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Wood Chest | To Paint or Not to Paint

January 13, 2015

I posted a little vignette from my living room the other day on instagram with a question about chalk paint.  I assumed I'd get a few color suggestions that would help give me the motivation to pick up a paint brush.  Boy did I underestimate things.  I did get lots of great suggestions and two or three different paint choices.  But I was blown away by just how many of y'all told me to quit being crazy and put the paint brush down. 


I have several really nice family pieces in our home that are still in their original wood condition that I would never dream of painting.  I like both the look of dark wood mixed in with our light and airy aesthetic and I love preserving the heritage of those pieces that will one day belong to my children.  But this piece is different, right?  It was a $20 craigslist find, doesn't that mean it's probably crap? On the other hand, the origin of how this piece of furniture came to live in our house seems to be a silly reason to either paint it or not.

The thing is, everybody is right here so I'm not pulling favorites.  In fact, one of my absolute favortie thing about blogging is that I get access to a roundtable discussion to bounce my ideas off of.  I'm going to pause and really think this through.  Big surprise there, right.  Both sides of the argument are so right!  It is a lovely piece just the way it is now.  It's has a fine rich wood tone and pretty detailing.  But I can also picture it being beautiful painted in a soft greige color reminiscent of my favorite french Louis style.

If I paint, it wouldn't be in a distressed style.  I'm not after a shabby chic farmhouse look but rather something a little bit more formal.  But it wouldn't be a modern high gloss finish either.  This painted four drawer dresser is exactly what I'm thinking.


It's not like this is going to come down to a vote because ultimately this is our home and we'll do what we want in the end.  But I really do love hearing your opinions on this matter.  I'd like your thoughts on this piece specifically as well as painted furniture in general.  Do you like it?  Have you tried it yourself or bought a professionally painted piece?  Overall I love it, in small doses.  I personally wouldn't want a house where all of the furniture is painted but rather a piece or two mixed in for some flavor.

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47 comments:

  1. Will you do a post about how to properly paint wood furniture? Please 😀

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    1. ha! That depends on 1. if I paint it and 2. if I actually do it properly :)

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  2. Paint it! That's what Craigslist finds are for.

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    1. I've got another piece that maybe I'll paint first and wait on this one :)

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  3. i LOVE painting my own furniture, especially with chalk paint, but i'm not going to lie...i love this piece just the way it stands! either way, i know it will be gorgeous in your home my dear ;)

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  4. I had a old Pottery Barn Kids bookshelf painted when we were transitioning my son into a "bigger" boy room. It turned out terribly. The stain PBK uses is so toxic that you can really put nothing over it - even stripping it didn't help. My friend painted something herself and to this day, it chips. I would hire it done, but I would thoroughly discuss with the contractor how he is going to do and your expectations. For example, my guy didn't paint the bottom of the piece the first time around - I found that weird.

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    1. oh gosh, that's good to know! yikes! I don't think I would have thought to paint the bottom either. What about inside the drawers?

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    1. I knew you'd say that. You love white pieces as much as I do :)

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  6. Don't do it!

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    1. I'm leaving it alone for now. Peer pressure :)

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  7. I love it just as it is, but I would love it painted too, I'm sure. It's beautiful in it's original state, but if you have other unpainted pieces in your home and you're looking to play around with this one - go for it! You're right, that's kind of the fun of cheap Craigslist finds.

    But, oh, it's so pretty as it is! (I'm no help.)

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    1. exactly. It's a pretty piece so it will be lovely either way. I'm hesitant to paint now. Maybe just adding new hardware will help

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  8. Either way would work.... It is hard to tell in the photo, but I would take the condition and quality of the wood into consideration. Lots of Knicks and dents? Prob paint. Know the background & history of the piece, prob not. You know what would balance best in your home.

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    1. eh, it's not in perfect condition but nothing a good oil/polish couldn't fix

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  9. It's just a piece of furniture, and it's just paint. Personally, I think the wood detailing would be very pretty painted. I painted one for my nursery. The decision was pretty easy because the finish was in pretty rough shape.

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    1. I know! But what fun would it be if I didn't make a mountain out of a mole hill right?! I think a pretty piece looks good either way. Just not reconsidering waiting until I get a hold of something in poor condition

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  10. Oh my goodness...to paint or not to paint isn't "that" the question! :) It truly is a beautiful piece and would still be a beautiful piece painted. I have used chalk paint on two pieces in my home and really liked it! It was not hard to work with and the finish has been really durable...even without waxing it (as time got away from me and it turned into one of those "Oh I still have to do that!" things. On the contrary to two pieces I painted using plain latex paint. Both of those pieces have chipped and are not maintaining at all! Not sure what happened there... I am actually considering redoing one piece in chalk paint because I think I will be more satisfied. Anyway, if you chose to paint using chalk paint would you mind posting a picture of the result and maybe your color pick. Good luck!

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    1. good to know! I actually used briwax on two pieces that I barely sanded and painted with latex. Two moves later they're still going strong with no knicks!

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  11. Julia, if you decide to paint and want a more dressy look, you might want to consider what a friend of mine (a designer) did with several pieces in her home. She painted them in a gloss paint and then waxed them with something like Briwax or Johnson's wax to tone down the sheen. She did this on several pieces and got a good look out of it. You could always test first on something before applying the finish. Two of the pieces she did were black, and one was turquoise. They turned out great. I don't know how wax would work on top of white, but you might want to look into it.

