Painting Wood: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

September 1, 2011

I think I’m most happy with a paintbrush in my hand.  Painting furniture relaxes me, it’s my strange form of therapy, and I do my best thinking when I’m fixing up something old and turning it into something new.  I get a range of comments when I post about a refurbished piece and they cover the spectrum.  Mostly it’s these kind: “Thank goodness you painted that ugly old thing!”  or “Wow, I love that makeover!  Way to bring that piece into this century and give it new life!”  I love those. 

Then I’ll get one of these from time to time. “Oh my goodness, you girls and your paint cans, you’re going to be stripping off all that paint in five years!”.  If you’ve ever read the comments on Apartment Therapy anytime someone paints a piece of furniture, the wood purists come out of the woodwork (pun intended) and proclaim ruination.  It raises a controversial question, when should you or shouldn’t you paint your {insert old piece here}. 

My answer is always, “It just depends on the piece".  How’s that for vague?  OK, well how about this generality.  For me, anything that is mass produced is fair game, especially if it has laminate or veneers.  Solid wood unique pieces, especially if they are true antiques are where I hesitate.  Unless the wood is damaged, then wood putty plus paint always works in my book.      

Recently, I received and email from Kathryn, she sent me a picture of her dining room set, and asked how could she freshen it up.  Should she paint the chairs, the table, or both? 

My advice?  Pull an Eddie and paint those shield back chairs.  Then restain the table.

shield back chairs painted

Painting the chairs and reupholstering the seats in a modern fabric would go a long way to freshening this set. 

Here’s an example of two old dressers, one I’d paint, one I wouldn’t.  This first version I would paint.  That speckled finish is just too 1970’s for me and I can see it refinished in a classic black or white and it would play nicely in any space. 

paint it

 

Check out what a bold modern hue can do.  Take it one step further and add new hardware and the dresser is completely reinvented.

pained dressers

Curbly & Four Men and a Lady

Here is an example of a dresser I’d never paint, my own.  It’s a vintage Drexel Heritage piece my hub found ten years ago in an antique shop.  It’s crafted of beautiful solid wood and in excellent condition.  It has real beauty and value in its current state so I’m just not gonna do it. 

dont paint

 

Quality wood furniture is beautiful and when in excellent condition, has real value so consider selling it on Craigslist or to an antique shop or to someone who will appreciate it in its current state.  I think inherited pieces are much trickier – perhaps you’re “stuck” when them because they’ve always been in the family, but many ladies find they want to freshen a piece with a coat of paint.  If it’s inherited, well honey it’s now yours, so do what you want with it.  Things I’d never hesitate to paint?  Natural oak builder grade cabinets and dark wood wall paneling both come to mind. 

That’s my two cents on the issue.  Do you agree with me?  Or do you feel the need to set me straight?  When “should” you paint wood?  Let’s hear it.

 

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115 Responses to “Painting Wood: Should You or Shouldn’t You?”

  1. I also love painting furniture – it is very relaxing! I just finished this piece – http://mycoveredbridge.blogspot.com/2011/09/winters-day-dresser.html

    I think it is WAY better!

    Kristen

  2. Christy says:

    I completely agree! I inherited some gorgeous antique dressers. They were in bad shape, so my mom and I refinished them years ago when I was in high school. I “inherited” a terrible 70s credenza when I bought my house. It was left behind by the previous owners. I’m painting it white.

  3. julie says:

    I’m with you on what to paint and what to keep unpainted. My sister has some bedroom pieces that are drab and dreary and her hubs won’t let her touch it..they bought the pieces 2nd hand and it’s screaming for an update…I have my gmother’s old bedroom set and I am going to paint the pieces soon…I figure my grandmother would appreciate me using them and loving how they are finished…paint I say!!

  4. Kara says:

    The only wood that make me sad to see painted is beautiful old woodwork in houses.

  5. Mary Beth says:

    Kate…I think you said it perfectly! I was one of those wood purists for a long time. My father was a wood products salesman when I was growing up, so wood was sacred at our house. I have several pieces of my moms that I would never paint (should I say never?) But lately, and thanks to your blog, I have been having the best time thrifting furniture and giving it a new lease on life! It can make such a change in a room. So I agree with you, take care of the really good wood pieces you have and paint the rest!

  6. Dana says:

    Furniture, paneling, cabinets…whatever, paint it. But what I absolutely HATE is seeing painted wood trim in beautiful old houses! I remember going to a showing of an adorable old farmhouse from the early teens that had stunning built in cabinetry in the dining room and book cases in the living room. The owner selling it had painted all of it. I wanted to buy the house just to save it from her!

