27 January 2010

Can we stop with the chalkboard paint?

This is an appropriate use of chalkboard paint.



Here's another.



And another.




Ahh, the pursuit of knowledge is a wonderful, beautiful thing. What would quadratic equations or diagrammed sentences be without a chalkboard?

Chalkboards belong in classrooms or in kids' rooms. They're to collect thoughts, formulate theories, prove proofs, solve equations, doodle and to learn. They're messy and unsightly, the perfect metaphor for the act of learning.

The usual suspects over at You Know Where can't seem to restrain themselves when it comes to chalkboard paint though. Their latest affront is to refer to it as being somehow green.

Ugh. I guess it's further proof of the absolute bankruptcy of the term "green." Man, that is one ugly kitchen. Again though, green?

Chalkboard chalk is calcium sulfate, an industrial byproduct. It's the same chemical drywall's made from. I wonder what the reaction from these folks would be to this inconvenient little factoid. Hey Apartment Therapy! By encouraging your readers to paint their cabinet doors with chalkboard paint, you're opening the door to having them sprinkle their kitchen counters with calcium sulfate, AN INDUSTRIAL CHEMICAL. Calcium sulfate's benign of course but there's seems to be this idea that chalkboard chalk is some kind of a naturally-occurring mineral. It gets its name from one, but just like the lead in a pencil, things aren't always what they seem.

Aside from that, using chalkboard paint all over the place as seems looks terrible. Sometimes it seems like I'm alone in this opinion. Look at what wreckage chalkboard paint hath wrought if you can stomach it.













So is it me? Am I missing something? Is it that creeping middle age thing or just my usual foul humors? Tell me things. Yea or nay?

45 comments:

  1. Well, I'd have to say the last picture is a more appropriate use of the stuff than the previous one to it. I think it may just be a youth-ish thing. I suppose if I were a twentysomething trying to make the best of a crappy first appartment I'd think that was a cool and funky thing to do to the kitchen.

    But seriously, a whole cupboard for ASHTRAYS?? How do these kids afford to smoke let alone keep such an array of ashtrays that they require an entire cupboard??

    An' get offa my lawn!! ;0)

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  2. Get offa my lawn is right. That seems to be some kind of a rallying cry around here and we have Christian May from Maison21 to thank for that. I remember being a 21-year-old hippy poseur all too well. I lived in a ramshackle house with about 10 other fellow travelers and we read beat poetry and followed around the Grateful Dead. We would have thought chalkboard paint was pretty damn cool had it existed then.

    Mercifully, it didn't. Equally mercifully, there was no internet then and none of us could leave a permanent record of our youthful foolishness. Your early 20s are a time of poseur experimentation and screwing up. That's why they're there. The goal ought to be to survive them, not to hold them up as an example for older people to emulate. Been there, done that, let's move on.

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  3. I think chalkboard paint has its uses (say, part of a wall in a child's room/playroom; or perhaps even on the INSIDE of a cabinet door for a hidden message center). That said, I probably wouldn't have it front and center in my kitchen.

    However, the other day I saw a picture of a kitchen with soapstone countertops, and the family used chalk to leave messages for each other right on the counter... I suppose you could do the same thing with a slate countertop as well!

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  4. You are right of course.

    No self respecting stylista would display such recklesness and bad taste.

    I have a slate black board from my Daddy's old school house (he's 83). It was used by my MUCH older siblings, then me (a party in Florida and 9 months later...), all the grand kids who are now grown with their own kids and now the board is in my basement for my kids.

    THAT is green!

    The photo of the farm house entrance is brought down by the chalk board painted wall IM(not so humble)O. The kitchen looks like a College student lives in it. Imagine the Landlord...I'd be furious!

    There have been rooms with chalkboard paint which I've liked, but NONE where it takes centre stage.

    Me thinks the creators didn't get to clean the chalk boards and brushes enough in school to remember choking on the dust and getting really dry hands from it...or they'd have shown some control!

    No, on the other hand...if it would get me featured in a shelter mag or blog...Nah, couldn't do it!

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  5. Chalkboard paint is like so many other decor items--great in the right space. However, because it's cheap, easy to apply, and can look great it's become one of those items that is overused and being used in the wrong application. For example, here, I think the chalkboard paint on the refrigerator is cute, could be useful for grocery lists, and is a great way to include a working, but unattractive appliance in your current decor. But some of the other applications: powder room, formal dining room, every kitchen surface---that's just wrong. It's like cowhide rugs--they're great, but not for every room.

