When most people think of painted furniture their minds are quick to envision an end table clad in chipping pastel paint with a distressed Paris Café stamp rolled across the top. The extra imaginative will also see hints of rust showing through and a drawer knob that straddles the line of original and original source of tetanus. Shabby chic has made a name for itself synonymous with rustic farmhouse and the like, and is now somehow living rent free in our minds as the result of any aesthetic modification made to antique furniture.
As they do however, things change. The ache for a neutral home is suddenly replaced by the covet of colour. The crave for a complete matching bedroom set is eventually outbid by the fantasy of function and flow within the space, a request not easily met with what today’s affordability gets you. Home improvements have and continue to become more accessible and achievable within just a single scroll of DIY YouTube channels and the refinishing of furniture has transcended from its Paris comfort zone to brighter, bolder and braver contemporary destinations.
Painting furniture doesn’t have to be a lateral move; a solution to making something old look even older but now just a different colour. Applying paint to furniture using different techniques and colour patterns then further elevating it with more modern hardware can forward the clock by decades in just the span of drying time. Anything old can be given a modern day glow-up with these tips:
No doubt pastel tones are trendy, but they can drive ornate furniture pieces right back to the Live, Laugh, Love farmhouse they came from. In keeping with contemporary, go daring with decorative and save soft for simple. A French Provincial console table with bowed legs and curvy edges will better satisfy the modern living space painted a bold black rather than a soft, country rose which would do better to modernize a clean line mid century modern tallboy.
It’s jewelry for furniture. Just like earrings and bracelets can dictate a whole look, the hardware you chose to adorn your revived piece with does the same. Focus on brushed alloys of simple design such as a straight cylindrical pulls and geometric knobs. Black, gold and lucite are all good choices and can be found in almost any hole-to-hole measurement needed.
Lucite hardware on a favourite tropical console table. Sunday Stroll 2020 Collection
Setting the Stage
Remember that your new piece is a product of its environment. While eclectic living spaces comprised of mixed styles can be fun, it’s important to stay focused on your goal. A distressed barn board sign reading Coffee Station: brewing love will only confuse your aesthetic aims when mounted above a brass & glass bar cart adorned with glitzy champagne flutes and bottles of bubbly. Try and anchor new additions to something existing in your space that shares the same style.
"Boozy Couture" Sunday Stroll 2020 Collection
Another thing to consider when exploring painted furniture in a more modern light are the technical options and what kind of manners they can evoke. For example, a dresser with some wear to its wood might be seen as a project requiring a full paint job and new hardware and that’s because we tend to believe that to move furniture forward several decades, we need to mask its past entirely. In actual fact, components of vintage furniture can be preserved in their original state while coexisting with new elements such as new hardware or only a semi-paint job and still appear very contemporary. The technique of pairing original elements with new ones is a great way to incorporate an heirloom piece in your home without it appearing totally out of place. Here are a few ideas to get started (bonus: some of these techniques can be time savers too!)
- Only paint what needs to be covered such as scratches or holes that have been filled.
- Play with tape! Tape off different angles or introduce patterns by creating a geometric stencil using tapes of different widths
- Leave drawers wood and only paint the frame of the piece (or vice versa!)
- Consider replacing legs entirely with brushed hairpin alternatives (bonus: this let’s you manipulate the height of your piece too!)
A mid-century bar unit shares black paint and original wood evenly. Sunday Stroll 2022 Collection
Gone are the days of roadside country antique shops ruling the furniture refinishing game. While there still exists a near and dear place for a good ol’ fashioned Farm Fresh Eggs stencil or a purposefully chipping mint green wash stand, know that the possibilities in jumping era to era and style to style are truly boundless.