Most of us own a piece of furniture that could use a bit of a facelift, whether it’s an antique find, an old set of drawers “gifted” to us by a parent, or the dresser we’ve been lugging around with us since college. Sure, you could brush a stain on the thing and call it a day, or you could turn it into the chic statement piece you didn’t know you needed.
In her book Furniture Makes the Room: Create Special Pieces to Style a Home You Love ($21; amazon.com), Barb Blair turns an old sideboard into a masterpiece using patterned tape and a bright pop of paint. The technique, which Blair calls “scalloped dip-dying,” is perfect for adding a touch of whimsy and drama to the classic, flat-topped unit.
“Painting furniture is my passion, but there are times when I like to leave a little glimpse of the natural wood showing through,” writes Blair. “Taping off and creating a dip-dye look is the perfect way to join the painted and non-painted surfaces. For this particular piece, instead of just creating a straight line of demarcation, I chose to make it a bit more playful and created a soft scalloped edge.”
Try the technique below on your own sideboard, cupboard, dresser, or armoire.
Fine sanding sponges ($8; amazon.com)
Shop towels ($8; amazon.com)
FrogTape Shape Tape in scallop ($16; shurtechstore.com)
FrogTape Multi-Surface Tape ($9; shurtechstore.com)
Paint in your color of choice
Purdy 2 ½-inch Angled Sash Brush ($14; amazon.com)
Foam roller ($9; amazon.com)
Minwax Special Walnut Stain ($9; homedepot.com)
Purdy China Series Brush (price varies; purdy.com)
1. Lightly sand, vacuum, and wipe down the entire piece of furniture with a damp shop towel so that it is nice and clean and ready to accept paint. Remove hardware at this time as well. I chose new hardware for this piece, but the existing holes were exactly as they needed to be for the new hardware. If this is not the case, you will need to wood fill and drill new holes for your new hardware now.
2. Figure out where you want the scallop paint line to be. (I wanted the line to be about one-quarter of the way up from the bottom of the piece so the richness of the wood remained visible, but not too much.)
3. Apply the tape to the piece, working from left to right. I started on the left side, wrapping the tape around to the front and then back around the right side. If you feel more confident working in separate sections for each side, do so; just make sure the scallops align properly at the overlapping points. Use a craft knife and ruler when trimming the edges so the tape line remains straight. I do not measure, but you can! I find that my eye is better than a ruler sometimes.
4. When the scallop tape line is all in place, use a squeegee to go over the entire tape line. This ensures that the tape is adhered and will keep your paint lines sharp. Once the scallop tape line is in place, use the FrogTape Multi-Surface tape to mask off all of the drawer sides and runners to keep the exterior paint lines nice and straight. Lay down drop cloths.
5. Apply the first coat of paint to the exterior. Use a Purdy 2½-in angled sash brush first to cut in all the crevices, corners, and areas where a roller will not reach; then immediately roll the same surfaces to blend the cut-in lines and make sure the finish is perfectly smooth. Be careful not to paint under your tape line, and do not apply paint thickly near the tape, as this will cause a buildup around the edge and create issues when you remove the tape. Always blend and manipulate paint while it is wet! It is the only chance you get to ensure a nice smooth finish.
6. Allow the first coat of paint to dry (1 to 2 hours, or until no longer tacky feeling) and apply a second coat exactly as you did the first. As soon as you complete the second coat, immediately remove the scallop tape.
7. When the second coat of paint is dry, you can either leave the finish as is or you can distress it a bit. (On my piece, I used a fine sanding sponge to distress the finish just a tiny bit around the edges and hard lines to create some interest in the finish.
8. When you are finished sanding, vacuum off the sanding dust before applying the stain.
9. Use the Purdy China Bristle brush to apply the stain directly onto the piece of furniture. I applied the stain to the entire piece, both the painted and unpainted surfaces, which helped unify the look. There is no single correct pattern; you want to make sure the entire surface is covered evenly. The longer the stain sits on the surface, the darker it will become. If you would like it a bit darker, leave it on for up to 5 minutes. Otherwise, as soon as the stain has been applied to a section you can immediately use a dry shop towel to wipe the stain off. Wipe exactly as you painted, going with the grain of the wood and making sure that the stain appears blended and not smudgy.
10. Allow the stain to dry completely for 2 to 3 days. Then you can line the drawers and attach the new hardware! I lined the drawers with a gorgeous vintage leaf wallpaper, gifted to me by a friend.
When applying the scallop tape, be careful not to pull and stretch it. Stretching causes strain on the tape and will distort the scalloped design. Use minimal pressure and work in manageable sections so you can be sure that your line is nice and straight.
The paint blocker in the tape is activated by water, so if you are taping off an unpainted piece of furniture (like mine was), after you use the squeegee to make sure the tape is fully adhered, wipe over the entire tape line with a damp shop towel to activate the seal.