Powder Coating is The Secret To Those Lilac Cabinets in the GirlBoss Office

If you read Architectural Digest, you might have seen the new GirlBoss office, with its warm, bright interior punctuated by colorful furniture and vintage scores. But what caught my eye was the ombre purple filing cabinets in the conference room. And I wanted to know more.

According to GirlBoss owner, Sophia Amoruso, the filing cabinets were brought over from her former office at Nasty Gal, before it declared bankruptcy a couple of years ago. They were originally powder coated purple for the space by the office’s designer, Pamela Shamshiri, previously of Commune Design (now of Studio Shamshiri).

We all know about the miraculous transformative powers of paint: a new color on a wall, a kitchen cabinet, or a piece of furniture can be a game-changer. But I am here to tell you there’s a whole other level out there, and that level is powder coating.

Not everything, alas, lends itself to painting with a brush or roller dipped in liquid, or a spray can. Think about trying to paint a refrigerator, for instance. And if you’ve ever spray painted an outdoor metal chair only to have it end up rusting or peeling, you know what I’m talking about .

Enter powder coating. If you were a better student in science class than I was, this one’s for you. Says the Powder Coating Institute, or PCI:

Powder coatings are based on polymer resin systems, combined with curatives, pigments, leveling agents, flow modifiers, and other additives. These ingredients are melt mixed, cooled, and ground into a uniform powder similar to baking flour. A process called electrostatic spray deposition (ESD) is typically used to achieve the application of the powder coating to a metal substrate. This application method uses a spray gun, which applies an electrostatic charge to the powder particles, which are then attracted to the grounded part. After application of the powder coating, the parts enter a curing oven where, with the addition of heat, the coating chemically reacts to produce long molecular chains, resulting in high cross-link density. These molecular chains are very resistant to breakdown. This type of application is the most common method of applying powders. Powder coatings can also be applied to non-metallic substrates such as plastics and medium density fiberboard (MDF).

Have your eyes crossed yet? They lost me at polymer resin system.

Let’s try this again. The best plain English description I’ve found is this (thank you Sundial Powder Coating), which describes the process:

A powder (of any required color) is sprayed onto a metal surface. This powdered metal object is then placed in a special powder coating oven – known as the coating and curing process – in which the heat causes the powder particles to form a type of seal over the product.

So basically this fancy colored powder is applied and then cooked onto an object that’s most likely (though not necessarily) metal. Once it’s on there the color and finish are super durable, standing up to “moisture, chemicals, ultraviolet light, and other extreme weather conditions,” says the PCI. “In turn, this reduces the risk of scratches, chipping, abrasions, corrosion, fading, and other wear issues.”

Powder coating is how everything from kitchen appliances to lawn furniture to those shiny red fire extinguishers get their permanent color. And the colors seem to be pretty limitless, running from Chartreuse Sherbert to M&M Orange – not to mention special effects. Rockstar Sparkle, anyone?

It’s a pretty spend-y technique, mostly done by pros (though a bunch of redditors say you can do it at home if you’re really, really careful). How much are we talking?

Thumbtack says you’re looking – on average – at:

  • 48-inch round patio table: $160–$200
  • Bar stool: $100 and up
  • King-size bed: $200 and up
  • Metal fence: $6–$8 per square foot
  • Bicycle frame: $75
  • Car: $1,000–$3,000

If you’re sold and can swing it, powder coating professionals can be found in most cities. I’m a fan of Thumbtack when I’m looking for someone to do a job for me, when I googled powder coater and my city, it turned up several more options.

Not ready to shell out that kind of cash or stage your own Breaking Bad scene with a DIY attempt? A designer friend of mine says she uses Plasti Dip from Home Depot for home projects as an alternative.

But do tell, have you ever had anything powder coated? How did it go?

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