blank'/> Listen to Your Furniture Before Painting | NidoBeato

Listen to Your Furniture Before Painting

Several years ago I had a faux finishing/hand-painted furniture company called Yummies. The name came from the signature look, which one of my friends coined when she informed me that the bright colors of my furniture made it look "good enough to eat."

The Queen Chair. Old spindle furniture lends itself to this type of painting.
I love painting chairs because they're small, portable, and who doesn't need another chair around?

Anyway, I had recently thought about getting back into the furniture business because I love doing it. The problem is two-fold: 1) finding cheap cast-off furniture is harder these days because 2) everyone is doing it. And most of what everyone is doing is distressed chalk paint, which is great because, like everyone else, I love the look. When it's done right.

Unfortunately, most of what I see in shops these days is what I call contrived distress. Distressing should look natural, but most of what I've seen has a uniformity to the distressing that is anything but natural. Every corner should not be equally worn, nor should the piece look like it was sanded to wear the paint away. And just because you're going for the distressed look, doesn't mean you shouldn't take care with your painting technique. Sloppy brushstrokes are not the same as naturally-worn paint. If you study a piece of naturally distressed furniture, you'll see there's a randomness to the chipping, fading, and wearing of the paint. Unlike most of the mass-produced, pressed board crap sold as furniture today, old furniture was made by craftsmen who took pride in their work. They respected the furniture, and as artists, so should we.

Which brings me back to today's topic: matching the paint effect with the piece of furniture. Just as you wouldn't wear a ball gown to a hay ride, different furniture styles lend themselves to different paint treatments, unless of course, you want to be the unconventional guest at the party. Think of it as matching the clothes with the occasion. Fortunately, most of the furniture you find at garage sales and thrift stores (or the occasional dumpster dive) is generic enough to wear anything, so have at it.

As far as what furniture to paint, unless you have an expensive piece of furniture you just have a hankering to paint for your own use, I wouldn't recommend painting anything like that for resale purposes. The piece has to be cheap enough to turn a profit. My ceiling used to be $20 for chairs and small tables (which is what I mostly painted). If they cost more than that, they better be spectacular, or I'll never get back the investment in time and materials.

When I started the Yummies line, I had a fascination with not only bright colors, but the Lauren Burch cats, which turned up on a lot of my furniture.

Lauren Burch Cat end table. This was a commissioned piece. The client brought the table to me and requested the cats after seeing one of my other pieces.
Lauren Burch-inspired Safari Cats oak desk. I lucked out picking up this old teacher's desk for $25. It took four weeks to paint and I sold it for $600.

Sometimes I know right away what I want to do with a piece of furniture, and other times I have to wait for the furniture to speak to me. To tell me what it wants. Like I said, the paint treatment should match the style of the piece. French Provincial and spindle furniture lends itself well to Yummies colorful styles because there are so many clear lines of separation in the furniture.

However, sometimes you want to go in a different direction. I came across this old coffee table in a thrift store--a steal for $10 because it was heavy and solid. I mean, you could stand an elephant on this baby. I could understand why someone had discarded it because the finish was battered and beaten. It had those old brass campaign corners on it, which I removed, leaving a featureless Parsons table look.

That's when Kandinsky spoke to me. I primed the table and put on a nice even coat of black paint, then went to work with painter's tape, craft paints, and some metallic powders. With no clear features, I just taped off and painted geometric lines and shapes, layering one over the other until I got the look of a Kandinsky painting. Then I poured epoxy over the whole thing for a glass-like shine. It turned out great.

Kandinsky-inspired coffee table
I really started having fun when I began playing with decoupage. I mainly use wrapping paper for decoupaging furniture. I used to find some great papers at the Dollar Tree, but anymore it's mostly birthday and holiday stuff. I recently found some pretty ones at World Market. Tissue paper is great for pieces with a lot of curves because it wraps easier, though you need to pay attention to your base coat since the paper is so thin. You can use scrapbook paper for small, flat areas, since the stiffness of the paper doesn't allow it to wrap well.

My first decoupaged piece was a small occasional--or what we used to call phone--table (back when people had table phones).

Decoupaged phone table
I really got ambitious when my mother gave me an old hutch she was getting rid of. It was just your standard maple Colonial you used to find in every house. The wood was nothing special, so it screamed "paint me!" (Just as an FYI--I would NEVER, EVER dream of painting fine wood.)

I had some vintage wrapping papers my mom and I had found at a garage sale, so I went to work on the hutch with them. Thus was born the Strawberry Hutch. It's hard to see the detail from this picture, and unfortunately, all of my original pictures of these pieces were lost in a computer crash years ago, so I had to snag these off my old website. When I put my house up for sale, I had more offers to buy the hutch than the house. It ended up in the sale contract.

The Strawberry Hutch
The two latest pieces I've painted have been for my own use. The first was a large pine cabinet I found at a garage sale for $20. The man who sold it to me had built it himself, so it was solid, if plain. Now this was a case where distressing was called for. I picked up some of those paint sample pots at Home Depot in various colors and painted the cabinet in four of them--robin's egg blue, pink, magenta, and finally turquoise. I let each coat dry and cure for several days before applying the next coat. I also didn't sand or in any way prep the piece before painting so the paint would naturally pull away from the wood in places.

Distressed pine cabinet
I decoupaged the center panel of the door with some imported wrapping paper I found at World Market. After sanding the rough spots to reveal some of the lower layer paint colors, I hit it with a paint scraper to pull away the loose paint and reveal some of the wood. I rubbed it down with some dark wood stain, followed by a coat of Howard Feed-N-Wax. I replaced the old wood knobs with a pretty ceramic one I found at World Market, so all in, the cabinet cost me $42.00. Not bad for a unique faux antique.

 The next piece was an old metal drawer cabinet I scored at an estate sale for $5.00. I rolled a couple of coats of the leftover magenta paint (from the pine cabinet project) on the frame and followed that with two coats of Martha Stewart glitter paint in Pomegranate Red, I decoupaged the drawers with some more imported wrapping paper from World Market. Then I made a base out of MDF and added some cheap legs I bought at Home Depot for $4.00 and some $1.00 knob that kind of had that Asian look to them (or Celtic, but whatever). For about $24.00 and an afternoon's work I got a cute one-of-a-kind cabinet to store some of my craft supplies.

Metal cabinet transformed into craft supply storage

I currently have several pieces of battered furniture sitting in my storage room (aka, garage) waiting for inspiration to strike. I look at them now and then, but so far they're staying mute. Who knows--maybe tomorrow that will change and a new piece of artful furniture goodness will be born.


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Spray Gun


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