8 hours a day.  Why not add something pretty to look at, right?

So last weekend my sister and I headed over to our local Bachman’s and picked up some supplies.


And I also pulled out some stuff I already had.  The glass jar was a garage sale find, and the mini Buddha and other items are from my fairy garden.


For anyone who is local and shops at Bachmans, they know that the purple striped plastic bag can only mean one thing, plants (or flowers) are inside!


In this case I have a tiny Cyclamen, a variegated flowering maple, a Selaginella and a Hemigraphis (you can barely see it, it’s that purple leaf poking out of the box in the foreground).

I followed Danielle’s instructions by washing my jar first, then adding a layer of pebbles, followed by a layer of dirt.  Then I added my plants and a little more dirt to fill in around them.  Finally I added my mini garden ornaments.

I might have overdone it a bit with the plants because my Buddha is barely peeking his head above them.

By the way, although I’ve had the Buddha and his little temple for a couple of years, I did notice that Bachman’s still carries them so if you are local you can still find them there.

My terrarium cost about $22 to make including the pebbles, potting soil, plants and the garage sale jar.  In other words, it was about the same price as a pretty bouquet of cut flowers, but it’s going to last a bit longer.

I say a ‘bit’ longer because the cyclamen won’t be blooming forever.  And there is a good chance that I will give up on the whole thing by spring and move the rest of the plants into my fairy garden.  But for now I’ll take this to work and enjoy having a tiny garden on my desk while I’m waiting patiently for spring to arrive.

the door to nowhere.

I have a fondness for old doors, how about you?  I love the original solid six paneled doors throughout my 1904 farmhouse.


And then there is my pantry door, which is a vintage door that I purchased via craigslist because I wanted a door with a window in that spot to let that amazing light into my kitchen.


When we moved into our house all of the doorknobs throughout the house were a dingy brass except for one pretty glass knob on the closet door in what is now the guest room.

I have since swapped out most of my brass knobs for porcelain knobs.  At first I chose white porcelain, but then I discovered that I really loved the black porcelain too. So I have some white and some black, often on the same door.

Changing out my knobs didn’t happen overnight, it has taken several years of just switching them out whenever I find some.  Believe it or not, I’ve found most of my porcelain knobs at garage sales.  Apparently there are people who remove these fabulous old knobs and replace them with something else.  Check out garage sales in neighborhoods with old homes that are being renovated if you are looking to score some knobs yourself.

If you don’t happen to live in an older home with great doors, I think the next best thing is to bring in a door that goes nowhere.  A beautiful old door that you lean against a wall.

I have one of those too.  It sits behind the desk in my q branch.

It’s just an old door with the top panel painted in black chalkboard paint.  Placing it on the same angle as the desk creates a good backdrop for the desk and it covers up some radiator pipes that run up the wall in that corner.

 I’ve added a vintage light, some vinyl Cricut numbers and and old hanger with an inspiring message.

When I saw this tall vintage door (behind the sign) at a garage sale last summer I thought about my own door to nowhere and decided to snatch it up despite its banana yellow paint.


I knew I could cover up that yellow and give it a new lease on life.

Originally I had a different plan for this door and I painted it with one coat of Fusion’s Coal Black.  That did a great job of covering up the yellow.  But then I switched gears.  I wanted to experiment with my ‘perfect chipping’ method by layering some milk paint over Fusion paint.  So I added another coat of Fusion, this time in one of their new colors, Brook.  This is such a gorgeous color and certainly one that might be found in the many layers of paint on an old door.

Once the Brook was dry, I rubbed a thin layer of Homestead House Beeswax Finish (a.k.a. Salad Bowl Finish) over it knowing that I would get chipping wherever I placed the wax.  And I wanted a fair amount of chipping.

Next I added three coats of Miss Mustard Seed’s Farmhouse White milk paint.  I tend to think that I use more coats of paint than most people.  That’s because I like a really opaque finish.  That’s a personal preference thing.  Some people might have been happy with two coats of the white.

I had a weird thing happen with this project.  I could see flaking paint already with the first coat of the milk paint.  The 2nd coat of milk paint also showed some flaking.  But by the time I got to the 3rd coat, I had plenty of crackling but paint was hardly flaking off at all.  Odd.  Then I pulled out my 220 grit sandpaper and expected some chips to sand off, but no, they didn’t.  Finally I tried the painter’s tape trick; pressing a strip of tape onto the surface and then ripping it off, sort of like using tape to remove lint from your black slacks.  And bingo!  The tape pulled off plenty of chipping paint.


I should also note that I was very careful with sanding the edges of the door.  I did not want to see that banana yellow peeking through anywhere.  Luckily I had that warning coat of Coal Black under the Brook.  If I started to see black, I knew to stop sanding.  The only spot where I ended up with some yellow showing is the door latch.


It actually looks kind of pretty though, don’t you think?

This technique of using milk paint over Fusion paint with a little Beeswax Finish in between could easily be used on a piece of furniture, or anything else that has an original color that you don’t want to see.

Finally, I added a stencil to the top of the door just to give it a little more character.


I shaded the numbers in a slightly darker grey to add depth.


It was so fun being out in the photo cottage again this past week!

But today we are expecting a snowstorm here in the Twin Cities.  So much for the faux spring we were all enjoying, right?  I’ll be back inside the house this weekend for sure.

So tell me, do any of you have doors to nowhere in your homes?  Or do you have any clever ideas for how to use this door?  I’d love to hear from you!

a thrifty makeover.

I’ve got a quick thrifty makeover to share with you guys today.

I picked up this item at the thrift store over a year ago.  I’m guessing it was meant to hang on the wall next to the phone (remember when phones were hung on the wall?) with a pad of paper for taking messages (remember writing messages down on paper?).


Sometimes I like to pick out stuff that is hideously ugly just to see if I can re-purpose it, and this one is an excellent candidate.

Especially when you notice that the sheep are textured.


I know that back in 1983 or so someone hand-painted those sheep and absolutely loved them, so my apologies to the 80’s crafter who made this.

First things first, I had to sand down those textured sheep.

That was pretty simple.

Next I just added a couple of coats of Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in Farmhouse White.  I sanded to distress and got a nice little bit of chipping.  Then I gave it a quick coat of Salad Bowl Finish (a.k.a. MMS 100% beeswax).  Then I embellished with a couple of rub-ons.


Rub-on’s can be tricky with milk paint.  The plastic sheet that the rub-on’s come on is just slightly tacky on the back and sometimes that will be enough to pull off some milk paint.  So if you are going to use a rub-on over milk paint, be sure that you have removed all chipping paint first.  You can see below where the top half of the “8” came off with a chip of paint.  In this case I think it just blends with the overall chippy-ness, but I have had rub-on’s take off an entire section of paint and leave nothing of the rub-on behind, which doesn’t look so good.


Also, rub-on’s can dry out and no longer work.  If you ever decide to pick up some to try, be sure to store them in their plastic sleeves so they don’t dry out.  The rub-on’s I used for this project all came from Hobby Lobby.  The “Cherish each Moment” is from the scrapbook sticker aisle and the numbers are from the Tim Holtz section (which for some strange reason is tucked way in the back of my store away from the scrapbook supplies so you may have to hunt around for them).

So, I’ve turned an outdated useless item into a unique photo holder.


Unless you still have a wall mounted phone and like to write down messages, in which case you can still use it for that purpose too.