I was looking through Anne Sloan’s book, ‘Creating the French Look‘ for inspiration -
and I found it! I have a little chest in our dining room that will stay and I wanted to transform it – giving it ‘patina’. I knew this was the look I wanted to create for my little chest – but how to create the layers of color – of history by creating patina with paint. Then the story began to formulate in my imagination. The story of Camile – the little blue chest.
“…a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use’
This is something I’ve never done before-that is create a story behind a transformation-give it history.
There are various ways and methods to create the look of an aged, vintage piece of furniture. For this project – I took Camille – for that is what she would be named by one of the characters in my story – back to her beginning. As I was painting Camille, I developed a story about her history.(exerpt of the rough draft)
This is the story of Camille, a little chest that was lovingly conceived in the heart of a young bridegroom as he prepared a home for his bride to be.‘Charles spent several years at sea on a merchant ship and while in the Mediterranean on his way home, he would drift away in his mind to his love, Charlotte, a petit flaxen haired beauty of nineteen with eyes the color of the Mediterranean sea in the most shallow of depths and the brightest part of the day. When the ship which Charles had embarked upon would enter the port and he saw the sunlight sparkling and dancing upon the gentle waves of the azure sea his thoughts would turn to his beloved, Charlotte and his heart would leap. In just six months he would make her his own and then he would never have to part from her to seek his fortune at sea………While docked at the port, Charles wandered the harbor streets dreaming of filling the halls and rooms of the family chateau with lovely pieces of furniture, of Charlotte’s laughter and chatter and of her way of talking to everything as if it were a live object or could understand her. Charlotte also had a habit of naming everything, from a field mouse to a lamp post to a sweet little table. All of these creatures and objects became characters in stories she would tell Charles over a crackling fire…of an enchanted place where everything was connected, where people could talk to animals understanding each other and where objects took on a little bit of their owner. As if imprinted by their love, their sorrow, their hopes and their fears.It was with these whimisical thoughts that Charles gazed dreamily into a cabinet maker’s shop. There in the corner was a sweet little chest being painted the same blue as the Mediterranean and of his beloved Charlotte’s eyes. Charles came to himeself and watched the balding grey haired man gently apply paint and sing as he worked. Charles knew instantly that he had to have this piece as a gift to his bride imagining already the thrill of joy in her voice and the delighted expression in her face…. ‘
Painting the first layer of the chest – STEP 1
I purchased sample pots of paint from Lowes – by Valspar – colors that I thought would compliment the future color of the room and colors that I thought would achieve the ‘French Chateau’ decor style I’d imagined. As I painted the chest blue I imagined this story. How that the cabinet maker took great care in making his wonderful creations and how that this chest would be the perfect gift from Charles to his bride, Charlotte. In the first life of this chest she was a beautiful blue with toucheds of gilding here and there. The craftsman would then apply layer after layer of a specially formulated wax to bring just the right sheen to the chest.
To achieve the underlying colors of blue then grey, I randomly dry brushed the blue and the grey paint all over the top, front and sides of the chest until it had the look that I was going for – as seen above.
Time and Wear – Step 2
Of course Charlotte was quite delighted with her bridegroom’s gift. She did name the chest, Camille and placed her in a special room where Charlotte would keep all her treasures. In the chest Charlotte kept letters and dried flowers – gifts from Charles. Several years past and loving wear began to show on Camille.
To achieve the appearance of age and neglect, I painted on Raw Umber acryllic paint to the creases and edges of Camille. I used two brushes – a smaller brush to make sure paint reached the deep creases. I chose to emphasize the raised parts of the drawers.
The Addition of Gilding – Step 3
A new owner
Several years passed and Camille was purchased by a kindly old grandfather for his granddaughter, Juliette. She also treasured this chest and love began to wear even further creating more patina on Camille.
Tragedy and another life for Camille – Step 4
As things some times happened, tragedy touched Camille’s life and she was once again auctioned away. This time she was auctioned to a businessman who had dealings with the government. This chest would serve well to store important documents. The worn color would not go well with the remainder of the office decor so everything received a coating of grey paint. When the war was over, Camille along with a number of other office pieces were set away to a warehouse.
In Step 4 I added additional grey paint using the dry brush method – just enough to tone down some of the aging by the Raw Umber.
In a lonely corner – Step 5 – Whitewash
Camille was placed in a corner of the damp stone warehouse near a window. Once again daylight would touch Camille. Her only company were the boxes stored there and the occasional mouse. Camille’s life was continually touched by those around her and the atmosphere of her circumstances.
For this step – I took the off white paint randomly painted swatches and with a damp paper towel I ‘washed’ the paint in lightly so that it would cloud the surface. Applying and re-applying to whatever depth I desired.
An Antique Shopowner –
With a number of other items, Camille was purchased by a shopowner – who seeing the value in the craftsmanship of her construction, he did not see the value in her colors, so he painted her white. She did not attract a buyer at the man’s shop and gradually was consigned to a corner in the back where time and dirt once again began to wear on her surface.
Youth – STEP 6-Waxing
After quite a while, Camille was noticed by a young lady freshly on her own and looking for inexpensive and small pieces to fill her apartment. She saw Camille at the antiques shop and brought her to home…..she loved the time worn patina of Camille so she chose to do nothing more than to apply a coating of wax to her surface….
I applied two waxes to this chest. Along the curved edges of the doorfronts I applied two layers of Miss Mustard Seed Antiquing Wax. Along the rest of the surface, I applied a couple layers of Anne Sloan Clear Wax and buffed well.
With all her history and all of the affects of the events in her life, Camile is the beautiful patinaed chest she is today – filled with her own history and beauty.
I quite enjoyed the process more in creating Camille when I gave each step a story – I think I’ll enjoy doing this from now on. At one stage while the paint was drying I wrote a very rough draft of a complete story in a couple hours – almost 7,000 words! I’m doing some research and will fill in the story better. I’m considering either chapter installments or Ebook. Thoughts?
Valspar Color Sample – Rolling Sea
Valspar Color Sample – Stone Mason Gray
Valspar Color Sample – Belle Grove Antique White
GlobalArt Heritage Multimedia – Raw Umber
Liquitex Acryllic Iridescent Bright Gold
One project done in the Dining Room Transformation!
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