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  • Neyir Urminsky

Should I paint my wood furniture???

Yes!! No!! Maybe???

Let’s get this out of the way shall we, there is actually no right answer to this question and like wallpaper any answer ebbs and flows over decades. But I do have some clear guidelines that I mostly stick to.

Do I paint wood furniture? Yes!

Do I leave wood furniture unpainted? Yes!

There are a couple of things that I take into consideration when I am deciding if I will paint something;

Provenance, quality, shape, durability, environment, nostalgia,

The before, a lovely but mass produced cabinet

All of these elements came into play with the library cabinet I just finished. Firstly, I purposely bought this on FBMP with the intent to paint it, paint it green actually but anyway - lol! Secondly while this is a sturdy and well built piece it is not particularly valuable & was mass produced. The finish on the wood is not simply stain but actually an applied finish to make the less expensive wood look like a more valuable species. The fret work on the doors is pressed wood which gives away its more humble origins.

Now, it makes me smile every time I see it and brightens the whole space!

Before I go into my thought process if you are tackling painting furniture, the process and type of paint you use really matters. I have covered painting furniture before with the boys bedside cabinets and again with the vestibule. I haven't used Benjamin Moore Advanced for a long time so cannot speak to it but my current fav combo is Sherwin Williams primer with Behr Premium Hi-gloss paint. It is what I used everywhere in the vestibule and over 1 year in has held up beautifully.

My Criteria for Painting Wooden Furniture

Provenance. I take into account how valuable a piece is, is it an antique, very valuable? Would the value be damaged by painting it? Does it have high quality finishes and unusual wood species or inlay details?

While slightly damaged the beautiful inlay & age of this piece means no painting in my book.

Quality. This is definitely connected to provenance but not quite the same thing. While provenance is about history and may depend on the whim of furniture fashion (looking at you MCM), quality is fairly cut and dried. Is this a good piece of furniture? High quality furniture is still being made today much the same as there are antique pieces that are of lower quality and workmanship. I am unlikely to paint a piece that is very high quality and/or handmade.

All of this this hand done detail work is stunning!!!

Shape. One of the beauties of paint is that it visually levels a piece so that your eye focuses on the shape instead of the details. There are many pieces of commercially made furniture that look super impactful when painted and often lose any dated associations. The commode above actually has an amazing shape and if the finish/inlay was very damaged I would consider painting it. The piece below has a fairly pedestrian shape and would lose a lot of visual interest if painted all one colour.

This lovely french bureau needs refinishing but in the meantime is now sporting a lovely marble top!

Durability. How durable is a paint finish going to be on this piece. No matter how much prep work you do or what paint your use, outside of a commercial finish, some surfaces simply will not hold up. Kitchen cabinets are a different story because you aren't resting items on the surface. A great example of this is the library table. I strongly considered painting the table but I knew that it gets such heavy use any paint finish would definitely end up damaged and I would be continually touching it up.

I painted these bedside tables 1.5 years ago and they are doing great! Another example of commercial yet solidly made furniture

Environment - Any time that we paint we contribute to damage to the environment so I want to be sure that I am not creating a situation that will be short lived. Having said that I am not saying play it safe with colour - colour is your friend! Be brave and go for the colours you love! What I mean is that I am unlikely to paint a disposable, low-quality piece of furniture. In the same vein if I have a piece that serves every function I need, is well sized to the space & task then the most green thing to do might be to paint it. Unless you are going to sell it and purchase another second hand piece than replacing it with new furniture, particularly something lower quality, isn’t a super environmental choice.

I have plans for this gorgeous piece I currently use as my desk, always on the lookout for a marble top as the finish is quite damaged.

Nostalgia. Ah this is the wild card because nostalgia overrides nearly every category above. If there is a piece you love, something you grew up with or was given to you by someone who is very dear to you then the rules change. It can be super frustrating to live with something that you love & makes you happy but that you wished fit better into your space. On the other hand the desk in my office is a great example of something I might have considered painting if it didn’t have so much childhood nostalgia attached so it can work both ways. Either way if you truly love a piece, even if it is an antique and may be devalued by painting, but you know in your heart that you would love it even more painted and use it long term then I say go for it. Paint can be stripped after all and our furniture, wooden or not is here to serve us not the other way around!

Spy the paint samples in the background? The bookcases are up next for colour!

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