| Sheila Howell

Too Much Brown Wood? To Paint or Not to Paint Antique Furniture

Anyone who is passionate about antiques will have an opinion on whether or not you should ever paint antique furniture. But if you're equally passionate about interior design, at what point can you legitimately say, "There's too much brown wood in this room: its time to lighten a few pieces with paint." Or, "I love the piece but the finish can't be saved - let's paint it!" 

Painted wood furniture has been around for centuries - just look at gorgeous antique French country furniture, faded to beautifully muted shades of cream, yellows, blues... any color you can imagine! Were those pieces originally painted by the craftsmen, or were they painted a century later by a homeowner who simply wanted a new, lighter look for their brown wood furniture?

Today, some of the furniture paints available are so authentic looking that they can fool an antiques expert - and have! 

When Should You Paint Antique Furniture?

Antique furniture can look very good when painted. You live in a home, not a museum. If you love a piece but can't bear the wood finish but don't want to part with it for sentimental reason, follow your heart and paint. You will cherish your antique even more when it makes you happy to look at it, instead of constantly viewing it as an eyesore in your home. 

If you rescue an antique from the curb, a tag sale or Great Aunt Sally, remember, #AntiquesAreGreen. Restoring, revitalizing and reusing antique furniture is the ultimate eco-friendly practice. Many pieces of old furniture simply aren't worth the time and money to restore them to their original finish - they aren't valuable or sentimental. If you want the piece for what it can be, not what it is, beautifully painted antique furniture brings originality and charm to your home. 

When Should You NOT Paint Antique Furniture?

Painting a beautiful antique just to stay on trend may not be a great idea. Painted furniture is in style now (just check out Instagram, Pinterest or any design or home decor magazine) but natural wood, rustic antiques, and industrial design are equally in style. A fad comes and goes, but classic design is timeless. 

If an antique is valuable - say 4 figures and higher - covering an original finish, with the aged patina of years of loving care, painting that piece will affect its value - almost guaranteed, negatively. Do your homework and find out the value of your antique furniture, and whether it's rare or very common. 

  • Consult Google and eBay to find similar pieces and their value.
    • Ask a local antique dealer or specialist. You may need to pay for their advice.
      • Post your piece on Chattic, a free online community of antique lovers and experts whose mission is to be "the new way to value your old stuff." 
      • Go to an antique fair and talk to dealers - antique dealers love their job and are full of great information. 

      What's The Best Paint for Furniture?

      Professional DIY blogger Serena Appiah says the market has exploded with new types of decorative paints for furniture. She recommends the best paints for furniture are: 

      1. FolkArt Chalky Paint
      2. Amy Howard at Home
      3. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
      4. Miss Mustardseed Milk Paint
      5. General Finishes Milk Paint
      6. Beyond Paint
      7. Shabby Paints
      8. Heirloom Traditions 

      Here’s her tip if you decide to paint antique furniture:

      I picked up from a professional furniture stripper and refinisher that will make this process a little easier: Always slather on a coat of shellac on the wood first before painting wood. By doing this, you’re creating a protective layer on the piece of furniture that will make it easier to strip the furniture later if you decide you no longer want it painted.

      Before you paint an antique, be sure you have all the right tools, and know what you're doing. If not, hire an expert who has the right equipment and skills to turn your piece into a painted masterpiece - its cheaper to hire someone to do it right in the first place, than to hire someone to correct your bad paint job!  


      If you're a passionate antique lover who firmly believes its a "decorating mortal sin to paint wood furniture," no amount of convincing or logic is going to change your mind. And that's OK - we too are passionate believers that #BrownIsBeautiful. Many antiques dealers, preservationists and interior designers are firmly in your camp. 

      Early 19th Century Napoleonic Era Matching Bookcases | European Finds | Online Antique Warehouse

      Early 19th Century Napoleonic Era Matching Bookcases

      Imposing elegance for the estate office. Rare to find such a quality matched pair from France of twin glass-front bookcases from the Napoleonic Era (circa 1815). The dark, rich finish and classical-themed gilt ornaments are perfect examples of post-Revolution design.

      The compressed image sizes don't do these justice. If you would like to see more detailed images, please email customerservice@europeanfinds.com and we will send additional images that are sure to make you love these as much as we do. 

      Bookcases each: 88" H x 50" W x 16" D.


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      European Finds has antique furniture, accessories, mirrors and lighting that will make a statement in your home! If you don't see what you are looking for, give us a call - we also provide antique sourcing services to help you find the perfect piece.  

      Contact: customerservice@europeanfinds.com