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Yes, folks.  People are now painting their antiques at breakneck speed. White seems to be the color du jour, but already that look is tiring quickly.

While most Antiques lovers consider painting an antique a sacrilege, I’m a little less of a puritan than that. If that’s what you want, then go right ahead. But consider reading my blog carefully before lifting that paint brush!

Believe it or not, some antiques actually do look better when painted. I examine each piece on a case by case scenario before deciding to paint or not.

These are the factors I consider!

1.  How old is the antique?

If it’s 50 years old or less than it’s usually a good candidate for a lick of paint. However, a 100 yr old broken down French Antique Henri II piece could be painted.  And look quite wonderful too. These pieces are usually made of Oak, and oak takes paint nicely.

2. How valuable is the antique?

I wouldn’t paint any antique I paid a lot for. We have lots of pieces in our store that are cheap and cheerful and would look amazing with a coat of ‘antique french white’. In fact a cheap antique once painted can double in value if done right. You wouldn’t believe how many people come in and purchase an expensive antique and then announce they are painting the thing!  It happens way too much and I always suggest a less expensive alternative.

3. What is the design of the antique?

If the design of the antique is quite linear and is dependant on the veneering or inlays for the design than painting such a piece may disappoint. I have found that an antique with lots of carving is the best candidate for paint. The carving ‘pops’ when painted and looks sensational.  Like the antique Henri II piece I mentioned above.

An antique like this buffet hutch on the left, while it a shame to paint, would take a coat of paint quite nicely and change the appearance dramatically.  All the carving and detail would literally ‘pop’ off this antique!

We recently painted a lovely early 20th Century antique French Commode with simple lines but veneered with lots of exotic and rare woods. I wouldn’t have painted this antique for the world, but the client wanted it.  Because the design of the antique was simple the piece ended up looking less exciting than a highly carved antique. This was a mistake as far as I am concerned but the client was thrilled. And I was happy he was satisfied.

4. How interested are you in reselling or handing down the antique in later years.

You should know that once a good antique has been painted, that’s virtually the end of the line for the piece. That’s why I highly discourage anyone from doing anything to a higher end antique. So many lower priced alternatives are out there.

Once paint has been applied to the antique the original patina of the piece is obviously gone,  but even if you change your mind months or years later and decide to restore the finish you will never regain the original patina of the antique. You can NEVER restore an original patina that took years of oxidation to develop.

Consider the wood of the antique?

If the antique is a beautiful piece of Mahogany made furniture, paint it if you want, but consider this…..you will NEVER be able to change your mind and get the original finish back.  You could get something close, but it will cost hundreds maybe thousands of dollars to restore a mahogany finish that would please you.

Is the original finish shot?

If it’s a very old antique and the finish is completely gone, than a painted finish could do the trick. It’s going to need refinishing anyway, so painting may be a reasonable alternative.

We had a 19th Century French antique games table with a completely ruined finish.  Every square inch of the piece needed refinishing. It would have taken hours, and frankly, wasn’t really worth it. We painted it a matte black ( it was mahogany too ) and it sold within days. It was gorgeous!

However, this is a story that sickens!

We had a client who bought an absolutely gorgeous burled walnut veneered antique bookcase/china cabinet that she paid a lot for. The piece was an early English 20th Century high end piece with a patina to die for.  We almost choked when the client told us she was painting it white.  I suggested maybe select something else, but no, this client was insistent.  And so it went, this absolutely stunning antique China Cabinet, to the painters. That was sad.

I also had a client who was nuts about silver.  She silver leafed everything. She bought a beautiful 19th Century antique French Settee with it’s original walnut patina.  It was gorgeous and expensive with beautiful detail and carving.   She told me she was going to ‘silver leaf’ the thing and I shuddered with disbelief.

Hey I’m in the business of selling antique furniture, so if someone wants to silver leaf an antique period Louis XV piece than go right ahead.  It’s sacrilege in my opinion and I’d love to say I won’t sell you the piece.  But business is business and I wouldn’t be open for long if I started shoving my values down people’s throats. I ALWAYS recommend another alternative but if a client is insistent than what can I do.

Thankfully this client decided against painting the piece! I sighed a deep breath of relief when she told me she took my advice.  Good thing too…because three years later the lady had to resell her antique.  She got almost full value because she hadn’t touched the integrity of this fine 19th Century antique!

So my advice about painting Antiques.  I wouldn’t unless it’s something you feel would look better painted.  If you need advice in this area contact us first for a final evaluation. We will definitely help stave off a mistake you may regret down the road!

Happy 2012 to all!

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