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True French Country Furniture

2019

· French Country,Decorating

True French Country Furniture

TRUE FRENCH COUNTRY FURNITURE

Can still be found at auctions, flea markets and sometimes thrift stores. I'm going to share several pieces of FRENCH COUNTRY FURNITURE from one of my favorite friends and bloggers Edith and Evelyn and what Edith has to say about each piece.

You might love taking a look at her blog https://edithandevelynvintage.com/ where she'll delight you every time with something French Country.

Your going to see how much work goes into refurbishing antique furniture and the love that's poured into it. Get a little notebook and take some notes for the next time you spot a gorgeous piece

FRENCH BERGERE CHAIR

Have you ever seen an ugly, worn french chair at a flea market, estate sale, or thrift store, and walked right past it, not giving it a second look? I definitely have! However, if it’s a french chair, I always give even the ugliest ones a thorough inspection.

Sometimes, if the “bones” are good, all the chair will need is some new clothes. Such is the case with this antique french bergere chair.

I found it at one of my favorite estate sales many months ago, and she was sadly neglected with rips, fraying, and staining to the old fabric. There was even a huge stain on the back that someone had covered with an old crocheted doily in an effort to cover it up.

The frame was in pretty good shape though, and was painted a creamy off white with natural distressing from years of use. And….it was only $38.00!

After checking the springs to make sure they were still in good shape, I decided that she would be perfect for a little makeover.

LESSON LEARNED - how to reupholster

I also used a grain sack for the exterior sides, back, and arms, and an upholstery grade burlap {that I love} for the bottom section under the cushion. I used a beautiful toile fabric from Hobby Lobby that has perfect shades of blue in it, as well as images of precious sheep {a weakness of mine}, to upholster the inside back and sides.

LESSON LEARNED - use different fabrics when reupholstery for a unique look.

I wanted to make a slipcover for the cushion so that I could take it off and wash it when needed and loved the idea of using an old white quilt. I just happened to have a large antique quilt that belonged to Evelyn {my sweet mother in law} that was in terrible condition with rips and tears, but was in a beautiful shade of white. I had been saving it for awhile thinking I would find something to use it for, and decided this was the perfect project.

I finished it off with nail head trim all around. I left the finish as found because I loved the timeworn look that it had.

The decor used has been kept simple and timeless. She's used her French Bombay Chest that you'll be reading about soon as a side table. A gorgeous silver antique bowl with simple moss covered balls in it and how about that simple white vase with beautiful pink peonies for an added pop of color.

You could use this simple decor on any side table that you have. Again, and you'll always here me say it - these types of silver antique bowls can be found at your local thrift store. I have a few I use all the time.

Maybe your thinking - I love this furniture and I'm willing to try painting it like explained here, but where do I find pieces of furniture like these? My first suggestion in buying pieces like this without spending a fortune is at a place like Habitat for Humanity. You wouldn't believe the types of antique furniture they have. Remember, it's all donated so they never know what they might receive, so frequenting often is your best bet. There are antique store's, but they'll sell these for what their worth as an antique. There's also thrift stores, but pieces like these are apt to go as soon as their put out on the floor.

1950's FRENCH PROVINCIAL STYLE NIGHT STANDS

These are the typical 1950’s french provincial style. I found them at an estate sale a couple of years ago.

They had pretty detailing with the hardware, as well as the metal wire in the doors. But I wanted to add just a bit more detail, so I added appliqués on each one prior to painting. You remember these appliques we made?

LESSON LEARNED - use appliques to add to the furniture your refinishing.

I chose two colors to work with, Grand Canal and Morning Mist, using Grand Canal as my base coat, and highlighting and adding layers with the Morning Mist.

After applying the appliqués to the sections that I wanted, I applied one coat of Grand Canal, letting it dry completely.

LESSON LEARNED - apply a wash

With the second layer, I applied a “wash” of the Morning Mist. I thinned the Morning Mist a bit with water and, taking a section at a time, I covered it in the wash, then immediately wiped it back with a soft cloth, leaving it down in the details and crevices.

There is distressing on both of the nightstands that occurred naturally as I layered the colors. As I wiped back the “wash” on the second coat, the cloth naturally pulled away some paint in certain areas, showing the original wood, which results in a beautifully timeworn look.

I always paint furniture in layers, giving depth to the piece, which just can’t be achieved with one coat of paint.

LESSON LEARNED - glazing furniture

After the wash of Morning Mist had dried. I used a homemade glaze, and again, taking a section at a time, I applied the glaze and immediately wiped it off, leaving it in the details and edges. How much, or how little, is really about personal preference. I like it to have the look of old patina, so I tend to use more.

After the glaze dried, I took the Morning Mist and using the dry brush technique {dipping a dry brush in the paint, and then wiping any excess off of it, leaving very little in the brush}, I went back over the entire piece, highlighting different areas.

After I buffed the nightstands, I gold leafed the details, and added gilding to the metal wire in the doors.

After everything was dry, I added a coat of clear wax, letting it cure for 24 hours before buffing.

