Up-Cycling Antique Tin

Anyone who has visited our store in Cornwall knows just how much we love unique pieces— especially when it comes to antiques and one-of-a-kind, up-cycling projects! One of our very favourite items to work with falls into both of these categories:framed green tin .jpg antique tin ceiling tiles!

In the 1800s, most popularly in the 1850s, beautifully patterned tin tiles were often used to adorn the ceilings of old farm houses. These tin tiles served not only as
a decorative element in these homes, adding interesting texture and charm, but also performed the practical function of reflecting heat downwards to more efficiently heat the main levels of these houses. Over the years, as the houses have been renovated or torn down, the tin ceilings have rarely been preserved as part of the house. Tiles are often missing or damaged and the cost to replace or restore them is just too high, especially since a tin ceiling in a new, or newly renovated house would generally be far more decorative than practical.

Luckily, the tin is often salvaged in good enough condition for antique-lovers like us to use it for some of our favourite up-cycling projects! It’s amazing how many different ways we can use these tin tiles to preserve the history of the old homes they came out of, while adding some antique character, charm and visual interest to new houses!

Here are some of our favourite ways to revitalize and showcase antique tin:

  1. Frame it! A single tile in a simple frame can be a work of art all on its own. Depending on the individual tile, we sometimes choose to simply clean and seal the tin to showcase the metal and rust, and other times we paint the tin to add a pop of colour and highlight its pattern.
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The unpainted tin has a chic industrial look, while the painted tin really highlights the ornate pattern in these tiles!
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We love pairing tin with a simple barn wood frame to complement its farmhouse history!
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A larger piece of framed tin can make for an awesome, unique headboard! This works especially well in a tight space where a headboard and footboard might take up too much space in the room. (I love this idea so much that I used it myself!) 


2. Incorporate it into panelled doors! Tin is a great fit for the doors of small cupboards and medicine cabinets— it hides the mess inside the cupboards (which is definitely an important feature in my house!) and adds elements of texture and visual interest that you don’t get with a solid wood panel or mirror.

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Painting the tin the same colour as the rest of the cabinet showcases the intricacies of the tin’s pattern, without making the whole piece look too busy!


3. Frame it up and make a clock! Some tiles feature more simple patterns than others. These pieces can be great for making clocks because the simple pattern doesn’t interfere with the mechanism or clock hands, and allows us to paint the numbers on clearly!

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This tin tile is particularly perfect for making a clock because the flat centre is practical for the clock face, and the patterned border keeps things interesting!

4.  Make a tin crown shelf! The flat tin tiles were often accompanied by beautiful crown moulding; both of these styles are great for making up-cycled tin shelves. We love to showcase heavily patterned tin in pine shelves; the simple design and clean lines of these shelves really features the tin nicely, and makes it the focal point of the piece!

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This shelf is doubly special! The antique tin is housed in an old window frame, which makes the backsplash of the shelf!

5. Use it as a canvas! Antique ceiling tin provides a unique surface to paint on and makes for really interesting artwork; this way not only is your artwork one-of-a-kind, but your canvas is too!

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This painting, by Deirdre Cuggy, features the history of the tin by complementing the original chipped paint on the borders of the tile!

We absolutely LOVE antique tin for its decorative texture, its history, and its versatility. With materials this great, it’s hard not to be inspired! Keep an eye on our store and website for more projects featuring antique tin ceiling tiles.


“Chic” Changes for 2016

At Cottage Blue Home, we have always been a little resistant to the “chalk paint” craze and when people ask us why, the answer is simple: it’s a quick fix.The benefits of chalk paint are supposed to be that it eliminates prep time, has good coverage, and creates a mat finish that doesn’t necessarily require a top coat—and these are all great qualities! But for the purposes of refinishing antiques and new pine furniture to sell, we have always found chalk paint to fall a little short; in our experience, the finish just doesn’t last.

