So I recently had a client ask me to build her family a table. They chose one of my most popular styles, the X- picnic style. Her biggest concern was that I would be able to match the finish on her recently purchased Pottery Barn chairs in weathered gray. "Of coarse I can do that" I replied. Which also means "I've never done that but I'll give it a whirl." so I crossed my fingers and headed to Home Depot.
In the past, I have done quite a few finishes that were meant to match a RH or PB color and up to this point all have been a smashing success. This one, however was a bit more complicated. In all the other cases, the peices have just been in the general vicinity of the piece that I was finishing. This time the chairs were going to be tucked in at the table...like literally touching. Which meant it had to be pretty much perfect.
On the flip side, because my client already had the chairs, I had a real life sample instead of some picture from etsy or worse the dreaded color description "um, I'm thinking of a stain with some blue grey tones...but warm...but not beachy...actually maybe I just want it painted". Anyways, back to business. The PB chairs appear to be stained.
After taking that chair bottom to Home depot and having them match the paint color this is what we came up w/.
Take a screen shot and crop it. When your ready to give this a try they can just scan it at the paint counter. Make sure you get a flat finish. While you are there, here are the other things you might want to pick up.
The 1st thing your going to want to do is make your paint into a kind of chalk paint so that it absorbs the stain. *add 2 table spoons of plaster to some warm water and mix it into a sample size of paint. Make sure you add enough water. You want it to be a bit runny.
Then your going to get your furniture or piece of wood, or whatever your finishing and paint it with your home made chalk paint. Pieces with heavy grain and texture tend to work better for this technique. Your going to want a decent coat. Let that dry. It wont take long because of the plaster. When its good and dry, get out your sand paper and sand in the direction of the grain. The goal is to sand off enough paint that the texture of the grain starts to come through. It should look like this when your done w/ this step.
Ok, So now is when the magic happens. Get your stain (minwax dark walnut), your sponge brush and your rags. Brush the stain on with the sponge brush. Leave it on for about a minute. Now get your rag and wipe it off in the direction of the grain. Work in small sections because the stain will dry fast. For example, when I'm doing a table top I do one 8" wide plank at a time and then wipe it off before I start the next. Try to do one non stop wipe. It will make the end result look more even.Your going to need to repeat the staining process atleast twice, possible more if you want a deeper color. This is what your wood should look like somewhere between your 1st and 2nd coat. Don't mind the smudge of lizard poop on there, I guess that's just the risk you take when you work in an open garage.
Because the stain is over the paint instead of bare wood, it is going to take longer to dry. Do not try to start another coat if the coat is still tacky. I cannot say this enough! If you do, one of two things will happen. The new coat will take off the previous coat or it will just keep caking on and not ever completely cure. If you have waited more then 24 hours and it still feels tacky, soak a clean rag in mineral spirits and wipe the piece down.
When you have gotten to the color that you want and it has dried, take some of that 220 sand paper and start lightly sanding it in the direction of the grain. Don't be stingy with the sand paper. If it starts to gum up, trade it out for a new piece.
Once its smooth to the touch, you can either stop here and varnish with the Varathane matte or you can go one step further and add the Rust-oleum Grain Enhancer. This part is totally optional and honestly if your wood doesn't have a lot of texture your probably wasting your time. I chose to compromise and do a little of this step here and there on my table. If your going to skip it you can just skip down to the next paragraph. If not then stick w/ me for a minute. You will need to mix this can up really well and pretty often...not just shake it, get a mixing stick and mix it from the bottom. When its good and mixed dip a corner of your rag in and rub it against the grain (yes I said against the grain). try to push it into any grain and texture you have. Then take the other end of the rag and wipe of the excess in the direction in of the grain. Now just let that dry and your ready for your varnish.
I'm not going to go into the steps of varnishing because it's already on the can. Just wipe it down and your ready to varnish with the Varathane matte. I like to put atleast 5 coats if its a table top but if not, 3 is usually plenty. Here is a couple of pics of the chair top next to the table. If you have any questions feel free to email me.
** update ** if you are doing this for a client or to sell commercially, make sure the client is aware of the amount of time this takes. Doing this on a large piece of furniture is time consuming and takes more time to dry than staining directly on wood. In addition to letting your client know that this takes longer, make sure you account for your time financially. This is not a single process finish! Its not only time consuming but you will use twice as much consumables (rags, stain, sand paper etc) as you would on a normal finishing job.