365 Objects Of Design

Painted Furniture: Do’s and Don’ts

12th February 2019
AD / May contain affiliate links

Now I’ll be interested to see what you think of today’s post. Before you judge have a little scroll up and down of the images. And then I’ll admit that I’ve had something of a change of heart on this subject. Yes we’re going to talk about painted furniture.

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

I have always been fiercely anti. Partly on principle and partly, yes. I’ll admit it, on taste grounds.  I grew up with antique furniture and have always felt it was a crime to paint it. I also have a horror of the shabby chic trend; ornate cream furniture with bits scraped off it. No thank you. Unless it’s a genuine painted Gustavian it’s not for me. Or so I thought.

I will also admit that my mother’s recent discovery of grey furniture paint and her liberal covering of all her  antiques in it makes me want more distressed than the furniture. She knows I disagree and said merely that I can strip it all back when she’s dead. So that went well then.

So I packed painted furniture away in the design crime box and thought no more of it. Not on these pages I decreed.

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

And then I saw these pictures, styled by the super talented Marianne Cotterill , and I got to thinking (you guessed it Sex and the City voice again): Is painted furniture always a crime or could it actually be a good solution to a bad table?

So I set out to investigate. And you can’t talk about painted furniture without speaking to the queen of chalk paint Annie Sloan. Annie, a fine artist by training, invented her paint in true entrepreneur style – she wanted to find one paint that would do everything. A woman after my own heart: “the most important thing for me was not having to do any prep so you can start painting whenever the mood takes you”.

Her water-based non-toxic formula sticks to just about any surface from walls to woodwork, inside and out with no need for primer. But I still wasn’t going to put it on the furniture was I?

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

annie sloan chalk paints styled by jennifer haslam

And what about the antiques? Annie says you absolutely shouldn’t buy expensive furniture only to paint it. However, she says, if you are exhausted by a hulking great piece of brown furniture dominating your room then why not?

But, she adds,  if you are shopping for something specific then put a cap on your spending. It’s far more gratifying to transform something you already have, or picked up cheaply and then create something completely bespoke. Also I have no problem with painting antique reproduction furniture, which is effectively a copy of an antique.

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

annie sloan chalk paints styled by jennifer haslam

The other point to note is that it doesn’t have to be just wood you paint. People always assume you’re about to wreck the antique Chippendale, but using chalk paint on MDF or Ikea furniture is a great way to inject personality into a generic piece and create something more personal. Not to mention something that would cost several times more if it was attached to a designer label. And you might be amazed at how much of that expensive designer product is actually painted mdf.

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

So have a look around your home and, to coin a phrase, see if you have something that doesn’t spark joy and consider transforming it with chalk paint. You can also use it on the walls, and this bedroom above with the ceiling matching the bed looks wonderful. And there’s no hint of that distressing anywhere. Which means I am not distressed either.

The other great thing is that the paint goes directly onto almost any surface.  Annie suggests using it on kitchen cupboards and floors as well as walls. She has also created a chalk paint lacquer to protect your handiwork.

If you want to create a really smooth flat finish then dilute the paint with water which will also hide the brush marks. If you live in a house where sticky fingerprints might be an issue, or want to use the paint in the bathroom, then the wall paint has been designed to have the same velvety finish as the chalky version but you can wipe it down with a damp cloth.

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

On a side note, it’s also very expensive to buy coloured garden furniture but on March (2019) Annie will be launching a new UV lacquer that is perfect for tarting up a shabby garden table and turning it into something chic – just make sure you keep the chic separate from the shabby and this painted furniture might be something to consider after all.

annie sloan chalk paints styled by marianne cotterill

annie sloan chalk paints styled by jennifer haslam

 Do’s and Don’ts by Annie Sloan:

Do put a limit on what you spend

Don’t paint the antiques and heirlooms

Do think about painting Ikea or cheap mdf furniture

Don’t distress it

Do remember it for the garden furniture

Don’t do everything but select with care

Do mix the colours to get the one you really want

Don’t live with furniture you don’t like


What do you think? Converted?

Images styled by Marianne Cotterill and Jennifer Haslam using Annie Sloan chalk paint.

You Might Also Like

  • Vicky 17th February 2019 at 8:32 am

    I’m with you on the shabby chic loathing – it just looks shabby to me. But I grew up with painted furniture; mainly because it was second hand, and quite frankly needed a coat of something to cover the stains and scratches. I learned to play the piano on a Victorian monstrosity that my mother painted cornflower blue, and all of my bedroom furniture was white-glossed.

