Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

I believe we can all learn from our mistakes, as much as they are hard to deal with sometimes great things can come from lessons learned the hard way. I am going to show you the first thing I ever painted with Milk Paint, this was before the blog, before my furniture business, before I knew anything! Then I am going to show you what this piece of furniture looks like now…….and we are all going to sigh together about lessons learned. As you may be quite aware, if you have read my blog for any period of time, I love Milk Paint and I find it very difficult to paint furniture with anything else now. I do have a long winded explanation as to why I prefer it to all other paint but that is a story for another time. For now lets go back to a little over a year ago to when I first heard about Milk Paint…..I had been painting with Chalk Paint for a while and had given up painting furniture with house paint (which is where I started and that makes me cringe now but I know that time taught me a lot so it was not wasted). I was trawling Pinterest as I do most nights…..for fun, not for work…..I was admiring gorgeous furniture makeovers and clicking through and reading blog posts about what they did and drooling over the before and afters when I saw the words Milk Paint mentioned. I had never heard of Milk Paint before, so I typed the words “Milk Paint” into the Pinterest search bar and all these beautiful images popped up and guess who’s blog I ended up on?……yes, Miss Mustard Seed’s. Little did I know then what a world I was opening myself up to and how that one click would change my path so drastically. So let’s look at the piece………

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

I don’t have a before to show you but it was painted white. I got this for free off someone who sold me something else, she wanted to get rid if it and I liked the legs. It wasn’t an expensive antique or special vintage item, I could tell it was a cheap import that is a dime a dozen here in Oz.

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

I had a sample bag of MMSMP in Mustard Seed Yellow and it was JUST enough to do one coat on it, which covered it perfectly. I added NO bonding agent….I actually did not know about bonding agent when I did this…would it have changed what happened? I don’t know! I hand painted flowers on the top with some white acrylic paint and lightly distressed and waxed. I loved how it looked, so delicate and cute and while the colour wasn’t as strong as I was expecting I loved it on this.

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

Then I put it away to store it until I decided what I was going to do with it. I had sold a few pieces at this stage, but I wasn’t serious about it and I tended to get really attached to my pieces back then. I wanted and TRIED to keep everything I did, as I very much pour out part of me into everything I do, I treat each piece as a work of art and letting them go seemed so hard. While I still treat everything I do like a work of art, I always go into it knowing that it is to be sold and I CANNOT keep it. Having done this for a while now it is a lot easier to let go, it is all part of the process. Back then….not so easy.

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

Fortunately I did put it away….all I can say is if that I had sold it I would have received a whole world of hate!

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

I still own it, it sits in my shed as a reminder that not everything will work out, that mistakes are inevitable and as much as I would like to “pretend” that I have it all together, the reality is very different. It only took a few weeks for this cute little side table to turn from a beautiful after to a TERRIBLE before! I am not sure exactly what went wrong, I have my suspicions but I cannot not tell for certain. I don’t know what paint was on it when I painted the piece, but as time went on all the Milk Paint and the original paint starting coming off. It started chipping but not just the Milk Paint…..all of it, in large areas, in a ugly way! I knew I couldn’t sell it and I really didn’t like it anymore so there was no way it would go into my home.

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

I actually almost gave up on Milk Paint then and there! But, I don’t think it was all the paints fault, I actually think it all comes down to the a combination of the original finish and Milk Paints tendency to chip. I just wish I knew why it took off the original layer of paint also. I think if it had left the original white paint showing underneath it would look okay, but instead you see that grey wood….whatever it is, it looks ugly!

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

You can paint over finished pieces with Milk Paint but I think in this case because I didn’t use bonding agent I should have either sanded it back or stripped it completely. I assumed it would be okay because I was painting over a matte finish, but I was wrong…..lesson learnt.

Colour Saturated Life | Milk Paint Lessons & Mistakes  and a little side table paint with Milk Paint in Mustard Seed Yellow

What I learnt:

1. That I hate chipping. I like control in all things I do, it is a flaw in my personality, but I know this about myself and chipping is something I cannot control so bonding agent is a must. I am not saying this is true for everyone, just me! There are lots of beautiful chippy pieces I fall in love with online…..Marian does chipping exceptionally and I admire her ability to just let the paint do what it does.

2. That it is better to work with an unpainted piece of furniture. Like I said you can paint over paint (and I have, quite successfully)  but I have learnt the easiest furniture to work with are those that no one else has touched with paint….or at least a piece someone has stripped for you first!