FRENCH BOMBAY CHEST

As you can see, some of these pieces are very rough when first found - so don't let that detour you.

Several years ago, I got a phone call from a friend, telling me that they had been given a sweet little french bombe chest, and they thought that I might want it.

He told me that it wasn’t worth anything, and was pretty damaged and “unsalvageable”. But my friend knew that I had a soft spot for pieces that are timeworn, imperfect, and storied.

And this little bombe chest definitely fit the bill, because it had an interesting history that tugged at my heartstrings.

This sweet petite French chest was a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, and had once graced the rooms of a beautiful grand home in New Orleans.

Unfortunately, it had sat in flood waters for weeks during the devastation of Hurricane Katrina before it was finally salvaged.

 

My friend told me that the veneer had bubbled, cracked, and peeled, and that it wasn’t in great shape, but he felt like it was exactly the piece that I would be drawn to.

 

He was right. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it, even with all of it’s blemishes. Those blemishes told it’s story.

You’ve seen the before….now, here is the after.

Because I love painted furniture, particularly the old French and Gustavian painted pieces, I always try to imitate the finishes of those century old pieces.

There’s something about the patina, depth, layers, and color of beautiful, old painted European furniture that is so hard to duplicate in today’s painted furniture.

 

Pure & Original Classico paint is the closest I’ve found to replicating those gorgeous European finishes.

Something I immediately noticed is that the paint didn’t really “move”. There wasn’t any of the typical “liquid moving around” sound that you normally hear when you shake a can of paint. Which, I have to admit, concerned me.

 

Was it ruined in some way? Had the weather frozen it in transit to my home? I shook it again, and no, it definitely wasn’t “moving around”.

I carefully opened the lid, not sure what to expect, and was totally amazed that this paint didn’t needany shaking or mixing. It was like pudding…….silky pudding.

It was creamy, with such a wonderful body to it. And the colors…..oh my, so European!

I had chosen two colors to try, Evening Shadow, and Lagoon Water in the Classico line. However, they have more than 100 colors to choose from….yes, you read that right. Over 100 rich, highly pigmented, colors! And they are all gorgeous!

I started painting my little french chest, and at first, I wasn’t sure my choice of furniture was going to work. You see, I decided that I wasn’t going to try to remove the old veneer.

I’ve read about how time consuming it is to repair or remove veneer, and this little chest had sat in water for days, so the wood underneath the veneer wasn’t great either.

 

Luckily, I love natural imperfections in a piece, so I decided that I was going to paint the piece as it was and embrace those blemishes.

Lesson Learned - do not remove veneer.

And this paint….oh my………this Pure & Original paint is just perfection, it went on so beautifully!

There were even some very rough places that I used a palette knife to apply the paint.

This paint has so much body and is so creamy, that I could work it with a brush and a knife, and there was literally no dripping.

I gave the chest two layers of Evening Shadow in the Pure & Original Classico.

Once dry, I added highlights using Lagoon Water, just brushing around the edges and highlighting the fronts of the drawers.

I wanted to add more depth and shadowing to the chest and bring out some of those storied imperfections, so I used a homemade glaze that I regularly use instead of dark wax, which I find a little difficult to work with.

LESSON LEARNED - adding a glaze

My homemade glaze is simply artist’s acrylic paint in color Burnt Umber, thinned just a bit with water. I worked the glaze down into the crevices, nooks, and crannies, and then wiped back any excess with a damp cloth. This gives it depth and definition.

Pure & Original Classico paint dries to a gorgeous matte, velvety finish, and doesn’t require waxing of any kind, however I love the soft sheen that waxing gives a piece of furniture.

LESSON LEARNED - wax over your painted piece

So I chose to wax with Pure & Original Italian liquid wax. This wax is ah-mazing!

I let the layers of wax dry, which doesn’t take long, and then buffed with a soft cloth.

You'll definitely want to bookmark this page for when you do stumble across a gorgeous french antique piece of furniture. Although I could find new pieces very similar to these, I'm not going to because we're talking about true French Country antiques.

French antique pieces of tableware, vases, pitchers, canisters are much easier to find than the furniture. Again, you can find these at Habitat for Humanity, or your local thrift store. Whenever picking a piece up, turn it over and look at the stamp on the bottom to see where it was made. This will tell you a lot about the piece.

FRENCH BUFFET

This is a stunning beauty that Edith has done. She's very talented with layering paint and also with deciding the right color for a piece of furniture.

The one piece of furniture in our home that gets the most attention and comments has to be the blue French Provincial dresser in our kitchen/breakfast room.

When it was featured in the French Magazine, Shabby Style, the writer described it as a “Louis XV commode”, which made me smile.

It just proves that you can add french style to your home without spending hundreds, or even thousands of dollars to get it.

Our “Louis XV Commode” is a piece of furniture that was salvaged from a 1950’s french provincial bedroom set.

When we were renovating the kitchen/breakfast room area, we took down a wall to open up the kitchen, which resulted in one long wall between the family room and the formal dining room.

