Painting Furniture – To Paint or Not to Paint?

Warning: this post may not be suitable for everyone.  If you are a wood purist, you will think I’m crazy, become perturbed and/or gasp in horror. Read on with caution.

I got to my favorite thrift store early and waited in line for them to open. There she is! blog1I throw my arms around her claiming my prize while yelling for Nestor (yes, I know the employees names and they know mine) to write me a ticket.  She’s in decent shape with only a few veneer chips and a missing drawer pull. From her price and condition, I can tell she is not a fine antique but she is pretty.  However, any semi experienced furniture fixer-upper person could patch the veneer and make this baby shine but, no, not me.

Paint is my thing and I knew American Paint Company products would make it super, ultra, awesomely gorgeous!

The hardest part is choosing two of the 32 colors.

She sat in my studio waiting patiently for her makeover while I tried to decide.

Okay, so I played it safe and decided on Navajo White and Smoke Signal. blog2I’m ready with my favorite brushes and a cup of water for thinning. I am not a can dipper, it’s not good for the paint. I like my paint thick and fresh. But I knew I’d be using up these colors in the next few days so I dipped away.

I started with a coat of Smoke Signal on the sexy curves and a wash of Navajo White for the insets. blog3I wasn’t sure which direction to go so I tried it with a few different looks.

I love the look of Navajo White over the wood but not so much on the Smoke Signal.blog7

I started with the top 3 drawers gray with the detail in white. I put the drawers in and took them out numerous times to check the look. blog4They’re heavy! With APC it’s easy to call a do over! Quickly before it cured, I just used a wet rag and rubbed the paint off. blog5To create authenticity I blobbed (technical term) Navajo White along the detail. I use paint brushes in all shapes and sizes.  My favorite paint brush is my hand, and I always know where it is.  blog7

blog6With the drawers Navajo White and the detail Smoke Signal she looks a bit more balanced.  I sat back admiring her new look thinking about a finish. blog8It was nearly dinnertime so I decided on clear Top Coat. This stuff dries in like 20 minutes! I use this great can top to keep the Top Coat fresh (it now comes in a bottle). blog9 I also store my opened can in the fridge.

I brushed on two coats, lightly polished with 1000 grit sandpaper and off to dinner I went.blog13

blog10Here she is, very lightly distressed. Top Coat leaves a baby butt smooth finish.  Isn’t she a beauty?blog11

Post courtesy of Donna


  1. She is lovely. As an antiques dealer, I love the look of a fine wood finish. And on some of my pieces I jump through hoops to preserve it. But lest we forget, paint is one of the ORIGINAL finishes used to preserve and beautify furniture. Just watch Antiques Roadshow and listen to the Keno brothers say “This would have been worth $50,000.00 more if somebody had not stripped off the original red paint”. We have fashion in decorating as much as we have fashion in clothing and it changes constantly. The “brown’ furniture is not “in” right now. Better that we give our non-historic pieces new clothes so they can go dancing in a new home.

  2. That turned out absolutely gorgeous!! Can not wait to get my paint!!

  3. I love the lines of this piece. You have it right sista when the stores you frequent know your name! The piece looks amazing and I love the technique with the finger/hand painting- the perfect way to blend it all together. I will be trying that in the near future. (smile) Well done!

  4. Another amazing piece! You inspire me to get goin’, girl! Thank you!

  5. Gail Frost says

    I like it all!!! I am currently working on a beautiful oak dresser- the wood is so pretty I can’t see painting it, but it is going in my bathroom as a vanity-with sink!!! I am planning on painting all the framework of the drawers so I’ll have the best of both worlds! Love your piece and technique!!!

  6. Fay Baranski says

    Love the light distressing!

  7. John Emr says

    I love her work, sadly, our apartment is very modern. I am waiting for that perfect piece, though, that will mix with our decor…

  8. Joy Walsh says

    Thank you for posting this, I love getting a peek into your brain as you figure out the process and techniques you will use. It makes me happy that even professionals change their minds and change things and touch them up. This is a beautiful piece of furniture made even more beautiful with your creative touch. “My favorite paint brush is my hand, and I always know where it is.” My favorite quote !! NEVER would have occurred to me to use my hands as a paintbrush or to keep opened can’s in the Fridge. May I ask, why do you keep it in the fridge? Absolutely love this piece, you are very talented and creative !

    • Hi Joy, thank you for your kind words. What I keep in the fridge is the open can of Top Coat. All natural products have a shelf life, once the Top Coat has been opened I like to keep it fresh until I use it all (which usually doesn’t take long).

  9. The piece looks amazing. Good job.

  10. Donna, I love all of your work, but this piece is exceptional, even for you! I am so happy to have seen the process you used, step by step, even the do-overs! Thank you so much for the inspiration and the ideas! Beautiful work!

  11. Josette Tabpr says

    I have always appreciated Donna’s natural ability to turn something old and even maybe ugly into something fantastic. Great job Donna. You are a natural. Beautiful finished product.

  12. Jeannette says

    Nice job. She looks great! The piece is very original, unique and beautiful. Love the narrative behind the design!

  13. This is really nice. Great Job

  14. Raven Quesada says

    Wow! The dresser is absolutely gorgeous! The paints seem so easy to work with. I am definately going to have to try them. I am currently in the process of restoring a vintage vanity and it would be fun to expirement with a new type of product. Thanks Donna for the inspiration!

  15. I am in awe of the beautiful furniture that you make. I only wish that I lived closer so that I could have some of these pieces. You better believe that in a couple of years when I come back to New York I’ll be calling you up to furnish my home 🙂 I really enjoy all of the photos of your work and I can picture them in my own home because they are definitely my style. You are doing great work Donna, can’t wait to see you again!!

  16. Denise Laine says

    Do you strip the varnish before painting?

  17. I really love the finish on this. You know I am a wood lover but I like the colors that you have been using. Maybe I will try and paint somthing for a change. I love the no stripping idea that gets old quick.

  18. Raven Quesada says

    Yes Donna I am from Albuquerque and wow I had no idea the paint is made in Santa Fe. I am so happy to know that thanks. I am in love with all the different colors not just the colors but their names a well. I enjoyed learning from this blog. Good luck on your endeavor. Sounds fun!

  19. I must say, it really is something. Nice job! Now it doesnt look old at all!

  20. Hi! I bought a table that has some veneer on it and a quart of Fireworks Red… and I want to make sure that APC paint will adhere to veneer?

    • mm American Paint Company says

      Yes it will! It will be best to use some sand paper to scuff the surface so the paint has something to ‘grip to’. Also make sure the surface is free of any dust or grease.

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