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.
LISTEN TO THIS AUDIO
No time to read this post? Click below to listen to the audio version read by me. 🙂
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.
But if you’re paintingAnd 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? 🙂
(STRIPPING TIP: If you think you will strip it years later, be sure to add a clear coat of shellac to the wood first! This helps to create a nice barrier over the wood to prevent the paint from soaking into the wood. It will make stripping much easier later if you should change your mind!)
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).
Horrible black chipped paint that destroyed the wood. She ended up hiring me to see if I could strip it. WHEW! It was a 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.
So What Paint SHOULD You Use on Furniture Then?
In the last few years, a number 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!
- FolkArt Chalky Paint
- Amy Howard at Home
- Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
- Miss Mustardseed Milk Paint
- General Finishes Milk Paint
- RECLAIM Beyond Paint
- Shabby Paints
- Heirloom Traditions
Considering subscribing to my blog and I’ll send you some freebies to help you get started with painting furniture and DIY.
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!
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. But also don’t be afraid to do your research. In the last months, I’ve started doing a lot of research about wood, trying to understand more about wood. And the more I learn, the more respect I have for it.
But I also realize that even if you respect wood, some pieces of wood furniture just don’t fit our styles. And I think it’s okay to paint them as long as you don’t feel any regret over it.
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.
You might want to check out my other post, Understanding Wood, to learn more about wood.
Projects I Couldn’t Bear to Paint
I love me some painted furniture.
But the more I learn about wood, the more benefit I see in restoring the wood to its natural beauty.
Here are a few recent projects I completed where I decided to restore them instead of painting them.
I was >thisclose< to painting this vintage drafting table I had gotten from the thrift store, but decided against it after I saw the gorgeous grain popping through.
Now, I can appreciate the grain and it looks great in my garage!
Watch This Natural Wood Makeover in Action
This Mid-Century Modern Dresser Makeover
I also couldn’t bear to paint this mid-century modern dresser that I picked up for $29 at the thrift store!
The wood was just too gorgeous!
You can read in this Mid-Century Modern Makeover post how I attempted to strip and refinish its natural wood, but ran into a feeeewwww projects. 😉 LOL
Watch This Mid-Century Modern Makeover in Action
You can see all my videos on my YouTube channel, too.
Projects That Were Questionable, But Were Painted
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…
But the “after” was too pretty and updated.
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 re-staining and then painting the body.
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.