Democratic Chair made by Eric Cannizzaro in Still Water Cove Grey

Windsor chairs capture the imagination of those who appreciate antique furnishings, and even modern replicas can help you add farmhouse flair to your home decor. Brought into popularity by King George II, these staples of everyday life caught his eye when he sheltered from a storm in a peasant’s cottage. Upon returning to his royal abode, he charged his personal furniture maker to create a replica suitable for less humble homes. In turn, people colonizing the Americas brought this popular chair along with them.

As popular in the Americas as they were in England, Windsor chairs emerged in colonial life with a new design. First, the central splat in the original was removed and the spindles and splats took on a more slender form. Early American furniture makers also created the continuous arm that gives Windsor chairs their characteristic airy look and, surprisingly, extra strength. This rounded style has remained popular ever since, with numerous variations on the theme including chairs with various back heights, options that rock and double-seat settees.

Windsor Chairs and Real Milk Paint

Whether you build your own Windsor chairs, purchase an unfinished one from a local artisan, or find one at an estate sale or antique auction, painting a Windsor chair safely with modern paint lets you customize its look for your own home. Real Milk Paint serves as a beautiful substitute for the lead-based paint with verdigris pigment used on the original chairs, providing the same dead flat finish with options for mimicking the original dark green coloration. Also, Real Milk Paint’s thin formulation allows some of the wood grain to shine through to give your finish nuance and complexity. It also imbues extra durability while providing long-wearing color.

Prepping Windsor Chairs for Real Milk Paint

Before painting a Windsor chair, you either need to have an unfinished or stripped surface with which to work. Sand down any areas that appear rough, and use wood filler made of real wood dough in a color close to or slightly dark than the wood to cover any dings or scratches in the surface. Because Real Milk Paint is a water-based medium and moisture raises the wood grain, you want to moisten the chair before you go any further. Once dry, sand away any more rough areas you find with 120-grit sandpaper and scrape away the filler. When these steps are complete, you’re ready to mix your Real Milk Paint.

Mixing Real Milk Paint for Application on Windsor Chairs

One of the main advantages of Real Milk Paint is that it comes in powder form. This means you can mix a little or a lot, depending on your project, and mixed colors last up to two weeks, so you have ample time to complete your projects. To mix Real Milk Paint, combine one part water to one part powdered paint in a wide-mouth jar, put on the lid, and shake it up until all the pigment is dispersed in the water. The contents may be frothy, and there may still be some solids left even after shaking. Let this mixture settle for about 45 minutes, and then mix it well with a paint stirrer or whisk.

Painting a Windsor Chair With Real Milk Paint

Real Milk Paint boasts a water-based formulation that doesn’t flow like oil and latex-based paints, so you need to work it into the wood rather than brush it up and down surfaces. The best application tool for Real Milk Paint is a simple, cheap natural bristle brush, as they tend to hold water-based paint much better than synthetic hairs. For the best results, start by painting the undercarriage, move up to the curves, spindles and arms and then save the seat for last.

The first coat should dry quickly, and it dries even faster if you place your Windsor chair in a covered outdoor space in summer or a heated indoor space in winter. The dead flat finish might make you rethink your design aspirations, but staying the course ensures excellent results. After the first coat dries, rub the whole chair down with a medium pot-scrubbing pad to even out any areas with heavier paint concentration and add a second coat. of Real Milk Paint. When the second coat dries, you’re ready to seal the paint.

Sealing Windsor Chairs After Real Milk Paint Application

Painting a Windsor chair with Real Milk Paint brings out the natural beauty of the piece itself, and sealing it ensures a lasting finish. To achieve a low sheen look, simply coat the entire piece with Clear Soft wax, buff it down with a soft white cloth and let it dry. If you want to eschew chemicals like polyurethane, consider low- or zero-VOC options such as The Real Milk Paint Co.’s water-based Finishing Creams, which come in dead flat, low sheen and gloss options.  For a non-toxic oil finish, consider Real Milk Paints Half & Half. This is half pure tung oil and half natural citrus solvent.  Two coats of oil should leave a matte waterproof finish. 

Learn How To Finish A Windsor Chair From A Master

If you want to learn more about finishing a Windsor chair with milk paint from a master in the craft, check out the Peter Galber’s instructional video here. The author of the esteemed Chairmaker’s Notebook, Peter has a rich and long history of creating Windsor chairs of all designs, colors, and characters. (Please note that this is a paid instructional video as it is produced by Peter Galbert.) 

See What Other Chairmakers Have Created With Real Milk Paint