Thursday, November 10, 2011


A few weeks ago, I decided to paint the kitchen ceiling. I spent an entire day scrubbing the original wood, then busied myself with painting the first coat. Next I applied the second. I let that dry for an hour or so, and then I applied the third. And then it occurred to me that I hadn't quite achieved the new construction look. The beautiful boards looked much better than before their makeover, of course, but they still seemed to be missing something. There was a mysterious brownish-red color that was seeping through the paint, and I suddenly realized that I had not applied primer before painting. The old wood stain, or perhaps old kitchen grease, was bleeding through the new paint. It wasn't the look I had been going for, but there was something charming about the effect. It almost looked like the ceiling had been painted long ago, which would be completely plausable in such an old home. So after much thought, I decided to help the ceiling fully achieve the "I was painted one hundred years ago" look. Over the course of the following week, I did a little internet research on aging techniques and came across the theory of the tea-stain. And after looking at a few dozen examples on the internet, I decided to go for the gusto.

On the morning of the great tea-staining event, I boiled water in a kettle, poured it over tea bags and made a very thick, blackish-brownish-redish-colored soup. Hubby, kiddos and I loaded up in the mini-van (hey-- don't judge me-- they're really handy) and we headed out for SUGAR CREEK with my pitcher of soupy tea in the front floorboard. Hubby unlocked the house, and I carried the tea-soup into the kitchen. I climbed my trusty ladder with the warm bucket of tea (that had begun to look like a mixture of slop and burnt Coca-Cola) in hand and then followed the internet instructions. I lightly squeezed the excess moisture out of the tea bags, then began to "paint" the ceiling with the blackish-brownish-redish-colored soup, using a tea bag as my paintbrush. The effect was absolutely PERFECT. The beautiful colors of nature appeared, and Mr. Lipton himself couldn't have been prouder. There were golden golds and coppery browns, shimmering yellowish-reds and a hint of goldish-beige from the coat of paint I had applied the week before. The tea-stain was the most beautiful painting technique I had ever attempted, and I was incredibly proud of my accomplishment. Here's a photo of the tea-stain, but make sure to read the remainder of this posting-- because unfortunately for me, there is more to this story.

A section of the kitchen ceiling that had been tea-stained. The golden tea-stain was absolutely beautiful.

It took me almost an hour to apply three coats of the tea-stain, and in the moments after I finished my hubby called from another room and begged me to help him with his window-restoration project. I quickly found myself up to my eyeballs in paint thinner, putty, and glass window panes, and I completely forgot about the tea-stain until a few hours later. "I'll be back in a sec," I said to hubby when I remembered the kitchen-ceiling project, and I ran into the kitchen with a smile on my face. My eyes opened wide as I stared up at my most recent project, and my heart broke into a million pieces. The tea-stain was completely gone. It dried and soaked into the painted wood, never to be seen again. I raised my hands to my mouth, covering my disbelief as I realized that I had wasted an entire hour of renovation time. And just as my hands neared my face, I noticed that my knuckles were brown. So was the skin around my fingernails, and the creases where my hands join my forearms. The ceiling had gone through the tea-staining process without so much as a hint of color to show for it. But I, well, I hadn't been so lucky. It took three days for my tea-stained hands to return to normal.

I now own a gallon of Kilz primer, which I will use to cover the entire kitchen ceiling. I suppose I could research other ways to antique-finish the painted ceiling, but I'm not going to allow myself to goof on this particular project again. I suppose there was no real harm done, unless you count the self-inflicted wound to my pride. I did learn a few important lessons, though. Number one, PRIME BEFORE PAINTING antique wood. Number two, tea-stains shouldn't be applied over PAINTED wood. And number three, there's a reason that southern women DRINK their tea instead of PAINTING with it!


  1. Oh no!! Part of me cringes for your lost efforts and the other part of me is laughing at the picture of a Mexican-looking Jackie ;) hahahahah This blog is so dang awesome! Do you guys have a move in date set or some kind of timeline you are working towards?

  2. Move in date is going to be a few days after the house we're currently living in sells. It's going to be a live-in restoration! (Yep, we're crazy!)

  3. sweet! and I already knew about that last part ;)

  4. Well I wish you had told me in advance, Christine! (haha!)

  5. Girl, X,X,X...A bought lesson is better than a borrowed one. You know now, hu.....
    I have only done fabric, tea really well...

  6. I'll try the tea stain again, because I'm crazy that way. But this tea-stain made me cry... and they were NOT tears of joy. ;)