Chalkboards might be old-school, but they're the newest accent in home decor.
"Look what I made," said Kelly Sims of Liberty, Mo., holding up her smartphone during an unofficial show-and-tell during a chalkboard paint class in Independence, Mo. She flipped through pics: A picnic basket with a chalkboard top for playfully listing its contents. An old mirror converted into a message board. The fronts of a few kitchen cabinets for meal planning and writing quotes.
Sims finds pieces in thrift stores, garage sales and even the trash, and then transforms them with chalkboard paint into gifts and home-entertaining accessories.
Sims is a kindergarten teacher, but she was a student that night in chalkboard paint class. The instructor was Meredith Martin, an interior designer who lectured on how to mix custom colors and what you can make with it.
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Results included a table setting with a chalkboard-painted paper runner, and flower pots with chalkboard labels. Next to her sat a chalkboard-painted desk, storage boxes and a child's play table. She led the class in a craft project, a large metal charger with the decorative border taped off. With paint, the center of the charger became a chalkboard.
Here's an array of chalkboard paint information:
Apply paint thickly with a foam craft brush for small pieces or a regular paintbrush for furniture and walls. For glass bottles, apply thinly. Spray cans of chalkboard paint are available.
Black, as in blackboard, is the most typical color of chalkboard paint, but it can be any color.
Chalkboard markers, available at craft stores and at Chalk Ink (Chalkinkworldstore.com), are an alternative to dusty, smearing chalk.
Decals with chalkboard surfaces are an alternative if you don't want to commit to paint. Large-format shapes include rectangles, squares, airplanes and coffee cups, to name a few at All Modern (Allmodern.com). Little labels are available at Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery at Staples (Staples.com).
Erasers such as those from your school days are adorable. But if you want the surface to be super clean, see Letter T (clean it with a damp cloth).
Furniture, such as the top of a desk or a dining table, works well for chalkboard paint. But the paint can be used on the entire piece. Artist Tiffini Killgore painted a dresser with chalkboard paint and wrote the names of Kansas City neighborhoods on the drawers in chalk.
Good gifts can be made with chalkboard paint. Paint an empty wine bottle, et voilà! A vase. Great gift tags, too, can be crafted. The best part: They're reusable.
How to mix your own chalkboard paint: Buy your favorite color of latex paint, says interior designer Meredith Martin (she used a variety with no volatile organic compounds). Buy unsanded grout ($3 from a hardware store). For a gallon of paint, mix in a quart of grout. (The ratio should be four parts paint to one part grout.) Stir. Add drops of water to make it thinner. After painting, allow to dry an hour. Often only one coat is needed.
Idea for parties: Use a chalkboard-style oilcloth as a runner on the table. Give guests chalk or chalk pens and tell them to go to town.
Jot down anything on a chalkboard surface. It can be erased.
Kraft paper can be covered with chalkboard paint to create a tablecloth. It's great for writing pairing suggestions for tasting parties.
Let your kids draw on the walls. It's no problem with a chalkboard or chalkboard paint.
Make a Monday-through-Friday message board out of an old five-panel door, using chalkboard paint in the panels.
New idea: painting the surface of a deck with chalkboard paint.
Obvious choice: cheese trays. Not so obvious: your car. (We've spotted a VW Bug.)
Pictures on Pinterest.com are inspiring us. We especially love walls with chalk drawings, such as a family tree in a nursery. A hint for precise outlines: Rent a projector and create a transparency at a print shop.
Quotes on chalkboards = instant inspiration.
Resources for chalkboard paint include craft stores, home warehouses and paint shops.
Spray surfaces with polyurethane to make chalk-art creations permanent.
Tired of the mess or the design? The best way to clean it is with a damp cloth.
Understand that when you apply chalkboard paint, it goes on gritty. When it dries, sand surfaces with 150-grit sandpaper before you first write on them.
Variety. Think beyond white chalk on a blackboard. Chalk comes in a crayon-assortment of colors these days. Crayola has a 52-count pack.
Wet chalk is a secret for creating large-format designs, says Annie Huff, 18, who does chalkboard creations on doors and walls at her mother's restoration and antiques store. She dunks sidewalk chalk in a bucket of water. "It doesn't look like anything when it's wet on the surface, but then it dries vibrantly."
Xpiration date of chalkboard paint: Six months from date of purchase or after it's mixed. (Yes, creative spelling is permitted on creative chalkboards.)
Yummy surface for appetizer trays? To be on the safe side, use a non-toxic food-safe clear coat (available at craft stores) on top of chalkboard painted plates and platters.
Zero writing. Chalkboard surfaces look great even with nothing on them. They're full of possibilities.