Give your furniture a new lease of life with a painting workshop at Packhouse in Runfold

Rebecca gets to grips with the chalk paints

Rebecca gets to grips with the chalk paints - Credit: Archant

In the first of a new series exploring the many workshops on offer in Surrey, Rebecca Younger enrolled in a furniture painting course at Packhouse, in Runfold

The students at work

The students at work - Credit: Archant

‘Make do and mend’, that’s the mantra of my mother’s generation. It’s something the people of my own generation have never really completely understood; if it’s broken or no longer suitable for purpose because it’s the wrong colour, shape or size, we simply buy a new one. Despite not really understanding the concept, members of Generation X, like me, are increasingly looking for a way to escape the monotony of today’s 24/7 technology-driven environment for a bit of ‘me time’, which makes making do and mending – or upgrading what you’ve already got with a lick of paint – all the more appealing.

So, with my mother having just retired and enjoying a little too much what she would call, “dead time” (she’s already ‘mended’ pretty much every broken item in my parents’ house and has begun making a list of things that may well be fine for a number of years but that could quite easily be broken without father noticing), I dragged her along to a furniture painting workshop at Packhouse, in Runfold, near Farnham. Now if you’ve never been to Packhouse, you simply must. It’s a treasure trove of antiques and eclectic interiors pieces for the home. There’s also a restaurant, Bears, which serves up fantastic home-cooked food, as well as a Shepherd’s Hut and the Summerhouse, which is where the furniture painting workshops take place. Hosted by Nyree Forster, the courses run for three hours twice a month and require absolutely no previous experience. Good for us then.

When we arrived, I was half expecting to find a room filled with shabby furniture for us to be let loose on but instead, in the centre of the quaint and rather cosy summerhouse, there was a table filled with paint pots and brushes and at each place setting three small pieces of wood – so not quite as scary as we thought. The workshop capacity is usually six and we were joined by other women, all wanting to learn the craft for different reasons. One had painted furniture before but had never used chalk paints and wanted to learn some different techniques, another had an antique bench she was desperate to give a new lease of life and another just wanted to learn a new hobby.

Nyree Forster

Nyree Forster - Credit: Archant

Nyree, who as well as teaching buys pieces of furniture and accessories at auction and antiques fairs to upcycle and sell, started by explaining that you can use chalk paint on pretty much anything. “My specialty is mirrors but you can literally paint any material; wood, plastic, even metal. Terracotta pots work particularly well,” she explains. “And what’s great is that no prep is required; there’s no sanding or stripping, you can literally just paint straight onto your piece.”

Generally no more than two coats of paint are needed and the paint only takes about an hour to dry. “What’s more, if you don’t like the finished project, you can just paint over with another colour,” she adds. I could already feel this getting addictive!

The only thing you need to remember when using chalk paints (Nyree’s selection featured Vintage Paint by Grand Illusions and Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan, which she says are the best on the market although others are available) is that you must apply clear wax over the top to seal the paint – just use a clean sponge to apply. The painting side of things is relatively simple; there’s no need to get it perfect but, the better the brush used, the less paint strokes you’re likely to leave on the surface of your piece. Pointed brushes are good for reaching into difficult corners.


Materials - Credit: Archant

While you can easily completely transform a piece with a simple paint and wax, Nyree showed us some other techniques, which can add further dimension to furniture. The first was using dark wax to create an antique look – this is applied over the clear wax and can be built up as desired. Should you apply too much, you can simply use clear wax over the top to reduce the intensity.

The second effect (and my favourite) was dry brushing. This involves using a different colour (usually lighter) to accentuate aspects of your piece, for example, to highlight raised patterns or lighten dark corners. Here you need to be a little more accurate – using lighter strokes with a small brush – but we found even when we felt we had ‘gone wrong’, the mistake added to the character. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t need to be perfect.

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The third ‘rub through’ technique required painting the wood with a light colour first, then painting over with a darker colour. Once dry, we then used sand paper to gently remove areas of the top coat of paint so that the underneath colour came through, resulting in a distressed look.

The last project of the morning was to use what we had learnt to transform a basic wooden photo frame, I went for an Annie Sloan ‘Provence’ teal base coat and then dry brushed with the Vintage Pain Sel De Mer (off white), while my mum opted for the popular Annie Sloan ‘Paris Grey’.

I often get incredibly enthusiastic after trying something new and rush out and buy all the materials required only for them to sit in the cupboard untouched for months on end. I eagerly bought the paints and brushes straight after the course but can proudly say, I’ve already transformed an incredibly practical but cheap looking wooden jewellery box, which had been sitting like an eyesore on my dressing table, and an old wooden school chair for the bathroom. Now, don’t tell mother, but perhaps there is something in this make do and mend malarkey.

Visit: to book your place!

Need to Know

The three-hour painting course costs £65, all materials are provided and tea and cake is served mid-morning. The workshop also includes a Vintage Paint 25 per cent discount voucher for use at Packhouse on the day of the workshop only.

Summerhouse at Packhouse, Hewitts’s Kilns, Tongham Road, Runfold, Farnham GU10 1PJ

Follow Nyree on Instagram and Twitter @thepainteddesk