Is Painted Furniture Dead? Or is Painted Furniture Here to Stay?
Everywhere you turn, everyone and their Mama is painting furniture. It’s become so popular that even places like Home Goods have been biting off of the “DIY furniture” look. If you were to stand them side-by-side, you’d probably not be able to tell the difference (until you pull the drawer open, only to have the cheapie Home Goods one nearly fall over. HA!).
So it’s kind of counterintuitive for me to ask, but….
Is Painted Furniture Dead?
Related: When Should You NOT Paint Wood Furniture?
I confess that I’ve been doing less furniture painting projects.
There are a couple reasons why I’ve been painting less furniture even though I know people love them so much.
First, I am running out of places to put my pieces. I started this blog when we moved into our old 1973 house and it needed fixing up and rooms filled. I ran off to the thrift store to find all the best pieces I could refinish and put into our home (see my project gallery).
Well, now that rooms are getting full and since I don’t sell my pieces (and because my garage is looking like something from Hoarders: DIY Blogger Style), well, I have been focusing more on making smaller crafts (like this DIY drink holder and my pretty little DIY wooden notebook) that take up less space. I still do furniture, just not quite so much.
But I admit that painted furniture was beginning to bother me.
Everywhere I looked, there was painted furniture online–people slapping coats of paint on something, roughing it up with big patches of sandpaper, slathering on dark wax to make it look old and dirty and calling it artistic. Pretty soon, it all just started to look the same and I wasn’t as inspired anymore. I began turning to more creative outlets like learning to make stuff with power tools so that I could expand my creativity beyond just painting thrifted furniture.
And I started getting a little bored with it.
But Then This Happened…
I met Amy Howard.
You may not have heard of her, but she’s the Amy behind Amy Howard at Home brand of furniture paints.
She had invited me and 14 other bloggers to her house (yes, her house!! ) and to her studio for a painting workshop in Memphis, Tennessee. I was excited–not just to see my blogger buddies, but to meet the woman that has been inspiring bloggers with her book called A Maker’s Guide, which is a must-have for any creative person who wants to start a business using her creative gifts.
The Most Awesome “Little” DIY House
Amy had invited us to her house for drinks and finger foods, and to give us a tour of her home.
When I first walked in, I felt like I was walking onto the pages of House Beautiful or something. It didn’t feel like a house I could ever create because it seemed too perfect (where were the LEGOS and fingerprints on the walls?!). It was funny how she kept saying the house was “little” and is the transition house while she and her husband build their farmhouse because the house seemed big and spacious to all of us!
But what I learned was amazing: Amy and her husband had gutted the whole house themselves and everything in the home was either “rescued” (her word) or built by her and her husband.
Here was a successful businesswoman who loved old things just like me.
…Who loved to build, like me.
…Who had built this bed in her bedroom (which I was so afraid I’d spill red wine all over!) and painted it to look amazingly expensive (she even built these stools!).
….Who used her own brand of vibrant lacquer spray to make her bathroom “POP.”
She even put up these awesome shutters to hide her food pantry!
She built this armoire in her bedroom, too, and I think she painted (or maybe stained) it.
And the walls were covered in piping and fabric, with padding underneath!
Her bathroom was equally gorgeous. She told us she chose the cheapest floor tile she could find, but when placed in a herringbone pattern, it made it look expensive.
And she designed and built these oak dressers, too, and used liming wax on them to bring out the grain, keeping them natural.
I believe she also built or rescued those stools and painted them, too.
The following day we went to her studio and learned some awesome furniture painting techniques, such as how to use dust of ages and wax to age furniture.
But I left her house and that workshop feeling inspired.
I left learning techniques that truly transformed a piece into something so beautiful that it looked like it belonged in House Beautiful.
I left feeling like I could now do something more than just “paint furniture,” but I could really make it look extraordinary.
I also learned that sometimes you don’t have to paint a piece of furniture to make it beautiful.
So…No…Painted Furniture Isn’t Dead
But I do think it’s changing.
No longer is furniture painting about just adding a couple coats and walking away proud.
That would be like applying foundation to your face and forgetting to add the blush, lipstick, mascara…then saying you’re ready for the ball. HA!
It’s about the finishes…that extra “oomph” that you give a piece.
(My favorite products from her line are the liming wax, spray lacquer, Dust of Ages, and the zinc antiquing solution.
And that’s what I have been bored with–that lack of “oomph” that furniture painting in the DIY industry.
UPDATE: More Stripped and Natural Projects
Because my love of natural wood has grown (check out Understanding Wood: 7 Things You MUST Know Before You Refinish or Build Your Next Project), I’ve been doing many more projects with wood.
This mid-century modern dresser would have been ruined with paint. Instead, I stripped it back to its original beauty.
I also love to use paint on the body, but keep the tops natural, like this eat-in kitchen table makeover using Beyond Paint.
