Paint your vintage and antique furniture if you wish – and don’t let bullies tell you otherwise

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A vintage buffet I sold a few years ago to – gasp – a KNOWN PAINTER!

If you’re ever up for a little online verbal abuse, join a decorating group on Facebook then post a picture of a piece of vintage or antique furniture and ask for people’s opinions on what color you should paint it. You might actually get a few color ideas, but mostly what you’ll get is a bunch of bullies begging, pleading, cajoling, and even aggressively discouraging you from painting the piece at all. Here are some verbatim comments on a recent group post of this nature:

“Don’t put a drop of paint on that beautiful piece.”
“Surely you would not choose to ruin this beautiful piece of furniture with paint? Buy a shabby piece if you want to paint.”
“Why would you want to paint such a beautiful piece?”

There are many reasons why someone would want to paint a piece of furniture – even a vintage or antique piece – and NONE of them involve getting someone else’s permission or approval to do so.

Another piece sold to a friend who intended to paint it.

I’ve done several pieces myself, and while I have my personal ideas about what I will and will not paint, I would never dream of trying to talk someone else out of their project.

Some people use the argument that painted furniture is a fad and will soon be out of style. This is because they have not studied interior decoration at all and have no concept of history beyond what they can personally recall from their Pinterest feed.

The fact is, painting furniture has been “a thing” for well over 100 years, and probably much longer if one were to do the research. Elsie de Wolfe, considered to be the first professional interior decorator in America, published her book, “The House in Good Taste,” in 1913. De Wolfe recommended painted furniture throughout her book – her favorite color was a light gray. Meanwhile, hand-painted decoration on furniture is of course an art form dating back to the Egyptians and other ancient cultures.

A weathered antique washstand that Greg repaired and I painted using Fusion Mineral Paint. This was four years ago and I’m still enjoying this piece in my home.

More recently, chalk paint and mineral paint products have emerged that caused a resurgence in the popularity of painting furniture. This is the “fad” that one opinionated commenter said “would be fading in about a year.” But again, even if one were to do only the most cursory research, one would find that Annie Sloan Chalk Paint – the brand that started the modern resurgence – was introduced in 1990. That’s THIRTY YEARS AGO. Not a fad, not something new, and not likely to just go away “in about a year”!

Others argue that you’ll destroy the value of the piece if you paint it. These are the folks who have watched a few episodes of “Antiques Roadshow” and think that every piece in Grandma’s attic is a museum treasure. Again, no – every piece is not a museum piece. Very few pieces carry any significant monetary value, and even if they did – so what? The value of antiques and antique furniture tanked in 2008 and it will again some day. Obviously, if you are keeping a piece because you hope it will go up in value and it’s part of your retirement nest egg, then no – don’t paint it. But if you are simply trying to enjoy a piece that’s come down through your family, you should be able to paint it without being judged or harassed simply because you asked for color suggestions.

My friend the furniture painter bought this small dresser from me, painted it, and then – in a twist of fate – she traded it back to me for another piece!

Bottom line for me is this: just because a piece could be sanded down and re-stained doesn’t mean that’s the only way to enjoy it. In fact, re-staining an antique can also destroy the value. So if you’re going to alter it, do it in a way that lets you enjoy the piece your way!

If you have a vintage or antique piece of furniture, and painting it will help you better incorporate it into your home, then by all means paint it! Painting furniture is easier than ever with today’s products, it’s therapeutic (not to mention rewarding when you see the finished result), and it’s “re-use” at its best!

Stand up to the bullies who would tell you how to enjoy your furniture. Paint it if you wish, make it your own, and love it for another generation!

Save this post to Pinterest for the next time you need a little encouragement!

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