How to Create a Whitewash Finish Under Ten Dollars
Here are three things you need to know about this post.
If you are looking for a perfectly executed and detailed tutorial on how to create a whitewash finish…this isn’t it.
If you are hoping to find a perfectly styled and photographed coffee table…you won’t find it here.
If you are here to learn the underbelly secrets of creating a whitewash finish for less than ten dollars, congratulations, you are in the right place.
The Hard Facts
If anyone tells you that whitewashing a piece of furniture is quick and easy, do not believe it. Just politely smile and walk away.
I’m going to be perfectly honest and tell you that I approached this project with a slightly arrogant attitude. What could be so hard about brushing on paint that’s been thinned down with water and wiping it off?
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I already felt like an expert on this subject and the only thing left to do was to create this magical finish and prepare my acceptance speech for an award I would no doubt receive at some furniture painting ceremony.
Here’s What Happened
I purchased an end table and coffee table for my living room several months ago. I had been stalking the online garage sale sites for awhile now looking for something curvy and French.
Lo, and behold I found it.
Without going into too much detail, my living room is now in stage 1 of what will wind up being ten stages of color choices, second guessing, and blatant procrastination on my part.
I hung drop cloth curtains, and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.
I’ve just been waiting for the furniture to speak to me.
I thought about using a stain. It didn’t feel right; too dark and too much work.
Then I thought about painting the thing cream; it felt too bright.
Finally, I realized a whitewash finish would be the way to have my cake and eat it too. The perfect combination of white paint with wood grain still peeking out.
Whitewash is the budget conscious painter’s dream
Even though the process of whitewashing is NOT quick and easy it is a very inexpensive way to freshen up any piece of furniture.
You can use leftover paint, add water, and you have a whitewash.
You only need about 1/4 cup of paint mixed in with 3/4 to 1 cup of water, and you have yourself a whitewash paint mix.
But what if you don’t have any leftover paint? Never fear, I’ve got that covered.
Allow me to introduce you to the $3.99 paint sample.
This magical jar holds just under 8 ounces of any color paint you choose. You will be amazed by the things you can makeover using just 1 cup of paint.
This sample is Sherwin Williams Swiss Coffee which happens to be the color I am painting my kitchen cabinets.
I mixed my paint, threw down my drop cloths, and grabbed my favorite size paint brush.
Of course, I prepped my table by cleaning, then sanding, then cleaning again. You know how I feel about furniture prep.
Now, here’s where it got dicey.
The whitewash looked great on the legs and apron. I was in love and feeling unstoppable.
I just brushed the whitewash on in small sections and immediately wiped it away using a folded t-shirt cloth.
I used the same process on the table top, but it was quite streaky. No worries, I thought, I can just sand it a little and smooth it out.
Sand And Then Sand Some More
Ha! Sand it a lot and then sand it some more.
I tried using steel wool and it did make a lovely shine, but I just wasn’t happy with the look.
In fact, I was downright disgruntled about the whole thing.
So, I packed it up and brought it in the house hoping it didn’t look as bad as it seemed in the harsh sunlight.
Unfortunately, it did.
I began day two armed with coffee and fresh attitude. I was determined to make it work.
I gave the whole table a second coat, wiped it down, then brushed paint directly into all the dreamy details.
More sanding and suddenly, it started to grow on me.
Yes, I was falling in love with my coffee table instead of feeling like I wanted to set fire to it.
And here she is in all her imperfect whitewash glory!
The style and detailing just pop with the new finish.
I knew right away my cream tray, and topiary would not work with this new look, so I grabbed my galvanized tray from Magnolia Market, added tulips, and a milk glass bowl with some mossy balls.
All of this styling was totally done on the fly.
With every photo I took, (all 66), I fell a little more in love with what I had created.
If you have ever completed a DIY project, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There are so many highs and lows of the process.
There is a matching end table that I need to tackle next, but I think I will wait a couple of weeks.
Surely by then, I will have some expert tips for you and maybe even a few step by step photos that are clearly missing from this tale.
So tell me, do you think you might attempt to whitewash something after reading this?
I’m off to make a cup of coffee and see what 10 on the 10th. Stories my friends have cooked up this month.
You can read last month’s installment here.
Ciao for now.
Your sister in paint 🙂