When to paint antique wooden furniture – and when you absolutely shouldn’t

AT Beautiful house we all want to invest in furniture that will last for generations. And, especially with current supply chain delays, vintage and antique options are often the best way to get a piece. without wait a month for it to arrive. But once you have the item, what’s the best way to refresh it? Sofas and armchairs can be upholstered, of course, but what about wooden antiques? Is it acceptable to repaint them? Well, it turns out the design world is firmly divided on this subject. Between the naysayers and the “go for it” crowd, however, there are a few key takeaways. Here’s what the pros say.

When Not repaint the wood

A Swedish chest of drawers unearthed by Margaret Schwartz of Modern Antiquarian.

Susana Lopez

“It depends on the quality of the part and the paint,” explains Sophie Williamson. In practice, this may be more important if you think you could unload the part down the line. “If it’s a high-quality antique that you want to resell later, painting diminishes its value,” notes Margaret Schwartz, founder of Modern Antiquarian. Miriam Silver Verga of Mimi & Hill echoes this sentiment: “When you paint an antique, you decide that its value is yours alonebecause painting something vintage changes its price in the long run.”

“Do do not touch up a beautiful antique,” ​​says designer Gray Walker. House of Drennan agrees: “If it’s a real antique in top shape, it’s a crime!”

In addition to quality, you may also want to consider the materials used: are they rare or difficult to refinish? “I cringe when I see exotic woods like painted or bleached mahogany,” says historian Hampton DeVille. Rachel Cannon agrees: “If it’s a second-hand item built from a common wood like oak or pine, with rudimentary joinery, you can probably paint it safely” , she says. “However, if it’s made of exotic woods like cherry, mahogany, or lemon, probably not.”

When to paint wooden furniture


If it’s a low value part on the used market or has a poor existing finish, a paint job can actually to augment assess. “It all depends on the room and the existing brown finish,” says Ashley Hanley. “If it is in poor condition, a new paint will bring it back to life”, says Camila Pavone.

If you are do not concerned with maintaining value, many designers say – you guessed it – to follow their personal preferences. “It’s not a crime at all if it means saving something from the dumpster,” says Jenny Brown. “The quality of antiques and some vintage pieces is generally far superior to what you would get for the same price today.”

“If you want to keep something that’s been passed down in your family and the only way to do that is to paint it to match your decor, by all means do it,” says Verga.

Travis London argues in favor of painting if it’s a real upgrade: “Painting antiques gives them new life and makes them personal to their new home. Antiques are meant to last and be shared for generations, why not give them new life?‘ As Christine Pokorney of Clem Schaub Architects says, ‘If it means the love will continue for this piece, then go for it!’

The best way to paint wooden furniture

So if you do decide to go, what should you consider? “Investigate first,” advises Williamson. “And proceed with caution.” After all, “you want to make sure you’re not sitting on a hidden gem,” says Cannon. If you’re sure the piece isn’t a rare wood or valuable antique, pop the paint! Here are some points to consider:

  1. Choose the right paint: There are many options for refinishing a room. Chalk paint will give an element of texture, while Traci Connell prefers lacquer antique parts for “a shiny new facelift”.
  2. Don’t skimp on the preparation: When repainting furniture, preparation is key. make sure clean, sand and dry furniture before painting, then add enough layers for full coverage and don’t forget any necessary sealants or topcoats.

    Or: Consider refinishing

    If you don’t like the finish of the piece but aren’t a fan of a solid color or paint finish, consider refinishing the wood itself. “We always try to restore or refinish antiques with a beautiful wood grain,” says Zandy Gammons.

    Bonus, “if you want it to retain its value, a restoration or refinishing is a better investment,” notes Vargas. “Miami’s top dealers love to touch up their mid-century finds, but often add whitewash that defines the original wood and highlights its natural grain. We would always choose a beautiful whitewashed finish over paint every days.” A happy medium? Sounds like something we can all support!

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