Chalk Paint Possibilities and Questions

We have quite a few paint projects planned for the next few months so that we can finally kiss our brushes goodbye.  Of course, as DIYers know, painting is a never ending activity. Just as you ‘finish’ painting, inspiration strikes somewhere else, and you find yourself standing in the checkout line for paint and rollers again. One of the projects that we need to tackle in the very near future before work travel and summer fun take precedence is this bookcase:


My parents gave us this bookcase because we are book hoarders avid readers and they no longer had need/room for it.  We read widely, so the set of books in this bookcase is not representative of our taste.   The children’s and adolescent literature collections fill the guest bedrooms on Target bookcases (not our best investment) and Cubeicals (surprising longevity), my professional literature sits on other shelves in the living room,and our classics collection is our bedroom. This bookcase is actually more representative of the need to part with some books, like outdated college texts.  Getting there. Slowly.

This bookcase has a history.  My dad used to work as the managing engineer for a plant owned by a company headquartered in Austria, and he acquired this bookcase when the plant closed its doors and liquidated its assets.  It used to sit in his office, so I suppose he was a bit attached to it.  The bookcase is solid mahogany, but you wouldn’t know because it was lacquered black to hide its beauty from the pilfering Nazis during the war, according to the story passed down through the company.  The bookcase was later brought to the states from the original factory in Austria.

Regardless of whether or not the story is true, it has character. And it is indeed solid. And industrial, but not in the expected way.  As shown above, the glass panels slide to allow access to the shelves and also reveal drawers at the bottom.  The glass panels are fitted so precisely that they only fit in one order of installation, and no hardware was used to hang them.  This is the same way with the drawers–these drawers use ZERO hardware for mounting/sliding; instead they have an interesting wood sliding puzzle configuration allowing you to open them and take them out. We aren’t jumping on the brass bandwagon throughout our house like some people are, but the brass hardware on this bookcase looks so perfect with the glossy black coat. The brass plates on the sliding doors (differentiate left and right from center panels) have a bit of a patina, whereas the brass hardware on the drawers has been relatively well protected despite having lived in factories for generations.  #brassisback

We aren’t sure if the paint contains lead or not. I read somewhere that furniture painted in the early 1900s to 1950 is at risk for lead despite evidence that lead paint risks were known by this time, but the only way to know for sure is a test (you can buy lead paint test kits from your local hardware store supposedly).  If we find that the furniture was painting with lead paint, we would need to encapsulate it with a paint product designed to bond to the lead paint, which is likely the most viable abatement method for us. We always err on the side of caution when it comes to health hazards since we have furry family members, hopes for wee children, and allergies. #operationrespirationpurification

On a more fun note, we thought we would like to try using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint for the first time to paint the bookcase (either as the top coat(s) over the encapsulating product or, if no lead hazard exists, just as the paint of choice).  We are debating different color choices, and having never used ASCP before, we are having a tough time deciding what to do.  A conservative Graphite or Old White? A bold Antibes Green or Emperor’s Silk with clear and dark wax? Or a layering of different colors…or a custom mix of different colors? Oh, the possibilities.  The bookcase sits along the long wall we recently painted in our living room between our baby grand piano (also a high gloss black lacquer) and our new dining table.


We like having neutral pieces along with fun, bright colors (note the bright paint above!), so we aren’t sure which direction to go.  Normally we would use bright colors on smaller pieces and neutrals on larger pieces, but we don’t want all of our larger painted furniture to end up white (and the lack of a true black in the ASCP collection has given us pause for this guy).  Then there’s the possibility of foregoing ASCP and just refreshing its black lacquer to maintain the look it has had for 65+ years (at least).  If it isn’t painted with lead paint, we might even consider the tedious process of stripping it down to the wood and restoring its original beauty.   If you have any experience with painting furniture, especially with chalk paint, what would you try? What about stripping and restoring pieces? De-lacquering? Lead paint nightmares? Any ideas or tips would be appreciated!