I don't usually buy big pieces of furniture at the mercato usato, simply because I can't get it home with my son in the back of the car and he's usually always my shopping companion! This one however I got a delivery guy to bring home for me, for an extortionate cost might I add! But the dresser itself was such a good price and just what I wanted for our balcony.
Now I know I might sound a little mad looking for a dresser unit to go on my balcony , but I say furniture can live outdoors as well as indoors! To be fair to me, the balcony is big - it's a veranda I guess, and it is undercover, so this piece isn't truly outdoors but just living in an environment of all climates. Because it was going outdoors, I knew from the start I wasn't going to be able to wax this.
Waxing will not provide enough protection here, as although this piece isn't going to be touched much or rained on, it does get moist from all the fog we can get at this time of year. But I did want to get out the gilding wax, as I thought that would go with the yummy rich blue colour I'd chosen for this. Our balcony, veranda, or whatever it's called, has a big dark wooden table and chairs already, so I wanted to add some colour. I'm going for building an eating area inspired by Morrocan decor up here - metal lanterns, bright cushions, dark wood, metallics, glass and patterned tiles. I've got a way to go, but this chest now adds a touch of sumptuousness with its rich blue and gold highlights.
This piece was actually a dresser and came with a huge mirror attached (soon to also receive its own makeover) which I removed as I wanted to use this as a dining console or buffet. It only has drawers, but that works fine for me to store placemats, napkins, and such for dining alfresco. As you can see, it was big (it still is), brown (it is now not!) and veneered (some still is, some is now not!).
The first thing I did was pick at the veneer on top of the dresser to see if it would come off easily and what was underneath. I really wanted to have a wooden top on this piece and I guess I could have left the veneer, but it was all shiny and well...veneer like! Actually under the veneer was some basic wood, I've no idea what, but it could be easily sanded and stained :) I removed all of the veneer from the top using a putty scraper easing it up at the edges and it came off in long strips without too much trouble, hurrah!
So after giving it a clean with a de-greaser, I started to stain the top. I gave the top a sand first with a 150 grit sand paper and then with a 220 - it was quite smooth already so it didn't need much sanding which was lucky as I wanted to complete this piece inside and upstairs with minimal wood dust!
I used a mahogany stain that gave some protection against water and ended up doing 4 coats to get the richness of colour I wanted. I used a large smooth brush to apply it, and made sure I kept finishing each application with long smooth strokes along the entire length of the dresser top to get the most even finish.
I made my own chalk paint for this dresser as I wanted to use a colour I had found in a normal emulsion paint, but I also wanted to paint over veneer. It's difficult, if not impossible, to sand veneer to prep it for a primer and then colour, and this dresser had lots of detail. So a chalk paint would stick nicely to it without having to do the prep work (in case you didn't know, with chalk paint rather than the prep you have to do the finishing with wax or other sealant). So I used a chalk paint powder I bought online from UChalk in the UK but they deliver to Italy (there are other brands). It's simply a white powder that you mix into your chosen paint to give it a chalky texture. I'm putting together a short tutorial on how to do this as it can be tricky to get a smooth paint!
Once I'd mixed my paint, I started to apply it with two different brushes: a smooth straight brush to apply to the smooth surfaces, and a chalk paint brush that is round with different length bristles to get into all the detail of the handles and drawers. The paint had great pigment and was nice and thick so the coverage was great. I could have almost got away with only one coat which I NEVER get with any ready mixed chalk paints I use. There was a little grittiness but overall the application was smooth...all the while painting it's important to make sure that you brush in one direction using a light touch to minimise brush strokes. I also applied a spray primer to the handles and details to make sure that the paint would really stick to these areas as well.
I did two coats of my DIY chalk paint and then I had to seal it. I used a matt sealant that apparently gives a waxed effect and will protect the finish from water particularly. I gave the whole piece a coat of this including the newly stained top. As I said before, it's not a high traffic piece but it will be outside and the moisture in the air in the winter particularly was a concern so I went with the sealant over wax.
You can see here the sealant and the uncoated chalk paint - the sealant makes the colour slightly darker though this will lighten as it dries. It is supposed to dry matt, and it does, but not as matt as uncoated chalk paint!
So now I decided to do some embellishment with gilding wax - I wanted the handles and details to 'pop', so I added some antique gold! I used a few different brushed to apply this, and I really wanted to just highlight the areas rather than 'colour in' the whole area to give a more worn and antiqued look. You need a steady hand and some time to do this kind of embellishment but the gilding wax is so great it makes it easy for anyone to do! I always have some paper or tissue with me so that when I load my brush with wax, I then dab the paper to remove the excess so that I don't overload any areas with too much gold.
I haven't sealed again over the wax, as if I do that the wax won't cure underneath which takes several weeks. Now, I've used the gilding wax over my sealant for the same reason - I wanted my piece protected but I also wanted some bling! The sealant also acts as a clear wax base for my gilding wax which would be harder to blend and spread if I put it directly onto chalk paint.
Finally, I added some little feet to raise this off the ground slightly so that any standing water won't be absorbed up through the wooden feet.
I love the colour and the contrast between the gilding wax, reddish tones of the top and the rich blue chalk paint - it will be a welcome guest at our alfresco dinners on our balcony!