Friday, April 4, 2014

Refinished Thrift Store Mirrors... for Under $6!

Refinished Mirrors

If you've ever moved, you know that unpacking and settling in to your new home can be a long process. A really long process. Boxes sit unpacked for months... and years. You forget you even have boxes that are still unpacked! It also takes a long time to get a "feel" for the space and decorate it to your family's tastes. We've been in our house for about a year and a half, and many of the walls are still blank.

The hubby and I have decided we want to decorate with things that have meaning to us and are unique, rather than just put "stock art" up on the walls just to fill the space and match the decor. We have purchased pieces from local artists which we LOVE.  We get so much joy from the pieces every time we look at them.

But, we have a limited artwork budget, so that means filling other spaces with DIY pieces that are cheap but still unique and special. I've been wanting to try "distressing" and "antiquing" painting techniques on furniture but figured it would be better to start small to learn how to do it.

While my hubby was shopping for shirts at Goodwill, I was digging through the bin of pictures and picture frames looking for fun and distinct frames. To my surprise, I found two mirrors with solid wood frames. They were different styles and finishes, but it wouldn't matter since I would be painting them.

I got the two frames for $2 each-- $4 total.
Thrift store mirrors
Two mirrors from Goodwill for $2 each!
Steps I followed to refinish these frames:
1. Remove the mirrors from the frames.
Be careful as the edges might be sharp. I think the previous owner of one mirror cut it to size, so it gave me a slight cut on my thumb.  Ouch!

2. Lightly sand the frames with 220 grit sandpaper.
A fine grit will help remove the glossy finish and any gunk that has built up on the wood.  A heavier grit will start to change the shape of the wood, so be careful. You don't need to sand much.

3. Wipe and clean frame with water and gentle dish soap to remove remaining grime. Let dry.
This wipes away the dust left from sanding and cleans the wood so the paint will adhere.
Prepare the wood frame for paint.
Prepare the wood for paint- remove mirror, lightly sand, wipe clean, let dry.
4. Choose the paint.
This step took me some time, as I wasn't quite sure which colors I was going to use nor which technique I was going to try. I purchased some acrylic paint in Tuscan Red ($0.49) and metallic acrylic paint in Pure Gold ($1.29). I already had some antiquing medium and paint brushes on hand.

To choose the color, I trialed the colors on the back of the frames:
Trial paint colors on back of frame
Trialing Tuscan Red, Pure Gold, and Antiquing Medium on the back of the frame.
5. Choose the technique.
I first trialed one technique with the antiquing medium.  With antiquing medium, you paint your base color, let it dry, then put a light coat of the antiquing medium over the top. Then you wipe the excess off, leaving behind just a light layer that gives the paint an older look.
Antiquing medium
Antiquing medium
It wasn't the look I was wanting. So, I tried the distressing technique of painting one color of paint on the edges and prominent parts of the frames with the intent to paint the second color over the top, then sanding away the second coat for the first coat to show through. I decided to make the Tuscan Red the base coat and the Pure Gold the top coat. I went ahead and started on the front of the frame, knowing I could sand it off and repaint it if I messed up.
Attempting distressing
Painting the red on the edges, painting the gold over top, with intent to sand away the gold for the red to show through on edges.
It was immediately clear that this technique wouldn't work as I hoped, because the gold didn't cover the wood very well.  I wanted the wood to be completely covered, and it was going to take several coats of gold to hide it.

So, I ultimately went with an antiquing technique that is reminiscent of gold leaf with its iridescent shine over a base color. I painted the entire frame with the red.
Base color
Paint the frames a base color and let dry.
Once the red paint had dried, I painted a light coat of the gold over the top, working in sections of one side of the frame at a time. I painted on the gold, then wiped it off with a paper towel.  It left a gold sheen behind, but the red still peeked through.
Top color painted on and wiped off
Work on one side at a time. Paint on the gold and wipe off with paper towel.
Here are the steps broken down a little more:

Start with the dried base coat.
Tuscan Red Base Coat
Dried base coat.
Paint on the top coat.
Pure Gold Top Coat
Paint on top color.
Wipe off the excess paint.
Wipe Paint Off
Wipe off excess top color.
And that's it!

Once it dried, I added a second layer of gold in places to make it really shine. Same technique- paint, wipe.

6. Clean and replace the glass mirror.
The finished product-
Refinished Thrift Store Mirrors
You can't see the red peaking through in this pic, but it adds depth to the gold.

On the wall-
Refinished Thrift Store Mirrors
Looks great with our runner carpet. I have more ideas for the space... future posts!
Total cost for this project: 
Frames- $2 each
Paint- $1.78
Total= $5.78

Two mirrors that match our space for under $6, plus a good learning experience in the techniques of distressing and antiquing!

Things I learned doing this project:
1. Lightly sand wood to remove any glossy finish.  It doesn't require a lot of sanding, but it does help the paint adhere when the gloss is removed.
2. Test paint on the back of the frame. It's one thing to picture it in your head and another thing to actually see the paint on the wood.  Adjust your plan accordingly!
3. Make sure the paint is completely dry before applying another coat!  I got a little ahead of myself and slapped on some gold paint before the red was completely dry.  It smeared... lesson learned!
Let paint dry before second coat
Oops!  Let the paint dry before applying the next coat.  Patience, Mama, patience!
4. Paint may not behave like you think it will, so be prepared to adjust!  You can always sand and paint over.  Do-overs are always allowed!

Now that I feel more comfortable with the technique, I'm hoping to try out bigger projects... like furniture.  If I get brave enough...

~Mulligan Mama

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