I get asked this all the time. Which paint should I use to upcycle my furniture? And in truth, the answer is that you can use any. Firstly, though, you need to think about what finish you want on your piece and whether you want a sheen, a shiny finish, or a distressed look. Which is going to work best for you?
Achieving a distressed look works best with a water-based paint, and many people use chalk paint for this effect. Chalk paint gives a piece a rough, folk or country finish, and is often said to need no preparation. This technique has been on trend for some years and appears to be less popular with people I speak to. The advantage of working with a water-based paint is that it only takes about 30 minutes to dry so the next coat can be applied quite soon after the previous coat. It also generally only takes 2-3 coats of paint to achieve the desired effect. Once chalk paint has cured (about 24 hours after the last coat has been applied), the final surface needs to be finished with a wax. Wax is not a durable surface and so can be damaged by water and heat.
The shiny finish achieved with gloss paint lost popularity at least 10 years ago, and shows no sign of coming back into fashion anytime soon. This is a time consuming paint finish as it can take up to 24 hours for each coat of paint to dry thoroughly enough to paint the next coat. You can only achieve a good finish with gloss paint by doing a thorough preparation job first. A gloss finish can give a piece of furniture a heavy look.
A smooth sheen finish has been growing in popularity over recents months and years. You can buy water-based smooth paints which dry quickly between coats, just like the chalk paint. The finish tends to be self-levelling, which means you are less likely to see brush strokes that you would with gloss or chalk paint. If you love the distressed look but don't want to have brush strokes, then a soft sheen paint is the one for you.
I have a preference for the smooth sheen finish, and after researching the paints on the market I came across London Vintage Paint Company, a relatively new paint company that is still developing but has created a beautiful finish in its Pure Smooth range. Whilst you don't need to do an extensive prep job with this paint, I prefer to sand pieces down and give them a wipe with sugar soap. This makes sure that there is no grease that will affect the paint, and the sanding provides a key for the paint to adhered to.
When it comes to the final finish with the London Vintage Paint Company, you can simply buff up the paint once it has cured (I give it 24 hours before buffing). However I prefer to varnish surfaces such as tables and bedside cabinets as these require a durable finish. I use Polyvine in Dead Flat, Satin, or Wax Finish.
So, which paint should you use? Experiment and find what you like - but if you want my advice I'd strongly recommend the London Vintage Paint Company. Pop into the shop in Southport if you would like more advice on painting your furniture.