Three the Easy Way

By Jerry Rabushka,

  Filed under: Feature

Easy to use products with great results!

You’ve got customers who just want to “get it over with,” and then you’ve got customers who want to put a bit of individuality into their décor. Or they want to spruce something up, but they don’t think they have the skill. Here are three products that are easy to use, so that the people who want to “get it over with” might see it doesn’t take that much time after all, and the people who enjoy being creative can take their projects one step further.


Chalk it Up! by Art du Coco

Close your eyes. Now, transport yourself to 1870s Ukraine and put yourself on a small farm. It’s a good bet that several readers are a couple of generations removed from just that. You’d make your own bread, wine, clothes…and paint. Natasha du Coco, who created Chalk it Up! based on her family’s original paint recipe, narrates that she grew up in the family home in Ukraine, estimated to be built in those same 1870s. “We were sewing, making wine, taking care of the garden, and mixing paint,” she recalls.

We’ve talked about painting trees before, and on her family farm they painted trees with white chalk paint to help prevent them from insects and sunburn and leafing out too soon. If you listen to her tell her story—which you can if you hear the fascinating introduction on her instructional video, one of her favorite things to do was mix paint, basically a combo of chalk and water.



Farm to Table, Door, and Cabinet

Along with trees, the painting was great for a spring spruce up, and it kept the kids occupied. “It was fun mixing chalk with color and we would put it over the cottage inside and outside,” said du Coco. After a winter of the fireplace sooting up the kitchen, a decorative coat of chalk paint helped brighten the room, and in a larger sense, usher in spring and warmer weather.

It’s this paint, handed down over several generations, that inspired Natasha’s Chalk It Up! concept. Since you’re not going to be going out to the chalk hills in Ukraine and hand mixing product, she’s updated the concept for a more modern audience. “It’s a traditional true authentic paint based on a 150-year-old family formula that we modernized for current users in this market,” she described.

“Chalk it Up! is a true and authentic product developed for decorative and home improvement chalk painting projects,” elaborated Gert Goossens, CEO at Art du Coco™. “We produce a white and dark base to be tinted at the store. It works with any water based tinting system on the market, so the color choices are almost unlimited.”

One thing Natasha insists on is yogurt texture. Her father’s quality control standard was that the chalk paint needed to be like yogurt. With the modern production process, she promises, when you open a can of Paint du Coco yogurt is what you’ll get.



Let’s Start Chalking!

From painting the kitchen, Natasha moved on to other household items. She liked how the paint could transform old ugly furniture into something really amazing. What started as a hobby turned into a career, but she was still nostalgic for the days of chalking the kitchen. “I always thought I would need some kind of product that would give me that feeling of when I was a child,” she said in her introductory video. “That’s basically how Paint du Coco was born.” What she promises from here is an easy to use product with great results. “The process is natural and pleasant and it’s not a torture anymore,” she said, noting some frustration she’s had with other finishes. “You enjoy the whole thing and the result is the most beautiful you can achieve.”

“Chalk it Up! is based on our Paint du Coco line and contains true chalk, is pleasantly scented, and due to its unique formula and features, is very easy to use for the best results,” Goossens continues. “Our users range from DIY to professionals and they are able to achieve an unmatched result using our products and techniques. Our biggest recognition of the quality of the line was that ALLPRO selected us to become an approved vendor in 2013.”

Art du Coco has several tools to share product knowledge. “We have developed a full circle workshop program that will help beginners up to professionals to work with our products,” said Goossens. “Natasha has also created an instructional DVD and how-to videos for the Art du Coco YouTube channel, and she’s working hard to add more so consumers can learn for free.”




Restor-A-Finish by Howard Products

It’s grand, baby! Back in the day when if people wanted music they had to make it themselves, the U.S. was home to a huge piano industry. And they made some huge pianos! My [Jerry, the editor] baby grand pictured here isn’t huge, clocking in at just under five feet across. It was discovered, covered in dust and horribly out of tune, in a warehouse by my next door neighbor who was there on a sales call. and offered it to my neighbor, who after a few months thought it would look (and sound) better at my place. For $200, a piano moving company rolled it down one flight of steps, across 30 feet of sidewalk and up another flight. When you’re talking three men moving 550 pounds, it’s worth every penny.

100 years of wear, tear and “I don’t care” didn’t do wonders for the finish which as you can see in the photos (left), is totally worn off in some places and scratched up in others. In the best of all worlds, it probably could use a good stripping and re-staining, but as you know, many of your customers have neither the patience to do it themselves nor the budget to hire someone else. But what if they could bring it back to life in just a few minutes?


This is the perfect time to show them Howard’s Restor-A-Finish, which gave the piano a great new look! We used Ebony Brown, the darkest color, but there are nine hues to pick from. It’s important to test a small area first and see how the color matches up with the finish. It’s easy to use: put some on a rag or other applicator and gently wipe it on. (You can use steel wool for a more problematic finish.)