  7. Cass says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you, especially about inherited pieces and the dark wood paneling. Our house is a house that is divided; The Hubs doesn’t want ANY wood painted in the home and I would like to interject a few pieces. This is a tricky subject “to paint, or not to paint”; thanks for going out on a limb and voicing your opinion on this matter.

  8. Kimberly says:

    I am loving the trend of painted wood furniture. Of course, I don’t really own anything of great value, so I all for freshening with a coat of paint. I’m trying to find the time to paint my crib and changing table from a light 90′s wood to a shiny white. So excited!

  9. Deb Owen says:

    I agree with you totally on this. The pieces I paint are mainly what we refer to as “rescues”. Hideous damage, veneer peeling, burns, stains, gouges. And I still hear from my mother, “Boy there are gonna be a lot of people cussing at you in 10 years when they strip paint off of all this.” However, there was a time in the 70′s when she painted anything that didn’t move fast enough, so I just laughed and said it was cyclical! I can live with the things I’ve painted thus far, and if I do wonder about a piece I just restain it and keep moving forward.

  10. Meadowlark says:

    Fine furniture, probably not. Pieces that are damaged, definitely.

    Antique ice-box painted yellow? http://gorgfabgoodies.blogspot.com/2010/01/blog-post.html Please shoot me now :(

  11. I really think it’s an individual choice, but people shouldn’t hesitate to paint something simply because it’s inherited and old and solid wood. Not all antiques – even really old ones – are valuable. If I really want to paint something and have doubts about whether or not doing so will “ruin” a good antique, I call a certified antique appraiser.

    I inherited an 1800s bedroom set from my Grandparents. It’s a dark, solid oak set with intricate carvings. While oak generally isn’t my favorite, I would never paint it because it’s actually more valuable as is, according to an appraiser. The furniture is pegged (not nailed or screwed together), and the maker’s mark on it is identifiable. If I painted over that, it would destroy the value. So, while I think it might be more to my taste if painted white and distressed a bit, I can’t bring myself to do it.

    The other upside of paying for a professional appraisal of any furniture you suspect might be an antique is that you can insure it accordingly (if it’s meaningful or expensive). And you might also be surprised to learn that something that is now stained wood might have originally been a painted piece! Yep – people painted furniture quite often back in the day, especially during Victorian and Edwardian periods. When they got tired of that look, the stripped them down and stained them. :-) Who knows; you might be returning an antique to its former glory if you paint it!

  12. Tiffany says:

    I agree completely, especially the wood paneling. Blech!

  13. Jessica says:

    I am in 100% agreement with you. Anything mass produced, forget it. There is no value there and people should feel free to do whatever suits them! For the most part, I think painting them brings them up to date and makes them unique, but I have pieces that I can’t seem to put a brush to either. You’re totally right, it just depends! :)

  14. kimberly says:

    I am married to a wood purist. : / LOVE everything you have done. You have a talent I want. : )

  15. Shannon says:

    Agree! Some wood is beautiful and some wood is..just wood. I have an antique record player that is still in amazing condition that I would never dream of painting. But, I bought a used headboard for $13.00 at Value village and the wood just competes with all the colour and pattern in my bedroom. It’s getting painted this weekend. I’ve definitely gotten in fights about this with “Wood Purists” who are of the opinion that all wood is beautiful and precious and must be kept as is or who think that paint cheapens the look.

  16. Wow…..how timely. I am the same way about painting furniture…..and I love me some painted furniture. It relaxes me so much. At the moment I am currently in the process of painting an entire house full of solid wood paneling. I am bringing a 1980′s ski lodge some “Mottage” Modern cottage. I can’t wait to show the revel on my blog.

  17. Jesyka says:

    Yes Kate! Thank you so much for giving wood purists out there a good example of when it is okay to paint and what not to paint. Painting wood doesn’t mean you don’t have respect for the piece. It just means that you have a different idea of what will make the piece more enjoyable and give it new life. I’m all for not painting wood if the wood is high quality/antique/truly unique, etc. Moreover, so what if you paint it and decide to strip it later? Are you going to regret the years you enjoyed it painted? Probably not. Why do people care about how much work you decide to put into your own furniture? Maybe they don’t understand how much we don’t mind putting in a little elbow grease to get the results we want. ~.^

  18. brandi says:

    i completely agree with you, Kate. and I’ve read seen some of those comments on on Apartment Therapy in regards to painting wood. those folks can be brutal! LOL!