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  6. Meredith: I think your idea to paint the inside of a cabinet door with chalkboard paint is a brilliant solution for folks who can't help themselves. The inside of a cabinet would be hidden enough so that no one who walked into your kitchen would have to be offended by the appalling sight of a chalkboard.

    2 Hounds: We had a chalkboard in the basement when I was a kid and that's how I learned algebra and trig. My Dad deserves a medal of honor for using it to teach the same lessons to all seven of his kids. One of my brothers has that chalkboard in his basement now and his kids master their arithmetic and grammar lessons on it. That's green and that's how family institutions are made.

    Design Junkie: Thanks for your comment and welcome. Chalkboard paint's definitely suffering the same fate as cowhide rugs and I cannot wait for both of them to fall from favor. Maybe I should decry the use of cowhide next...

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  7. AMEN and thank you. The only person I've seen use it in a manner I can stomach is J.Crew's design director, Jenna Lyons, who swathed her master bedroom walls in it because she liked the texture.

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  8. Thanks Raina, I'm starting to feel less alone. You know, my traffic shoots into the stratosphere when I go negative like this. I wonder if there's a lesson to be learned here. So far as the J. Crew DD's master, I'd have to see photos before I submit my humble opinion.

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  9. Oh man! I was just getting ready to turn a cool old frame into a chalkboard and put it up in the breakfast area of my kitchen. Seriously. Now you are making me feel so...uncool. My plan was to write short poems, funny quotes, greetings for parties, welcome notes for guests, etc. on it. Paul, I think you are swell, but I have enough self confidence to continue on with my plan. Will you still be my friend if I do that?

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  10. Set yourself free Sharon. Really. By putting it in a frame, your keeping it in some kind of context and containment. Framed chalkboards make sense. Walls covered in child-like graffiti don't. Judge the decor, not the decorator I say.

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  11. I can't tell you how many people suggested I do an area of chalkboard paint in my kitchen. I was horrified. Why would I want chalk dust flying around my kitchen? It is nearly impossible to keep looking clean, too. Patina and loving signs of usage are one thing. Smudgy and dirty is another!

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  12. Rachele: I love how you handled you "kids supplies" cabinet in your kitchen and I think more people need to see it. Guest post on it here? Think about it please.

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  13. For some reason I like chalkboard paint - and there's a lot of things I hate, like words on walls (I feel like they're an annoying, upbeat person telling me what to do, like "live, love laugh"). I can't get a handle on all the hate for it - maybe I like graffiti? All the "movement" of the scribble on a chalkboard? I'm not in my 20s either...

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  14. It's interesting to hear another perspective Erika. I wonder what my problem with chalkboard paint is really. I don't have any traumatic memories related to them, maybe it's just a standard about orderliness. Hmmm.

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  15. I love the texture of chalkboard paint too, but probably couldn't bring myself to write all over it because it would ruin that matte black look.

    I can't help but wonder how many of the shots that you've shown in your post here have writing that weren't say "someone's favourite quote from their favourite book" or what they're actually going to buy at the grocery store.. but pretentious bits of literature that they spent the day looking up on brainyquote.com so that people think that they're well read or a grocery list full of things like "figs, organic sugar,& champagne"... is this so people can Ooooh and Ahhh over how refined you are? If you buy organic sugar instead of regular sugar would you not *know* that?

    Wow.. I'm jaded this morning..

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  16. I know that you will feel much relief Paul, that chalkboard paint comes in a wide variety of colors now - including a very Bright Green - and even white so that you can use black or colored chalk to make your kitchen, bathroom, front door or dog house just that much uglier without much effort.

    I love the idea of a FRAMED chalkboard, and I even love chalkboard paint for the texture or in an appropriate area. But after seeing my first refrigerator covered in the stuff, I cannot even tolerate the thought of buying a can of the paint.

    When they start painting cowhide rugs on polished cement floors in brown, white and black chalkboard paint, I am going to gouge out my eyes with a pencil and jump out the nearest window.

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  17. I know. It is one of those trendy things. I still see a use for it in a children's playroom, perhaps on cabinet doors. I have never spec'd it in an interior. So I score points there. I just figure if someone wants a chalkboard they can get one that is removable when the fad passes.

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  18. I must confess that I love chalkboard paint and plan to use it in the home that I buy.

