How-To: painting furniture 5 ~ paint combinations

There are as many ways to create your piece of painted furniture as there are minds out there to create it! Before proceeding on a painting project, it’s helpful to do a search for other images that can help you decide on color, pattern, style and technique.

Here’s a sampling of some excellent examples of basic painted furniture designs to get you started.

BTW, featured projects were used with permission. Photos remain the property of their author. Click on any photo to go directly to the furniture’s home blog post which gives details of the project.

Solid color~ one color on a furniture piece can be a statement – especially if you want to go loud and colorful! The key is size, color and finish. Here’s a fantastic trio of red tables (spraypaint) by Janette Drost.

Just be aware that one solid color, whether that color is black or firehouse red, can become overwhelming on a huge piece such as an armoire, hutch or bookshelf. Use distressing, a glaze, or another color to give really large pieces more interest.

Two colors – For really large pieces, such as hutches, Secretary desks and bookshelves, using two colors can give more vibrancy to a piece that would have been boring if all in one shade.

I’m especially loving pieces that combine painting with a stained counter/desktop. Too many painted pieces in a room becomes a bit boring. Here is a fantastically, subtle piece by Gloria Fox at Potentially Beautiful. Be sure to read the blog post for details on how she brought out it’s full potential (including an unexpected glazing color over the white).

Check out this bold look with contrasting drawers of this dresser by DeVore. This really gives a modern, geometric feel to a piece and I love her knob selection.

Contrasting backs – I really like having a contrasting back to a bookshelf or hutch. Backings can be stenciled, use fabric or wallpaper, or just be painted/stained a complimentary color.

Check out B.E. interiors secret surprise armoire ~ a lining of fabric makes it a delightful jewel box.

Here’s my secretary desk project, with fabric on the backing of the hutch area.

 

Want it more subtle? My black bookshelves have a stained back. Afraid of stain? Try a gel stain – it’s easier to apply and use.

Distressed by sanding with two colors – This method takes two colors: an undercoat and a topcoat which will contrast. JMO but I’d recommend hand sanding (not using the electric sander) to reveal the undercoat because an electric sander can sometimes take off too much until you get used to how it works.

Here is another winner by Miss Mustard Seed… see the post for comparisons of Chalk Paint vs. Milk Paint projects. How much you want to distress back will be determined by how primitive you want your piece to look and she has a large variety of distressed examples on this post.

JMO but those with simpler forms with a more country look look better with more distressing, while ornate, carved pieces such as French Provincal look better with minor distressing and glaze.

Distressed black with rubbed stain – one of my favorite combinations: paint black, distressed with sanding, and then the bare wood is stained for aging. For example, Walnut stain makes a beautiful contrast to black.

Proper and Prim has a lovely black cabinet with a classic style of distressed finish. This style could fit any sort of country – American, English or French. Note how she sanded the area where the cabinet knobs go to simulate natural wearing.

I have a DIY post about how this technique is done using the legs of the dining room table.

Chippy (paint flaking) – have you seen that old furniture where the paint has chipped off in bits? Similar to the two color sanding effect for distressing, this also uses two colors.  Where it differs, is the paint is not rubbed off in streaks or batches but chipped off with a tool.

Have a dark base and put on some white, and start chunking off the top paint. White over something dark seems to be a favorite combination and The Painted Hive uses a secret weapon to achieve it.

Color base with contrasting pattern – such as stripes, diamonds, etc…

Lori at Mud Pie Studio sports a diamond pattern on the side of a desk with a contrasting stained desktop. Her blog post gives complete details and a photo essay of how it was done.

What I especially like about this piece is the restraint she used – she could have put polka dots over here, added contrasting painted drawer fronts and put on neon knobs! Instead, it’s tasteful, classic but interesting – a piece that will last a long time, no matter how the room changes.

Want it brighter? Check out this bureau featuring an Argyle pattern on never a dull day.

Color base with contrasting image – vine, bird on branch, clock face, etc…

This reverse, custom stencil project is easier then it first appears. Step-by-step instructions by artist, Lena Corwin show how to make it happen for you (scroll down on the article).

Birds are very hot right now in decorating. Check out Christina’s classic white-gray-gray desk with bird stencil all done on a non-existent budget.

JMO but where stencils go wrong is where they try to appear as if the item is “real” – it’s not still life painting 101! Go with stencils that are contrasting between two colors to give the impression of a form or outline, rather then trying to imitate a photograph.

