As Murfreesboro's favorite place to buy paint, we get a TON of questions about painting furniture. Often the question is, "Should I paint this piece?" - which is subject we covered here.
But the question we get most often, is "What color should I paint this piece?"
It's a great question, and it deserves a thoughtful answer. Ultimately the choice is yours, but here are three questions that will guide you to the perfect color....for you. And keep reading, because at the end, we'll reveal one of our fresh-painted new arrivals this week. If you caught our recent Instagram or Facebook stories, you saw the before and during the updating process.
1. What style is your piece?
This is an essential question, and really the first one you should ask yourself.
Why? some colors just go better with certain furniture styles, so it pays to know a little bit about your piece and where it fits into the furniture lineage. We're not going to break down every style here, but we'll give you a broad overview to help you get started.
Old-world style pieces with ornate turnings and carvings lend themselves to the muted tones found in Gustavian-style painted furniture. Notice we said STYLE, not true antiques. Reproduction antique furniture has been mass-produced since the early 1900s, and had its last heyday about 20 years ago. These pieces are typically stained in dark, rich colors like mahogany or cherry. They are great candidates for updating with some paint or stain (but staining them a lighter color will require time and patience to strip them....paint is the easier choice.)
Primitive, simple pieces often look best in softer colors like grayed-off blues or greens, or soft reds and mustards. Why do these colors work so well on primitives? Simply because those are the colors that were typically used when milk paint was made by hand, and tinted with colors available in nature. They just fit the piece.
Cottage and farmhouse pieces typically have a little detail to them - and a few imperfections (we prefer to call those "beauty spots.")
White is timeless. And as anyone who has lived in an older home can tell you, if you paint something white, it tends to hides the bumps and blemishes...and makes things feel fresh and crisp. Using the same white on multiple pieces can create cohesiveness, even if they aren't all the same style or wood.
Hint: for a little more sophistication, grays and blacks also work wonders on these pieces...but make sure you have tons of lighting to offset the darker colors.
Sleek, linear midcentury pieces can handle brighter colors like turquoise, yellow, green, or fire-engine red. You can also keep them clean and simple with whites, grays or blacks.
There are no hard-and-fast rules as to what colors you should use for your piece, but we strongly encourage you to study Pinterest or Google for pieces similar to yours and get an idea of how others have updated them...and how yours might look with a paint job.
2. What are the wall colors in the room?
You don't want your furniture color fighting the walls in your home. But you also don't want them to blend in so well, they are totally camouflaged. If your walls are gray, you can still paint your piece in gray, but you probably want to go lighter or darker to provide some contrast. If your walls are white, you may want to use a very light gray or subtle off-white instead of stark white on your furniture. You want your furniture to provide some contrast and texture against the backdrop of your walls.
If you're eyeing brighter color choices, your walls are still a consideration. When your walls are not a neutral white, cream, gray or taupe, look for complementary colors, not competing or clashing.
Generally speaking, soft pastel walls are going to create the best back drop for complementary pastels....or white or black furniture.
Brighter colors are going to hold their own against other bright colors, but too much of a good thing is still too much of a good thing. It's a personal choice, but we would recommend keeping your walls or furniture neutral.
3. What other colors will be placed on or in your piece?
As important as the question of your wall color: what is the style and color(s) of whatever will be on or in your piece.
If you're painting a bed and/or nightstands, what color is your bedding? If you're painting a coffee table or side tables, what color(s) are in your sofa, chairs and pillows? If you're painting a hutch or display case, what will be on display? If your decor or dishes are white, you probably will want to paint your piece a contrasting color. If they are bright, you may want to go white. If they are pastels, you can go white or dark.
Once you've answered these three questions, you're ready to pick your color. And of course, you can choose to make a bold choice and break all the rules - it's your piece and your home!
And now for the big reveal of our hutch we updated with Dixie Belle's "Mint Julep".
The hutch is a primitive-style pine piece manufactured By William Fetner Furniture over in Hamlet, NC. Most likely it was produced in the 1960s or '70s. Even though it's a primitive style, we opted for a color more reminiscent of 1950s farmhouse kitchen rather than the muted colors typically associated with primitives.
Yes, we broke some of the principles we laid out here...on purpose. But we also followed our own advice, and after considering numerous blue and green paint chips, we ultimately picked a color that would complement both blue and white ware and jadeite.
And here's how it looks filled up with blue and white chinoiserie and jadeite.
We removed the original ceramic knobs and replaced them with sleek brushed gold for an added dash of panache.
Why did we update them...with gold? Yes, small plain black or oil rubbed bronze would have been the safe bet, and the original ceramic knobs are going home with the piece. But sometimes you just have to take the leap into the next decade - or century. And we felt this particular piece could handle more modern fixtures.
As important as honoring the style of a piece is considering what will go in it. Many of the greens we considered tended to fight the soft clear green of the jadeite, but "Mint Julep" didn't. If we had only been putting jadeite in this piece, we probably would have gone with a blue to give some contrast.
And white would have been the safest bet. But green kitchens are very much in style right now, and we wanted to show you a way to get the green you're hankering for, without the permanency of painting your built-in kitchen cabinets.
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
I'm Terry Lea, owner of Re-Invintage Home, a vintage home goods shop just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN. A lifelong passion for vintage picking led me to open a shop with my picking pal, Sherri in 2017. Come see us!