By Niki VanEch
As the queen of dumpster dives and curbside pick‐ups for the coveted junk piece of furniture, I have been
repurposing furniture for years and, I might add, imposing plenty of risk to my health. My refinishing projects have included scraping off lead-based paints and applying strippers and paints laden with VOCs (volatile organic compounds) with little awareness of the inherent risks to my health and the environment.
Today with the “go green” movement, we are not only more aware of which VOCs pose health risks, but consumer
demand has brought about many paint products with very low levels of these toxins. Perhaps the biggest
breakthroughs for the do-it-yourself (DIY) industry have been the resurgence of natural casein-based paint, or “milk
paint,” and the introduction of natural chalk paint. Not only are they available in gorgeous, trending colors, but they
adhere to many surfaces, including metals, laminates and glass. They dry fast, distress easily and have no odor.
Milk paint is a powdered, non-VOC product that can be traced back to ancient carvings and art. It is safe for
children’s furniture, indoor painting projects and use during pregnancy. Its all-natural ingredients include limestone,
casein (milk protein) and iron oxides for pigments. Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paints is a brand that has brought this
medium to the forefront as a favorite choice for many furniture painters.
Chalk and clay paints, which have taken the DIY industry by storm, are pre‐mixed mineral-based paints. What furniture painting enthusiasts love about them is that the laborious and time-consuming tasks of stripping, sanding and priming are eliminated, as this paint adheres to just about any surface. CeCe Caldwell’s and American Paint Co. are two popular brands that contain no acrylics, fungicides or co‐polymers, and perform to the highest standards.
So whether you are restoring, rejuvenating or reimagining, choose a low-VOC, eco‐friendly paint. Your health demands it, our earth needs it.
Niki VanEch is an interior designer who has been helping clients in the metropolitan D.C. area for more than 20 years. Her home furnishings store, VanEch Studio, is located in Occoquan, Va. Her website is VanEchStudio.com. Like her at facebook.com/VanEchStudio.