Birds Gotta Fly: Refinish that Old Dresser

By+Kathy Jonas

Photography by Jim Brow

You know it’s there. That dusty piece of furniture in the basement or spare room that has been sitting there for more years than you want to recall, waiting for a miraculous rejuvenation. It’s never happened, has it? All the old sewing machines, end tables, dressers and side chairs could fill countless warehouses and the signs on the front of the buildings would read: “Some Day.”

The advent of new paint products eliminating the need for stripping, harsh chemicals, sanding and other labor intensive, unpleasant tasks have created a resurgence in the art of restoration and it plays well in a world that is more concerned than ever with recycling and repurposing things. Plus, your aunt’s 50s-style coffee table probably is made better than most furniture sold online.

“I remember my Mom with a scraper and turpentine,” says Pam Hoffer, co-owner with her husband, Mark, of Birds Gotta Fly in Elkhart. “Now it’s a totally different world.”

Birds Gotta Fly, located at 916 N. Michigan St., Elkhart, recently taught a class using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® Decorative Paint by Annie Sloan, a product developed in England by artist and author Sloan back in 1990. Considered a color and paint expert, Sloan wanted to create something that was organic, odorless, covers a large area, and dries quickly. It also can go on about any surface – old and new wood, metal, plastic, cement, bricks, you name it.

During the workshop, different techniques and colors were applied by participants, who received small pieces of trim to paint with European-inspired colors like Duck Egg Blue, Emperor’s Silk, Arles, Paris Grey and French Linen. 

Hoffer opened her shop in an old warehouse a little more than two years ago to sell vintage furniture and gifts, and to help people get in touch with their creative side. “It’s highly addictive,” she warns. “Once you do one piece, you do more.”

She also advises people to avoid some of the lesser quality products on the market, which she said will not work in the same manner as the Annie Sloan product. Possible problems include odors, difficulty achieving a distressed look, and waxes that don’t seal and protect. 

Rosemary Barnes, a class member, said she is hooked on Annie Sloan chalk paint. “It’s much easier to use than acrylic painting techniques I’ve used for decorative painting in the past. There’s no sealing and no sweating the varnishing. We just have to figure out how best to use it for the design elements. It opens a whole new world.”

Barnes has several projects in mind: an old magazine rack, a small sewing table, adding legs to a plain square box and refurbishing an ice cream chair.

For more information, go to Birds Gotta Fly Vintage on Facebook. The shop is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call, 574-333-3104.