Rustic chest of drawers

In Annie’s latest book, Annie Sloan Paints Everything published by CICO Books, she reveals exciting new techniques; just look at what she’s done with this chest of drawers…

Photographs: Christopher Drake© CICO Books

ANNIE SAYS “I sometimes come across really old, beaten-up pieces of furniture, particularly chests of drawers, which have layers of paint that often finish with a modern, brightly painted colour. They look as if someone has tried to scrape off the coloured paint, but given up halfway through, revealing all the layers underneath. I really appreciate these ‘chance’ layers, random markings, and hints of other colours in places.

“This is quite different to the subtle, worn look of old painted pieces in muted colours. It is a much more robust and rugged look in clear colours. I find it particularly appealing when the colours are quite strong; perhaps it’s a little to do with an appreciation of modern abstract painting.

“This old, mahogany-veneer piece was in very bad shape and destined for furniture heaven because large areas of the veneer had chipped, cracked, and lifted. The piece also had gouges, a few cigarette stains, and missing mouldings. It would once have been a lovely piece of furniture, but by lifting and cutting the veneer and using a little wood filler, it became paintable. I developed this method by experimenting with the paint and using a combination of techniques, including brushwork, using bleach to weaken the paint, scraping, and waxing to create a great, warehouse, rustic patina.”


• Chalk Paint in Paris Grey, English Yellow, and Provence (optional)
• Large oval bristle brush
• Thick household bleach
• Clean, dry, lint-free cloths
• Latex (rubber) gloves
• Mixing stick
• Scraper
• Clear wax
• Wax brush
• Dark wax
• Black wax
• White wax

Get started…

1  Leave the lid off the can of paint overnight so that it really thickens up. Use the large oval bristle brush to apply Paris Grey over the whole piece of furniture, very generously and in uneven layers. This stage may take some time to dry.

When the paint is dry, drop thick household bleach onto it in patches. If you wish, you can also use a clean cloth to apply the bleach to the paint. Take care with the bleach to protect yourself and your clothes – you may want to wear latex (rubber) gloves.

Dab a cloth on the wood to soak up some of the excess bleach. This will also remove some of the unwanted paint.

The longer you leave the bleach, the more paint it will remove (although the bleach will eventually dry out and this will leave a different mark when you try to scrape it off).

Using the end of the mixing stick, held at a 45-degree angle, gently scrape the surface, taking some of the paint away completely to reveal the layer of wood underneath. Pressing harder or softer will produce different marks.

Use the oval bristle brush to paint slabs of English Yellow on the piece, but leave some gaps. The paint should be thick, but try to use a light hand so that the paint sits on the surface. At this stage I also applied a little Provence in a few areas, such as the very base of the piece and the mouldings.

While the paint is still wet, but starting to dry, use the edge of the mixing stick to scrape off some of the English Yellow, applying quite a lot of pressure in places. The more pressure you apply, the more paint will be removed. Then re-apply this thick wet paint by scraping it back onto the Paris Grey paint. This is a little like using a palette knife.

Use the scraper to get even further into the layers. This is particularly useful when the paint has dried, but not yet hardened.

TO FINISH Apply clear wax all over the piece and then remove any excess wax with a cloth. I then used dark and black waxes in places and, finally, white wax all over in parts to soften the effect of the darker waxes.