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Last month my mother and I met in England to celebrate a very special birthday. Although I spent the plane ride over brushing up on must-see cultural landmarks, it turned out my efforts were in vain. Upon arrival, we quickly realized we simply could not do it all. So, we streamlined our goals, beelining past galleries, museums and cathedrals, and instead focused exclusively on touring stately homes. Sounds reasonable, right?

Anyway, this blog isn't about my visit to Chatsworth or Castle Howard (Brideshead fans, anyone?) but rather the telling of a serendipitous discovery that, for me, has opened up the world of DIY decorating.

While we were shopping in Tetbury, a quaint town in the Cotswolds famous for its many charming antique furniture and garden stores (including Highgrove, the Prince of Wales' own gorgeous garden shop) I stumbled upon a store owner repainting a great harvest table. She was just slapping the paint on without any discernible technique, and it just looked, well, way too easy. The finish looks similar to a distressed milk paint but believe me, requires no where near the same effort.

The magic paint I'm referring to is chalk-based and made by British decorator and author Annie Sloan, and although it may not be new to some veteran DIYers, it's new to me. Inspired that this could be a life-altering product, I jammed a can in my suitcase and started dreaming about all the things that could use a coat.

Although the paint did leak in flight and ruin a new pair of jeans (a small price to pay for such a miraculous discovery) most of it was salvageable and I was able to transform a plain dresser — in no time at all — into one that befits the quaintest of English cottages.

Here's the deal: No sanding or priming is required, simply apply two coats of paint to your piece of furniture (or mouldings, or walls, or floors — the possibilities are endless), buff it up a bit with sandpaper and finish with a coat of paste wax. You don't need to be an artist to make the distressing look authentic; somehow it just comes out looking rustic chic every time. Like I said — a miracle product.

Here is the dresser before I painted it.

Et voila, the painted dresser looking right at home at my parents' cottage. The colour I used is called Old White, but there are actually 26 colours to choose from!

Oh, and the final aha moment of the story: when I got back to the office, there was a press release in my inbox from The Passionate Home in Langley, B.C., announcing that they are now carrying Annie Sloan paint. How fortuitous!

There are three other Canadian retailers that sell the paint, too.

For more easy DIY ideas, try this Veneer Dresser or Decoupage Dresser.

Photo credits:
1. The Passionate Home
2. Dufresne
3. Beth Edwards
4. Annie Sloan

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