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  19. Nim: The "organic sugar and champagne" thing bothered me too. Who writes grocery lists like that? It's pure pose. It reminds me of my former partner who insisted on writing out "dishwashing liquid" on our grocery lists. As I realized the depths of my mistake, "dishwashing liquid" became one more thing to hate about him.

    David: Painted cowhide on a concrete floor. Hmmmmmm. Interesting idea actually.

    Alycia: That's my point, why not make it easily removable?

    Bravewolf: As a loyal reader of your blog, you have my wholehearted endorsement to do anything you'd like anywhere.

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  20. i have have actually been considering painting a wall in my upstairs hall with chalkboard paint. maybe i'll do it just to prove you wrong! (first, i have to research how to seal it- once i apply my planned cy twombly scribbles in chalk, i don't want to live with chalk dust forever. second thought, maybe i'll just use flat black paint and oil pastels).

    i actually wholeheartedly agree with your general objection to the stuff- it's misused too often when trying too hard to be cutesy. ack.

    ps- how is twitter? i miss her. back on when my current flurry of activity is ovah.

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  21. I think the flat black and oil pastels is a better plan Christian. You're getting a little long in the tooth for chalkboard paint.

    Twitter's fine but it's not the same without you in the pool. Hurry up and come back. Did you enter Tula's contest by the way?

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  22. "You're getting a little long in the tooth for chalkboard paint."

    ahh, but i'm young at heart... ;-)



    tula has a contest? i hope it's a date with tula! i can't believe i live in the same city as that little firecracker and have never met her...

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  23. Get over there now, she's giving away another Matte Stevens print and her contest has taken on a life of its own. It's a riot. You guys have never met? Don't you two live in the same PART of LA? What's the hold up? You and Tula and Brooke and all the rest of the LA design blog people need to have a mingle.

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  24. Bravewolf should paint the whole *outside* of her house in chalkboard paint so I can write on it while she's out. :)

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  25. Now that's something I could abide.

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  26. The only one I can remotely BEAR is the dining room one. The rest make me want to gag. The black kitchen is perhaps the most offensive - labeling cupboards - come ON people! & the fridge... ah the fridge... the fridge just made me throw up a little in my mouth. FFS though - a cupboard for ashtrays?! Best. Thing. Ever!!!!

    But.... *sigh* I DO have a cowhide rug under my dining table. It's been there forever, I love it. Bugger.

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  27. I appreciate your comment, but the dining room fails in a big way too. Somehow, they managed to make chalkboard paint precious and affected at the same time. I suppose that's a feat of some kind but it still gets a huge fail from me.

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  28. Entertaining post, as always -- most of the photos are definitely posed to the extreme... That said, I can think of two places I *might* consider using chalkboard paint: a SMALL area of the kids' bedroom, and a a SMALL area of my office studio. And only because I'm too cheap to buy a regular chalkboard. These are relatively messy, creative areas, so why not? But yeah, kitchen cabinets?? Maybe these people never cook and so the calcium sulfate isn't an issue for them....

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  29. Thanks Anna: Calcium sulfate's not a problem for anybody really. It's pretty benign stuff. I just think it's a riot that when calcium sulfate's called blackboard chalk people assume (correctly) that it's harmless. But when it's called Calcium sulfate alarms go off all over the place.

    Used with reason and in an out of the way place I have no real beef with chalkboard paint. When the stuff's used front and center is where my issue lies.

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  30. Ok I'm 40 (my point being this is not just for 20-somethings) and am in love with the chalkboard paint idea for my kitchen... but in limited quantities... for example on the diningroom table surface (to use only with dust-free chalk) and only there. Why do people think it's so tacky? I LOVE the conversation piece aspect and the ability to allow and even encourage my kids to entertain themselves while I cook... But my biggest concern before I begin this diningroom table project is lead content. Is it true that there is in fact lead-free paint AND chalkboard pens out there? I would love to do this creative project but don't want to have unhealty crud in my house and especially right where we'll be eating?!?

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  31. How can you eat on a dining table that has chalk all over it? Toxity is utterly dependent on dose and there is no paint of any kind sold in the US that has unhealthy levels of it. The chalk you'll find is probably all low-lead too. It's funny, there is naturally-occurring lead everywhere in your yard, in your food, and in the air you breathe. You cannot eliminate lead from your environment any more than you can remove hydrogen or carbon. It's one of the things the earth is made from.

