A self-taught artist trans­forms old fur­ni­ture into unique, prac­ti­cal art.

Old House Journal - - Contents - By Brian D. Cole­man

A self-taught artist re­makes tired, un­wanted fur­ni­ture with trans­fer and paint­ing tech­niques.

Diane Llewellyn Grover wasn’t al­ways a fur­ni­ture artist. In fact, she’s a clin­i­cal so­cial worker. Paint­ing be­came a pre­ferred form of re­lax­ation. She be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with tired old fur­ni­ture, trans­fer­ring pre-Raphaelite and Im­pres­sion­ist art prints onto draw­ers or door fronts, then paint­ing the pieces. Shown here is a dull bon­net dresser she up­dated with a print of the nymph from “Septem­ber Morn” by Paul Emile Chabas (1911) and glazed green paint. When friends start­ing ask­ing for re­claimed fur­ni­ture, her busi­ness The Paint Fac­tory was born: the­p­aint­fac­to­

the process 1. SE­LEC­TION

Grover looks for vin­tage pieces past their prime, usu­ally with good solid con­struc­tion but dam­age to the fin­ish. She avoids restora­tion, pre­fer­ring to leave mi­nor im­per­fec­tions; if there’s a crack, she’s more likely to em­pha­size it than fill it.


Clean­ing be­gins with a 50/50 mix of white vine­gar and wa­ter. Grover cau­tions that, when work­ing with ma­hogany, a base coat of primer may be needed as tan­nins may bleed through the paint. With ma­hogany, she likes to ap­ply a coat of Wise Owl clear primer.


Trans­fer is dif­fer­ent from de­coupage. Here, you start with a copy­right-free im­age, pho­to­copied on a laser printer (not ink jet) and mir­ror im­age or flipped for trans­fer­ing. Laser print­ers print up to 11"x17"; for big­ger im­ages, copy in 11"x17" sec­tions, then piece to­gether prior to trans­fer. (Of­fice De­pot will do this for you.) White paint is ap­plied to the cleaned area where a print will be placed. When it’s dry, a thin layer of trans­fer gel is ap­plied over the paint, and the print placed face down onto the gel. Any air bub­bles are gen­tly pressed out and the print al­lowed to dry overnight.

The paper back­ing is then re­moved by wet­ting with wa­ter, then gen­tly and slowly rub­bing away the pulp, with care not to dis­turb the trans­ferred im­age un­der­neath. Some­times four ap­pli­ca­tions of wa­ter may be needed to re­move the back­ing.


Grover chooses paint col­ors to co­or­di­nate with the im­age. Her fa­vorites, all chalk/min­eral paints from Wise Owl Paint, in­clude Span­ish Olive, Fox­trot, Turmeric, and Golden Rod. She of­ten blends col­ors to­gether for more depth and in­ter­est. When paint is dry, Grover uses sev­eral thin coats of glaze to achieve her “wa­ter­color ef­fect.” Fi­nally, the piece is coated with Wise Owl Matte Sealer, and the in­te­rior wiped with Fur­ni­ture Salve to de­odor­ize, con­di­tion, and seal the wood.

* Wise Owl Paint prod­ucts, wise­owl­ † by Ar­ti­san En­hance­ments,­ti­sa­nen­hance­

OP­PO­SITE The fur­ni­ture is “func­tional art”—clients have used re­fur­bished pieces as a linen cup­board and even as a dis­play case in a bridal store. RIGHT Unloved vin­tage fur­ni­ture awaits con­ver­sion to art. BE­LOW The old Dan­ish cab­i­net, en­livened with scenes from the Uni­corn Tapestries.

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