  19. Kathy says:

    I am thrilled you have posted this today as I am in the midst of an internal conflict with myself about this very topic. My problem is I have no clue about furniture. I would love to repaint this old china cabinet I was given by the people across the street during an estate sale (I had mentioned I liked it while perusing with my husband and was overheard) and since it hadn’t sold for whatever they were asking and they didn’t feel like hauling it the carried it over and offered it for free (score for me). My concern is mostly what if this thing is an antique or valuable as I haven’t seen anything like it (and I have been looking for 5 years)? I think I need the final ok mentally that I wouldn’t be destroying a unique piece of furniture so I can try my hand at this whole painting thing.

  20. Totally agree with you! Love a modern touch to an old piece by painting it!

  21. Melissa says:

    I want to paint my daughter’s small table (she uses it as a desk) & her dresser. Both white. If I get this done, it will match her new bed. I say paint furniture!! I have more I want to paint, too!!

  22. Emily says:

    My Mother-In-law gave me a beautiful tall birdseye maple dresser, and I would never dream of painting it. It’s just such a beautiful color and pattern, that it doesn’t need anything else!

  23. Couldn’t agree more Kate – I think it depends on the piece of furniture, as well as whether or not you’ll get any enjoyment out of it the way it is. Even if it’s “beautiful” in it’s original wood state – if you don’t love it, what’s the point of having it? I recently inherited a classic old victorian sofa, and it’s in pretty good shape. But I’ll get ZERO use from it unless I do something fun with it – like this: http://pinterest.com/pin/101715234/. Otherwise, it’s just gonna sit in my basement with it’s pretty original wood and no one’s gonna see it.

  24. Lil says:

    I have a few pieces of somewhat beat up inherited wood furniture that I love and that I will never paint. I have other pieces (some less beat up) that are slated for painting as soon as I get the inspiration. I have a few pieces of fugly furniture that I repainted and either love or figure “will do until I find the perfect piece to paint”.

    It all depends on how much you love the piece, on your “relationship” with it.

  25. Spruce it Up says:

    I totally agree, except I broke the rules with my mother’s mahogany hopechest that I inherited about 6 years ago. It was nicked and worn and the lines of it lent it to a new look in Heirloom White from Ben Moore and the trim is distressed for a gorgeous shabby/cottagey look. I took a chance and I love the piece now more than ever.

    The other thing that a fresh coat of paint can do to furniture or frames is to unify a collection… sometimes it’s all worthwhile!

  26. Oh man! What a great subject. I just recently inherited a buffet for my dining and a high boy from my mother in law. Both of which have brass, old school hardware. I want to paint them both sooooo bad, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. The buffet isn’t so bad but that high boy….whew. It’s just not my thing. I do appreciate that it’s a beautiful piece and it provides amazing storage but it’s just not my style. Maybe one day I’ll break down and paint them.

  27. Lane says:

    I totally agree and thank god my mom is on the same page as me. She gives me plenty of antiques that are all right but could use some updating, however if I can ever get my hands on her beautiful sideboard I would not paint it. Unfortunatly my husbands family would flip out if I ever painted any of their antiques. They have a secretary desk that has been broken for years sitting in the entry way to their house. When I suggested just have it repaired his dad freaked out, because it would lose value being repaired. I knew then that I wouldnt be able to do an Eddie Ross make over on it.

  28. AMEN! If you have a piece of furniture that you don’t like the way it looks, go ahead and paint it. You are the one who has to live with it. As for stripping the paint off in 5-10-15 year. So what if we do. I strip paint of other things all the time. Might as well enjoy the piece in the here and now.

  29. elaine says:

    I love your advice and totally agree. Well put my friend! :)

  30. Jeanine says:

    I have an antique rocker that is moisture damaged, broken rocker foot and missing piece from a joint around the top. It’s a rounded back with a scroll end on each arm rest, and most likely mahogany. It’s been broken for 30+ years by my brother, and I keep thinking I’ll get it restored. Not. It’s just not feasible. But it means so much to me because my great-grandfather used to hold me on his lap and read to me while in that chair.

    So now, after seeing all these wonderful antiques restored to a useful capacity by paint, I’m going to repair it and paint / glaze it so that I can use it to read to my grandchildren. Useful beats useless in my book.

  31. Beth says:

    I agree on everything. Those dresser makeovers just blow me away. And I couldn’t agree more on the inherited furniture. Unless it’s a high quality valuable antique, you should feel free to do what you want with it. Otherwise, it becomes like an unwelcome guest!

  32. Miriam says:

    I completely agree. Some antiques that are in FANTASTIC condition really should not be painted but everything else ESPECIALLY if it has any damage should be painted. I would cringe if you painted your drexel dresser. Thank goodness you know what it is and will never paint it. I think if you have a beautiful piece you want to paint you should run to the thrift store or craigslist and find a similar damaged or dated piece and get your paint fix that way :)

  33. Sarahee7 says:

    Agreed! Makes we want to go search out some similar chairs!

