There are few things that remind me more of autumn than chalkboards. Fall to me is made up of cable knit sweaters, fresh pencils, brown leather boots and a freshly washed chalkboard. It is not as though I am nearing one hundred years of age, but back when I was in elementary school, a classroom was made up of desks and a central chalkboard where the teacher wrote lessons. If we had a particularly cool teacher, he or she may even use colored chalk. And while I realize that today chalkboards in the classroom have been replaced with IPads and projector screens, I think there’s still room in our heart for the lure of the chalkboard—hence its growth in popularity over the past few years.

Maybe what appeals to me most about a chalkboard surface is that it can provide a witness for some of the most brilliant writing or sentence structures, lists or mathematical equations, yet they are all—like our thoughts and the moments that we live in—completely fleeting. There’s a sort of poetic beauty in the impermanence of a tome written on a chalkboard, like a private message or a snapshot that we see once, only to come alive again in our memory.

Of course, not everything chalkboard must be made of Oscar Wilde wit, sometimes a chalkboard is just a great place to write a list, to keep score or to absentmindedly doodle. That’s why I think every ‘home’ needs a chalkboard, a place to write the transient thoughts that might inspire your life’s work, or remind you that you’re out of milk.

This is what makes chalkboard paint so versatile and useful. I’ve seen people paint walls, globes, refrigerators, cheese plates and dining tables. My personal favorite item to paint with chalkboard paint, however, is the surface of a coffee table. Use it to list off movies and authors, make a schedule, to keep score of your favorite games, identify appetizers at a gathering or just to doodle aimlessly. Purchase colored chalk to create unique designs, and when you tire of them, simply wipe them away and create something new. I also believe that using a thrift store coffee table provides the absolute best medium for a chalkboard coffee table: you won’t be afraid to paint it or even switch up the colors to your liking, and you can find a totally unique piece.

What You Need:

  • Thrift Store Coffee Table
  • Sandpaper, Medium and Fine
  • Latex Paint
  • Chalkboard Paint
  • Two Paint Rollers Designed For Cabinets
  • Chalk

The Hunt: Look for a coffee table with an uninterrupted wood (or similar material) surface. While the surface of the table should be flat, I always look for thrift store furniture that has interesting details. I found this piece at a flea market in Virginia and loved the ornate legs and the fact that it was crafted of solid wood. Total cost: $30.00

Sand: I always recommend sanding, even lightly, any piece you’re going to paint. This allows better adhesion for the paint and since most thrift store pieces have imperfections, allows you to buff out and scratches where paint may pool. Also, sanding the piece will remove any varnish that might work against he paint. Unless there are major imperfections or dents, a medium and fine sandpaper will be sufficient.

Paint: This is an optional step. I choose to do my piece in two different colors, painting the legs of the piece one color and just using chalkboard paint on the surface. If you would also like to use another color, I recommend any paint plus primer latex paint to save time. You can also do a coat of primer, like Zinsser, and a coat of paint. I prefer to use small cabinet rollers to paint furniture because it provides a smooth, brush stroke free look. If the painted surface and the chalkboard surface meet, wait at least 10 hours, or until the paint is dry, to paint the chalkboard surface.

Chalkboard Paint: Chalkboard paint is as easy to use as regular paint. Just as above, I used a cabinet roller to paint the surface of the coffee table. Unlike regular paint, however, it is recommended to use at least three or four coats of chalkboard paint. Once you are finished, let it dry two or three days before the next step.

Rub Surface: Before you write on the chalkboard surface, rub a piece of chalk across the surface to provide a chalky base coat.

The Grand Reveal: There are limitless ways to use your new chalkboard table! Have a game night. Stay in. Write love notes to yourself. Or someone else…What will you write?