    If you are concerned about ruining a potentially valuable piece with paint, it is always a good idea to take a picture of it and show it to a reputable antiques dealer first. Someone who would know whether or not it is furniture indigenous to the South (in this case, Virginia or the Carolinas), the Northeast, or a particular maker. Then, do what you choose. I only like pops of painted furniture (and generally those pops are from pieces that were painted a hundred/two hundred years or more ago) and have actually found myself cringing when I see good pieces "ruined" by DIY'ers. But I also believe that a painted piece can add charm to a room. It's your house, and you need to do what makes you happy for the long run. I have a primitive cabinet that is painted and was painted by my grandfather when he built it early in the 20th century. I love it and will always find a place for it.

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    1. Sounds like a gorgeous finish! I am going to investigate the piece further. I'm not worried so much that I might have a hidden treasure so much as wanting to keep it's integrity intact if it does have a history. Will report back my findings!

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  12. I am always tempted to paint, but my husband is always horrified at the thought of covering a beautiful wood finish. If it's an important piece, I say leave it as it is. Otherwise, have a little fun! ( I kind of like the warmth of your vignette the way it is)
    ciao!

    ciao!

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    1. my husband has zero opinion as long as I promise to do it properly and quit using spray paint :0

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  13. I'm with you- as long as every other piece in your house isn't painted, then by all means go for it!

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    1. yes! I'm looking at my lot now and figuring out if any other pieces are a better fit for painting :)

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  14. I'm usually all for painting pieces....new and old...someone else's trash or family heirlooms...but this piece looks like it could be a stunner with some TLC. Maybe try some restore-a-finish on it, and a little scrubbing and hardware update first? and ps -- crazy for that calligraphy print in the little girl mood board!

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    1. TLC first it is! I think some love and some new hardware might make me fall in love with it again. Plus painting the walls, of course ;)

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  15. I have painted twice now an old credenza my parents were going to throw away. I used chalk paint this last time (specifically Annie Sloan Napoleonic Blue)...I love the look with the wax coating. Makes it less shabby chic in my opinion. I say paint it. It does have nice detail but I feel like from what i've seen you have several nice natural wood pieces in your home already. It will be so fresh! Same hardware or new?

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  16. I love it as is, but it could also look great painted! I totally am not helping at all and understand your dilemma!

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  17. I think you'll lose some of the elegance if you painted it. The picture you posted looks totally Pottery Barn compared to the piece in its original state which looks like it was passed down from a family member. I understand why you would lean towards painting it since its from Craigslist, but I don't think it will look necessarily better painted.

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  18. After stripping a few antique pieces only to discover rare beautiful wood underneath, I can't bring myself to paint anything with great details like the piece you have! The only time I would consider it, is if the piece hand un-repairable deep scratches that could be filled and sanded and painted over, therefore preserving the piece rather than throwing it away. I also love the natural wood over a painted surface any day. Best of luck with your decision, whatever you decide you have great taste and I am sure it will look great.

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  19. I love the look of Annie Sloane paints and the look on furniture. I am getting ready to paint my kitchen island. I went to the "Thrill Of The Hunt" in Ashland, Va., where the owner will help you and show you the finishes on lots of pieces there as well as sell the paint. She is very informative and the finishes are beautiful.
    If this piece of furniture is an heirloom, or wonderfully made, say walnut, mahogany and dovetail drawers, shows its age as much value , like they say on Antiques Road Show, "do not paint or refinish " If it isn't then go for it-painted pieces do have such a nice fresh, clean and stand out. That is why I am painting my island. Good luck with whatever you choose. I love your blog.

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  20. Are there any markings on it anywhere to give you a sense of its origin? Are the drawers dovetail? I think you need to think of it in the context of where it's going to be. If it makes sense to paint it then go ahead and do it, but if you think that the room needs the warmth of the wood then leave it as is for a while. I'd be curious if there are any markings in any of the drawers or the back of it at all.

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  22. Jules, paint away - all I can think of are brass lion head pulls for the hardware. ;-) HUGS.

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  23. Definitely Paint this chest, it will be beautiful!

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  24. I agree with you on not having every price painted. Check out Miss Mustard Seed blog. She has a new color called Mazipan, a warm white. I know you aren't into the distressed look but you might want to just knock off the edges to show the details. Or for a pop of color how about turquoise? I have a white desk in a white room and I painted the chair turquiose. It's a great way to add a touch of beachy color. I am sure whatever you pick will be perfect!

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  25. Oh...one more thing! Maybe leave the top wood and paint the body.

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  26. maybe just change the hardware?

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    1. I think that's what I'm going to do first and see how I like it!

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  27. I say please don't paint it. It looks like a really lovely piece, or could be a lovely piece. Maybe if you just gave it a good once over with some restore-a-finish it might brighten it up. And I think changing the hardware will help too.

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  28. There is no right or wrong answer here. This is now your piece, so whatever makes you happy is the way to go. Do you already love it and does it work perfectly in your home? Or does it feel not quite right? I always think furniture (and stuff in general) should be used and loved. Sometimes those family heirlooms end up collecting dust in a basement, attic or thrift store because no one has the heart to paint them. How does that make sense? Giving a piece new life is really what it's all about!

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  29. I say paint it! For $20, you've got nothing to lose, and as you said--you have gorgeous family pieces that will stay in their natural wood state, so why not have a little fun!?

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Thanks for joining the conversation!

 

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