While we do like the look of chalk paint (actually, chalk paint produces a finish quite similar to our own technique), we have never been entirely convinced of its durability. We were so excited to try chalk paint when we first heard of it, but after experimenting with several different brands we were a little disappointed. Most products chipped or were scuffed up after a relatively short period of time, especially on pieces that tend to get a lot of wear and tear (like dressers, for instance). This is why we’ve always told our customers that chalk paint works well if you’re looking for a quick DIY and you want to avoid investing in all of the different products that we use to prep the pieces we refinish, or you don’t have a workshop to house the inevitable mess that comes with sanding and priming. As a business, however, we do everything we can to ensure that any pieces we send home with our customers are durable, and reliably finished. To do this, we thoroughly sand, paint (minimum two coats!), and wax or seal our furniture. This process is described in detail in one of our earlier posts, “Transforming an Antique Buffet.” Cottage Blue has been finishing furniture this way for a long time now and it has always served us well, so it was going to take a pretty amazing product to entice us away from our current, tried and true methods of finishing. But guess what: we found one!

country chic paintRecently, we have found a product that technically is not “chalk paint,” though it shares all the same benefits. “Country Chic Paint” is a Canadian-made, chalk and mineral-based paint that strongly adheres to just about any surface, usually eliminating the need for sanding or priming, and creates a very hard and durable finish. Although seems similar to chalk paint, it is made with an entirely different formula. We have been testing out various paints from Country Chic over the last few months and we couldn’t be happier! The texture of the paint is much easier to work with than most chalk paints, and (even better!) despite lots of scratch tests and rough housing we have found the paint to be very durable when applied correctly! Although this paint creates a nice, hard, mat finish without a top coat, the company also offers various waxes and hard coats to render that finish even more reliable. Furthermore, these top coats allow you to play with the finish of your piece to create all sorts of creative and exciting effects! If all this weren’t enough, Country Chic paint is eco-friendly, with no VOC! We are very pleased to announce that, not only will we be using this product ourselves, but it will be available for sale in-store! Soon we will be carrying a full line of paints, waxes and various other finishing products to help you with your own DIY projects!

Our customers, like ourselves, have always shown a lot of interest refinishing and up-cycling, and many have requested that we teach classes. Unfortunately, holding classes and workshops never seemed feasible with our usual very messy, and very long process of sanding, priming (waiting for the primer to dry), painting (waiting for paint to dry, which, if you haven’t heard, isn’t very exciting), then painting several more coats, sanding again, and eventually waxing and polishing— the workshop would have to be a full three day event! But now, thanks to Country Chic Paint, we’ll be able to cut out a lot of the prep work and use workshops to demonstrate a much shorter finishing process, without compromising the quality of the product. Our workshops will feature a variety of different techniques and products (shelves, boxes, lamps…you name it!) and we are always open to suggestions. If there are any particular techniques, products or pieces you’d like to learn about just let us know and we’ll try to put a workshop together! If you would like us to send you more information directly regarding these workshops, please send us an email at cottagebluehome@hotmail.com.

We will host these workshops right in our
store in Cornwall, in our new work area! We have been busying with renovations this week and have created a work area in the back of the store to display hardware, unfinished pieces, interesting architectural pieces, future projects and, of course, our new line of Country Chic Paint— all of which will be on sale! It also provides with a handy space to work on projects right in the store, and to host work shops were you can learn more about the finishing process yourselves!

As you can tell, 2016 has lots of changes in store for Cottage Blue Home and we just can’t wait!

Transforming an Antique Buffet

Cottage Blue Home has always specialized in up-cycled and refinished antiques. A new finish, whether it is painting out the wood to brighten up a dresser, or darkening a table top to modernize it, makes a HUGE difference in the value and appeal of antique furniture. A piece that may have otherwise only held value for antique dealers, or maybe your grandparents–or their grandparents– can appeal to a whole new generation and style with a little TLC and a lot of hard work; it is very rewarding to give new life and purpose to old pieces that have otherwise been dubbed junky or outdated. Over the last twenty odd years, and countless experiments with various products and techniques, we have developed our own particular methods to produce a lasting finish that can withstand the test of time, and a “look” that has now become synonymous with the Cottage Blue.IMG_1579

In the last few years with the rise of Pinterest and DIY projects, more and more people have shown interest in the process of refinishing, and customers frequently ask us how we achieve our “Cottage Blue look.” It’s so exciting to see so many people sharing in our passion, and we’d love to encourage this so we thought we’d give you a sneak
peek at what we do. This blog post will take you through each step of our process as we refinish this antique buffet.

Step 1: First off, we always start with a plan. Decide how you want your piece to look at the end of the process, and take the appropriate steps to get there. For this project, we want to paint the base of the buffet black and darken the wood top.

Step 2: Now, it’s time to check for repairs. Are all the drawers solid and working well? Do the doors open and close easily? Are the legs sturdy? Are there any dents or holes to be filled? Luckily for us, this buffet was in good shape and we didn’t have many repairs to do. Once you have addressed these issues, you’re ready to start working on the finish of your piece!

