10/08/2013 10:36 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Annie Sloan offers 'Colour Recipes' for paint use beyond walls with DIY projects

TORONTO - Annie Sloan sees endless possibilities when it comes to using paint, which includes applying colourful strokes to a variety of surfaces — not just the walls.

In "Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More" (CICO Books), the U.K.-based Sloan brings her expertise in decorative painting to the forefront with 40 step-by-step projects, transforming pieces with an infusion of vibrant hues, some creativity and a little elbow grease.

With more than 40 years spent painting and numerous books on the subject to her credit, Sloan is also well known for creating Chalk Paint, a water-based decorative paint specifically designed for furniture but also applicable for use in paintings, on fabric, walls and floors.

From April to October of last year, Sloan set to work with the help of her team in refurbishing items — most of which were purchased at auctions and junk shops — as part of the renovation of her family farmhouse in northern France.

While the retreat is decorated predominately in French rustic style, chapters within "Colour Recipes" feature projects that showcase other design influences, including boho chic, country and modern contemporary. The book highlights smaller-scale efforts — like painting wall sconces and dyeing drapes — to larger projects, like fashioning a freestanding tub into a copper leaf bath.

For individuals struggling with paint colour selection, Sloan recommended keeping the room itself in neutral tones while opting for a few stronger hues as accents, like painted chairs or upholstered furniture.

"You could do the rooms in grey and black and white, possibly, with one red piece of furniture," she said in an interview following her recent appearance at the Fall Home Show in Toronto.

"When you say 'colourful' (people think) they're going to have to paint every room a different colour and every wall a different colour. No, not at all."

"Colour Recipes" features several examples of painted pieces as focal points within more muted surroundings.

In a room with white walls, a French Napolenic bed is drenched in a rich green hue. The ornate laurel leaves and shield on the bedhead are given the gilded treatment with brass leaf.

Sloan goes even bolder with another bed featuring patterns she described as reminiscent of American abstract art in the 1960s. Chevron and circular shapes on the head and foot of the bed are painted in a number of striking shades — accenting the already boldly-hued orange that encompasses the entire piece.

"You don't go in that room and just go, 'Oh my God, it's so bright.' Because actually, it doesn't look it," Sloan said. "The walls are grey.... Everything is soft. Just this (bed) and one chair and grey curtains as well. It's quite livable."

When individuals opt to mix their own colours, Sloan wrote about making small quantities in a paint tray to determine the ratio of colours before making larger portions for application. Also, when painting a piece of furniture designated for a particular room, she suggested combining the colours in the same space where the piece will be placed.

"The existing colours and the quality of light can make a huge difference to how the paint will appear, and you may need to adjust your colour mix to make it lighter or brighter or darker," she wrote.

Sloan also wrote of the importance of painting in daylight hours, noting that she'd painted too many pieces in artificial light and later been "horrified" seeing the end product in daylight.

While specialty brushes aren't a necessity, Sloan said quality is key when making the choice, noting the importance of selecting models with strong, flexible brush bristles.

Sloan has no shortage of tools in her decorative arsenal. Variations of sandpaper from fine to coarse are used to create the distressed look. Soft wax is used to protect pieces, while candle wax acts as a resist for paint, which can be used over wood to created a more textured effect.

When opting to draw on shapes — like a mix of wide and slender stripes — Sloan suggested starting off by painting larger swaths of colour and getting gradually smaller versus painting on smaller, individual lines.

She also uses tools some may see as unconventional, such as a blue spotty sky printed on the edge of a picture frame created from bubble wrap. Sloan laughed when asked about the novel use of a toilet paper roll to print circular shapes onto a cabinet.

"It's just being a child, that's all — having fun and making patterns. I remember when I was a kid I loved it, and lots of people do. And if you don't like it, just wipe it out and start again!"

Sloan recommended scouting Pinterest for project inspiration. While individuals shouldn't "over-complicate themselves" while painting pieces, she suggested choosing to refurbish items that will make a true statement within the home.

"Do something like a cupboard, something that's going to make a difference, and take something that you've hated in your house for years — and you'll be thrilled," she said. "Something Granny left you or something you bought when you first got married and it was cheap and it's out of date.

"The best thing to do is go to garage sales — and people throw out amazing things — and have a go."

As part of her Canadian tour, Sloan is slated to make stops in Montreal (Oct. 9-12) and Edmonton (Oct. 15) and Vancouver (Oct. 16-19), which includes a scheduled appearance at the Vancouver Home and Design Show on Oct. 19.