Fortunately, patience paid off when I found the perfect piece at an estate sale.

It had beautiful curved legs with lots of drawers for extra storage. Plus it was 72″ long, making it the perfect size for the wall.

This was a dresser that originally belonged to a french provincial bedroom set. It dated to the 1950’s and had a “golden oak” finish.

I knew I would be painting it, so I didn’t care what kind of finish it had. We ended up buying it for $79.00 and hauled it home, storing it in the garage for the eight months that it took us to renovate the kitchen.

I knew that I wanted it to be finished in a “frenchy” blue color with lots of depth to the paint.

If you want to achieve depth to your painted furniture, you can’t just slap one coat of paint on and that be it.

LESSON LEARNED - layering colors

You need to layer colors, using some for shadowing, others for highlighting, giving the end result of a deeper, aged over time look.

I knew that I wanted it to be finished in a “frenchy” blue color with lots of depth to the paint.

If you want to achieve depth to your painted furniture, you can’t just slap one coat of paint on and that be it.

You need to layer colors, using some for shadowing, others for highlighting, giving the end result of a deeper, aged over time look.

I ended up layering five colors on this buffet, starting with the base color of Annie Sloan chalk paint in Aubusson Blue. Once it was dry, I gave it a wash of ASCP Provence.

LESSON LEARNED - creating a wash

To make a wash, just add some water to the paint to make it a bit thinner. You still want to see the base color through it. I usually brush a wash on, working in sections, and then wipe some of it back off with a soft cloth. After the wash of Provence dried, I then added a wash of ASCP Duck Egg, again taking a dry soft cloth and wiping back some of the paint as I went.

LESSON LEARNED - dry brushing

After the Duck Egg was dry, I dry brushed a coat of ASCP French Linen for some shadowing, especially in the recessed areas.

The final coat was dry brushing ASCP Paris Gray over the details of the wood as a highlight. To do a dry brush coat, just slightly dip your brush in the paint, and wipe off the excess so there’s not much paint on the brush.

Be prepared for the “ugly stage” while you’re doing all of this. Hubby walked by as I was into the second wash and said, “Are you leaving it like that?” Um…..no.

Once the dresser was completely dry, I lightly distressed. You can use a fine grit sanding block, but my favorite way to distress furniture is just get an old “nubby” wash cloth, make sure it’s wet, but well wrung out, and use it to remove the paint where you want it. It’s a lot less messy than sanding.

Because the original finish had a golden finish, it added some wonderful highlights.

My final application is applying my homemade glaze into the nooks and crannies and anyplace that I want a bit of antiquing or shadowing.

The final step is waxing with a clear wax. I apply the clear wax with a soft cloth, like an old t-shirt, and “massage” it into the wood. After waxing, I let the dresser cure for 24 hours and then I buffed it with a soft cloth.

I put the original hardware back on it, because the old brass had some wonderful patina.

FRENCH DINING CHAIRS

When I found this great set of four French dining chairs at an estate sale, I knew they would be perfect to upholster in some of the old grain sacks that I had been hoarding.

When buying used chairs, always make sure that they are sturdy, that you can sit on them, and turn them over to make sure that the springs are all intact. I’ve learned this the hard way!

I’ve had chairs in the past that I picked up at estate sales that are beautiful……but you can’t sit on them! I didn’t do my due diligence, I just grabbed them because they were so pretty and a good price, but once home, realized what a mistake I had made.

I now place books on them to deter someone from sitting there!

Here is what the four French dining chairs looked like when we found them.

I started by stripping the upholstery, and then giving them a couple coats of white chalk style paint.

 

I also did some distressing and then waxed with clear and dark wax to bring out the details.

I keep a stash of vintage grain sacks and pick them up whenever I find them at a reasonable price. I went through what I had and picked out two sacks that had the look I wanted

Using the old upholstery as a pattern, I cut out the new pieces for both sides of the back of the chair.

To be on the safe side, I always cut about 1/2″ larger than the pattern and then trim off the excess once it’s stapled onto the chair.

You can always cut too much fabric off, but you can’t add more if it’s too small. I know this from experience!

I’ve always loved the graphics on antique German grain sacks that have the farmers names and dates stamped on them.

But they are extremely expensive and rarely have I ever taken the leap to pay what they are going for.

I knew that I could get the same look by using a stencil and stamping the graphic onto the vintage grain sacks.

Using a black fabric paint and a stencil brush, I placed the stencil in the correct position and stamped it with the fabric paint.

I then carefully lifted the stencil, waited a few minutes for the paint to dry, then stapled the grain sack into the back of the dining chair.

Once it was stapled into the back of the chair using a staple gun (I use a pneumatic staple gun), I trimmed off the excess fabric.

Using a drop cloth for the seat, I cut out the pattern, again using the old upholstery as a guide, and stapled it onto the seat of the chair.

Once everything was stapled, I trimmed the excess and added trim over the staples.

I love how they turned out, with all of them being just slightly different.

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