  • Elaine Gwynne-Thomas 15th February 2019 at 9:08 am

    I’ve rescued old garden chairs that would have been chucked with chalk paint. I made my own with leftover Farrow and Ball, and added calcium carbonate and water. A couple of coats and some clear varnish. Cost virtually zero, and the chairs look great. I’ve also done the same to unfashionable pine bookshelves, adding a wax finish. It’s really good way to use up leftover emulsion paint.

  • Anna 14th February 2019 at 5:58 pm

    Sheree I will follow your lead in future.
    I had to use Polyvine sealer because I was using up sample pots of F&B emulsion and these need a finishing product. One could use Annie Sloane wax.

  • Sheree 14th February 2019 at 2:53 pm

    I have painted all my bedroom furniture. Some with chalk paint and others using the primer Anna mentions, followed by 3 coats of Mylands eggshell (using a roller). No sealer used. The second option is streets ahead. A far more professional finish and also has no signs of wear.
    I would mention that the primer is a great base, but is awful to apply. It has a milk like thin consistency, but dries in seconds. Despite this, would never paint with chalk paint again.

  • Fanny 14th February 2019 at 8:22 am

    I’ve always been very weary of painting furniture, but you got me thinking again… My main concern has always been the quality of the paint job more than anything else, when I think of painting furniture I think of the horrible, uneven paint surfaces on various stools, bedside tables and chairs from when I was a student, brush marks visible even after the paint has dried. Any tips on how to make sure the finish looks even and not like a child painted it?

    Another thing I’ve been hesitating about is painting some untreated wooden furniture we have from my student days which I still really like – a simple “boxes and planks” book case and a tall chest of drawers, both solid, untreated wood. I’m planning to repaint the sort of open plan kitchen-hallway-livingroom in darker colours (inspired by you and Sophie on TGI) and I’m thinking the rather light wood will be a bit off against darker walls, so either painting or staining. But what if I want it back to the lighter wood at some point in the future? Is there anything I should do to protect the wood underneath?

  • Anna 13th February 2019 at 3:12 pm

    Annie Sloane Chalk Paint A WORD OF WARNING.
    I too have painted odd bits of furniture for decades but I have to warn you that some furniture will “bleed” nasty brown stains and Annie Sloane paint can seriously disappoint.
    Last summer I offered to paint furniture for my family whilst they were on holiday. The Annie Sloane paint instructions were read carefully and I began, but the promise that it will cover everything without any preparation simply isn’t true. Left over night the some of the furniture seeped nasty brown stains. Two more coats of Annie Sloane did not prevent this happening.
    My advice is to put a stain sealer on varnished or brown furniture first. My favourite go to is Bullseye 123. A remarkable white, water based paint that is a “use for everything” actually.
    I have painted furniture first with 123 then used up the sample pots of F&B, then sealed with water based POLYVINE which comes in matt of sheen finish.

    Finally those old fashioned “tudor style” coffee tables that come in sets of 3. I have sanded and polished the top and painted the legs with F&B, just a sample pot needed. Then sealed and they look wonderful.

    • Kathie Jordan 13th February 2019 at 4:37 pm

      There are always those few pieces that will want to bleed. I always inspect my pieces after the first coat to see if there will be any wood tannins coming through the paint. A quick couple wipes with clear shellac on only the affected areas and you are good to go. Why prep an entire piece when there are just a few spots that could be the culprit?
      I find this happens most with Red Mahogany or pieces that have not been cleaned well enough to remove pledge/grease etc.

  • Kat 13th February 2019 at 7:30 am

    Loved this post and I have to admit I love painted furniture and have been a huge Annie Slon fan for years. I painted my entire kitchen in chalk paint and sealed it with lacquer which cost me a grand total of £100 and had my kitchen featured in a magazine so I have to admit theat YES !! I love chalk paint

  • Gerry Rust 12th February 2019 at 12:50 pm

    OK so I am a furniture upcycler and have been for the last 20 years (long before that particular term was coined) so my perspective will be rather different to yours. In that time I have restored as well as painted furniture and for me at least the condition of the piece is key. Not all antiques are made the same, and not all have been treated in the same way….The Victorians were the first to mass produce furniture and trust me some of it was no better made than certain mass produced furniture of today. When you are faced with a piece that has to be put back together like a jigsaw, with half it’s veneer missing or the wood so damaged it is hard to tell what it originally was, then painting is the only sensible, cost effective answer. I can genuinely claim to have saved thousands of bits of furniture, of every era from Georgian to Argos’ finest from the landfill. I use paint, stencils, wallpaper, I restore some parts and paint others – you name it, whatever I think will enhance the piece and make it saleable again. I would never buy an antique in good condition to paint, scruples aside it makes no economic sense. I buy, or am occasionally even given, pieces that no one else wants, I rarely turn them down because I hate waste and can see potential in almost anything – it just requires some creative thinking. However you need to produce something that people will want to put into their homes and if they don’t want brown furniture, which current predictions aside, has been very much the case for many years, then that means altering the finish in some way.

