When Should You NOT Paint Wood Furniture?

When should you not paint wood furniture? Painting “perfectly good wood” is controversial. Don’t believe me?

If you’re a DIY’er that paints furniture for any length of time, I’m certain someone has opened their mouth and gasped: OMG, you paint wood?! Why would you do that?”

…riiiight after you proudly showed them how awesome your piece looks after you spend 6 hours painting it.

Not the best feeling in the world.

In fact, you feel rather crappy after that kind of criticism.

I mean……we all know that solid wood is the almighty indication of quality furniture, and to slather on a superficial coat of paint??–gasp!–how dare thee.


The Real Truth About Painting Wood Furniture

Want to know the real truth about painting wood furniture?

It’s not the end of the world.

It’s paint. It can be stripped years from now, if you’d like. And most times, that piece of wood furniture was taking up space in some thrift store, or someone’s curb side, and you (the awesome DIYer), saw its potential and breathed new life into it.

We should actually get an award for being so green, eh? 🙂



When Not To Paint Wood Furniture


But is there a time when you should not paint wood furniture? 

Yes, there is. Before you jump in to any project, you do have to consider these situations to make sure you’re making the right choice. Here are those times when you should put down the paint brush and step away slooowwwly.


STOP:  If Grandma is Rolling Over In Her Grave

Would your Grammie be P.O.’ed if she knew you were painting over her antique hutch? Maybe she adored it. And every time you think you might take a paint brush to it, you cringe at the thought of Grandma smacking the brush out of your hand.

If you can’t bring yourself to do it because of guilt, then just leave it alone. Maybe pay someone to strip it and re-stain it back to its original beauty. Or, if you want to try to strip and stain it yourself, check out my YouTube video tutorial on how to strip furniture and stain it. At least this way, Grandma will be smiling down at you instead of waiting to lecture you at the gates of Heaven :).


STOP: If You Just Bought a Can of Rust-Oleum

Yikes! Hold it right there! Some paint is just not made for furniture (like this kind of Rust-Oleum spray paint). That’s what happened to a friend who had the great idea to paint this beautiful, expensive chair with black Rustoleum paint (see below).

The result?

Horrible black, chipped paint that destroyed the wood. She ended up hiring me to see if I could strip it. WHEW! Tough job of getting black paint out of nitty-gritty cracks. Just don’t paint wood if you’re going to use the wrong paint.

Stripped Chair Collage

So What Paint SHOULD You Use on Furniture Then?

In the last few years, the amount of options for furniture paint has totally exploded. It used to be that you had to sand…prime…then paint. But now, you don’t have to do that! As long as your surface is smooth, you can use any of the following paint on your furniture!

NEW! Click here to read more about the PROs and CONs of each of these furniture paints!


  1. FolkArt Chalky Paint
  2. Amy Howard at Home
  3.  Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
  4. Miss Mustardseed Milk Paint
  5. General Finishes Milk Paint
  6. RECLAIM Beyond Paint
  7. Shabby Paints
  8. Heirloom Traditions


STOP: If You Haven’t Consulted Papa Google (or Mama eBay)

One splash of paint and you’ve just ruined something you could sell on eBay for three or four figures. Do your research first and find out how much your piece of furniture is worth before you paint it, especially if it just looks like something so rare and special.

This almost happened to me! Remember this amazing Anco Bilt vintage drafting table I found at a thrift store for $30? I had no idea it was valuable! I almost painted it!!!! Until I searched Google and found that one has sold for $325 on eBay! Now, it’s in my pretty, colorful basement office “AS IS.” And I love it, flaws and all :).

If it looks really valuable, it probably is. Don’t paint it if you’ve got a real gem on your hands!

Thrifty Basement and Home Office Makeover Thrift Diving Blog2677


STOP: If You’re Just Trying to Be Cool and Trendy

Painted furniture is hot right now. But trends go in and out of style. Painting chevron stripes all over a perfectly good wooden buffet that had not one scratch on it may seem like a good idea. But in 5 years, it may be outdated. Then you may need to buy a book on how to strip furniture, creating more cost and work for yourself.

Only paint furniture because you love the look of it, not because you’re trying to emulate someone else’s look. Be true to your own decorating style.

The Big Take-Away

Don’t just listen to me. Use your own gut to determine what wood furniture you want to paint and not paint. These are merely guidelines for when you take on your next furniture painting project. It’s your house that you will be decorating, and you’ve got to live in it. But don’t also destroy a piece of ancient history or a family heirloom because it’s the “in” thing that people are doing.

Questionable Projects?

Here are a few of my makeovers that probably bordered on “questionable” when it comes to whether or not I should have painted them.

So when I found this vintage chair at the thrift store, I had no qualms about painting the frame and replacing the fabric. It wasn’t my Grandma’s…..it wasn’t an antique…..It was just a lovely chair begging for some TLC. Such a beauty! I did get a couple negative comments about painting the wood, though…


Vintage Chair Makeover BEFORE99.jpg


But the “after” was too pretty and updated, who could really complain, ya know?

A Vintage Chair Makeover


For this vintage buffet makeover, I even polled my readers what I should do: paint or strip. They were split down the middle. I ended up stripping the top and restaining, and then painting the body.


