Chalkboards may be old-school, but they’re new accents in home decor.
“Look what I made,” Kelly Sims of Liberty, Mo., said at a chalkboard paint class in Independence, Mo., holding up pictures of a picnic basket with a chalkboard top for playfully listing contents, an old mirror converted into a message board, and the fronts of a few kitchen cabinets made into chalkboards for meal planning and writing quotes.
Sims finds items in thrift stores, garage sales and even the trash, then transforms them with chalkboard paint into gifts and home-entertaining accessories.
Chalkboard paint is a type of paint that contains extremely hard pigments and that dries to a finish roughly resembling that of a chalkboard. Once chalkboard paint has been applied to a surface, the surface can be used just like a chalkboard – erasable, washable and durable – although it may require periodic touch-ups, according to the website wisegeek.
You can convert any kind of object, including metal, plastic, wood, glass, paperboard, tabletops and hardboard, into a chalkboard, according to greatchalkboardpaint.com. Scratch marks aren’t left on the wall or surface that has been painted, it says. Among the uses the site lists: You can paint a child’s room and allow him to write all over the wall and not worry about leaving permanent marks.
You can buy chalkboard paint in cans and in spray cans at many hardware and paint supply stores, and you can also make your own. It’s often more expensive to buy than regular paint.
Sims is a kindergarten teacher, but she was a pupil that night in the chalkboard paint class at the store Be Here Now. The instructor was Meredith Martin, an interior designer who lectured on how to mix custom colors and what you can make with them.
Results included a table setting with a chalkboard-painted paper runner and flower pots with chalkboard labels, a chalkboard-painted desk, storage boxes and a child’s play table. Martin 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 are the ABCs of chalkboard paint from A to Z:
Apply paint thickly with a foam craft brush for small pieces or a regular paintbrush for furniture and walls. For glass bottles, apply thinly.
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 another way to go 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 like you had in elementary school 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. The paint can be used on the entire piece. Artist Tiffini Killgore painted a dresser with chalkboard paint and wrote the names of neighborhoods on the drawers in chalk.
Good gifts can be made with chalkboard paint. Paint an empty wine bottle, et voila! A vase. Great gift tags, too, can be crafted. And they’re reusable.
How to mix your own chalkboard paint: Buy your favorite color of latex paint, Martin says (she used a no-VOC variety). Buy unsanded grout ($3 from a hardware store). For a gallon of paint, mix in a quart of grout. (The ratio should be two-thirds paint to one-third 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 oilcloth (one source: www.bellocchio.com) 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. 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 can provide inspiration.
Resources for chalkboard paint include craft stores, home warehouses, paint shops and Be Here Now, Independence, Mo., 816-461-7819, b-here-now.com. Be Here Now also sells chalkboard paint in a variety of colors by the pint, $15.
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 of Kansas City. She does chalkboard creations on doors and walls at the 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 nontoxic 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.