A slate topper was the finishing touch—it's perfect for jotting down care notes in chalk.
plants and terra cotta planters on repurposed table
Credit: Frank Frances

Living photo director and green thumb Ryan Mesina doesn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but when a neighbor offered him an old walnut sideboard, he admits, "I didn't love the dark wood." Still, he knew the piece had potential, so he teamed up with home editor Lorna Aragon to turn it into a hardworking hub for his growing collections of plants, pots, and gardening books. They replaced the glossy finish with neutral-gray chalk paint, and sealed it with moist unrepelling wax. A custom-cut slate top from a salvage shop (from $40, vermontsalvage.com) further protects against water damage, and Ryan can jot notes on it in chalk. Now his sunroom has storage—and style—in spades. Below, discover their process, so you can restore a similar piece down the road.


If you have a similar piece, start by removing the glossy finish with 80-grit paper, then do another pass with 120-grit paper. Wipe down with a tack cloth after each sanding.


To ready your own sideboard (or another wooden piece) for paint, apply primer to flat surfaces with a foam roller and to edging and pillars with a paintbrush. We used Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water-Base Primer in Gray ($26.98, homedepot.com). Let dry four to six hours.


Apply three coats of Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint in Paris Grey with a foam roller and brush, letting each layer dry four to six hours in between. Two more colors that complement potted greenery are Benjamin Moore HC-166 in Kendall Charcoal and Valspar Signature Satin Interior Paint 5005-4B in Green Peppercorn.


Apply a thin coat—we opted for Annie Sloan's Chalk-Paint Wax in Clear (price dependent upon quantity, anniesloan.com)—using a specialty wax brush (try the brand's iteration (price upon request, anniesloan.com)). Wipe off excess with a clean cloth. Let dry; set slate slab on top.


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