  34. I’ve just very recently discovered a love for painting furniture and I agree with you wholeheartedly. I am now working on the bedroom set that belonged to my husband as a child (looks just like that 70′s dresser with that old dark speckled finish…yuck!) but I’ve decided not to touch the oak dresser I was just given from my mother that belonged to my grandmother. It’s a nice oak that is in remarkable condition considering it was in the hands of my older brother for years. Just gonna clean her up a bit.

    I’m happiest with a paintbrush in my hand too. Can’t believe it took me so long to figure that out! Thanks for the inspiration! I’ve learned a lot from your blog.

  35. Simone says:

    Agree!!!Thats weird I was just thinking this thought today!! Because I do know that the wood look will work its way back around, but until then Happy PAINTING for me!! Because of you, I am a spray paint fanatic! Thank you for saving my decorating life:)

  36. Rachel says:

    Good advice! I’m totally on the same page. I’ve painted many pieces of furniture with zero regret!

    There are a few pieces I have that I’d like to paint, but I hesitate because they are family antiques. I know most of them don’t have a high value, but I still somehow can’t bring myself to paint them!

  37. Angie says:

    I’m pretty much in agreement with you. I love painting stuff—esp. old, not-lookin’-so good stuff—and giving it new life. I do want to challenge one of your points, though: I don’t think that wood furniture that has veneers is necessarily fair game. Using wood veneers is actually an old technique that many fine furniture makers used (and continue to use) to make sure that they can show the most beautiful patterns of the wood on the surface of the furniture. Now, if it’s some flawed bit of veneer slapped onto a bit of cheap particle board, by all means, it needs paint.

  38. Kimberly C. says:

    I agree and I have the “Yep” piece that I’ve been thinking about painting and I will!

  39. Kim says:

    Totally agree. I wouldn’t touch that dresser either. It is gorgeous. I just posted a piece I just transformed. Didn’t know until I started blogging that I love transforming furniture, too. Maybe you will get a chance to check it out.

  40. CentsationalGirl says:

    Oh yes Angie, you’re so right. There are quality wood on wood veneers and then there are those plasticy cheapo versions that are like you said slapped on particle board. Very different, great point!

  41. I posted about this very topic, but from a different angle last night. The argument I make, from my aesthetic, is that natural wood has a beautiful place in lots of different interiors. For me, a room full of painted wood pieces, with no natural wood to be found, leaves me searching for the missing piece.
    Camille

  42. Caroline says:

    I agree…you used perfect examples.

  43. Jen says:

    Antique does not equal valuable. People forget that, or never realize it to begin with, hence the uproar when any old, wood furniture is painted. Funnier is when they hullabaloo about painting a piece that’s been refinished at some point in it’s life – any value the piece may have had was ruined when it was refinished. Using paint to update a piece or to remedy damage is giving value to an otherwise unwanted, sometimes unusable piece. And that’s always good. (Oh – and I have the exact same dining chairs, painted white. Before that, I slipcovered the backs and seats [separate pieces to look upholstered]. Paint ‘em.)

  44. MrsPage says:

    I have a question, what about painting “fake” wood? My bedroom furniture is that cheap heavy pressboard crap with “woodgrain” looking laminate on the outsides of it. Can that even be painted? Would the paint even stick to that crap? I’d love to just buy new furniture, but sadly a can of paint is more fitting with my budget these days.

  45. Heather says:

    I agree! I “inherited” some furniture (i.e. take these dressers out of Grandma’s basement because she’s had them for over 50 years and she doesn’t have the heart to throw them out but she doesn’t want them either) and while they were functional, the stain was ugly fake cedar-stain from the 50s. I didn’t have the heart to toss them either…too much family history attached. I finally painted them and replaced the drawer pulls. Lo and behold, Grandma was tickled pink to see them painted and being put to good use again.

  46. JoAnn says:

    After reading all the post i am still undecided as what to do. Cute maple Drexel hutch that I bought at an antique mall 9 years ago. Was thinking about painting it black or off white and destressing it, uthe wood is in perfect condition, like new. Just so hard to paint ‘good” wood. What to do?

  47. Great advice. Sometimes I paint, sometimes I won’t. Like you said it depends on the piece, the quality and the condition. I also have flipped the occasional piece for a nice profit if it is not my style and just too nice to paint. (ex. $60 pair of Vilas bookcases with drawers and arched top spotted at the back of an estate sale by my 11 year old son, flipped untouched and sold for $425 for the pair. Paint would have lessened their value and they still wouldn’t have been my style.)

