February 9, 2012

Tutorial: How to turn your honeyed pine furniture into french willow grey

I've recently turned my attention to giving some honeyed pine stained furniture a lighter, fresher more updated look. I've called it 'french willow grey' because it reminds me of that lovely beige/grey colour of basket ware, but it's also the colour of driftwood, old rustic barn wood, and lovely old weathered fences...I'm sure you know what I mean :)
 I have done this look on quite a few pieces lately and I have to say, I love it!
First up, a huge, chunky honey-coloured pine coffee table that we bought to keep.  You might notice a peep of another table I have already finished.  I was going for the same look with this bigger one.

Next up is this even-more-yellow-than-honey-coloured pine pair of bedside cabinets.  For some bizarre reason, one the them is a tiny bit taller than the other.  I shouldn't think it would matter once they are on either side of a bed.

The technique I used for the coffee tables and the pine cabinets was pretty much the same.  I stripped back the polyurethane/varnish on the tops of the pieces.  For the largest coffee table I used my heat gun and it came off beautifully.  I wasn't so lucky with the other pieces however, and had to use paint stripper, which is far messier and time consuming.  

Once the tops were stripped I sanded them back to a nice even colour (sometimes the stripper stains a bit and sometimes the heat gun leaves burn marks). TIP: if there are any deep scratches you want to remove, lay a wet hot cloth over them for a minute or two this helps swell the wood and lifts out the scratch...saves lots of sanding!

Then I washed the pieces all over using sugar soap and water, then rinsed them and left them to dry.  Once dry I got to work painting them.  When I do the tops different, I like to leave them to last, because there is a bit more playing round with them to get just to effect I am after.  So I flipped my tables upside down, and primed, painted and distressed the legs.  I used a Dulux colour called Limed White, which is, despite how many white and neutrals paint chips I pick up, the one I keep gravitating to for the wall colour for our new home (one week to go, yippee!), so I wanted to try it out.  Have to say, I love it, in full strength, half strength and one quarter strength.  It is a really pretty neutral, just the perfect shade really! 

Sorry I haven't got any progress photos, but once the legs were done on the tables, and the 'bodies' of the bedside cabinets were all painted, I distressed them, then washed them down again to get rid of the dust, before sealing them with Cabothane water based poly (because I had used a low-sheen paint on them.  I float between waxing pieces and using poly on them, just a matter of preference for how to finish each piece, really.  Poly'ing them uses less physical energy than waxing, and since it is so hot here, I am all for sweating less at the moment! :)

Time for some photos before I explain how I did the tops...
The white you can see peeping through on the coffee table leg is the primer.  I like the white to peep through like that on most of my pieces.
I always paint the insides of cupboards... it is a bit of extra work but I want my pieces to look and feel fresh!
Ok, so how I get the tops to look like this:
I choose 3 or 4 colours in off-white/neutral/grey/beige/brown shades.  Test pots are perfect for this.  The colours I used here are all from Resene: Bison Hide, Triple Tea and Half Pravda.  The shot above shows the coffee table.  For the bedsides I also used some Barely There (a greyed white).

I start with the darkest colour and water it down quite a lot (the consistency would be more coloured water than runny paint).  I slap it on with a wide-ish brush, keeping my strokes straight and with the grain.  Because it is so runny, it pools a bit, that doesn't matter because it all adds to the effect once it dries.  Because I stripped the table top back to bare timber, I don't need (or want) to use primer, the paint will adhere perfectly well.  Once each coat is dry, I repeat again with the next lightest colour.  After I have done all the colours I want, I go back over with a couple of the colours, in random areas, not necessarily all over (more like dry brushing, but still with very watery paint).  Once all dry, and I am happy with how it looks, I very lightly sand over the whole top, which exposes the different (subtle) layers of colour, and a little of the wood grain.  Then a wipe down and finally 2 or 3 coats of poly, and you are done :)

This is the lounge room of our rental home, looking very bare in preparation for our move into our own home next week...bring it on!


  1. The table looks amazing!! I'd love to have a go at doing this with my bedroom dresser! xo K

  2. aaaah, i think i actually heard the coffee table thank you!

  3. All the best for the move.

  4. Wow,Tables and cupboards are look so different and creative.I really like to watch cupboards after paint.

    code reduction

  5. They came out perfectly Karen! Thanks for sharing :) xx

  6. I want my pine cabinet in my kitchen to have a slightly beige tint but like yours. Do I just change the paint colors. I know that grey is neutral, but I want more of a slight beige as my kitchen is a sage green with brown accents.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing! Lots of thanks for this post. I think it is a very good post. It helps us many away. So many many thanks for this article. useful reference


  9. Hi Dear, are you in fact visiting this site on a regular basis, if so afterward you will without doubt take fastidious know-how. aol email login