Carrie Thachuk has a passion for paint. The evidence is everywhere inside her downtown Langley City store.
Step into The Passionate Home, and you enter a maze of bed frames and bureaus, tables and chairs — all of it repurposed furniture, all of it painted and most of it distressed to give that much desired ‘shabby chic’ look.
What’s unusual, is that many of these “reclaimed and restyled” pieces have been refinished in a unique type of paint — one that draws customers from all across the Lower Mainland and the B.C. Interior to Thachuk’s little store in McBurney Plaza.
Thachuk’s is one of only five businesses in B.C. where Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint is sold.
In fact, the Langley merchant was the first ‘stockist’ north of the Canada-U.S. border and west of Ontario to carry the product.
And she has made the most of the opportunity by creating a prominent display on a large expanse of wall near the back of her store.
Next to a set of shelves stacked high with the small paint cans, wrapped in plain black and with labels, is a palette of the 30 available shades, laid out in uniform blocks.
But really, the colour options are infinite, depending on how you choose to mix them, notes Thachuk.
Created in England and introduced in 1990 by Sloan — a well known artist, designer and author of 23 design books— Chalk Paint has, in the last few years, gained a reputation as something of a wonder product, said Thachuk.
The paint is so named because it dries in a velvety matte finish, which can then be waxed to a subtle sheen
There is, in fact, no chalk in it, though Sloan isn’t likely to tell you what it does contain, other than the fact that it is organic and non-toxic.
It is also odourless and adheres to pretty much any surface you’d care to cover — including wood, metal, plastic, glass and fabric — with minimal preparation.
Until Thachuk began using the chalk paint, restoring furniture was a time-consuming, labour-intensive litany of prep work, painting, sanding and waxing.
But a visit to an outdoor market in Seattle a few years ago, changed that whole process.
While she was there, Thachuk watched a Chalk Paint demonstration.
“I had read about it and I was excited to see it in practise,” she said.
A few inquiries and conversations later, Thachuk was offered the opportunity become the first merchant in Western Canada to stock the paint.
“I said I have to take it home and try it, first,” she recalled.
From the first brush strokes, Thachuk said, it was evident the paint was something special.
Since that day, each time she pops the top off a can, she discovers new applications and techniques for the paint.
“Every time I do it, it’s like another ‘aha’ moment,” she said.
The same appears to be the case for her customers, Thachuk added.
“There’s not enough time in the day to try everything people are discovering.”
But if the goal is ease, as opposed to exploration, the paint offers that, too.
Thachuk finished an old buffet — one that had come in to her store painted to a high sheen — with a single coat of chalk paint and one coat of wax.
“It’s more than a can of paint. There are so many possibilities — that’s why we give workshops,” she said.
Those seminars, offered monthly, are consistently booked up well in advance.
“It’s changing not only customers’ lives, but business owners’, too,” she said.
To stock a product that people will travel long distances to find, is every merchant’s dream.
In a tough economy it has allowed her to not only survive, but grow her business, she said.
“I’m so lucky to have her paint. It’s bringing people to Langley who’ve never been here,” said Thachuk.
Sloan has been making Chalk Paint and selling it in the UK and parts of Europe for more than 20 years but, according to the designer, it’s only since the advent of social media — Facebook and Pinterest — that the product has taken off in North America.
Blogs have played an enormous role in her success, as well.
People believe blogs, said Sloan — speaking over the phone from a Toronto hotel room last week — because it’s a friend’s sister who is saying ‘this is good paint,’ not a paid advertisement.
Chalk paint is now manufactured in the U.S. as well as in London but with the Internet-fueled spike in demand both factories have been hard-pressed to keep up.
At the same time, it’s not like they are trying to stock major big box retailers. Sloan has no interest in those.
Shops don’t have to be pretty or quaint to sell Sloan’s paint (though it helps, she chuckled), they just have to be small, locally owned ventures.
“I believe strongly in small local shops — that’s how I see myself,” she said.
“I started out selling in small local shops. They think it’s the bees knees.
“They get really keen on it … and they’re much more helpful to their customers.
“Carrie is going to say, ‘You can do this and that.’ She’s well trained and knowledgeable.”
As to why people seem to be embracing her invention, Sloan agrees with Thachuk that it is due in large part to the convenience.
“The first thing that captivates them is they don’t have to prime, they don’t have to sand. They can just get painting,” said Sloan.
“You can put all your attention into being creative and you can get a project done in a day, a half a day or a couple of hours.”
Annie Sloan will be at the Vancouver Home & Design Show at B.C. Place, Oct. 19 and 20. She will refinish a couple of pieces of furniture and sign copies of her latest book, Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More.
The home show runs from Oct. 17-20. Admission is $15 for adults; $12 if tickets are purchased online. For complete admission pricing and other information, go to vancouverhomeanddesignshow.com.
The Passionate Home is located at 20506 Fraser Hwy. Call 604-532-5931 to register for a Chalk Paint workshop.