Joan Nubie-Miscall uses pieces she has stripped and painted for displaying items in her store in Oxford. The pieces popularity soon made them for sale, too. (Photo courtesy Joan Nubie-Miscall)

Last December I asked my husband to meet me after work with his truck to pick up a beautiful piece of furniture I had purchased for $40 on Facebook Marketplace.
I was totally taken with the circa-1900 empire sideboard with mirrored gallery top and claw feet.
He, on the other hand, saw a dilapidated piece of junk with missing drawer bottoms and doors that were hanging off the hinges.
“You paid money for this?” he asked.
“What do you mean?! It will look amazing in the dining room once I refinish it!”, I pleaded.
“It would look amazing on our burn pile right now. But whatever.”
Smart man. He has learned the principle “happy wife, happy life.”
We loaded it up and headed home.
It was at that point that I realized I had absolutely no clue how to refinish furniture. Letting my sense of reason be overtaken by my desire for a good deal is one of my fatal flaws. Lucky for me, I had crafty friends and YouTube to help me transform this dusty disaster into a timeless treasure.
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Painting furniture to improve its aesthetics is nothing new. However, a medium called chalky-finish paint has taken social media platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram by storm these past few years. Chalky-finish paint’s easy application and unique ability to transform and restyle furniture has made it a fan favorite among amateurs and professionals alike.
Wendy Basil of Oxford takes battered pieces of furniture that are destined for the dumpster and with some prep work and painting turns them into boutique-quality pieces of home décor.
She has also donated refinished pieces to silent auction fundraisers at Chesapeake Christian School, White Marsh Elementary, and St. Mark’s Preschool.
“I started about a year ago,” Basil said. Furniture refinishing is “just always something I wanted to do, and since my kids were finally a little older and I wasn’t nursing a baby every few hours, I decided to get on YouTube and learn how to do it!”
Basil’s first project was a nautical-themed children’s chair. She had planned on keeping it for her children, but after posting a photo of it on her Facebook page, a friend was interested in purchasing it.
“It’s all history from there,” she laughed. Basil was recently inspired to create a YouTube channel called “The Waterman’s Wife” where she will showcase tutorials on how to refinish kitchen cabinets and more.
Furniture refinishers have created their own community, sharing ideas, techniques, and resources. Among them is Joan Nubie-Miscall, owner of The Treasure Chest in Oxford, who showcases the versatility and popularity of chalky-finish paint. Nubie-Miscall first started experimenting with this medium when she painted some furniture to use as display pieces in her store, at 111 S. Morris Street. They attracted so much attention from customers she started painting pieces to sell. Nubie-Miscall explained that painting furniture has become the latest craze for a multitude of reasons, mostly stemming from people’s “desire to repurpose and restyle a solid piece of furniture, making it look new.”
Refinished pieces don’t just add a personalized touch to your home, she said, they also save both your budget and the environment. Rather than go out and purchase a piece of mass-produced furniture from a big box store, you could spend a fun Saturday scouting out thrift stores and yard sales for a vintage piece crafted from quality hardwood that just needs some T.L.C. Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are also great resources for project pieces. You may even have furniture in your home that just needs a facelift. This was the case for Trish Bolduc of Preston, who wanted to furnish her daughter Mabel’s room with sentimental pieces she already had. A two-tone color scheme done in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint gave her childhood bedroom suit a fresh, new look that was perfect for her little girl’s room.
Nubie-Miscall advised that the process for giving a dated or time-worn piece new life is fairly simple.
• Choose a paint color for the piece. Colors range from bold royal blue to classic creamy white, and everything in between! There are a plethora of chalky-finish paint brands to be found at any home improvement store or online retailer. Nubie-Miscall carries a wonderful selection of paints and products by Dixie Belle, a high-quality brand of chalk mineral paint that is made in the USA, can be used indoors due to having no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and has easy soap and water cleanup.
• Clean the piece to remove any dust or debris, and remove knobs and hinges. Stripping and sanding is not necessary unless the piece has jagged edges or a marred finish. Any gouges can be filled with wood filler and lightly sanded.
• If the piece has a dark finish like mahogany or cherry, Nubie-Miscall suggests using a primer like Boss by Dixie Belle to prevent tannins in the wood from bleeding through your new finish. A coat or two of primer can also help cover up stubborn stains and odors like mildew, cigarettes, mothballs, or the dreaded “musty attic” smell.
• Apply your first coat with a quality paintbrush. Make sure the coat is light and even. Don’t like the color after all? No worries! You can just paint over it with a new color and it’s like it never happened.
• You may decide after the first coat that you are happy with the finish. If you want more coverage, apply a second coat. Lightly sanding the edges can create that “shabby chic” look that is ever-so-popular right now.
• A sealer is not necessary, but you may want a smoother finish as opposed to the slightly textured, chalky finish. A coat of wax provides a smooth, slightly protective layer. If you want to add even more protection to your project, clear coat or Dixie Belle Gator Hide can help make your piece water-resistant. This would be especially helpful on the top of an end table or kitchen table to prevent water rings and make the surface stand up to routine wiping.
• Finally, replacing knobs and handles can add a creative touch. Lowe’s and Amazon are great places to check for deals on chic hardware.
If you are looking for more ideas, there are thousands of YouTube tutorial videos that demonstrate how to select, prepare, and paint pieces of furniture for your home. Tired of those builder-grade cabinets but don’t want to wipe out your child’s college fund in order to replace them? Want to give that dining room suit you inherited but aren’t crazy about a new look? There are YouTube tutorials available for these exact scenarios and more.
If direct instruction is a better fit for your learning style, Nubie-Miscall offers classes at her shop for painters of all experience levels. Check the Facebook page for The Treasure Chest in Oxford for updates on upcoming classes.