Old furniture is immersed in history and stories. It has risen above the functional and performs a role in the emotional lives of the people who own it. Old furniture is a window into the past and how people lived and loved. Whether you have a mahogany chest or gilded mirror, or some other special piece of old furniture, it’s natural to be attached to it and be hesitant about touching it up even when it has lost its shine. A piece of old furniture may be in great condition, but if you aren’t a traditionalist, you may want to paint old furniture so that it fits in with your home’s aesthetic. Weighing up the cons and pros of this argument is very complex and ultimately, the decision is yours. We thought we’d help you decide by offering up some things to think about.
Personally, I’m a “brown furniture” traditionalist. I love the look of old furniture. But in the end, it’s your furniture and it’s not a sin to alter it. There are many wicked things in the world, but repainting old furniture is not one of them. Personally, if I inherited a piece of 18th or 19th century furniture, with a lovely patina, great character and really solid wood, I would leave it as is. If you’ve got something from the 20th century onwards, then you can do whatever you like, assuming you’ve spent time thinking about the value and materials involved.
There are just some pieces that are so important and so filled with history I think it’s sacrilege to touch them. Not everything old is great, mind you. But if you happen to have something truly great, then painting it is like doing a cover of a classic song: likely to result in an inferior product.
There are times when you get a piece of old furniture and it’s just too far gone and something has to be done. In those instances, I think it makes sense to intervene and a dollop of paint can restore it to its youthful freshness. Painted old furniture can look amazing, no doubt about it. Paint can give that old piece of furniture a more modern look. It really depends on the piece. Like I said, there are pieces where it would be an act of sacrilege to paint on it. You’d have to be Jimi Hendrix covering David Bowie’s All Along the Watchtower, for it to make sense. It’s just so hard to do justice to a truly great piece that the risk of making it look less great or even awful, is too high I think. With less important pieces, then you can exercise a bit more discretion, and if it makes sense to you, splash on some paint, finish it off with colored lacquer or some other finish at Creative Cabinets and Fine Finishes, to bring it to the twenty-first century.
In the end, if you’re looking at grandma’s old furniture and wondering if you should paint it, you should consider what you want, its age, quality and value, before making a decision. Hey, you just may have something really valuable and painting it would just knock off most of its value. So it may be a good idea to get the piece valued before you make any major decisions.