  48. Nodakademic says:

    I agree. I’d paint a veneer piece, but never something solid wood. Like someone else said above, it kills me when people paint original solid woodwork in old homes. I live in an old home where the main floor has been left unpainted, but someone did paint all of the trim upstairs white. Even though it’s easier to match wall colors, etc with white trim, I think it’s really awful to paint original, good quality woodwork. Sigh.

  49. ashley says:

    Love this post! I was undecided this summer about painting an old desk. I took the plunge and painted it a beautiful green jem-like color. I love it and so everyone who sees it. It’s a true statement piece that screams so much about my personality. On a sidenote, those chairs are great!!

    theinspiredlens.blogspot.com

  50. Lorrie says:

    Great post! I’ve been torn on whether to paint my 19 year old dining room chairs. They’re good quality chairs, but I’ve grown tired of the cherry. Paint would definitely freshen them up. I don’t care if a wood purist would cringe! We all should go with what we want and worry less about what others think.

  51. Londen says:

    I agree, painting makes for some good thinking time. I’ve had a paintless summer for the most part and forgot how it’s like therapy for me. Unless I get the color wrong, then I’m just mad!

  52. You are right on! I have several pieces in my house that I want/need to paint but never seem to have the time. I just need to do it! :)

  53. I am with you, girl! Paint that 70′s wood, but leave the classic, well, classic! True timeless beauty is unmistakably obvious. Having said that, your heart is your best compass. (And there are no furniture police, or, at least, they haven’t found me yet!)

  54. Erika says:

    Plus – even with your super awesome skills – I don’t think that dresser could look any better! :)

  55. Darlene says:

    I am a fan of painting wood. I’ve painted bathroom cabinets, dressers, wood molding and loved the look when I was finished.

  56. I completely agree with you. A dresser like that is gorgeous in its natural state, so it would be shame to paint it.

    I really believe that you should do what will make you happy. I’m painting the trim in my house because that’s what I like. I’m not worried about future homeowners wanting natural wood trim because I’m the one who is living here now. I like crisp white trim in this house.

    (plus, it’s not the beautiful wood trim that can be found in a few older houses, just generic 1970′s)

  57. Jessica says:

    I love painting wood….as long as it’s not an antique. I have lots of furniture from my great gram and 2nd great gram that I wouldn’t dare touch! :)

  58. I agree that veneers or laminate furniture often look a lot better after being made over with paint. I always shudder, though, when someone paints over beautifully stained woodwork trim in their century house. It seems like it’s a fad right now to paint everything, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. :)

  59. I’m with you 100%! There are items you can (and in some cases should) paint and others are off limit.

  60. Rachel says:

    I like the comment that suggested an appraisal if you are unsure about a piece- great advice! I would tell people to paint what they want. Short of a truly valuable museum piece, as long as you are going to enjoy it, then go fot it. And I will break with the consensus here, I like painted trim in some of the old houses!! It depends on the house, but I have never been a fan of the heavy and dark all-wood Arts &Crafts “look”. Sometimes, painted trim and woodwork just looks better to me.
    Great post!

  61. Jaymee says:

    I agree, it depends on the piece. We have some antiques I would never think of painting, and some that look so much better and fresh after a couple of cans of spray paint! It’s a matter of what works best for you and your home.

  62. Lisa says:

    I really love the painted/distressed look. BUT I just scored a broyhill tv armoire and won’t paint it – the wood is just too gorgeous (like your second dresser!) AND I just ran across someone who painted a Victrola cabinet and compared to the original (gorg!) painting it just drove it down to cheap and tacky. Actually, I didn’t see the original, but my in-laws have the same exact one and it’s beautiful wood.

    In any case, all of that to say, I agree with ya. Well said.

    :-)

  63. Catherine says:

    I do agree with you that some pieces look better painted and some beautiful, classic pieces should be left alone. My quandary is that I have an oval, footed coffee table with drop leaves and the matching rectangular end tables that are very classic in styling but have seen better days. I keep debating whether they would look good in an antique white for a more vintage look. Any thoughts?

  64. Is it bad that my answer is- you should paint wood whenever it belongs to you and you really want to? I mean, we definitely have a VERY nice wood dining room set that I would never paint but in general, why worry what someone else values when YOU are the one living with the furniture?

    I agree that the whole hand me down/heirloom thing is tricky though… I was planning to paint the crib white that my in laws were giving us (it had been my hubby’s baby crib). I told them about it before they brought it to the house and once they gave it to us, they changed their minds and declared it “on loan” since they wanted to save it in case my brother in law ever wanted to use it (don’t ask me what happens if we both have babies at the same time!) It was weird how they managed to control how the baby room turned out (not all white furniture like I wanted, obviously). It wasn’t a big deal in the long run, but I really think the generational thing has to do with taste and trends- and chances are, none of us who really like painted wood are going to be changing our minds anytime soon! :)

  65. kelly oneil says:

    wood tones are easier to maintain – so wood toned chairs look better for the long haul. Painted chairs, esp. dining chairs, can get beat up in a hurry.

