Jenna Sue Design Blog · Jun 11, 2015

Guest Bathroom Vanity Refinish: Weathered Wood & Lime Paint

After the big guest bathroom reveal, many of you had asked about the refinishing technique I used on the vanity:

This piece actually began life as a vintage buffet—I had been stalking my local Craigslist every day for nearly a month when it finally popped up:

From the storage drawer to the large shelf to the antique detailing and curved piece in the back, it was perfect, and $140 later it was mine.

I’ve never really been a fan of red colored furniture so I wasn’t thrilled that this wood appeared to be inherently red once I saw the piece in person.

I had dealt with this type of wood before when I refinished our antique master bedroom dresser—the process was a long and frustrating journey that didn’t end exactly as I had planned, but it was a learning experience.

I decided to try something new this time. Enter, Maison Blanche paints.

I’ve used Maison Blanche chalk paint once before (remember my friend’s aqua dresser makeover?) but this project was different. The goal was to let the wood grain show through, but in more of a natural weathered wood and less of a dated red varnish way. So they graciously sent me a variety of chalk paint, lime paint, glaze, wax and varnish just to make sure I had my bases covered.

Before starting on the finish, we had to adjust the height of the vanity. It was a few inches taller than standard height (which is somewhere around the ballpark of 32″), plus I knew I’d be adding additional height with a vessel sink so we chopped the legs down with a skill saw.

If I were to simply paint the vanity (which would have been so much easier) I could have skipped the prep work and been done that afternoon, but because I had decided on this specific wood finish, I first had to sand down all the varnish. Black & Decker Mouse to the rescue…

This definitely helped eliminate some of the reddish hue but it was still a warm orange tone underneath.

Sanding is by far my least favorite part of any refinishing project. It takes time (and patience) to pull up that pesky varnish and release the beautiful natural wood. I split the task up into several days over a week so it wasn’t as daunting. Finally, a blank slate:

It was looking much better already but I knew (from experience) that as soon as I added any sort of moisture or sealer it would want to go right back to that reddish hue, so I thought that perhaps adding a soft white/gray wash may neutralize it.

The lime paint (in white pepper) looked promising, so I started by diluting a bit of that in water…

Then lightly brushed it on an inconspicuous area of the wood. The wet mixture immediately turned it red again as I had feared… but then it dried, and it was like magic:

You can see the original wood on the left and the lime finish on the right. It didn’t appear painted on, rather, like it had changed the genetic makeup of the wood itself to a naturally aged species. Completely different than any standard latex paint I’d ever used.

Here you can see it in process… this was taken right after I had brushed it on before it dried. The lighter finish on the right edge had already dried after being brushed on just a couple minutes prior.

Then the process became fun. I mixed and brushed and watched in awe as the wood transformed before my eyes. Since this piece was made up of different kinds of wood, some parts took reacted with the mixture better than others, but the red was completely gone.

I could have added more paint to the mix and ended up with a true white washed look, but I really wanted more of a medium toned wood for this room so I left it at one light coat.

Just for fun, I lightly sanded down some of the edges to see what would happen, and it ended up revealing the original warmer wood underneath:

Then came the moment of truth—the protective coat. I prefer to use wax and I would have with this piece, however since it’s used in a wet area it needs to be waterproof and varnish was the only option. I used Maison Blanche’s clear varnish (in matte, not satin):

I wish I could tell you that it left my perfectly weathered wood coloring untouched, but unfortunately it did pull out some of the original warm/red tones. However, it was still a huge improvement over the original finish so I let go of my type-A perfectionism.

Here it is being installed, after 3 coats of varnish:

For the installation, our plumber drilled a hole at the top in the center for the drain and cut a rounded shape out of the drawer to allow room for the plumbing. I didn’t bother sanding the inside so you can see how the original finish looks in comparison to the lime paint wash:

I didn’t want the plumbing to be noticeable, so I had him make it as low profile as possible and I’m so happy he was able to pull it off so well. We used regular black plastic to save money and I painted it using black matte chalk paint. You can’t even tell it’s there unless you kneel down.

I purchased the drawer rings for $4/ea from my go-to hardware source: Ebay. The subtle brass finish plays nicely with the other gold metals in the space. (PS—you can find a source list for everything in the room in the original reveal post).

All in all, this is definitely one of my favorite pieces in the room (maybe my second favorite behind the clawfoot) and I loved having the opportunity to try out a new type of painting technique. Lime paint is a lot of fun to work with and played a big part in transforming this tub as well…

That tutorial is coming up next month!

Have you worked with lime paint before, and if so, what were the results? I’ve been looking around the house trying to find another piece to makeover just to work with it again. It’s pretty fascinating how many different ways you can use it!

A few of my blogger friends also experimented with some Maison Blanche paint recently—head on over to their blogs to see what they did!

Shayna at the Wood Grain Cottage

Liz at Liz Marie Blog

Allison at The Golden Sycamore

And with that, I’m packing my bags right now en route to Seattle for the next 7 days. I have my first in-person client (ahem, cousin) room makeover project we hope to finish while I’m there and I can’t wait to share the details on that soon. The pressure is on!

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