    With that said, it is a smart thing to limit your exposure to it even if you can't eliminate it. So rather than looking for "crud-free" alternatives to use on your dining table, why not just get a three foot wide roll of craft paper and use it as a table cloth. Then hand everybody a magic marker and let them go to town. That way you get all the conversation and interaction without doing anything permanent.

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  32. Sorry that I am nearly a year late in reading this blog post. It is only recently that I have considered using Blackboard paint as a backsplash in my kitchen with magnetic paint. By doing so I could use metal tins to hold spices and write the names above them or simply use the black mate color to offset the brushed nickel tiles I plan for behind the stove. But it is just an idea.
    I do have to ask though, to say that chalk is just an industrial byproduct is wrong and misleading. It is quarried and or mined. It is for all intents and purposes limestone and gypsum. Yes, the same thing is man made as an industrial by-product, but what is used for blackboards is not that same stuff. What is harmful is inhaling it. With today's "no dust" that is minimal. Chalk is used in tofu to solidify it, so is injecting it really all that harmful. Just saying...

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  33. The "chalk" in chalkboard chalk isn't chalk. It's calcium sulfide. It's also an unattractive addition to any home. I stated very clearly that calcium sulfide is benign, but that doesn't mean it's not an industrial byproduct.

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  34. While I agree that these pictures are unattractive to say the least, there is a very attractive alternative. Old slate chalkboards can find new life as counter-tops, back splashes, or even bathroom flooring.

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  35. Crap. I finally got my husband to go for the idea to paint the side of our pantry door with chalkboard paint. Reading how tacky and uncool it is bums me out.

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  36. What's annoying about this article is that you are making people feel "uncool" just for choosing something as simple as chalkboard paint for their homes. Since when are you the authority on design? I say people should put in their homes what makes them happy. If it's chalkboard paint, then so be it. I find it attractive if done right- I could care less that you find it less than cool.

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  37. No, what's really annoying are the cowards who hide behind anonymous comments to take pot shots at me. If you "Could [sic] care less," why then leave a comment at all?

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  38. My name is Vicki, and I'm not a coward. I could care less that you hate it because I don't let others dictate my choices for me- but others do and that is why I commented. Just because you dislike it yourself, why make others feel wrong for choosing it?? Talk about sucking the joy out of decorating....

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  39. You're funny; you're absolutely hilarious.

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  40. Hmmm, wasn't trying to be funny, just truthful. It's obvious that it is hard for you to deal with someone who has an different opinion than yours. It's strange that you are so offended by the fact I disagree with what you have to say. Why open it up for conversation if you can't handle the fact that not everyone is going to like what you have to say. What a sad place this world would be if we were all the same.

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  41. Oh, and by the way, I'm not meaning to attack you. You seem like a nice enough guy- I'm just the type that feels that a person should follow their heart in decorating. Not some silly decorating rules that others come up with. That is all. So I apologize if I come across as though I'm attacking you. I'm really not.

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  42. If it were difficult for me to deal with dissenting opinions, why on earth would I publish your comments and not just delete them? I'm hardly offended by your differing opinion, but clearly, my differing opinion offended you to the point where you decided to leave an anonymous pot shot.

    Frankly, I don't care what people do in their own homes. However, people turn to me for guidance about that sort of thing very regularly. So when someone asks, I give my opinion. It's just that by the way, my opinion. If you disagree then find someone else who agrees with you and move on. It's only paint after all and lives aren't a stake here.

    With all of that said, chalkboard paint looks like crap. If you want an internet forum to promulgate the view that it looks good then start your own website. Have your first post be about what a pompous ass I am and how cool chalkboard paint is. I'm sure you'll find an audience.

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  43. I certainly wouldn't label you a pompous ass- if you look back I apologized if it looked like I was making a personal attack. I just feel a bit different about the subject than you. That's all. And no, I wasn't offended, just felt like I needed to speak up. Truce?

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  44. Truce. I never take the comments people leave personally, if I did I'd never get out of bed in the morning. Everyone's entitled to his or her opinion and I believe that with every fiber of my being. Granted, I assert mine pretty aggressively on this site, but that's what a blog is. The only time I'll ever delete a comment is if someone tries to make things personal and goes after me, my family, my friends or any other commenter on this forum. You're welcome around here any time Vicki.

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  45. Thanks Paul, I appreciate that. :)

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