  66. I am in full agreement! My hubs is very traditional, anti-wood painting. I like the look. I do have a couple of antique family pieces that I have not painted b/c I am not sure how I would feel at the end of it!!

  67. Robyn says:

    I wish my dad would have let us paint the really dark wood paneling that was in the entire house, including all bedroom closets, linen closet and laundry room! Every. Single. Room. Ugh. Add that with the dark green/blue shag carpet and you have one rockin 70′s bachelor pad that my mom wasn’t able to make any changes to.

    I know he got a really great deal on the paneling because my grandparents house also had the exact same crap also in every single room except for the “brick” walls in the kitchen.

    However, I agree – it all depends on the piece and how you feel about it.

  68. Linda Kay says:

    I totally agree with you on the subject. I also believe that if it’s your piece of furniture and you want to paint it then you should go for it. You shouldn’t let anyone make you feel guilty about painting it either. It’s not about them…it’s about you and what brings you joy! Antiqes require careful consideration. If they can be used in their original state that’s great but if they are being pushed aside because they look shabby…I say give them a new look!

  69. Vanessa says:

    I love it. I was thinking about an old dining table and china set I received from my hubby’s grandmother. I hate the color and I want to paint it. It’s not antique, so I am going to go for it. I just need to pick a color. Thanks for the tips.

    Vanessa

  70. It drives me crazy when clients wont paint wood because it is a good wood. Sometimes good wood looks ugly and you need to paint it. I find that it is my older clients that have this not painting wood thing, especially for oak.

  71. Rachael says:

    Painting is always tricky business in my book, mostly because I don’t know when to say no! I think you are definitely right in not painting beautiful solid wood pieces that will stand the test of decor time. Sadly I haven’t gotten my hands on a piece of furniture yet that is worth leaving in its original state. At least I have fun rehabbing in the meantime!

  72. Heather ~REdressed.blog.com~ says:

    I have to comment on this because I recently had this debate with a friend of mine. She had an inherited piece of wood furniture that she wanted to paint because, in her words, the wood was not pretty wood. And yet she couldn’t bring herself to do it because she felt you shouldn’t paint wood. Fortunately, I have never been told you shouldn’t paint wood, and I would paint anything wood unless it was incredibly valuable or it was ‘pretty’. I convinced her that painting wood was not evil and now that I’ve seen her finished piece, I’m so glad she painted it. I think painting wood makes people nervous because of how difficult it is to go back to wood, but I personally have no such qualms.

    If you don’t like it wood, PAINT IT! That’s my advice.

  73. statia says:

    Funny that you posted this. I have a piece that I recently painted. A CL find, that I got for about a hundred bucks. It was my first real redo, and I researched it endlessly before I painted it (a hepplewhite sideboard). I’m a fan of wood (insert 12 year old laughter here). It took me a long time to come around to color and painted surfaces, and even then, I will still prefer wood grain over paint. But, I’ve come around and if the condition of the piece isn’t salvageable to it’s original state (antique or not), I would paint it. Veneer, yes (my current project). Mostly, I look for surfaces that can be restored, maybe at a darker color. Which means, I tend to steer away from things like burle and veneers (the only reason I’m painting a veneer now is because the piece was mine as a baby and is vintage, and I’ve always loved the lines of it, and it was in danger of being pitched from my parent’s moldy basement). I appreciate them immensely, but I feel that staining them darker would just not do the piece any justice.

  74. Hillary says:

    I think you are spot on in everything you said! Builder grade oak cabinets are the worst offenders, though. Blah. I can’t stand seeing those in houses — so dated and so easy to fix. And people worry about painting them because they think it will hurt resale value? I guess if you do a bad job it will hurt resale value, but I think when potential buyers come into a home, they’re going to be happy to see a kitchen that is fresh and updated as opposed to a throwback to the ’70s.

    What really annoys me is when I walk into a furniture store that still sells 80s style oak furniture. Please! Stop building those awful tables with goofy inlays and stop staining them orange! Ugh. But I guess there must still be a market for those or they wouldn’t keep selling them.

  75. Lauralee says:

    OMG this post could not have come at a better time! I am in such a pickle at my house! My DH believes no wood should ever be painted. But in our house, EVERYTHING is brown stain. Pine floors, stained trim, brown cabinets, brown pine breakfast and dining tables, brown chairs! My issue is I have four old oak dining chairs. The finish is just nasty/sticky. And the seats are, I kid you not, red plether! I want to clean them and paint the chairs a satin black and recover the seats. You would think I had just suggested sacrificing our first born child! I also want to paint the skirt and legs of the pine plank breakfast room table black and refinish the top. Please tell me I would not be committing the unpardonable sin by painting the chairs and table skirt/legs!

