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A New Tradition! Easy Contemporary Painted Table Transformation

Furniture stencil how-to project with Chalk Paint®. An old painted table goes from traditional to contemporary. via Paint and Pattern

January seems to be as good a month as any to take stock and reassess some of your past decorating choices, because let’s face it, we are all evolving aren’t we? But just because an old piece you have doesn’t seem to reflect your current sassy, design savvy personality the way it could doesn’t mean you should kick it to the curb. Not when there’s paint and creativity at hand!

Lately, my own home decor style is changing to more whites and neutrals with pops of bright colors accented by soft metallics. There is a highly functional little painted table that sits right at the bend of our long gallery-style hallway where I pass it all day every day. Lately it had begun whispering yelling at me for a redo. A new look for a more contemporary “me”.

Furniture painting project with Chalk Paint® for a contemporary new side table

You see, I am originally a New England girl, born in Massachusetts where I lived until high school. As a teenager interested in art and painting, I discovered traditional tole painting, which is the folk art of decorative painting. Though it began in the 18th century in New England, it thrived especially through German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. I vividly remember my Mom and many of her friends embracing the revival of tole painting in the late 60s and early 70s. They eagerly sought huge old milk cans which they painted and displayed on the front porch. Every. Front. Porch.

Due to fond memories of Mom, I’m not surprised that this little tole painted storage table (above left) has remained unchanged for many years. But since I bought it years ago during a different decorating passion, change IS due. I have been ready to paint it ever since I caught the Chalk Paint® bug from Annie Sloan years ago when she hosted a workshop in town. Somehow I held off. ‘Til now.

So what’s a girl to do? Just paint it of course! Here’s what it looks like now (on the right). Much funkier and organic in a fried egg sort of way. I operated a faux finishing studio for many years and I love stencils. I have stenciled floors, ceilings, furniture, glass and every other surface. But just this once I wanted to take an abstract cue from the rugs and pillow designs I love that are popping up everywhere. So I put on some Jack Johnson, loosened up and painted + gilded the designs by hand! Read on to see how simple this was!


  • Your choice of Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan paint colors and Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax. For the exterior I chose Paris Grey with a random squirt of French Linen added, and Provence for the interior.
  • Packages of imitation Gold and Silver Metal Leaf. I used about 25 squares of silver and 6 of gold.  Water-based Gold Leaf Size.
  • Medium grit sandpaper like 200, soft clean cloths, foam brushes, Chalk Paint brush (or any paintbrush), wax paper, clean containers.

Mix and apply Chalk Paint® to painted tabletop. How to project via Paint and Pattern

Pour some paint in a separate container and mix the colors together. (You can work out of the can of you are not mixing colors.)  Paint the piece – I needed two coats. Let dry completely and lightly sand if needed. Wipe after sanding with a clean cloth.  Pour some of the Gold Leaf Size (adhesive) into a clean container. Choose the areas you want to leaf, and simply brush on the size very thinly and let dry according to directions. Mine dried in about 15 minutes.

Gilding with silver leaf over Chalk Paint® on a painted table project via Paint and Pattern

Brush the Gold Leaf Size on the legs and base using a foam brush. A thin even coat is best. If you apply the size too heavily it might drip. Then, for the circular designs, just add swirls of the size randomly. Don’t over think this step, just follow your instincts. Continue the designs all over and let dry for about 15 minutes until the size comes “to tack”. Carefully remove one piece of the leaf from the book at a time and lay it on top of the size. Smooth it down with a soft brush or rag or even your fingers. At this point if you have small children or pets so it’s best to work on this project without company. The excess pieces leaf will scatter and could find their way into little mouths! Note the drop cloth placed under THIS project…

PRO HINT: If it’s a very dry, hot day you may find that your size dries out very quickly, especially on the porous Chalk Paint. It’s totally fine to do two thin coats of size, which will greatly increase your working time. Just allow each coat to dry for at least 15 minutes.

How to gild with metal leaf over Chalk Paint® painted furniture via Paint and Pattern

After all areas of size are covered with leaf, use a wadded up pad of wax paper and compress the leaf into the paint, until all little crumbs stop popping up. I use a pretty vigorous circular motion. To add another leaf pattern on top of the first one, simply paint on more size. (For the photo I used more size than needed so you can see it. Very little is required for the leaf to stick.) When all areas are complete, compress again with wax paper. At this point you can wipe the entire piece, and some vacuuming may be in order! Get out your Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax and a clean wiping rag.

Waxing with Annie Sloan Soft Wax after painting and gilding furniture via Paint + Pattern

Using a small amount of the wax on the rag, wipe the Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax in a circular motion over all areas. The wax will slightly darken the painted areas and will add a layer of protection to both your Chalk Paint® and gilded surfaced. If you have missed any areas, just fill them in, then wipe off all excess wax. Be sure to turn your rag often to a clean area. Let the piece dry for a few minutes, then wipe vigorously until there is no wax residue left. To check, wipe a finger across an area. If you see a mark, keep buffing.

It is always great fun to add a little “surprise” to your painted furniture projects! In this case I painted the inside using Chalk Paint® in Provence, then used the same steps to add one more design inside the box.

Well now, THAT was liberating!! How about you? Do you have some old tried and true traditional furniture pieces that are crying out for a more contemporary transformation? Have you been inspired to grab a brush and start swirling away with some gold leaf size to see what your sassy, current decorating self comes up with?

Please let us know in the comments below!

Royal Design Studio Wall Stencils and Paint Supplies for DIY Projects


  1. LOL I remember those cans. You did a great job. I’m patiently waiting for my ASCP prize to arrive. So many ideas so little time.

  2. Hi Margaret! Are you the big winner of the Annie Sloan products? Wow! Paint + Pattern will be a wonderful resource for you! Thanks for reading, Debbie

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