There are certain types of furniture I prefer not to paint in order to maintain its original integrity. Solid wood antiques and mid-century modern furniture pieces are two that immediately come to mind. Even with some wear and tear these are often better refinished in stain. So today let’s talk a little about preserving the integrity of solid wood furniture.
Why I refinish furniture
Painted furniture is all the craze right now. It has been for the past few years; but I didn’t get into painting furniture because it was a trend. I started painting furniture as a stress reliever and creative outlet. Shortly after beginning, I realized I really enjoyed painting furniture. Throughout those first two years, I experimented on any furniture I could get my hands on. Then moved on to really refinishing furniture with great care and learned how to use stains and topcoats.
I realized that refinished furniture was a great (and very inepensive) way to add furniture to my home that fit my own style. Walls and entire rooms that had remained empty for almost 10 years because I could never commit to buying expensive pieces, were now filling up with my own creations. I was no longer intimidated by trying different styles and colors because I knew I could always sell a piece if I realized it didn’t really work well in my rooms.
In summary, all of the stars aligned for me when I started refinishing furniture.
But I’m getting a little off-track here. I really want to talk to you about why I prefer to preserve the integrity of solid wood furniture whenever possible.
Why it’s a good idea to preserve the integrity of solid wood furniture
First of all, the finish of a stained piece of furniture lasts much longer than one that’s been painted. Stain just wears better over time because it soaks into the wood, whereas paint sits on top, so any surface scratches are less likely to show on stain.
Second, paint is a thick liquid that often requires several coats while stain is much thinner. This means that the effort to remove and refinish a stained piece of furniture down the road is much easier than removing thick coats of paint. Often times the paint cannot be completely removed and leaves an uneven surface.
Third, if a furniture piece was originally designed with a stained finish, a stain, rather than a paint, will maintain it’s original design.
Finally, because of the reasons mentioned above, solid wood furniture often decreases in value when the wood is covered up with paint.
Yes, I may paint a lot of furniture; but the majority of furniture I paint has enough damage to the surface and requires repairs that need paint to smooth the surface. Or, in many instances, the furniture is made of different materials (wood + veneer or wood + laminate) and the two materials won’t accept the stain the same way, so I opt to paint.
Yes, there have been some solid wood furniture pieces I’ve painted that later I wish I had stained and some where clients specifically requested paint; but now that I’ve been refinishing furniture for a few years, I now encourage the use of stain if at all possible.
I’m also learning that certain stains, like General Finishes gel stain, give you the coverage close to a paint so they can be used on multi-surfaces yet still achieve an overall cohesive finish.
This mid-century desk is a perfect example of furniture that I believe was made of different products but was still better stained than painted.
Here’s the desk after I sanded it down. As you can see the wood is in excellent condition which means it should accept stain just fine. The top surface is either a veneer with a ton of gloss polyurethane on it or a laminate. I couldn’t tell which so it was very, very lightly sanded with a very fine grit sandpaper.
My dilemna is that I do like to change the original look of furniture. There’s nothing like a stunning “Before & After”. This desk started off with a medium brown stain over the entire desk, so to change it up, I began by adding a rich Georgian Cherry gel stain to all but the drawer fronts.
The General Finishes gel stain even took well to that unknown top surface.
To brighten the design up, I then used a solid white stain on the drawer fronts. It took about four coats of this Minwax water-based white stain to achieve a nice bright white; but what I love is that the stain still allows just a bit of the original wood grain and color to bleed through so the drawer fronts still look like wood.
The photo turned out a little dark here, but you can see that the varying color tones on the drawer fronts blend in with the surrounding cherry wood rather than act like too stark of a contrast.
Stain has to be protected with a clear coat or it will rub off over time. The cherry stain was clear-coated in Minwax wipe-on oil-based polyurethane and the white stain was clear-coated with Minwax water-based polycrylic so it would not yellow.
I’m really happy I was able to preserve the integrity and design of this mid-century modern desk.
This stained, mid-century modern, two-tone desk is now for sale in the Entri Ways’ shop.
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