What is Milk Paint and why do we use it at Furniture From The Barn?

If you are familiar with our work, you have probably already noticed that we utilize milk paint to finish our furniture. We get questions all the time asking about milk paint, what it is and why we use it.

When I first started working for Furniture From The Barn, helped in the shop with the finishing process of the furniture. Being an art major in college, I was excited to get started showcasing my amazing painting skills… I hoped that my expensive art school degree wouldn’t let me down! Not only was I sure of my talents… I also thought that I had seen it all in terms of painting and supplies. I had been through oil painting classes, water color classes, abstract painting, art history, etc. On my first day, I expected to grab a can of paint off the shelf, pry it open with a screw driver, open up all the doors and windows to avoid fumigating myself and get to work. However, much to my surprise, instead of leading me to a can of paint on a shelf, Kelly guided me to the fridge… yes the refrigerator. She asked if I had ever worked with milk paint before. Puzzled, I declined and asked what is it and why is it in the refrigerator?!

The inside of our refrigerator in the shop.

First of all, if you are like me and never heard of milk paint, you may be surprised to know that milk paint is nothing new, in fact, quite the contrary; it’s the oldest form of paint known to man. I never learned that in my Art History classes! Milk paint is a completely natural product that has been used for tens of thousands of years. Cave drawings and paintings made 8,000 years ago, even as old as 20,000 years ago, were made with a simple composition of milk, lime, and earth pigments. When King Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened in 1924, artifacts including models of boats, people, and furniture found inside the burial chamber had been painted with milk paint.

Milk paint comes in a powder form and before use must be mixed with warm water.

Considering milk paint is a completely natural product and actually made from whole milk, once mixed, it must stay in the refrigerator or it will spoil! One of the reasons we love using milk paint is because it is a natural product that is totally green and environmentally friendly. Milk paint is so natural, you can even drink it… not that I suggest you do that, but in a survival situation, if all you had to drink was milk paint… well, I’m sure you get the idea.

Besides being eco-friendly, milk paint provides a gorgeous, matte finish that allows the natural grain of the wood to show through.

It is perfect for raw wood because it penetrates the wood much like a stain, so you need not worry about it chipping and the finished product is incredibly durable.

Milk paint also behaves differently in comparison to other more modern paints that you may be used to. The paint tends to be watery and sometimes a bit clumpy. The first time I used it, I definitely thought I was doing it all wrong, which was without a doubt a blow to my art school ego. As the paint starts to dry, you will notice that it has a chalky or powdery finish. Don’t worry… it’s supposed to look like this. Once the paint is dry, you will need to grab a sanding sponge and lightly sand the top layer of the paint. Here you can use your creative license and distress your furniture as little or as much as you want.

After my first experience with milk paint, I was instantly a fan. The finished product is always beautiful and different. It will no doubt provide you with an interesting piece of furniture that will not only be a conversation starter but a family heirloom.

Furniture From The Barn is a distributer of Real Milk Paint products so if you are interested in giving it a try, just give us a call!

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