1_vintage buffet thrift diving BEFORE1




My Project Gallery

Just check out my project gallery for the whole gamut of wood pieces I’ve painted. I can imagine that in 15 years, when painted furniture has run its course, we’ll all be diving for the paint stripper, huh? 😉 In the meantime, let’s enjoy the beauty of painted wood and keep making our homes a little more colorful :).


Resources If You Want to Paint Wood Furniture (Or Refinish It)

If you’ve decided that you’re definitely going to paint or refinished that piece of furniture, make sure you learn from the best in the business on how to do it! These books are must-haves to get you started! Click on each for more information.

Furniture makeovers - Simple Techniques

Refinishing Furniture


Wood Refinishing


When should you not paint wood furniture - Put down the paint brush if any of these apply to your furniture piece - ThriftDiving.com

Your 2 Cents

So do you have your OWN set of guidelines for determining when to NOT paint wood furniture? Have you ever been not sure to paint or leave it alone? Leave a comment below to add to the discussion! 🙂


That DIY Party


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Hey there, I'm Serena, a 38-year-old working mom of 3 young boys who can't get enough DIY! If you actually made it to the bottom of this post to read this, it means you're really enjoy my blog. That means SO much. If I can inspire just one person through my passion and energy for DIY, then I'm fulfilling my life's purpose. Thanks for joining me, and I hope you'll subscribe so we can keep in touch! ~Serena

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  1. Kwib says:

    I am against Rustoleum in any form after a very tiring wrangle with rustoleum paints to do 12 dining chairs. Dulux has been so much better, but the colours are SO boring compared with rustoleum.

  2. Keethiga says:

    Nice blog thanks to shared this valid information

  3. Keethiga says:

    Nice blog thanks to shared this information such a interesting topic.

  4. Prefab homes says:

    Really Impressive. creative designs thanks to updated this.

  5. I love repainting furniture, But only if I know it’s ‘cheap.’ If it looks like an antique I won’t even stain it.
    Here are some others I wouldn’t paint, Just a little stain touch up.
    I got a hutch and a 3 section book case. Much as I’d want to do so, my mother would have a fit if she saw them.

  6. SofaSOS says:

    I have been finding a good answer for this. This is just very helpful. Such a great post!

  7. My father was a woodworker, and the thought of painting wood always drove him insane. As I grew up however, I saw that there were some legitimately good reasons to paint wood, and I think you touched on the best reasons. I think the most important reason not to paint is if you’re not using the right kind of paint, but that’s just me. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Luke Smith says:

    I think that wooden furniture can be a great addition to a house. It is sometimes fun to find old furniture and use them in the house. Those I would never paint, they seem perfect for their years of wear and tear on them. It depends on but new furniture could be used to paint and try something new.

    • I think you’re right, Luke. It depends on the piece. New furniture nowadays is so cheaply made, don’t you think? I would have no hesitation painting newer stuff!

  9. Mariele Storm says:

    Great post, and so true! I remember being a little kid and looking at dark wood furniture and thinking “*sigh* if only people could paint furniture :(” … it took me over a decade to figure that one out. 😛 Love your furniture makeovers!

    • LOL!! You had great vision as a kid! 🙂 I think dark wood is just not my style of preference, you know? I like rooms that are more light and airy, like a cottage feel, or…dare I say….”Golden Girls” pastel-y. HAHAHA. Dark furniture is too conservative and classic for me!

      • Mariele Storm says:

        Hah, exactly!! I could have done without the yellow walls and shoulder pads in the Golden Girls, admittedly, but I did love the pastels. 😀

        • Glenda Habel says:

          I believe that antique wood furniture darkens the space, there is no character to it. I have a whole bedroom full of antique wood. I take a look into that room and it depresses me. I feel it is so outdated and actually ugly. I plan on painting all the pieces and getting a new–updated–look and I also want to brighten up the room and bring in some color. I also work toward the cottage look with a bit of rustic -western-native american decorating.

          • Mariele Storm says:

            I agree, Glenda! It sounds like your house has a ton of personality in its decorating. 😀 Do you paint your pieces bold colours to go with the Western/Native American decorating? Because that seems really cool!

            • Glenda Habel says:

              Right now I am trying to find the right colors or color. I would really appreciate any suggestions. Should I do the pieces one color for a bed room set, or can I paint different colors in the same room??? Also I liked your suggestion of bold colors. I found one color I really liked. It was using a Sherwin Williams ‘Antiquity” SW6402 or a Shagbark olive in Columbia Paints. Perhaps these colors are not bold enough. I hope to do the homework before I set a brush to these old pieces. I wish each one could talk and tell me their history. But times change and a new face lift is needed.

              • Mariele Storm says:

                Well – I’m no interior decorator, and I’m not Serena, but here’s my advice!
                I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have different furniture colours in the same room, and in fact preferable, as having them all the same shade can make them blend together too much and lose their uniqueness! I would just keep them together in a cohesive look… like using Antiquity for both side tables, ans a neutral, desert-y, warm tan dresser, but a burnt orange for the ottoman. They all keep in that same sort of warm, desert, South American colour scheme, but they’re not so different that they all compete for attention. Does that make sense, or is my tackiness showing through? =^)
                I really like that olive, though – it would go great with Native American decor. And a bold red would be a great accent piece somewhere in the house!
                I agree that it’s important to do your homework and to try to go with what a piece already seems to want, rather than trying to impose a new look on something that is completely wrong for it… go with your gut, and you’ll love it. And if not – you’ll learn something and you can try again! ;D

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