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 the 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 filter out the bias on both sides of this debate.
Then, it helps to understand the perspective of furniture painters, furniture restorers, and furniture preservationists.
Antique Furniture Cost Basis
When deciding whether or not to paint antique furniture, it’s helpful to come up with a cost basis. The cost basis is 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.
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 $20, but it will be worth $150 after painting, then painting is the best option from a business standpoint.
On the other hand, there is antique furniture that 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 $250 unpainted in its original condition, but painting it could make it worth only $50 to an antique dealer.
Some of these costs are market dependent. An antique dealer is going to care more about the original condition than a home decor shop that’s selling inventory that matches the latest design trends.
Why Some People Don’t Like Painting Antique Furniture
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 prefer the look of stained, unpainted wood.
Many 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.
Furniture restorers like to restore the furniture to its original condition, which could include stripping and restaining. However, many antique dealers and preservationists think new stain can also devalue some antique furniture.
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, but a solid maple bedroom set that looks like it could be from the early 1800s is worth appraising.