Decoupage – newspaper, letters, stamps, postcards, maps, posters, etc….

A sidetable sweet enough to sing by Miss Mustard Seed. Applying sheet music to the tabletop she goes the extra step with some distressing and an aging topcoat you can read about on her blog post.

Some things I really like about this piece is that the size of the table makes it versatile: as a side table to a couch or chair, as well as something that could be tucked in a corner on it’s own or settled next to a desk. The color makes it a piece that will last forever no matter how you change your future style!

Sarah and Nathan used an Italian calendar for a beautiful little desk that makes you dream of holidays when doing your homework!

This is just a sampling of the many ideas you can use to create your own treasure!

Naturally distressed furniture finishes

While I love elements of Shabby Chic – specifically the acceptance of an eklectic mix of old and new – one thing I haven’t liked is how it has been taken over the top. Everyone does a distressed finish on a new piece and most of the time it just looks like fakey crap!

Here is a recent table I bought ($28) with a natural, distressed finish (click photos to see a closer view). The stain was put on over the bare wood in a sloppy way, probably not left to dry properly, an alligator pattern emerged and brush strokes are evident. This wasn’t “faked” up by someone in their garage and the finished, aged patina is richer for it.

The tabletop surface has a nice, multi-level depth due to natural wear and tear and the initial, poorly done staining job.

I guess people get tired of working on projects, and the inside pocket, where books would go, has even more erratic, sloppy staining (the light difference in the stain is due to the shadow of the pocket not the stain)

Naturally aged or distressed items always have an authenticity to them that artificially produced work just can’t duplicate. Although the popularity of Shabby Chic decorating has raised the prices of these pieces, you can still find them at a reasonable cost. They are also great to mix into a room with newer furniture to give an overall feeling of age and live-in comfort.

Another table (about $35) I found has a lovely soft alligator finish in soft creams. This table was too deep for my intentions, so we took the legs apart, cut off about four inches and then re-glued and fastened the legs back to the surface. It’s color and size has allowed it to be moved around the rooms from entry table, to corner table for a laptop and as a side table to a couch.

And here is another lovely distressed finished – this time, natural rusting of a metal table (about $30). I love the second shelf (great for organizing and displaying) and the slightly curved leg. I ended up using this table in the boy’s room.

Project: Formal Dining Room Table

I didn’t want to spend big bucks on a room and piece of furniture that was seldom used so I was lucky that I received a free dining room table from a relative. It wasn’t a family heirloom but it was free, and you can’t beat free!

I’m guessing it’s from the 1940’s era. The top and sides are veneer and the legs have a nice half circle effect that is appealing as well as some decorative molding (see corners). I had a carpenter make a new, unfinished table leaf ($100) to replace the one that was long missing so now the table can sit from 6 to 8 people.

table surface
table surface

Overall, the table was in pretty poor condition, with an irregular stain, watermarks, and chips to the veneer. We repaired the damaged veneer on the tabletop sides with a X-acto knife cutting out the damaged area to a rectangle. Veneer trim (Red Oak) was cut to fit and then glued and clamped to fit. The repair was lightly sanded to a smooth surface and the area painted black.

veneer repair

We also glued down veener on the edge of the table that had started to peel up.

When using clamps be sure to use a scrap to take the initial pressure from the clamp foot or you might form an unwanted impression into your project.

You can see, left, the sanded tabletop has an unevenly colored surface which I had to deal with.

distressed table legsThe legs and tabletop sides were painted black. They were sanded back for a distressed appearance; remember to sand prominent areas where natural pressure and wear would occur from use.

Cabots Natural Walnut stain was rubbed in and wiped off. This darkened the newly sanded areas making it look more aged.

For the tabletop, I first tried chemically stripping the surface but that wasn’t very effective. I resorted to the Mouse Sander with a fine grit. Anything rougher and I was liable to rip or gouge the veneer.

I went with three rubbed in coats of Cabot’s Natural Walnut stain, fine sanding with a tacky cloth between coats. Finally, I coated with rub on polyuretane, gloss coat, and did three more coats, handsanding lightly and using a tacky cloth in between sessions.

Golden Oak stained tabletop

finished dining room table

Price: Table ($0); extra leaf ($100); leftover black paint, sanding paper, stain, tacky cloths ($25), 6 dining room chairs ($360). Wow! I was really pleased with the finished result and couldn’t be happier!