On safari, in the nursery wardrobe!

Chalk painted furniture with a safari animal theme

Chalk painted furniture with a safari animal theme has brightened up my recent days! I enjoyed this, pre-Christmas, commission to paint nursery furniture for two baby boys. The client had good quality, but mismatched, furniture that was otherwise ideal for the room. The project was to transform a large stripped wardrobe, a dark wood chest and two side tables, into items suitable for an adventurous nursery!

Stage sets, wall murals and carnival floats aside, this was a new area for me. After a little research, I decided to use chalk paints, and more specifically, Frenchic chalk paints for the project. These are non-toxic, readily available locally and the colour range is exiting. If you are thinking of doing something similar with furniture of your own, my recent experiences with this type of paint may be of interest to you.

‘Frenchic’ for chalk painted furniture

The paint colours used in this project:-

Frenchic Lazy Range
  • Hot as Mustard
  • Creme de la Creme
  • Wolf Whistle
  • Loof
Frenchic Al Fresco Inside / Outdoor Range
  • Ol’ Blue Eyes
  • Hot Lips
  • Constance Moss

Additional items included, Frenchic oval brushes, Frenchic detail brushes, Frenchic Finishing Coat, sandpaper, masking tape, dust sheets, rags, a large flat screwdriver for opening the tins of paint and a hammer for closing them.

What is Frenchic paint?

Frenchic is a chalk and mineral paint with a wax infusion. It is certified child safe (EN 71:3). The paint drys to a lovely matte finish.

Local supplier

I chose a fairly local supplier, My Fab Find. The shop, in Andover, is run by Amanda Parkinson and stocked, or sourced, everything that I required. If you want to try painting something similar yourself, I can recommend My Fab Find, Unit 10 Kenyon’s Yard, 80a Weyhill Road, Andover, Hampshire, UK, SP10 3NP. Phone 07770 365662 to speak to Amanda. 

Beginning with a safari animal theme

Excited about trying the new tins of paint, I first experimented on a small coffee table that I had at home. It quickly became obvious that the paints were easy to use had almost no odour and were quick to dry between coats. I found the detail brushes well-shaped and easy to use, while the oval brushes were fantastic for rapid coverage. When mixing the paints, I stuck to mixing just two or three paints from the same product range together and had no problems.

Since it was particularly large and heavy, I worked on the client’s wardrobe in situ and painted it first. The smaller items I brought back to the studio to paint.

Having washed down the surfaces with sugar soap, I applied a base coat or two of ‘Wolf Whistle’ to each item of furniture. This light grey paint covered well and I knew that it would instantly unify the mismatched group of furniture.

Designing the safari animal decoration for the nursery furniture

The following snaps illustrate the design process. Since Botswana is a particularly popular safari destination, I selected animals found there as subjects for the nursery furniture decoration. Firstly, I made a scale drawing of the key piece of furniture, the wardrobe. Then I played around with lots of cut out photographs of safari animals. I also researched typical African patterns and African fabric designs. Once I had a feel for what was wanted, I made a watercolour sketch of my vision for the wardrobe.

As I designed the furniture, I imagined stories that young children may hear while growing up. Stories about animals who lived in harmony, animals who fought, animals who hunted one another, animals who ran very fast and animals who crept rather slowly. Tales of animals who had difficult youngsters and animals who had easy young, animals who laid eggs, animals who flew and animals who crawled. Tall creatures, tiny creatures, scaled creatures, furry creatures and slimy creatures. I wanted to include them all!

Painting the safari animal wardrobe

The wardrobe was immaculately pre-stripped. These snaps show my initial base coat of Frenchic Lazy Range ‘Wolf Whistle’, grey, and subsequent use of Frenchic Lazy Range ‘Hot as Mustard’, yellow, used to draft out the design onto the wardrobe. Once these stages were dry, I switched to Frenchic Alfresco ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ and began to work up the background shapes.

I continued to build up the design using blue. I immediately noticed a marked difference in the way the Frenchic Lazy Range and the Frenchic Alfresco range paints performed. In order to achieve a similarly flat and opaque surface result, the Frenchic Alfresco Range paints that I used for this project required many more coats of paint than did the Frenchic Lazy Range paints. I also found Frenchic Alfresco Range paints less efficient at self-levelling than were Frenchic Lazy Range paints. As a consequence of the experience, were I to embark on further indoor furniture projects of this type, I would be inclined to stick to the colours available in the Frenchic Lazy Range and to avoid the Frenchic Alfresco Range. Having said that, the fabulous Frenchic Alfresco Range colours were perfect for this project and looked well together!

Next came a green, ‘Constance Moss’, and a lovely red, ‘Hot Lips’. I mixed these two colours together to make a satisfying range of browns.

Various greys were achieved using a rich dark grey, Frenchic Lazy Range, ‘Loof’. This was mixed with the light grey, Frenchic Lazy Range ‘Wolf Whistle’, that I had used as the overall base coat, to create some pale toned greys.

Wardrobe details

Since the chosen curtains have a cream base colour, the tops and backs of all the furniture were painted to match, in Frenchic Lazy Range, ‘Creme de la Creme’. Inside the wardrobe door, the safari theme continues with an Impala, a Crocodile, a Painted Wolf plus various insects and amphibians.

Treasure chest

For the treasure chest, I picked out the existing carved design in ‘African’ colours, while adding wilder beast, buffalo, meerkat, snakes and more to the back and sides of the chest.

Side tables

The side tables feature a simple outline map of Africa and some patterns and colours sampled from suitable traditional fabric designs, that I found illustrated, online.

At one point I was a bit hasty in applying masking tape to a not yet fully dry layer of paint. I needed to sand back and patch in a new layer of paint to repair my mistake but the paints we forgiving and the end effect was seamless. I used paper stencils to make a template for a reasonably accurate map of the continent of Africa.

A short video, showing the finished nursery room.

Once it had been imaginatively styled by the homeowner, the nursery took on personality. Won’t it be a fun space for young zebras, meerkats and Tarzans to grow up in?!

All in all, this was a satisfying project to work on during a nationally difficult time. I may have ‘got-the-bug’, but it’s for nothing more sinister than chalk paint! Future ‘victims’ are currently sitting, unsuspectingly, in corners my own home! Watercolour paint will always be my preferred medium but chalk paint makes a fun change!