What Do You Think of Painting Antiques?

It’s something I struggle with. Finding a beautiful antique piece of furniture, wanting to update it, but hesitating to actually put paint on it! How many times over the years have I removed paint from antiques and thought unkind thoughts of the owners who had slapped paint on a beautiful piece of wood? 

But now here I am, putting paint on a 1914-ish Napanee Dutch Kitchenet. 

When we purchased this house in 2014, it was the very first piece of furniture we bought for it. It’s taken me this long to get the courage to paint it.

The Kitchenet, or more commonly called a Hoosier, is a free-standing kitchen cabinet that also serves as a work station. It was very popular in the early 1900’s since most houses did not have built-in kitchen cabinets at that time. (Paraphrased from Wikipedia).

This is a picture I snagged from the Internet of “our” Hoosier in its full glory.

This is what ours looks like – a lovely oak.

But this just doesn’t work for me anymore. And as I said, I have a vision.

So right now, THIS is what our Hoosier looks like:

I’ve set up this workspace in part of our kitchen. The tile will be replaced soon, the wallpaper put up by the previous owner needs to be removed (you see I’ve been picking at it a little), and the walls need to be repaired and painted. Not that this has anything to do with the Hoosier project but in case you are wondering…..

I commit to having it finished by next week so I can show you; and saying it out loud will make it happen.

But I’m curious. How do you feel about painting antiques?

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Comments (36)

  1. Hazel Steadham

    To me, it depends on the piece. I have painted some pieces, but a beautiful piece, I probably would stain it – I have done it both ways. Hazel

    July 5, 2019 at 3:51 pm
  2. Deb

    I am with you in that I struggle to paint over old antiques, yet when I see them painted most look good. I find what color it has been painted makes a huge difference in my perception of it. The other thing that can be done is just painting the back of the inside glass part can make a world of difference to brighten it all up. The most important part is what you would like Karen, and with your gift of design/art you will do well!

    July 6, 2019 at 8:06 am

    I, too, have been very reluctant to paint antiques, so I know the feeling. I have some oak pieces that I know would be beautiful painted… but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Looking forward to seeing your “vision”… I am betting it will be beautiful. Curious… what do you plan to do with it after it is painted… will it be in your kitchen or another room with a new purpose?

    July 6, 2019 at 9:30 am
  4. DeLoris Musick

    I think painting them can make some pieces more beautiful! If you are keeping an original for an investment, then no. My bedroom suite is older than me (69) and that is what I want to paint when I get some other things done. It is mahogany and everything else I have is oak.

    July 6, 2019 at 9:39 am
  5. Susan s3js

    What a beautiful piece, Karen! I always have trouble with painting antique pieces, too. I think it depends on what you bought if for. If for investment, leave it as is and just clean it without damaging it or the finish. But you know, furniture is for living. Our ancestors didn’t stop to think about the future. They made their surroundings work for who and where they were at the time. If it will work better with paint, do what your heart dictates and paint it. You might want to investigate products that seal the wood without damaging the old finish that you can paint over – just in case you decide later you want to take the paint off again. Part of the beauty of antiques is their provenance. They become living history when we know their backstories. Take some of those pictures and any of it’s history, put them in an archival sleeve and affix it to an unfinished part of the wood so someone in the future knows its past while they love it in their present. Can’t wait to see what you do with it!

    July 6, 2019 at 9:49 am
  6. Pat

    Iโ€™m with you,Karen. I love seeing that wood grain. But I have also seen antiques that have been painted and are beautiful. I say if itโ€™s what you want, do it. Yes pictures please. Now you wii have a before and after.

    July 6, 2019 at 10:02 am
  7. Joann

    no painting over antiques for me!

    July 6, 2019 at 11:09 am
  8. Liz Yard

    I leave as is. If I knew how to post a picture with this I’d include our Hoosier and pharmacy cabinet. I don’t care for this trend of black/white/grey in interior design – earth tones please. Liz P.S. We haven’t felt any of the quakes all though plenty of people here in San Diego have.

