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How to use leftover paint | A lesson in shabby chic

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This is my favourite place in the world. Today, for the first time – I’m showing a place other than my home…. I’m showing you the cottage. Well, a small corner of the cottage – but the cottage nonetheless. This is a place for summer hangouts, late night bonfires, big family BBQs, lazy days swimming, boating and fishing…decor isn’t really top of mind. But when my Sister-in-Law gave our cabin bunkie a fresh coat of paint – I figured it couldn’t hurt to use the leftovers!

Here’s How to Use Leftover Paint and Make your OWN Chalky Finish Paint 

Since we live far away from the cottage and rarely spend time there, I decided it would be my contribution to ‘cottage life’ to get the ball rolling on a much needed dining room refresh. I tackled only what I knew I could achieve in one afternoon.

Armed with the leftover latex wall paint I’d found in the wood shed, I set to work on this old corner cabinet. Farmhouse Cabinet Before chalk style Paint

As I was emptying it out, I was also creating little ‘purge’ piles and discovering some long forgotten family mementos too! (Also, I found mouse poop. LOTS of mouse poop! Ewww!)

Long story short, I only had about 1/4 of a gallon of paint. And I had to make that last enough to cover this cabinet and have it look ‘cottage chic’ – or romantically weathered or whatever euphemism for ‘on purpose distressed’ you want to use.

Here’s what to do if you’ve got leftover paint:

  1. Mix 1 level cup of Plaster of Paris with 1/2 cup of cool tap water.
  2. Mix it until there are no lumps.
  3. Pour about 3/4 cup of your leftover latex paint into a large tin and then slowly add your wet plaster mixture to that.
  4. Stir it until it’s smooth.
  5. Use this mix as your first coat on your piece.

If you have lots left, then add another 1/8 cup of water to your paint and use it as your second coat. In my case, I needed to do a second mix, so I just boosted to water content a bit. The wonderful thing about this method is how quickly it dries to the touch. I started the piece at about 11am and by 2pm, it looked like this:

How to use leftover paint Drying Time

Then, just use 150 grit sand paper and go to town. I wanted this piece to look like it had been part of our cottage for the last 50 years. Technically, it probably has… just not painted like this! How to use leftover paint Chippy Finish

I also upgraded the hardware with these little copper pulls. They reminded me of shamrocks and sort of speak to my family’s Irish heritage. Also, they match the old hinges better than the previous wooden knobs.

How to use leftover paint Chippy Cabinet Makeover

There it is! All finished up! And the beauty thing is that I had PAINT LEFTOVER! I didn’t even use 1/5 of a can of paint to covert this entire piece. I put it back with some of the jugs and trays that we use often when we are at the lake…. and no, none of it matches… and no, none of it is curated 🙂 This is a true collection!
How to use leftover paint Chippy Cabinet Shelves

For some reason, when you’re at the lake, it’s okay to have a bunch of fish themed pieces… haha I have a particular love for the fish jug. My Poppa used to pour me water from it when I was little and we’d giggle because it made a ‘Glug Glug Glug’ sound.

How to use leftover paint Copper Hardware

I really like how this piece ended up. It is the start of the ‘great dining room brighten’ as it’s being called in our family. This month, my uncle has committed to painting that panelling a bright white (like JoJo Whitewash by PARA Paints.) I think that will make this cabinet pop even more!

How to use leftover paint Chippy Corner CabinetSo there you have it… my recipe for using up leftover paint and achieving the shabby chic look 🙂

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This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Please see our full disclosure and privacy policy here. DIY Chalk Paint Recipe - How to Use Leftover Paint

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Colleen O'Dea

Wednesday 23rd of August 2017

I have two of the gurgle jugs...the kids love them.


Monday 20th of July 2015

Wow! That looks great. Do you know how long paint lasts? We just cleaned out a storage area and decided we should just get rid of all the leftover paint from when we built our house ...which was 10 years ago. We just assumed it would not be good. Is there a range to use up leftover paint? Thanks. :)

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Monday 20th of July 2015

Hey Jen - I'd say if you keep your paint air tight, two years is probably the max it would last and keep its quality. After 10 - you were probably safe to recycle it ;)

Naomi @ Plaster & Disaster

Thursday 16th of July 2015

What a big difference! I had NO idea you could do that with plaster of paris. Good luck on the "great dining room brighten!"

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Monday 20th of July 2015

One of the best tricks ever! Thanks for stopping by and checking out the post!

Mary-In the boondocks

Tuesday 14th of July 2015

This is really lovely. Thanks for the how to!

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