Painting antique furniture is a trendy pastime for people looking to freshen up their decor. It’s an inexpensive way to change to look of a piece, but is it ideal? Will painting antique furniture ruin its value?
To answer that question, let’s look at a couple of factors. First, we can look at the cost basis of antique furniture and compare the value on both sides of this debate. Then, we’ll explore what antique dealers, furniture painters, furniture restorers, and furniture preservationists think.
Value of Painted vs. Unpainted Antique Furniture
When deciding whether or not to paint antique furniture, it’s helpful to appraise the value of antique furniture in its current state. This cost alone could give you an answer. If an unpainted piece of antique furniture is currently worth $2,000, it’s likely best to leave it in its current condition.
Most quality antique furniture is worth more when it’s unpainted, which is why getting an appraisal is vital before altering the piece. An antique dresser could be worth $1,250 unpainted in its original condition, but painting it could make it worth only $50 to an antique dealer.
However, sometimes it’s a little more complicated, and knowing the post-restoration value is even more helpful. If a piece of furniture is currently worth $50 but will be worth $150 after painting, then painting is the best option from a business standpoint.
|Type of Antique Furniture||Average Value Unpainted||Average Value Painted|
|19th Century Mahogany Chest of Drawers||$1,500||$800|
|Mid-Century Modern Teak Sideboard||$2,500||$1,000|
|Victorian Walnut Chair||$300||$150|
|1950’s Metal Outdoor Patio Set||$400||$600|
|Regency Rosewood Sofa||$2,000||$1,200|
|Rustic Pine Farmhouse Table||$800||$1,200|
|Thrifted Laminate Dresser||$50||$150|
Please note: These figures are hypothetical and used for illustrative purposes only. The actual value of antique furniture can vary widely based on condition, rarity, provenance, and current market trends. Unfortunately, the potential impact of painting on a piece’s value can be unpredictable and is often subject to personal taste and professional opinion. For example, an antique dealer is going to care more about the original condition than a home decor shop that sells inventory that matches the latest design trends.
Why Some People Don’t Like Painting Antique Furniture
The impact of painting antique furniture can be significant. Paint can irreversibly alter the piece, and in many cases, this alteration can devalue it in the eyes of collectors and antique dealers. Business aside, people have their opinions on why you should or shouldn’t paint antique furniture. Some people look at it from a preservation standpoint and appreciate furniture in its original condition. In addition, some just prefer the look of stained, unpainted wood.
Even interior designers are sometimes against painting antique furniture. Improperly applied paint or a poorly chosen color will also reduce the value. If the paint job is sloppy or doesn’t suit the style of the piece, it can be seen as a detriment rather than an enhancement.
But what about refinishing with stain? Furniture restorers like to restore a piece of furniture to its original condition, including stripping and re-staining. However, many antique dealers and preservationists think new stains can also devalue antique furniture (and would rather the piece be imperfectly original).
Reasons to Paint Antique Furniture
The aesthetics of painted antique furniture can be incredibly appealing to some, especially those with a passion for upcycling and interior design. Paint can be a transformative tool, bringing new life and personality to an otherwise tired or outdated piece. The use of color can highlight intricate designs and carvings, or it can simplify the look of a piece to suit a minimalistic decor style.
Also, painting can help to conceal imperfections, like scratches, water stains, or uneven coloration from years of exposure to sunlight. For pieces with significant cosmetic issues, a fresh coat of paint might just be the saving grace.
Many interior designers think stained wood looks heavy and prefer to paint larger pieces in lighter colors. These people usually advocate for painting antique furniture to make it appeal to a larger audience.
A professional, tastefully done paint job might increase the appeal of the piece to a broader market, potentially raising its value for those who prioritize aesthetics over historical integrity.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you whether painting antique furniture makes sense. If you want to make money off the piece, consider the before and after value. Get an appraisal from an expert on any piece of furniture that seems extraordinary. A laminated piece from a thrift store might not warrant an evaluation. However, it might be worth getting a free antique appraisal on that solid maple bedroom set that looks like it could be from the early 1800s before you touch it with a paintbrush.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most accurate way to determine the current value of your antique furniture is to get it appraised by a professional. They will consider factors such as the piece’s age, condition, rarity, and provenance. Alternatively, you can compare your piece to similar items sold in antique stores, auctions, or online marketplaces to get a rough idea of its value.
The choice of paint can depend on the type of furniture and the look you’re aiming for. Generally, chalk paint or milk paint is often used for antique furniture due to its matte finish and easy application. However, for a more durable finish, especially for high-use pieces, you might consider using acrylic or latex paint. Always remember to prep your furniture properly before painting for the best results.
While it’s difficult to completely restore a piece to its original state after painting, it’s not impossible. However, the process can be labor-intensive and often requires professional expertise. It involves stripping off the paint, which can be tricky and potentially damaging if not done correctly. After the paint is removed, the piece may need to be refinished to restore its original luster. It’s important to note that this process may not fully recover the piece’s original value if the painting has resulted in a decrease.