Photos courtesy Miss Mustard Seed
Got milk? Old milk going bad, for instance? Before the industrialization of commercial paint and finishes, many homeowners would mix their own paint from leftover milk. Milk paint, also known as casein paint, has been in use since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. Comprised of five ingredients—limestone, clay, chalk, casein (milk protein), and natural (as well as sometimes synthetic) pigments, “milk paint is a great alternative to chemical-laden paints predominately found on the market,” says Marian Parsons, founder of Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint in Minneapolis.
Parsons, who is also an interior designer and blogger, says she got her start creating milk paint while experimenting. “I was on a mission to see how different paints behaved on furniture,” she explains. “I absolutely loved milk paint. That’s why I started my own line.”
Milk paint offers a durable, non-toxic, environmentally friendly paint option for homeowners, and can be used on walls, cabinetry, furniture, and other interior elements. It provides a matte, antique-looking finish. “Apply milk paint over an existing finish and it could crackle, chip, and flake in a random, organic sort of way,” Parsons says, “which makes the furniture look like it’s wearing old paint 50 years old or so. When you put it on raw wood, which is where milk paint performs best, it absorbs like a stain but looks like a paint. It has opaque coverage, and will last on the piece for decades.”
Parsons adds, “You can definitely do a look that has a nice, sleek, modern finish. But people who love the distressed look and farmhouse style, really love it.” Parsons is currently working on several new colors that will release this year. “We’re preparing a rich dark green that’s on trend right now,” she says, “as well as a wonderful new neutral that’s similar to the color of salt-glazed crocks. We’re also releasing a barn red—we had requests for a more subdued hue than our bright red.”
Painting furniture with milk paint, Parsons adds, “is a wonderful way to unite disparate pieces in a room, while customizing a single piece with your personal stamp.”