  76. Peggy says:

    I totally agree with you. I also think that a single painted wood piece in a room is often times enough. It lightens the room, and lets all the other elements “breathe”. You don’t want too much of a good thing – it can get old and tiresome. And one thing I would never paint is a table. I don’t care what you paint it with, it won’t be able to stand up to the daily abuse that this most used piece of furniture gets.

  77. I’m another to completely agree….even though I’m an obvious fan of furniture re-do’s, some pieces should just be left alone! Thanks for sharing the example pictures – I think that helps some people understand what you mean. :-)

  78. Sarah says:

    I totally agree, some pieces can never be improved on. The second dresser is beautiful, and if you have a piece like this doesn’t fit, sell it to someone who will love it.

  79. I think you hit the nail on the head. I have a few inherited pieces that I’ll never touch with paint. The only pieces I tend to paint are icky Goodwill finds.

  80. Amy in PA says:

    I agree with your assessments. The current debate in our home is about painting wood stained trim. 90% of the house has white painted trim (baseboards, windows & door frames) About 10% has stained trim – that part is the middle of the house and has matching hardwood floors. I’d like to paint that trim to match with the rest of the house, provide better flow, lose the matchy-matchy & show off the floors better. I’m working on the husband & feel like I might be close to getting his approval!

  81. Amy Dow says:

    I say if it’s yours and you want to paint it…paint it! Not everyone likes the look of natural wood and I thing repurposing something so it works in your house is better than dumping it because you don’t like the look of it. Some people love painted wood…some don’t but when it’s your furniture you can do whatever you want with it!

  82. Frankie says:

    The only furniture I’d never paint is a true antique that has some value AND it would have to be a piece I love as is. Other than that, everything is fair game. I don’t care what wood “purist” think. If they want to live with all that damned stained wood fine. I don’t! I want to surround myself with things that make me happy and stained wood has very, very rarely done that.

  83. Ann says:

    I agree on the paneling. Our last house had picture frame paneling and made our great room look SOOO dark! I went to a neighbor’s house one day and they had painted it and it looked fabulous! My husband painted ours and it changed the whole room. In fact, when we went to sell the house, it sold in 11 days, which is SUPER quick for that ‘hood, and the buyer commented that she set out to not buy any house w/ paneling but loved what we’d done so much, they bought it. I agree with you on what furniture to paint and not to paint. Also, builder-grade oak cabinets painted look HORRIBLE! Don’t try it!

  84. sue says:

    We had a number of pieces of French provential furniture that we got from my MIL. My ex was from the, “thou shalt not paint wood” club and I really disliked those pieces all the years I used them. Now, I see pieces JUST like the ones I owned and I would have loved my furniture if I had painted them! In fact, I wish I could get my hands on so many of those pieces because painted, they would be gorgeous and I never thought I would say that. I don’t think my ex or his mom would have approved at the time and that would have made for problems. We also had ugly paneling in my first home and it would have looked one hundred times better if it had been painted. That said, I have seen some pieces that I think looked better if the brush hadn’t been used, but, I just bite my tongue, keep my opinion to myself and recognize that you have to do what makes YOU happy.
    I also recognize that someday, down the road, bloggers will be complaining about all the painting and distressing of furniture and how the “new” look will be to strip and rediscover the beautiful wood beneath…far fetched? Perhaps, but what looks old to one person was once new and the cat’s meow at one time.

  85. Caroline says:

    Pine should ALWAYS be painted. I think it’s ugly and cheap looking. Otherwise, I agree- it depends on the piece. I love your antique set of drawers :)

  86. Bonnie says:

    THANK YOU! thank you thankyou!!! As a new blogger who loves to paint furniture- if it is hopess otherwise, I now have a post to refer all the naysayers to!! LOL!

  87. Beth says:

    I hate to paint wood. I am a refinisher like nobody’s business. But, that being said, some pieces just need a revamp. I have a solid walnut buffet, early century, that is going to get a coat of paint. I do have mixed feelings about painting it. It’s a huge piece, over 5 feet long, and it so dark that it sucks the light out of whatever room I put it in. It’s like a big black hole. It’s also very ornate – wood veneers, carved legs, etc, and doesn’t really fit with the rest of my furniture. So, paint time!