  • Clare Heine 12th February 2019 at 12:20 pm

    I agree, painted furniture is certainly a great addition to a room. But for me, there is a big BUT there! I like to paint some furniture and mix it with furniture in it’s natural state. Otherwise personally, I think it can look a little twee.
    Thank you for your great blogs. Signed ‘recent convert’

  • Julia 12th February 2019 at 11:34 am

    I’ve been painting furniture for decades, because I can’t afford designer pieces, or even a lot of high street stuff, so the furniture I painted was picked up for a few pounds from junk shops, or given to me. The ubiquitous honey pine pieces from the 80s and 90s were ideal pieces to paint, and looked so much better after.

    I also remember my mum painting a cheap dresser purple, when I was small, so I’ve never needed to be converted!

  • Sharon Grufferty 12th February 2019 at 11:22 am

    In my mind if it stops landfill then it’s a good thing to paint furniture and even to wallpaper. I agree shabby chic look in grey and white is an abomination but now there are so many fantastic colours to choose from and you can leave is matt or give is a sheen with hemp oil. Looking out for unusual shaped furniture can gives some beautiful results. There is also some great upcyclers (a dirty word and one that needs rebranding) such as Elizabeth Dot, Muck n Brass and Bryonie Porter. May be a discussion topic for The Great Indoors (which is fantastic)

  • Marie Bunworth 12th February 2019 at 11:11 am

    Fabulous pics n tips Kate👍 I’ve painted old Pine Furniture and changed the handles to update it. No distressing tho!! I’ll definitely try the UV paint on my glass garden table with rusting legs.

  • Stefanie Azzopardi 12th February 2019 at 10:48 am

    Hi Kate – I love a beautiful grain when I started looking into Annie Sloan and the painted movement I am an easy convert. We are going from a rental to owning our own home so fancy furniture is not in the budget. Chalk paint will be our solution to create style and personality from our mix and match Ikea pieces we’ve collected over the years.
    Can I ask what colour is the teal blue in the kitchen image please? Aubusson Blue or a mix?

  • Aline Povlsen 12th February 2019 at 10:38 am

    I am a dumpster diver and have found great things that I have painted. I think they turned out quite well,

  • Our French Lifestyle 12th February 2019 at 9:47 am

    I agree with everything in the do’s and font’s of Annie Sloane. I would never dream of painting real antique furniture and like you have inherited pieces that I love. I also hate mdf with a passion. Nowadays you can buy some really good vintage furniture that is as solid as a rock and so well made for half the price of something from Ikea! Now that is fair game, some things are just crying out for paint and I think it’s a great way to give them a new lease of life but at the same time appreciate how well made they are. Although I have to admit the bright colours look gorgeous but are probably not for me. I prefer the muted French tones that are more subtle.

  • Taste of France 12th February 2019 at 9:27 am

    I’d rather see a raggedy old piece that’s full of scratches and gashes get a new life with paint of any color than have it go to a landfill. But no distressing! I like the wabi-sabi distressing that comes from having served many years. Same with jeans. Intentional distressing is just another fake.
    I wouldn’t want to live with the saturated colors, but I’d love to visit.

  • Hélène 12th February 2019 at 8:49 am

    Like you, Kate, I grew up with antique furniture around me, and I wouldn’t dream of painting any of my mum’s genuine 18th century treasures. However, junk shops finds are fair game. I think the trick is to pick something that has quite a lot of detailing. I used to have one of those ornate Edwardian overmantel mirror with spindles and shelves and it looked really nice in my hallway painted a soft grey. The shelves were very handy too for mail and keys.

  • Gill 12th February 2019 at 8:17 am

    Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it! Many years ago I painted some Ikea bookcases that had begun to fade
    using Annie’s chalk paint. They were transformed and lasted really well. I just bought some more paint on the weekend as I want to paint an old pine bed white. Because there’s no prep involved you get instant gratification! Wonderful stuff .

  • Mandy Winters 12th February 2019 at 7:35 am

    Loving a lot of this but….no….OMG…..is that actually a Versailles bed ( And So To Bed, top of my fantasy list) she’s painted ? Where are my pills !
    Seriously, as someone who is currently painting her garden furniture different shades of ( bright) ice cream colours , I’ll check out that new UV range of paint.
    Very interesting.

  • This website needs cookies to work correctly. Click the ACCEPT button to use cookies or click Read More for additional info.