Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Painted Furniture: do or don't?

I don't like getting too many catalogues in the mail, but the other day, I got three...WISTERIAETHAN ALLEN and BALLARD DESIGNS, and all three had painted furniture on the cover.  The Ethan Allen catalogue kind of surprised me..instead of thinking, "why do I get the Ethan Allen catalogue", I thought, "that is the same color my desk was painted when I was a kid". It was a green, painted, 4-poster bed.  It was a bold, Key West kind of color and very '80s although it belongs to their "Vintage" design line. I've seen a TON of turquoise, burnt orange/tomato red, gray and of course white and black painted pieces in th least few years, but I think there is a big design shift that is going more main stream. The Ballard Designs line, Casa Florentina, is fabulous and can be copied with a can of paint and a garage sale or grandma's attic.
Ballard Designs Casa Florentina "Josephina" wall unit
in distressed gray
Ethan Allen "American Colors" Collection

Coastal Christmas

In general, I love painting pieces of furniture and I am usually all for it. I am not a fan of matchy-matchy bedroom sets, etc. People are starting to get away from the all the same shade/stain of wood look...you know the all cherry, all mahogony, all pine dining, bedroom, living room sets. I think this is an East Coast influence where things are more of an aquired or collected look rather than a go to the big furniture showroom store and pick out a whole room all at once sort of experience.  This comes back to my mantra: no matter what your style may be I think a good design starting point is to try to achieve a "collected" look, a look that comes together over time. Even if you have modern taste, there are certain things that you can do to achieve this without resorting to the boxed set, which I will only excuse in the case of a child's room.
Back to painted furniture,  there are a few things that I'd want to think about before I get my brush out though.
1. It is neither easy or fun to try to reclaim a painted piece of furniture, so REALLY want a change if you are thinking about this...there is sort of no going back (there is but it is labor and time intensive so consider this permanent or don't do it).
2. Is this a piece that you may want to use in another part of your house? If so, consider this when choosing a paint color so that in a year, if you do want to move it, it will work in various other places in your house. (see my personal example below, where I painted my bedroom dresser and now it is in my dining room...gray paint works everywhere :)).
3. Consider the wood. If this is an IKEA bookcase we're talking about, go for it. If this is your grandmothers coffe table and it is a real, aged hardwood like tiger maple or something, I'd think long and hard about painting it. Some valuable pieces of furniture will instantly lose their value if you change the original finish of the wood. This hasn't always stopped me though and don't tell my antique appraiser father, but if I truly don't like a piece and know it will look great painted, and I know I am never going to care about the "value" of something then I still go or it. This however, is a HUGE consideration when thinking about painting a permanent fixture in your home such as kitchen or bathroom cabinets or built ins. Seriously consider how long you're going to be in your home. Look at comp values of other houses and whether they have painted wood work, etc. as long as you do a professional looking job, it could very well add to your home value, updating a dark kitchen, etc.  When we purchased our home, the kitchen cabinets had been painted by the previous owner. They were very sloppily done, and totally unprofessional. It almost stopped us from buying the house. Not just because it was an ugly aesthetic sticking point, but it was a red flag to me; I thought, "what else has this lady been re-doing on her own, with terrible results?"  It really made me wonder and question the quality of other things around the house. And rightly so, because the nice iron lighting fixtures turned out to be spray painted brass that flecked off chipping black spray paint the day we moved in and I cleaned house.  So if you are going to tackle a big built-in project, really commit to doing it well so that you are happy with the end result and you can achieve a professional finish. Because at the end of every project, you want to have something that is better than when you started.
4. Prep your surface.
5. Test an area. This sounds good, I have to admit though, I usually just go for it. But sometimes I've had to change things after the fact. Test an area on the back or the side of the piece to make sure that you like the dried paint color, etc.
6. Sand in between coats.
7. Finish...wax or poly coat, at least once, twice, three times, maybe.
8. The AWESOME thing about painting furniture is that a piece that you maybe wouldn't even notice in a room before now has a new life.  You can chose a fun accent color and the piece can literally have a totally different look or vibe in your room.

Here is my latest painted furniture experiment that I did at the end of the Summer.
I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.
Bedroom Dresser  New Dining Room Buffet

For years I've hated my bedroom dresser. We bought it on a whim, after we had moved back to the States from Japan. I needed Bedroom furniture and we bought a set. Ugh. Bad decision. It is like processed particle board composed whatnot and nothing special. But it is solid and sturdy if not super ORANGE. Yes, I said orange. For those of you with ORANGE Pine furniture, there is hope, this isn't any good pine or anything, they chose for this to be an orange pine stain and I bought it. Yup, and for ten years I've wanted to paint it...so I did. It took me 2 hours. I wish I had done it 9 years and 11 months ago.
Do you have any DIY painted furniture projects you've taken on or are thinking about?


  1. ok, commented on this post a week ago, but apparently I dont know how to comment so here i go again.....
    I guess I feel what I have to say is important or something.
    I am all for painted wood if it is done in a shiny lacquer. That is about it. or white kitchen cabinets. I am so boring. But love your posts! And love that you know the "collected" look is an east coast influence! But you would know that cause you are tight with Kathrine Hepburn

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