About eighteen months back I decided to redecorate the living/dining area of our apartment. I wished lighten up, shake off a feeling of claustrophobia, and make the limited space seem . . . spacier. That meant I was left with an amount of surplus furniture stained and varnished in a deep rich brown.
I sold most of the furniture on Gumtree, and gave a few items to the Women’s Refuge *, but I was left with one item that would not sell.
I was kind of glad for that, because I had designed the piece myself, and it performed a valuable storage role. Space is always at a premium in apartment living. This piece had a display cabinet for my few “precious bits”, a drop-down servery cocktail section for my “essential bits” (i.e. liquor), and a storage cabinet for tablecloths, place-mats, and so on. And it had a unique door feature to blend with my “Asian-inspired” decorative theme.
Perfect . . . except for the dark colour.
I considered re-painting it, but the thought of a chemical strip and re-sand had my heart sinking to my boots. Apart from anything else, without a backyard or shed, where could I perform this task?
“Gwen!” my friend enthused. “Chalk paint! It’s fab! It’s so easy. Nooooo preparation. They call it Ladies Paint!!!!!”
So I went to the local corporate-giant hardware store, and the only shade of red they could offer was a kind of pink-based crimson (that sounds like an oxymoron).
Then a friend told me about a smaller hardware franchise that sold a wider range, and had great advice to boot. It’s about a half hour drive from home. So off I went, and came home armed with a swathe of swatches. I sticky-taped them to key decorating pieces while I decided on a shade. You can just make them out on the painting in the living room photo above.
Now many of you know that really any spare time I have is meant to be allocated to writing Australia’s next best seller. So all I managed to do in the next twelve months was whittle the decision down to THE colour.
PORTERS RED LANTERN
A couple of weeks back, Bill and I sat on the balcony on a balmy evening, emptying the contents of the cocktail cabinet (and I’m not talking place-mats here), and decided that there were a couple of free days coming up in the diary. I borrowed a sander from a neighbour (not quite believing that you could really apply the chalk paint straight over a lacquered surface), and one morning after breakfast reminded Bill of our commitment.
It’s fair to say that I hadn’t planned out this project. We didn’t even have the paint yet.
Carpe Diem, I say.
So we carried the cabinet out to the balcony and dropped it face up on our outdoor table.
We were very disorganised, not methodical at all, but somewhere along the line I phoned another neighbour who had done a similar project, and decided that yes, indeed, a light sand would not go astray. And somewhere along the line the cabinet doors were removed, the sanding started, and I broke away to buy some paint . . . And that’s where the whole project began to go pear-shaped.
I breezed into the store and laid my swatch down. In my head, the only paint in this colour was chalk paint, and the streaky finish on my swatch was a feature of chalk paint. The store attendant and I had a fabulous conversation about the project. I showed her photos on my phone. We talked about how easy the paint was to use, and so on, and so on. . . . She said, “This paint comes in a variety of finishes. Your swatch is Eggshell finish. Here’s a swatch with the different finishes.”
Uh-oh . . . a decision. That set me back for a bit. Should I choose the gloss, semi-gloss, etc, etc? The decision was made when she checked stock and all they had was Eggshell. At the time I thought it was therefore a wise choice to go with the Eggshell finish. With the proviso that I could give it another coat with semi-gloss if I changed my mind. I’d just have to wait a week while they ordered it in.
“How shall I apply it?” was my next question. “With a roller,” was the reply. “But not just any roller. I recommend this type,” she proffered her suggestion. “Okay,” says I. “But there’s a lot of fiddly bits. I don’t think I can fit a roller in there.” So then I bought a little angled brush as well as my roller.
The first coat went on thinner and flatter than I was expecting. But we hadn’t sanded back to bare timber, so what was I to expect?
That night, my neighbour rang to hear how I was progressing. “Now, you do know that you need to finish off with a top clear coat?” he asked. “Nooooooo,” says I. “We didn’t talk about that. But it comes in a variety of finishes,” I continue cheerily. And I proceed to tell him about the semi-gloss, etc, etc, etc.
“Uh, Okay,” he says uncertainly. “Perhaps they’ve improved the product since I used it. Things change so quickly these days,” etc etc etc.
So!!! I do some of my best thinking in my dreams. For example, that night, I kept dreaming that there were nine for my upcoming pre-Christmas dinner, not the ten I was setting for. I kept counting the guests over and over, and could only come up with nine. I even called myself derogatory names in my dream. When I got up in the morning and checked my guest list – sure enough – the tally was nine.
Another thing that came to me in my dream is that Porters Acrylic Eggshell is not Chalk Paint. And sure enough, when I rang the hardware store the next day, they confirmed that my dream was spot on. . . . what we had applied was wall paint. Now, if this post was not already too long, I would describe to you in detail the conversation that ensued over the phone and in store an hour later. I hasten to add the hardware store manager and his paint expert fell over themselves to set this hiccup to rights and at the minimum cost to myself. As I said to them, in my days as a customer service manager, I used to tell my team, “Things go wrong – and we can’t always help that. What we can help is how we handle it.” And this team handled it very well, and very generously.
Sadly though, they could not help with me the chalk paint. Their advice was that it was not available in Red Lantern. In fact, there was no red base in the range at all.
The upshot was that we continued with the existing paint, but had to give another light sand to the two coats we had applied by then, and ditch the roller for the VERY professional quality brush they had given me, and yes! Even with this paint, we still need to apply a clear top coat for durability.
When we had the third coat on and I’d wandered off to check my emails, I heard an “uh-oh” from the kitchen. Bill was reading the instructions for the clear coat.
“What” I asked cheerily (just joking – there was no light note in my voice by now).
“You need to wait 72 hours before application,” he yelled up the hallway.
I rang the hardware store again. “Is this true?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied hesitantly. “What’s the downside if we don’t?” I asked. . . . Well, anyway, her reply must have been convincing – we decided to wait the three days.
Now if this had been a Government Project and the objective had been to transform the cabinet from dark lacquered timber into a red colour showing all the features and characteristic finish of a chalk painted makeover then we would have failed dismally.
But! If it had been a Government Project then we would have simply changed the stated objective at the first hurdle and claimed 100% success.
Ta-dah! So our cabinet is now transformed from dark lacquered timber into a red colour, and, there are a couple of coffee tables thrown in as well.
And I am running out of projects that I can legitimately claim are keeping me from starting the second draft of my novel manuscript. Hopefully writing these type of yarns is giving my writing muscle some exercise.
There is a postscript to this story. A few days after finishing the job I drove past the nearby “Dulux Trade Centre” and noticed a banner for Porters Paints in the window. So in I go with a hypothetical question as to the availability of Red Lantern Chalk Paint, and sure enough, it is available, they do have the red base in stock, they do sell to the public, and all this within a five minute drive from home.
You remember those derogatory names I was calling myself in my dream?
Well that’s another part of the dream that came true!
- FOOTNOTE *
- When women and children who come to a Woman’s Refuge are re-housed, it is often to an unfurnished apartment. Typically, a refuge has limited storage capacity, but if you can time a donation to co-incide with a housing transfer, your spare furniture can come in very handy. The refuge itself could also be in need of a spruce up. I recommend you consider this option for donation. Usually volunteers will collect the items. It is normal for the location of the refuge and the new housing to be kept confidential, even from a well-meaning donor.