3. Don’t work with cheaply made furniture! I only paint solid wood furniture that is unpainted and has wood I can hopefully restore. I don’t buy mass produced furniture (which this one was, I am guessing it came from Indonesia) and I stay clear of anything with chipboard. I don’t paint antiques but I know how to spot well made furniture now and I know what questions to ask sellers.

4. Milk Paint will challenge you, it is temperamental and has a life of it’s own. Over time I have realised it is the most rewarding paint to work with and it does wonderful things to the furniture I work on.

5. Don’t let mistakes stop you. Like I said I almost stopped using Milk Paint then, because of one bad experience. Instead I tried again and the results were vastly different and it was while I painted the second piece that I came to love the distinctive feel and look that Milk Paint brings to furniture.

6. Find your own style. While I didn’t learn this lesson from what happened to this piece I did learn it during the process of painting it. Trying to copy someone else’s style was not my cup of tea, neither will it make you feel good about yourself. I am sure you can guess who I was emulating when I hand painted the top, when I discovered her blog I wanted to do everything she was doing. I came to realise that there are no rewards in trying to be someone else, or trying to ride on their coattails, people will see right through you. I find much more joy in doing my own thing and having my own style, it may be eclectic and make no sense to anyone but me, but I love every furniture project I do and it is because the ideas are mine. This is by far the greatest lesson I have learnt and one I live by.

So this wasn’t a true furniture reveal, I suppose I could have pretended that everything worked out wonderfully and just shown the after photos, but I felt there was something much better that could come from this piece of furniture. This project started me down a path I never saw myself going, but is vastly more rewarding than the one I was on. It brought me here, to this place and I could not be more grateful. At the end of everyday I am physically exhausted, at times emotionally spent and always disturbingly dirty, but even with all that, in myself I feel creatively energised and fulfilled. Who knew what one little side table could do with one life?

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  • Susan - September 16, 2016 - 11:15 pm

    OMG, I am so glad some one posted an oops piece, everything is always made out to be so easy and look so perfect I thought I was the only only.

    My oops is sitting on the table in the craft room and I keep looking at it and wondering if I can fix it.

    It started chipping but I put the hemp oil on it ’cause I read that it will help to seal it and stop the chipping, not, I realized I had a problem when my husband looked at it and said, that looks like sh**t, you have to fix it.

    Can I fix it?

    I am sanding it down further now and going to try to repaint the area but am wondering if I should just accept my first piece as a learning experience and save it for the “shed” like yours.ReplyCancel

  • […] anything with six drawers that we could paint that colour. She also said she liked the handles on this side table and I could not believe my luck! I sent a picture through and she loved it! So we […]ReplyCancel

  • Jamie | anderson + grant - August 25, 2015 - 11:00 pm

    That is so heartbreaking to see a beautifully painted piece of furniture distress itself. How odd that the milk paint acted as a paint stripper going back to the gray wood. I’ve never tried milk paint, and don’t know if I’m patient enough to work with it. I think we all have these beginning furniture projects that we have to view as learning experiences. I have a few pieces sitting around that I “antiqued” and they really need a new paint job now!ReplyCancel

  • Cynthia - Clockwork Interiors - August 25, 2015 - 2:35 am

    Oh no …. now I’m wondering about my earliest pieces that I’ve sold … My stocklist assured me that once you applied the top coat you should no longer get any chipping … yikes! Glad you stuck with it, Gilly — you do lovely work!ReplyCancel

    • Gilly - August 25, 2015 - 10:28 am

      You definitely can get chipping later on, sometimes months! I have had it happen on more than one piece and even with adding bonding agent. It worries me also but I still use the paint. I have started to sand extra glossy looking pieces so hopefully this won’t happen. Adding wax and stuff on top won’t stop it I have found. But don’t let it put you off!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - August 21, 2015 - 10:48 am

    I had this experience when I first started working with milk paint. If you don’t like chipping, always sand and use bonding agent. Isn’t the transformations just great?ReplyCancel

  • Alicia@ Eco Friendly Homemaking - August 18, 2015 - 7:21 am

    I know that I am way behind on trying milk paint. I was just thinking about getting some the other day. So I am really glad to have read your post. Thanks for all of the great tip!!ReplyCancel

    • Gilly - August 20, 2015 - 8:17 pm

      You have to get into the Milk Paint, it is the best, especially if you love the more worn vintage look. If you ever need any tips or advice feel free to send me an email! Thanks AliciaReplyCancel

  • Catherine - August 17, 2015 - 2:40 pm

    I know exactly how you feel . I want to keep everything but I have no space for it all or who knows. Learning is all part of the journey and so is letting go xReplyCancel

    • Gilly - August 20, 2015 - 8:14 pm

      So true Catherine, thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

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