LW - introI haven’t been able to part with my childhood bedsteads but the time had come to finally stop dreaming about restoring them and do it. I wanted a limewash effect and the first stage was to remove all the old varnish. I spoke to my local stripper and he was horrified at the varnish as it had to be stripped by hand rather than by being dipped into chemicals so I daren’t tell him that it was me that applied it 20 years ago! It was a laborious job and costly but finally I was back to bare wood and delighted to discover the bedsteads were oak which is the best wood for limewashing as it has an open grain.

Step 1: I gave the boards a light wipe with a damp cloth to remove the dust from the stripping.

LW - step1 raw wood

Step 1: Oak bedstead with varnish removed and returned to it ‘raw’ state

Step 2: This was a scary stage because I was working on raw wood and there was no going back if I hated it or messed up. With a diluted mixture of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint (Old White) and water I applied the paint with a brush (an ordinary paint brush) ensuring the strokes were in all directions. I then rubbed the paint in circular movements to remove the strokes using a rag. Old bed sheets work well as rags. Using a dampened second rag, I removed any excess paint. You need to be confident in your movements and ensure you can’t see any paint strokes and also ensure that you rub the paint into the grain to get the effect of liming. Work fairly quickly so that the paint doesn’t dry. Wipe off the excess paint several times until you have achieved the look you are after. Work in small sections at a time. Allow the wood to dry overnight before sanding.

LW - step4 layer

Step 2: Apply paint with strokes going in all directions

LW - step4b layer

Step 2: Rub paint with a rag, removing all paint strokes

LW - step4c layer

Step 2: Remove excess paint with a rag

LW - step4d layer

Step 2: Central panel completed

Step 3: Using a fine sandpaper, I lightly sanded the whole surface. This removes extra paint and also softens the appearance.

LW - step3 sanded

Step 3: Wood is lightly sanded after first layer of limewashing

Step 4: Paint again. Yes – go through Step 2 doing the whole surface again to add depth and to ensure you are getting the paint into the grain of the wood. Make sure you work carefully and wipe any blobs of paint before they dry as a drip running down a leg will not enhance the limewash effect. It is a good idea to check about an hour after you have finished in case any paint ran once you were finished. Allow the wood to dry overnight.

Step 5: Sand again – sore fingers and tired wrists but you are getting there.

Step 6: With a tiny amount of wax ( it is far easier to add more wax than remove it) on a clean rag start rubbing over the surface of the wood. Ensure you rub the wax into the paint completely and remove the excess wax before allow it to sit overnight. It will start to have a silky smooth surface and will feel lovely under your fingertips. I used ‘Annie Sloan Soft Wax (Clear)’

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Step 6: Waxed bedstead

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Step 6: Detail of waxed bedstead

Step 7: Give the wood another quick light sanding.

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Materials used

Step 8: Wipe the wood with a cloth impregnated with wax to buff it up and to give it the perfect finish.

LW - differenceB

Detail of comparison of before and after limewashing

Hooray – all done. My bedsteads lived in the studio for about 2 months as I did a little at a time but I’m delighted with the results. I just daren’t tell Martin the stripper that there is a matching pair waiting to be stripped. A job for another day!

Start on an unimportant section.
A greyer appearance is part of limewashing.
Don’t rush it but rather do a bit everyday.
Have a picture of limewashing to keep referring back to.
Ensure you rub away the paint strokes properly. I didn’t the first time (see photos below) and this meant I had to sand very hard to rescue the wood.
These are two useful website links about limewashing:
www.bestfurniturepaint.com – Explains the ‘dangers’ of wax
www.anniesloan.com – Tips from Annie Sloan about limewashing. She has created a stronger effect than I wanted.

LW - step2 first layer

What can go wrong if you don’t rub away the brushstrokes

LW - step2b first layer

Detail of what can go wrong!