Step 3: Next we remove the hardware from the drawers and doors. Usually, we only remove the handles and knobs and leave the doors hinged; it tends to be easier to work on the doors while they’re still attached than it is to grapple with the antique hinges! It’s a good idea to take the drawers out of the piece at this point, so they don’t get stuck once you’ve taken the handles off (it sounds like common sense, but it’s easy to forget these little details that will make your life a lot easier!). At this point, we decide whether or not we want to keep the originals handles and knobs for the piece, or switch them out. In this case, the original knobs and drop pulls on the buffet are quite classic, and will work nicely with the new finish so we have to be very careful not to damage them or lose them while we’re taking them off of the buffet.

Step 4: Finally, it’s time to get messy—start sanding! We want the base of the buffet to be black, so we have to prep it for painting. To do this, we use 120 grit sand paper on the palm sander, and sand the piece until all of the shine from the previous finish is gone. Paint will not stick to gloss, so it is very important that all of the shine is removed or the paint will just peel off. We have to pay special attention to the tricky areas. On this piece, “tricky areas” include the mouldings on the doors, and the turned legs. We often need to sand these areas by hand (without the palm sander) to make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies.

Step 5: Now that we’ve prepped the base for painting, we have to strip the top down to the original wood so that we can stain it a darker colour (we aren’t huge fans of the original red wood!). To do this, we start with 80 grit paper on the belt sander.


This part can be particularly difficult; it is important to hold the belt sander even and level or you will make unwanted dents and grooves in the wood. This requires a fair amount of strength (in terms of your upper body strength as well as your patience!). The 80 grit paper on the belt sander removes most of the red varnish from the top of the piece, but the heavy grit leaves lines in the wood. So we have to follow up with lighter grits until the top is smooth. First with 120 grit on the belt sander to take away any grooves or lines that you made in the first round. Then you follow with 80 grit on the palm sander to smooth the wood, and finally 120 to open the grain of the wood so that it will absorb stain nicely.

Step 6: Stain takes a lot longer to dry than paint does, so we put the stain on next. We chose Jacobean stain to give the dark wood a nice, warm tone (seen below).


First we apply the stain with a brush, evenly with the grain. It’s best to reach from one end to the other in one stroke so that we don’t leave marks in the middle where the brush ran out of stain. Once we have brushed the stain onto the top of the buffet, we take a clean rag and wipe of the excess; if there is too much stain left on the wood it won’t try properly and instead will become gummy and sticky.

Step 7: While the stain dries, we will prime the bottom of the piece. Because we are painting the buffet a dark colour, we will use a primer from Home Hardware that we had tinted a dark grey. The primer ensures that none of the red tones from the wood bleed through the paint, and gives the paint a little extra hold so that we can be 100% sure that it won’t peel or scratch off. We tape off the top of the piece to make sure we don’t get any primer or paint on the top that we just painstakingly sanded down to wood, and then use a brush and small roller to prime the rest of the piece. It is important to use a light touch when priming; any lines we make with the prim
er will show in the paint as well.

Step 8: Once the primer isIMG_1617 completely dry (to be safe, we will give it at least an hour to dry) we can start painting! Using a brush for the edging and details, and a roller to create a smooth finish we will apply Latex eggshell paint to the bottom of the buffet. This will take at least two coats, sometimes three to get a perfectly even finish. We have to keep our eyes open for drips, especially on the turned legs and details of the mouldings, they’re easy to miss but look awful if we don’t catch them and take a long time to sand down once they’ve dried.

Step 9: We have to let the paint dry completely, or it will start to peel before long. Once it has dried, we take 220 grit sand paper and use it to distress the edges of the piece. This means we sand back some of the paint and let the wood show through. This might seem counterproductive, but distressing the edges highlights the intricate details of the piece and gives the buffet a little more character! For this piece we will keep the distressing minimal, we’ll only sand down to wood a little bit on the edges and mouldings where the piece would be most likely to naturally experience wear and tear. This maintains the “antique” look of the piece in a natural way.


Step 10: Once we are satisfied with the look of the distressing, we take 220 grit sand paper and a sanding sponge and lightly sand the whole bottom of the buffet (everything we painted). We want to remove an burrs or bumps in the paint, and make it as smooth to touch as possible. It is very important to sand the entire piece evenly, or it will look patchy when it is finished. Don’t sand too hard; the goal is not to take any more paint off, but rather to make it smooth and even. This will turn the black paint grey, but don’t worry! We then dust the piece off to get ready for waxing.