In my opinion, painted furniture is here to stay, but again, it’s not about adding a coat of paint and calling it a day. It’s about going above and beyond to bring out wood’s natural beauty when you can, and when wood needs to be painted, you can use any one of these furniture paints to achieve a pretty painted look.
So What Do YOU Think?
Do you think that painted furniture it dead? Or do you feel excited about the next generation of products and techniques that are going to take furniture painting to the next level?
Leave a comment below and add to the conversation!
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I always used to feel that older or antique furniture should be restored by re-staining in the case of a worn or damaged finish but last year my girlfriend and I discovered a small local shop that sells refinished, painted vintage thrift store pieces that were painted by various local sellers/DIY’ers.
Before then we hadn’t heard of “Milk Paint” or “Mineral Paint” or even furniture paint now our home has a few painted pieces either purchased refinished or done ourselves. We have grown to like the look of painted furniture and have found that lower priced, mass produced vintage furniture, still made of light weight solid wood or plywood/veneer but not heavily constructed pieces, often looks better painted because paint, especially in colors lighter than black or brown, show better detail in the trim or woodwork.
To me, currently, I feel entire pieces in brown stain, especially several in a room tends to look dated and all the woodgrain is now too much for my eye, I get bored of all the lines. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that a piece or two of stained furniture, as long as the color isn’t too old fashioned, looks good with a mix of painted furniture or at least one painted piece as an accent or “pop of color”.
For example in our bedroom we have a pair of low cost wood nightstands purchased new in a dark espresso-like stain, and I built a tv stand in a similar stain color, but painted a $40 vintage chest of drawers found online black but stripped and stained the top also espresso. For a pop of color I’ve begun work on another inexpensive old chest of drawers I plan on painting a sage-like green again with the top stained dark (see a pattern?) and for the final project I plan on making a small wardrobe cabinet from repurposed old paneled house shutters as doors with the original hardware also painted the sage like green.
Sorry for the long winded story but I have found that painting furniture can actually make an old dated looking piece more fun, lively and interesting while better showing details in woodwork otherwise hidden by woodgrain and, when done sparingly, incorporating painted vintage pieces in a home can add color, cheer and break up the monotony of woodgrain lines everywhere.
I don’t see dates on this page for reference to when the painted look may have begun to be outdated. I just bought 2 small antique nightstands with the original finish, and I love them. I considered painting the lower portion as I’ve done on other pieces, but the painted look has definitely been done (and done), and stripping pieces down to show the natural grain devalues them. I’ve decided I’d rather have a mix of old and new, and tie them together with accessories to keep things updated and interesting. For a natural finish, I prefer buying unfinished furniture to work with, than stripping original finishes that are beautiful and show history.
Great points, Chris. I think it just depends on the look you’re going for! Stripping furniture is a messy job, so if you don’t have to do it, all the better! 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
I’m just starting to paint furniture and I have wondered if I’m coming to the party a tad late. I have noticed that much of the painted furniture looks the same, so my gut has told me to paint pieces with no distressing or aging techniques….just crisp, clean painting with interesting uses of color. I’m just about to finish my first piece and I’m hoping it sells. I am hoping my urge to go in the opposite direction from everyone else helps me to stand out.
By the way, your blog and Youtube videos have been extremely helpful and have got my creativity going!
I think you are a teeny bit late but that’s ONLY if you are trying to stay on trend. I tend to go with what makes me happy, not so much with what is “in” or “out.” So in that respect, you’re right on time, my friend! If you are trying to sell your pieces, then I say experiment and see what people gravitate towards. Check out magazines. Read blogs. See what the stores are doing (Home Goods doesn’t sell a lot of painted looking furniture now: most of it looks like aged wood like driftwood type natural wood looks). Good luck!
Yes. You are late…but the party ain’t over! It’s just changed as it does.
Going more modern may work for you. Specific colors/looks are trending right now – for inspiration check out the home flipper shows and see what colors they are using. Navy with gold harware is hot right now.
There will ALWAYS be a market for distressed or clean white furniture. I’ve found that light grey and tan or crram also sell well. Stained and painted furniture still does well – a dresser painted but with stained drawer fronts or top.
Beachy and some of the other trends may be dead but there is always still SOMEONE who loves it. It just might sit longer before it sells.
Do what makes you happy. And what makes you happy will change. Watch you tube tutorials. There are SO MANY finish styes and products and stencils and waxes and transfers and….well. Plenty to inspire you. And experiment. Buy some cheap side tables at a garage sale and test things out. Or just buy some plain wood and mess around with different techniques or products. Have FUN!
Hi, I agree I also prefer the clean solid color look with no distressing, also I like the look of painted pieces with stained tops or stained tops and drawers but painted bodies
No…. I don’t think his dad he just got to be more creative with colors very particular what you find out their unique furniture and if you have to pain it the right colors people are looking for something unique different one what time it’s good to sell smaller pieces that would get you through the dry spells and sometimes just lore your prices to To get people come to the door and slowly raise your prices back to where you want them to be