Scott Joplin is famous for his piano rags, and in tribute, I took the opportunity to use some PFC (precision fiber cloth) rags from Intex DIY. They’re made in the USA (as are Howard Products), they are packed by number instead of weight, plus each rag is consistent as far as material and size. They’re also lint free and solvent resistant. I used a few rags through the project (I’m kind of messy), so it was good to know each one was the same so I could get as even a finish as I know how to do.



Start on the Finish

As I mentioned, the finish was in a pretty bad state, but the Restor-A-Finish performed expertly and the piano looks tons better.

But we’re not done yet—who needs to be done when one more step will make it even better! Howard’s Feed-N-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner is designed to go over your restored finish to protect and give it a bit of a sheen. “Our original blend of beeswax, carnauba wax, mineral oil and orange oil is the perfect product to enhance the natural beauty and depth of grain in all woods, finished and unfinished. Feed-N-Wax was developed as the perfect follow-up to Restor-A-Finish for maintaining the newly restored finish,” says the company description.

You’re not supposed to put polyurethane over Restor-A-Finish, so this wax is a gentle way to “feed” your wood and help keep it from drying out. Another product, Butcher Block Conditioner, does the same for food-prep surfaces. If anyone eats on the piano…I’ll play wrong notes until they stop.

Again, it’s easy to use, so again I popped out another of my Intex PFC rags, and guess what? It was the same size, shape, and consistency as the last rags I used. Since they’re packed by number, you know you won’t accidentally run out if you keep count. Plus I knew they wouldn’t leave old t-shirt colors or lint on the piano, they’d just apply the product I wanted to apply.

Put a small amount of Feed-N-Wax on the rag, wipe it over your finish, and then 20 minutes later come back with a dry rag and buff it out. It’s easy! (Seriously, it’s easy.) It made a big difference, as you can see from the photo above, the piano looks…well…grand! It’s a significant improvement over what was there before.


Lifestyle Finishes by Golden Paintworks

Roundabout last January we featured an easy spray-painting project from Ohio-based artist Ryan Humphrey. We were happy to work with him, and apparently he was happy with us as well because he offered to do another project, this time to showcase Golden Artist’s Adobe Texture, a product in the company’s Lifestyle Finishes line. He’s had experience with Golden Artist before, so he was excited to demo it for our national audience, and as with all these products, to show how to get great results even if you’re not as talented an artist as Ryan. “It’s really easy to use,” he assured us. “It’s durable and dries quickly.”

There was still some space in his house that hadn’t yet been decorated, so he did a little communing with his stairway and with the product itself. Listen to a product, and it will tell you what it wants to do. “After a few tests, the Golden Artist Adobe seemed to call out: make a birch tree,” he said. “I did a few sketches and went to work with a white pencil and straight edge on a wall that was already painted grey. I was thinking of making a very contemporary landscape, part [contemporary artists] Charley Harper and part Alex Katz.”

This type of project will take a little setup, but a weekend  warrior can put on some tunes, grab a roll of tape, then echo with the deco and flow with the faux. Folks who are less design oriented can try something simpler.



Blue, Then Gold

“I used blue tape and a Golden Pro product called Matte Medium to seal the edges of the tape,” said Humphrey. Golden Pro Finishes Additives, Glazes and Mediums are a collection of tintable waterborne products, including a matting additive, three long open time glazing mediums of different viscosities, and two clear cracking products. The company’s Lifestyle Finishes line is a group of decorative finishing applications which offers products ranging from classy metallic colors to versatile textures. “All of these products are ready to use, or can be the starting point for a wide range of decorative finishes,” says the company.

“After doing the birch branch tips and stripes in dark blue, I began applying the Adobe with a spackling knife. I immediately pulled the tape off while it was still wet,” Ryan continued. That’s important, as too many of your customers may still think they need to wait for paint to dry before they peel it off.

As the name Adobe implies, this product gives you a feel for the sun-baked southwest. “Capturing the essence of one of the world’s oldest building materials, this earthy, natural-looking texture has the appearance of sun-bleached traditional adobe dwellings,” runs the product description. “Tint or glaze to a range of shades, from the reds of Southwest adobe to the browns of the Middle East.” Along with Adobe, the line includes Venetian Plaster, SoapStone, Fresco, Metallic, and more.


Take it or Leaf It

Ryan wasn’t done there—what’s a tree without leaves? The next step is something the whole family can help with! “That evening I cut up some abstract leaf shapes out of paper and taped them to the wall to figure out the composition, then I traced them,” he said. “The step after that was to use clear contact paper and lots of knife blades to cut out the leaf shapes and again seal the edges with Matte Medium to prevent the paint from bleeding.” Being an artist, he had some leftover paint in just the right color, so he used that to fill in the leaves. Then a cardinal flew in and settled on a branch to finish it off.

Show your customers some of the photos in this article and perhaps they’ll jog into some easy projects of their own. After that, they might get around to painting the house. It’s our goal to keep them coming back to you.

A big thank you to Ryan Humphrey for taking time & photos for this article—we appreciate ya!