I hate riddles so I'll make this quick. What do vintage enamelware, black+white bone cabinet hardware, and reclaimed cherry wainscoting have in common? They're all old-fashioned, of course! How do you make a brand spanking new all-white kitchen look and feel like it belongs in a really old farmhouse? You lavish the space with an abundance of old-fashioned elements and a distressed antique white paint finish. Problem and riddle solved!
I always knew if I was patient and thought about it long enough I'd come up with a great solution for my kitchen backsplash. I've been schlepping a pile of solid cherry antique wainscoting around for nearly five years and I have a lot of it. Rescued from a sweet old house destined to be demolished, I had every single piece of it off the walls before the bulldozer guy finished his morning coffee. I recall bringing him a few doughnuts, a simple gesture I've learned will buy me a few extra minutes of "rescue time."
Moving through a house to the tune of a warming diesel engine is for die-hard scavengers only, but the rewards are always worth the trouble. And although I can never bear the sound of the bucket being lowered onto a house about to be leveled, I regularly attend these unnerving salvage missions just the same. I'm a very serious repurposer and old stuff I can make new again is getting harder and harder to find.
Doesn't it look like it was here already?
The wainscoting fit perfectly into place with just a quick trim, instantly adding the pattern, rhythm and age I think the kitchen was lacking; instant OLD. There was a fair amount of debate about painting over the cherry. Why do you suppose men are always opposed to painting wood? I believe I've elevated the stuff to a whole new standard of excellence by painting it and all it took was four well chosen and decidedly old fashioned vintage white paint colors. My three very closely related white color choices are all inspired by my collection of pitchers and creamers, while the creamy, pale, butterscotch (not quite) white, is a link to the color of my range.
I'll post the details of how I created the distressed antique white paint finish for you next week. I'm so thrilled with the results I don't want to get sidetracked with the details of the magic I've made here. Suffice to say, it is an easy to accomplish technique made all the better by the old fashioned feeling only a matte paint finish can convey.
The technical wizards at Benjamin Moore might question my choice of Aura matte paint for a wood surface and I can't disagree that it is unconventional. But I'm after a technique that looks as old as it feels, and I'm not at all concerned about the paint or the wood being scratched. The paint finish will prove perfectly serviceable for this application where it won't be subject to undue wear and tear and the least bit of shine would ruin the effect.
Owing to the body of the paint itself, a quality consistent with the matte finish, each color hangs in the old shellac orange peel just enough, adding another layer interest to the layered paint technique.
There are a number of options to make this finish appear more distressed and aged, or even cleaner and whiter. I've opted to do nothing more. The wainscoting looks to me now exactly like a painted mosaic of previously painted vintage wainscoting, salvaged in pieces and reinstalled by a fastidious recycler. Except it's all essentially new and clean and fresh and durable and perfectly in keeping with a brand new all-white kitchen and an old black+white enamel pot!
If you love the look and don't have friends who knock houses down for a living, this technique could easily be duplicated on new wainscoting, sheet paneling, or bead board fresh from the lumberyard. For that, all you'll need is an additional quart of dark brown paint. I love this finish so much, I just might try it in other colorways, on wide paneling, old doors, furniture pieces, and maybe even a floor.
Can you spread the word? We've got another reliable paint technique to make everything old look new again, or is it the other way around? Aaah, riddles. :)