  88. Virginia Mom says:

    I’ve been around long enough to remember my grandmother and mother going through a phase (late 1960s) in which they painted everything Avocado Green or Florentine Ivory, both with a thick, drippy “antiquing glaze” as a top coat. Bless their hearts, they were trying. For years, we had a huge breakfront in the dining room that looked like a giant glass box of guacamole. To their credit, they never painted truly valuable antiques, like the 130-year-old Windsor chair I still have, with its natural wear spots and lovely aged patina. I believe Grandma would LOVE to be around today to see the bright, fresh colors breathing new life into the mass-produced “French Provincial” (ha!) dressers and blah blah “Early American” coffee tables of the old days. And she would not be mad at me for painting her last surviving solid cherry dining chair painted white and reupholstered in bright blue ikat fabric. In fact, she’d be on here telling you-all to Go For It.

  89. Natasha williams says:

    I’m just so much better at stripping, sanding and staining, than I am at painting. So I usually stain wood. I have painted a few pieces that turned out nice, but I feel I have more control over the staining process than when I paint. I’m not against painting wood… I’m just not that great at it. ;-) BTW, all of your pieces are gorgeous!!!!

  90. I think you are pretty much spot on. The only thing I would add is that I would not paint it if you have already painted everything else! I think there should always be some natural woods but too many is bad. too little is also bad in my mind. There is a real painted furniture trend on now but trends will end. paint all the low quality woods, things that need refinishing, chipped, or just bad condition. dont paint antiques, solid wood or unique finishes (like real burl wood) because they are too rare to destroy.

  91. We couldn’t agree with you more! 70′s gets painted…all the way! It also depends on the room where the piece is going. Sometimes wood is called for, but other times a little painted jewel sets the personality for the room.

  92. Ash says:

    I’m glad that you bring up this point, because a lot of people have conflicting views on the matter but no one ever seems to argue their point well! It turns into a whole judgement issue (which is just plain weird– I mean, it’s just furniture!) Even in my own house there’s conflict. My husband is a strong Anti-Paint arguer whereas I’m more open minded. Thanks for giving me food for thought and (if nothing else) a little better way to explain my feelings to my husband when it comes time to whip out the ol’ paintbrush. :)

    Btw, love your blog!

  93. Erika says:

    I painted a dresser chocolate brown, which I think is a newbie mistake. It’s not adventurous, it didn’t make the piece pop in the room, it actually clashed with the dark cherry furniture that I have in my bedroom. Then I applied it wrong and it’s peeling where ever the wood rubs against something else. I don’t regret painting it because the white paint was discolored and spotty. I just wish I had educated myself more about painting furniture before I did something so drastic.

  94. Marla says:

    Having inherited some beautiful, & not so beaut, furniture pieces I can say I have learned one thing: Trust your instincts.
    For solid wood pieces I located a local woodsmith that can take the most ugly surfaces and make them oh so fine!:) The money is worth the investment here.
    For crappe (i.e. veneered; say the word with French accent at the end), I love high gloss paint and polyacrylic, and these I do myself.
    Hmm, as I sit here in my little nook I spy the ‘French’/Crappe 3-shelf bookcase with dentil moulding atop which years ago my precious MIL gave my DH for college. That piece is just screamin out to be transformed into a living piece as a cookbook shelf before the summer is over so…gotta run, “Get My Paint On!”;)

  95. elz says:

    Great post. I’m thinking about painting versus staining on a couple of pieces. I decided I’m painting the mass produced cabinet we got a few years ago (and gotten our $ worth). The “antique” piece I grew up with in my bedroom, now in my girls’ room needs help. I just don’t think staining will help enough. So, that is getting painted too….I think…

  96. nelda says:

    It all depends on the piece itself. Some pieces of furniture were meant to be painted in the first place…even some antique ones (100+ years old). I once stripped an antique washstand only to find it was made of different types of wood…it wouldn’t stain evenly and had to be repainted. If the veneer on a piece is damaged, by all means paint it. Paint can always be removed, except on porous wood like oak.

  97. Melissa says:

    I find myself in complete agreement with you. It was a little eerie. I’ve been painting furniture (among other things) for years. So what if you decide to change it in 5 years? I change my wall colors more often than that! Regarding the question about the table and chairs – it’s the exact advice I would have given. Sometimes it’s just nice to have some validation.

  98. Maury says:

    100% I just bought a 75 year old drop leave cherry table at a yard sale for $30. It’s in nearly perfect condition. I’m not touching it… on the other hand, I bought a mahogany side table that is just kinda sad looking. I needs some love. I’m seriously considering painting it. Not sure yet.

  99. rasha says:

    100% right kate …u r just simply the best ..love ur taste

  100. Mary says:

    I agree with everything you do and say. I put a link to one of your projects on my FB page and the wood purists came out! I think anybody who reads blogs and decor magazines understands that a mix is best and appreciates the difference a coat if paint can make.

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