Today I’m sharing some examples of those times when I have decided against painting a piece of wood furniture. I know this can be a pretty touchy subject with some folks, and I’m simply sharing insight into my own personal decision making process when I find a piece of furniture. I am not shy about painting wood furniture, that is for sure. That said, I have come across many pieces that, in my opinion, would not have benefitted from paint. To me, they looked perfect “as is.”
Here are the questions I ask myself when deciding whether or not to paint:
- Is the piece a valuable antique?
- Is the wood in good condition?
- Do I think the wood is beautiful?
- Will painting improve the value?
- Will painting make the piece more beautiful/desirable for sale?
Is the piece a valuable antique?
I am by no means an expert on antique furniture. When in doubt, I always do a little research before painting or refinishing a piece of furniture. There are certainly those pieces that will lose value if the original finish is not preserved. Most, if not all, of the pieces I have come across do not fall into this category.
This oak tallboy is a fairly common piece, but nonetheless very pretty and collectible. I immediately noticed just how gorgeous the wood grain on the drawers was. This dresser had a perfectly aged patina with warm wood tones. It was in great condition and just needed a little cleaning. No paint for this one.
Is the wood in good condition?
Many of the pieces of furniture I find are in very poor condition. I commonly see pieces of veneer missing and a finish that is extremely scuffed, scratched and worn. In those cases, painting can be a great option.
Below is a bed I found for my daughter’s room. All it needed was a good cleaning and a bit of Howard’s Restore-A-Finish to make it shine. I debated whether or not to paint this one. I have seen many vintage beds like this that look fabulous painted. In the end, I decided to leave the original finish. In my own home, I like a mix of painted and natural wood pieces in each room. The mix adds interest, and wood tones provide warmth and depth to a neutral or mostly white room.
Do I think the wood is beautiful?
Like art, whether or not wood is “beautiful” is entirely personal. What I consider beautiful, others certainly may not. On the other hand, many people would be aghast at the notion of painting ’80’s honey oak cabinets. I would paint them in a hot second. Just not my thing.
This small oak dresser was similar aesthetically to the oak tallboy above. Just needed a bit of cleaning and something to bring back the luster. To me, the wood looks beautiful, so I opted not to paint.
Will painting improve the value?
This antique buffet was one I picked up a couple of years ago. It was stunning in person, and I wish I could have more accurately captured that with my photo. It was in amazing condition inside and out. I did not paint this piece, and felt that painting would diminish the value and beauty.
Will painting make the piece more beautiful/desirable for sale?
Again, beauty is entirely subjective. There are some pieces that really could be lovely either way, and deciding whether or not to paint can be a tough call. If the piece is for my own personal use, I consider what would look best in the space where I intend to use it. In those cases where I plan to sell, I consider whether painting the piece will make it easier to sell. I also factor in the time and costs involved in painting the piece, and whether is makes sense for my business. In other words, if the piece could sell for $200 “as is” and $250 painted, I would not paint.
This stunning Herman Miller dresser was one that would have looked lovely painted. However, I decided to leave it as is, because I’m certain paint would have devalued it. It was in near perfect condition inside and out, and probably the most beautifully constructed dresser I have ever seen. Solid as a rock. And, I did not want to cover up the lovely walnut inlay. I believed someone would appreciate the craftsmanship and the gorgeous wood. It sold quickly in its beautiful original condition.
Those are my thoughts on paint vs no paint decision-making process. I would love to hear what you think.