Step 11: Next we apply furniture wax to the now painted base of the buffet with a clean rag. This buffet is black, so we choose a darker wax to bring a warm tone to the wood that shows through in the distressing. We have to apply the wax very evenly (this is especially important over black paint) or it will come out patchy.


The wax provides a bit of a shine, and protects the paint so we really want it to be evenly coated everywhere. We have to be very careful around the mouldings so as not to leave any unwanted chunks of wax. Not only to those look awful, but they won’t fully dry so your clothes will forever be at risk! The wax hardens as it dries (this will take roughly 30min), then we can polish it. With a clean rag we buff the piece vigorously until we achieve an even shine over the whole piece.

Step 12: By now, hopefully the stain is dry on the top of the buffet (sometimes the piece will have to rest overnight before the stain is completely try to touch). If it is, we can clear coat the top. In this case, we chose use Minwax Polyacrylic clear coat (satin finish) on the top of the buffet for two reasons. Firstly, the top of a buffet is likely to get a lot of use in a dining room or kitchen, and the clear coat creates a hard protective finish. Secondly, it creates more shine than the wax does, producing a more modern look; this helps to update the antique buffet. Alternatively, we could have chosen to wax the top the same way we did with the bottom. With a foam brush, we apply at least three coats even across the top of the piece (letting it dry fully between each coat). We typically have to examine the top from several different angles to make sure that we have evenly coated the entire top, creating a uniform sheen everywhere. Then we take 220 grit sand paper and a sanding sponge and lightly sand the whole top to remove any burrs or imperfections, leaving it smooth, dust it off and carefully apply one last coat of polyacrylic with the foam brush.

Step 13: Now it’s just time for the finishing touches! We reapply all the hardware (being very careful not to chip or scratch the paint, as it takes roughly 30 days for paint to cure entirely), put the drawers back in, and attach closures to the doors.

And for the fourteenth, and final step: Step back, and admire your work!


As you can tell, finishing furniture can be a time consuming and meticulous process; but the results make it worthwhile! This buffet was relatively straight forward to refinish, but each antique is a unique piece, with unique challenges and that’s what makes it fun. It’s amazing what a little TLC and a lot of elbow grease can do!

What We’ve Learned

Last week marked the one year anniversary of Cottage Blue Home opening up at 11 Second St. West in Cornwall, Ontario, and it’s been a crazy year!

Opening up in the Fall meant that we only had about a month and a half to settle in before it was time to get ready for Christmas (the busiest time of the year), so we really had to hit the ground running… and we’ve been running ever since! We had to learn the ins and outs of our new business on the go, and there sure was a lot to learn (in fact there still is!).


To honour our one year anniversary, we thought we’d share with you the top five things that we’ve learned this year:

5) Communication is key. Whether we are deciding on a new colour scheme or layout for the store, placing our first order for Christmas stock or writing a blog post, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. That way everyone is happy with the progression of the business, and we know that we are putting forth our best work and ideas; if one of us alone can produce a good idea, all of us together will produce a great one! Effective communication with customers is also essential to our business; with custom orders being such a big part of what we do it is so important that we have a good understanding of what our customers need.

4) Invest in a good coffee machine. A strong cup of coffee in the morning (and the afternoon, and maybe one or two in between) can make all the difference in your day! It takes a lot of energy to run a business, and sometimes you need a little boost to keep your energy up. You won’t find any decaf here!

3) Change is good; it keeps things interesting and allows you to see things from a new perspective. Sometimes it’s a big change (like opening up a new business), but even smaller changes make a big impact. Even something as simple as moving around a display can make everything look new again. Never be afraid to try something different!

2) There is very little that is more important than a comfortable pair of shoes! A cute pair of ballet flats simply doesn’t cut it in retail when you’re on your feet all day… Let alone when you’re climbing up and down ladders and hauling sideboards around the store! As something of a shoe fanatic, I was stubborn on this point, but after a year of sore feet I finally had to give in. It’ll be sneakers and *gasp* crocs for me from now on!

1) The #1 thing that we have learned this year is that we have the absolute best customers around. We have been so lucky to have received incredible support from our longtime customers, as well as from so many new faces. Our community of ‘regulars’ has quickly grown to include many amazing people from our new community in Cornwall, as well as surrounding areas like Montreal and Ottawa. This year has been a whirlwind—full of ups and downs— but the constant and continuing enthusiasm and support of our customers motivates us to keep a positive attitude and continue to do what we love. Thank you to everyone who has made our first year in Cornwall such a wonderful and exciting one!