Marian Parsons, founder of Mustard Seed Interiors and the blog Miss Mustard Seed, joined staff writer Jura Koncius last week on The Washington Post's Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.
I have just moved into my mother's old condo, and the kitchen cabinets are in fantastic shape but in desperate need of paint. What paint do you recommend for this job?
I like using a paint with a very hard finish. My favourite is Benjamin Moore's Waterborne Satin Impervo. It gives a hard finish and is wipeable. I would suggest using a quality primer before painting (such as a Zinsser) and allow it to cure on the cabinets for two to three days before applying the paint. As far as prep, sand the cabinets lightly to scuff them up, and wipe down with trisodium phosphate to remove grease buildup. It's a big, long job, so make sure you have a clear schedule for a week or two. Most of the dings and damage happen to paint when it's rushed! Remember that most paints and finishes require 30 days to fully cure, so be gentle with them during that time.
I'm getting estimates on painting three rooms (living, dining, kitchen) in my house. The kitchen and living rooms are connected. How do I pick the colours? Could I use the colour palettes I see on Pinterest and just pick three of the colours? Any other ideas?
Picking paint colours can be stressful, but remember that it's just paint. It can always be repainted if it doesn't turn out the way you think it will. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for paint colours, but the colours might not look the same on your walls as they do on the screen. The best investment you can make is to get sample paint pots from your local paint store in colours you like and paint out large swatches on your walls. Watch how the colours look as the light changes. You can also paint large pieces of poster board, if you don't want to paint directly on the walls. As far as a colour palette, I love doing variations of the same colour, so if you want to go with blues, paint one room in the blue you like at full strength and then an adjoining room in the same colour mixed at 50 percent or 75 percent strength. It provides some variation, but all of the rooms flow nicely.
I am having my whole house painted for resale and want to keep it cheap by having the walls and ceilings the same colour. Because grey is so popular, is there a shade of grey that would work for both, without looking too dark or grim?
Yes, greys are popular right now! I really like Grey Owl by Benjamin Moore. It's more of a blue-grey, but it does read very neutral. At full strength, it might be too intense for the walls and ceiling, so I would suggest mixing it at 50 percent strength. This would give you a nice, neutral colour that's not too in your face. You can do that trick with any greys you like, though. Sometimes it's easier to see the undertones of a colour in the darker shade.
My house is about 55 years old, and the people from whom we purchased it painted over old wallpaper (looks like a few layers of paint) in the foyer. The wallpaper was applied over the corners, so over time, the paint started cracking. Because the wallpaper was applied on the drywall without a primer, plus the paint on top, it's proved difficult to take off. We've decided to apply wallpaper over the whole thing. The new wallpaper is not pre-pasted. Is there anything I need to do to prep the wall first?
Oh, wow. Painted wallpaper is a mess! I think you're right to cover that, unless you want to get into replacing the drywall. Because the walls are smooth and painted, I don't think you need to do anything ahead of time. You can use a wallpaper primer, but that's more for the purpose of easy removal. Because there's already wallpaper and a layer of paint, that step might be pointless. I think you can just go for it! One more thing to consider, if you haven't purchased the wallpaper yet, is starching fabric to the wall. That is usually less expensive and more forgiving. You just roll liquid starch on the wall with a paint roller and then stick the fabric on. When you want to change it, you just peel it off. You can even wash the fabric and reuse it.
What's the best kind of sandpaper to use on old furniture? Do you ever use an electric sander?
I usually use 100- to 120-grit paper, because it's rough enough to give the surface tooth, but it's not so rough that it gouges the surface. I use an electric sander when I'm prepping big pieces, but I do most prepping and distressing by hand.
We're about to embark on a kitchen remodel, and the new space will be primarily white: white cabinets, white countertops, white trim and probably white walls. The flooring will be a lighter hardwood, and we're thinking of adding colour by using blue tile for the backsplash and blue paint for the ceiling. Any thoughts on when and how dark to paint the ceilings?
I happen to love blue ceilings. I think it's a nice reference to the sky, obviously, but also to "haint blue" ceilings that are classic for Southern porches. With all of the white going on, you just need a whisper of a blue, such as Benjamin Moore's Clear Skies or Glass Slipper. I think you can go a little stronger on the tiles, but keeping it light and fresh will have more staying power.
I bought an old china hutch on Craigslist, and it was advertised as having been chalk-painted. I want to change the colour. Is there anything I should know about painting over chalk paint vs. regular paint?
Many pieces painted with a chalk/clay paint have been finished with the wax. If there isn't a finish, chalk/clay paint is very "grippy," and you can paint directly over it with pretty much any kind of paint and zero additional prep (unless drips and sloppy brushstrokes need to be sanded out). If it has been waxed, I would suggest sanding it with 100-grit paper to rough it up and wiping it down with mineral spirits to remove some of the wax. Some paints have a difficult time adhering to waxes. You can also use a quality bonding primer to help with adhesion. As far as what paint to use, I suggest milk paint. If you use that, just lightly sand the wax and wipe it down with mineral spirits, and you can paint directly over it.
Did milk paint originally have milk in the formula?
Yes, and it actually still does! The base for milk paint is casein, which is a protein found in milk.
I'm not good at DIY, but I have a lot of furniture that could use a refresh. Can I spray-paint it?
The nice thing about DIY is that it's a learned skill. You can get better at it. To answer your question, yes, you can spray-paint furniture. I will admit that it's not my favourite paint option for furniture. It can be hard to apply without getting some spray marks and drips. If you use spray paint, just make sure to apply thin coats and keep the paint can moving when you're spraying. That will give you a better finish.
I know armoires are out of favour since the rise of flat-screen TVs. I have an old pine armoire that is really large, and I'm not sure what to do with it. Any ideas?
These are still great pieces for storage. Add shelves and use it in place of a dresser. (I started using a wardrobe for my clothes a few years ago, and it's so much better than digging around in drawers.) I've also seen them converted into small offices or craft closets. It's not time to get rid of it yet!
How do you keep all of your DIY supplies and paint organized?
The key for me is not letting my "stash" get out of hand. If I don't use a paint, craft supply or tool in a year, I sell it, donate it or pitch it. I think creatives tend to like to keep things because "I might need it one day." I have found, though, that too much clutter stifles my creativity, so I keep my craft hoard to a reasonable size. It's very freeing, too.