Emperors Red or Dead…

Well not really.

I am trying to move some of the older stock out of my store—older is pretty relative seeing as I have only been open for seven months!

I have had these chairs from the beginning.

They are solid oak and have a great shape but nobody has given them a second look.  Actually I did have an elderly lady tell me they were priced too expensively- I did point out nicely that they were priced cheaper than Ikea chairs–I don’t think she believed me.

Anyway- I originally painted them in Versailles.  Nothing.  A few months later I painted the seat in Amsterdam Green.  Still nothing.

Well, this week  I went for it and painted them in Emperors Red thinking that if nobody liked them at least people would notice them!

I had them in the back with one coat on them when somebody came into the store and asked me to put them on hold.  OK!  That was two days ago.  Since then everybody that has come into the store have commented on these chairs!

The lady that has them on hold is from South Africa and she was in the store with her Swedish friend- they both loved them.  I meet a lot of foreign people living in Warsaw- there is an American school close by and my store is in the area where a lot of expats live.  I love meeting new people and we usually discuss design and decor from their part of the world.  The red chairs were no exception.  This bright red is something that is quite Swedish in styling.

In many homes in Sweden everything, floor, walls and furniture are kept very white and then a strong burst of colour is added to contrast. The South African lady has an existing table that is from a slab of natural wood and she wants the chairs to brighten her room and to highlight the table.  Emperors Red will definitely do that!

So…..after I finished the two coats of the red I had a major decision.  Clear or dark wax?  This red is very vibrant.  It is also out of my comfort zone but the deciding factor was the dried paint.  For some reason in some places there were some dark splotches.  I didn’t want to do any distressing on these at all but felt I needed to even out the colour but make them feel aged without removing the paint.

When I was in Oxford at Annie Sloan’s shop taking the paint for stockists course I learned a dark wax finish technique.  This was done on a few of the more vibrant colours to give a wonderful patina.

This is the chair with the paint only.

Basically after painting only dark wax is applied.  A lot is applied to the surface then it is necessary to wait a few minutes while the wax hardens slightly then the excess is wiped off revealed a deeper version of the colour.

This technique was perfect for the chairs.  The spindles were a bit of a pain but the result was well worth it.  The red colour is still vibrant but its colour has been deepened and the grain of the wood is highlighted by the dark wax.

Here is the before and after the dark wax.  You can see how the dark wax has really enriched the red.

You can also see how the dark wax has set into the grooves and grain of the wood giving it an aged patina.


This is a super easy technique- I love the look of the dark wax with the red.  It is also beautiful with Antibes and Provence to give an aged effect but still keep the strength of the colour.

The only downside of doing this is the mess of the wax.  It is necessary to apply quite a lot then wipe off the excess- my hands were covered by the time four chairs were complete…but I think it was well worth it!!


8 thoughts on “Emperors Red or Dead…

  1. Lovely chairs!
    Surgical gloves are the solution – wear them when you wax with dark wax and you can just throw away your dark hands when you´re done. Plus surgical gloves aren´t floppy and baggy and in the way like other gloves can be. You don´t really notice you have them on.
    Best wishes from Sweden.

  2. Natalie

    Help! I painted some chairs just like this. Same color and dark wax only. They have been sitting for about a month… And they still still are rubbing off color and dark wax when I wipe with a towl. What should I do? Should I go back and put a clear coat of wax on top?

    1. I would try a clear coat of wax in a spot like the seat or back, not the whole thing, and see how it does.
      Reds are notoriously difficult to paint with- no matter what brand you are using, because of the pigments. If the clear wax doesn’t work then you may have to paint again–and make sure you shake the can for about 5 minutes to really mix the pigments.

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