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Daily Pilot

Talking Shop: Chalk her success up to imagination

Deborah Waltz, who opened Peinture paint shop in Costa Mesa in January, lets her love of eccentric decor show.

By Rhea Mahbubani

6:29 PM PST, November 21, 2013

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When Deborah Waltz first walked into the 2,200-square-foot space in the SoCo Collection shopping center, she saw a grey shell with empty vertical space, begging to be filled.

So she got to thinking.

Peinture, which debuted in Costa Mesa in January, now boasts chairs that instead of sitting on the floor are attached to a wall from top to bottom — large representations of the color selections offered by Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint, which Waltz stocks exclusively.

"A lot of people can't envision what the colors would look like just from a swatch," she said.

After flitting from garage sales to Goodwill and flea markets to the Salvation Army, she decided to bathe the pieces of furniture, some vintage and others modern, in 31 colors that form the backbone of her wares.

The Tustin resident also outfitted Peinture's entrance with a piano painted half white, while weathered squares of dyed cloth hang from clothespins attached to a wire that runs above an aluminum tree from the 1960s and an antique ballot box.

Waltz's love of quirkiness is further evidenced by bits and pieces scattered throughout the room: sprinkler heads, grain shovels, old dumbbells, a 1940s Perfex camera and oversized sculpted letters.

Determined to make Peinture a one-stop shop for customers looking to revitalize their homes, she offers tools like paintbrushes, wax and towels on a display fashioned out of a French produce stand. The style "brings back nostalgia," the owner remarked, which she finds lends to Peinture's popularity, as does the high quality associated with Sloan's product and the furniture painting workshops that Waltz leads.

The paint, drawing its name from its velvety, matte finish, sticks to just about any surface indoors and out. Wood, concrete, metal, terra cotta and earthenware are all fair game. Also, Chalk Paint is hassle-free, something that can't be said of its competitors, Waltz, 45, said.

With traditional paints, surfaces have to be stripped of their base coat, sanded down and primed. The process is messy, smelly and time-consuming. By contrast, Sloan's fast-drying colors, based on 18th- and 20th-century decor, can be mixed and just slathered on, Waltz said.

Waltz, who as a young girl described everything and everyone she saw in terms of colors, drew a floor plan for her future home when she was 11. Growing up, though, she struggled to find a career that resonated with her. It wasn't until her marriage crumbled 10 years ago that she decided to tap her obvious creative side.

After graduating from the Interior Designers Institute in Newport Beach, she worked with model homes and then shifted full-time to residential interiors. It was while perusing a do-it-yourself blog site in 2010 that she stumbled across Chalk Paint. She placed an order immediately, but a month passed before the items were delivered to her doorstep.

"I stayed up that night until 2:30 in the morning, painting anything I could get my hands on," Waltz recounted. "My kids were like, 'You're insane.'"

Within 24 hours, Waltz had placed a call to the company, asking to be a seller of the paint. After being brought on board as a retailer, she set up shop at Country Roads Antiques and Gardens in Old Towne Orange.

In the past three years, Waltz, who initially occupied a tiny hole in the back, has been moved to the front of the location after its owners tired of responding to customers' incessant question — "Where's the Chalk Paint?" Having recently unveiled a stencil line, she finds that she has a number of repeat customers even though 80% to 90% of her sales are generated by foot traffic.

Scott Burnham of Newport Beach, the owner and developer of SoCo, recalled that Waltz was directed to the retail center by a newspaper article and suggestions from her family. Along with the uniqueness of her offerings, he finds that her basic and advanced workshops provide the community with interactive opportunities that encourage people's return.

"I have absolutely shopped there and purchased the product, and I am a believer," Burnham said. "The public response has all been extremely positive and everyone loves coming to the store and visiting Deborah and her shop... I know that Peinture has significantly exceeded even her expectations."

Sloan, the woman behind the painting revolution whose creations are offered in 45 states, visited Peinture in April for a book signing. Used to sites that are comparable to bread boxes, she looked around the sprawling venue and said, "I'm not jealous at all," according to Waltz.

A studio at the far end of Peinture serves as a brightly lit, paint-spattered showcase of Waltz's "brush obsession" thanks to a wall featuring bristles atop differently shaped handles. It's common, she said, for her to struggle to end sessions since attendees, who each trudge in with a piece of furniture, are lulled by the meditative activity and don't want to leave.

On Veterans Day, although a sign informed passersby that Peinture was closed for business, people peered inside and a small crowd formed, with one woman insistently trying the door.

"I need to be open seven days a week, I think," Waltz said.

If You Go

What: Peinture

Where: SoCo Collection, 3323 E-2 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa,

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

Information: http://www.peinturestudios.com