    July 6, 2019 at 11:47 am
  9. Mary K

    I shudder! I refinished the 102 year old oak woodwork and pocket doors in our old farmhouse. When my daughter-in-law moved in I asked her to please not paint it and she agreed, it is indeed beautiful. However, I have also painted oak furniture just because I liked the piece better with paint. It is what pleases you the “visionary” and the artist. Can’t wait to see the completed project!

    July 6, 2019 at 12:11 pm
  10. Lynne

    Looks similar to my Grandma’s cabinet. Us kids (3 of us) stood at the tabletop to eat while the adults sat at the kitchen table. I don’t know what it looked like originally, but I remember it being painted a cream that matched her walls and other kitchen cabinets. If you have the courage to paint it I say “Go for it!”

    July 6, 2019 at 12:16 pm
  11. Maree Mulreany

    It is funny how we cherish such pieces, but back in the day, it was a necessary piece of furniture, created to fit the standard of those times. Its going to grace you home for a long time, and bring much joy. Painting it will give it a new lease of life and not effect its construction or it’s original form. You could always add to it’s history by leaving a little note on the back, explaining when and why you painted it ๐Ÿ™‚ Alot of the older pieces do look so much better once they are painted, and because of the workmanship that went into creating it, it will be around for along time. It wont be hard for someone to strip it back and restore it to its original state either, so really its a good thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    July 6, 2019 at 9:28 pm
  12. Joanne

    Painting antiques depends on their condition of course, but also how you came to have it. If you found it at a garage sale, because it would fit in the space, of course you should paint it to match the space. If it is Great Granny’s desk, you had better check with ALL the relatives if they would like to trade you for another one that would fit your space. I would love to have Great Granny’s desk, and if my cousin is using it for his tool shop, I want the chance to trade.

    July 6, 2019 at 10:07 pm
    • Karen

      You’re right, Joanne. There is definitely a difference, and your point it very well stated. Especially if someone was using Great Granny’s desk in their tool shop! Yikes!

      July 7, 2019 at 8:01 am
  13. Jenni

    OMGosh Karen…LOL you and I both…I too have an antique cupboard that is a dark stain and I want to paint it to match the new wall colour and decor we have just finished doing…and yes I am so hesitant. I can’t wait to see how yours turned out. I have also had to remove paint from antique furniture before but I think paints have improved immensely and you don’t get that heavy handed slap onpaint look now-a-days. Waiting with bated breath!

    July 7, 2019 at 1:20 am
    • Karen

      It’s a hard decision, isn’t it, Jenni? But paint CAN be removed if you don’t like it. I have to remember that too! Go for it and we can share!

      July 7, 2019 at 8:00 am
  14. Pam West

    I understand your feelings about painting antiques! I purchased a wooden cupboard when we lived in England and several years after we returned home I decided to paint it. Now it is one of my favorite pieces in my home. I painted it a medium green, put krackle medium on it, then put a cream color paint on it and watched it krackle. Then i did random stencils of vines on it in green. Just before I put the finish varnish on it I decided it was to bright and I toned it down with wet tea bags. I love it!

    July 7, 2019 at 5:14 am
    • Karen

      That sounds lovely, Pam! Can you post a picture on my Facebook Post? Would love to see it!

      July 7, 2019 at 7:59 am
  15. I’m not sure I could paint it, it’s so rare you find a piece in it’s original state anymore, not sure how I feel really. But there is one thing I do know, it will be beautiful when you’re are done, because you have that magical touch! Bless you Karen. I am so glad you are all safe. And thank you for the stunning quick page it is gorgeous!! <3

    July 7, 2019 at 5:46 pm
  16. Terry

    I love hoosiers. My grandmother had one that I was supposed to get when she passed, but I didn’t. I love beautiful woods with lots of character in the grain. I also love oak. If the piece was made of good wood with beautiful character, I would restore it. Some pieces definitely look better painted. I have seen pieces that my daughter has done that were gorgeous wood to begin with, and I thought it was a shame to paint them. However, I must say, that she made them even more beautiful. The trick is in using the right paint, the right color, and the right technique. As with all things, though, it needs to suit your needs and you need to love it. I think each piece needs to be evaluated individually, and then you need to go with what you really want.

    July 7, 2019 at 8:32 pm
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