Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How to Graywash the Right Way (and get the Restoration Hardware look)



Although whitewashing and graywashing is very easy, (& SUPER cheap), I learned (the hard way) that there is a wrong way. Today I would like to share what I have learned so that you can bypass all of the extra work that I had to undergo, and get the awesome beach, natural, somewhat Restoration Hardware look the easy way.


Awhile back I saw this awesome, solid wood "bookshelf" for $75 on Craigslist. I loved it's rustic-ness, but knew I didn't have the space for it in our home. To sell it I wanted to try lightening up the golden hue, and decided to whitewash it. Rather than look up directions on how to whitewash, and thinking that if I didn't wipe on, wipe off like I had read before, I thought I could create a look similar to Restoration Hardware. I was wrong. It did not look good. My method of dipping in a small rag into a 1:1 ratio of white paint and water, and wiping it in the direction of the grain until everything looked uniform, yet had streaks, did not achieve the look I had envisioned:
See how bad it looked? I should have kept it as is (as shown on the right)

Even though I wasn't "feeling" the look I was creating, I decided to sacrifice even more of my time going in the wrong direction because, "who knows? It might look better when it's all done?" Dealing with every nook and cranny each of those 9 cubbies had, and the 3 drawers was a WASTE.OF.TIME. 

Ugh, ugh, ugly.

I wondered if maybe others would like the look and buy it anyway. Then my husband and a good friend looked at it separately and both said, "Are you done with it?" That wasn't a good sign. Dang it.

So it sat in my garage for over a month while I worked on this table instead. The whitewash on the top of that table looked good even though I applied it the same way I was applying it on this bookshelf; however, the whitewash on the table was over gray stain, and this whitewash job was over raw wood (that most likely had a thin coat of poly on it). It just looked messy and incomplete.

So I thought, and thought, and researched and researched, and finally I bit the bullet and knew that I couldn't do anything quickly or easily, (other than spray paint it, and I didn't want to lose the wood look and all of the knots, so that wasn't an option). I decided to try a graywash, but to apply it the right way this time.

How to Graywash (properly)


I found some light gray paint I had on hand, and watered it down with a 1:1 ratio. (The whole project took about 1/2 cup of paint--great use for those small leftovers). I have heard 2:1 ratios before, with twice as much water, but I felt like that mixture too watery. 

I got out a paint brush this time, and dipped it in my paint/water creation, wiped off excess on the inside of the cup, and then "painted" one of the many surfaces. I found that immediately wiping off what I had just painted erased everything, (I think this was due to how smooth the wood was, and there is the likely chance there was a thin coat of poly on it from when it was purchased). So to allow the color to set a little better, I did one surface, then painted the next surface, then went back to the prior painted surface and wiped it all off (wipe in the direction of the grain). Then I would paint a new surface and go back to the surface that was painted just prior to that, and wipe it off. I did not go and get a new rag for each wipe down. In fact I used the same rag for at least half of the project. It still seemed to do the trick just fine, so I didn't switch it. Obviously if you find that you aren't getting a smooth, washed off look when wiping with the already used rag, then switch rags. Whitewashing and graywashing is very forgiving, and kind of fun to play around with. 


After a couple hours of in essence re-doing this whole bookshelf, I went inside at the end of the night and crossed my fingers it would look good in the light of day. Fortunately it did. Below is what it looked like close up (along with some text so you can pin this to your Pinterest boards, hehe):






I staged it, took a few of the above pictures, and posted it for sale on a Facebook page that sells to locals. Within 10 minutes I had a line of people begging for it. Dang it. Should have posted it for more than $300 I guess. 

So that is it. I sure with I had done everything right the first time. I do think I would graywash, then do a whitewash over the graywash next time. I think it would give the look even more dimension, and maybe achieve the Restoration Hardware look that is an enigma to me. 


I also am curious about trying liming wax. Have any of you used liming wax before? 

                                          
It seems pricey to me ($22 approx) but it gets this look:

How to use liming wax to give your wood a whitewash finish - full tutorial on prep and application of liming wax:
Photo courtesy of It All Started with Paint
I would love to hear your experiences with liming wax and if it is worth the price. 

Also, have you had great successes with washes? You can make a wash with any color of paint, not just white or gray. Washes look especially good on pieces that aren't smooth like the bookshelf I did, but rather on pieces that are rougher or have intricate details for the paint to accumulate in and accentuate. 


So there you have it. Hopefully you won't be arrogant like me and whitewash or gray wash however the heck you want, thinking you have figured out a lazy way to do something, and still think you can get Resto's beautiful look. However, it's pretty awesome that properly graywashing or whitewashing isn't all that hard either!

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