As an avid do it yourself-er, Debra Boeyenga, proprietor of A French Touch, enjoys the process of transforming cast-off and out of fashion furniture. Making older pieces look great within a budget, and without a lot of messy prep work, can prove challenging, so when Boeyenga came across a new paint product online, she was intrigued. After watching it on blogs for about year and a half, she jumped at the chance to try the product when it finally became available in Canada.The product, Chalk Paint™ decorative paint by Annie Sloan was such a game changer for Boeyenga that seven weeks after first trying it, she was a stockist. Boeyenga states that “when this paint came along, the fact that you didn’t have to sand, didn’t have to prime, that it adhered to almost any surface, it was incredible. It was just a no brainer.” The paint was developed specifically for furniture and decorative use, so it doesn’t present the chipping and flaking challenges of traditional latex paint. It’s also low VOC, odorless, and cleans up with soap and water, so it’s ideal for working indoors, which is a big plus with Victoria’s unpredictable weather. As a stockist of Annie Sloan wares, she’s been trained by product specialists and now offers classes at the store. While Boeyenga notes that workshops are not necessary for basic painting — it’s as easy as clean your piece, stir the paint, and start painting — the workshop delve into the myriad applications of the paint, and demonstrate how to achieve the finishes seen on items in the store.
The five hour classes are limited to six students, allowing plenty of one-on-one instruction. Students learn a variety of techniques including colour layering, how to use the clear and dark waxes, wet distress, and sand distress on sample boards. They then apply these techniques to a small project, which may be an antique frame or vintage tray. The twice-monthly beginner classes have proven so popular that plans are in the works to offer an advanced class in the fall.A few minutes in the store, which carries mainly vintage and antique collectables gives a sense of the product’s versatility. The furnishings are a mix of elegant and more down to earth pieces — all refinished by Debra — arranged with accessories into charming vignettes that impart a very cozy, casually elegant feel. Working with older furniture which may be a little banged up or out of style has an advantage in that it’s often more solidly constructed than new pieces. All it takes is creative vision, and a little elbow grease, and as Boeyenga says “you yourself have now transformed it make your home look amazing, on a budget, and it’s one of a kind, it’s not cookie cutter. The fact that we can make our home look special and a reflection of us, our personality, I think that’s fantastic.” She does warn though that “people definitely end up becoming a little addicted, because it really opens up a world for you, that you can really transform your home, for such a little bit of money. And it’s so rewarding.”