Painting furniture - a crime or necessity? Help

Jo Lucas
4 March, 2015
last modified: 7 September, 2017

Just purchased a 1920's house which has come with the original furniture ) see stair carpet - art nouveau house(1920's). its a bit smelly (old people) and it seems such a shame to throw it away but we have so many pieces I don't know where to begin and how long it will take. I will also think about an upholstery course and whether we could paper the wardrobes or bed heads or even make padded material covers. Attached are some pieces - have original floors etc so need to try and respect building yet funk it up. eames chair style??

Comments (115)

  • enberty
    You want to respect the house but how about respecting "old people". I am not old but I found your comment shocking and sad.
    Jo Lucas thanked enberty
  • Jo Lucas
    Oh dear. I have already said my apologies about my heading. Each to their own I suppose. I am trying to take the post down which is a shame as I have had some absolutely brilliant pieces of advice from all but 2. Thanks again everyone. I know will have many more design issues including how to source funky eclectic objects to create a point of interest interest. They tar
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  • Yvonne Richards
    You've apologised, Jo. Don't take the thread down. You can't do anymore than apologise. We all write things online that don't always come across exactly as they are meant. You can rarely get the right inference with words. I'd like to see how things turn out and how you manage to marry it altogether.
    Jo Lucas thanked Yvonne Richards
  • Jo Lucas
    You sweetie Yvonne. Thank you
  • benny12345
    Hi Jo,
    I just want to add, like someone said above, there's a whole lot of us out there who would pay good money to stay at a place like yours, furnished and decorated in the way that it is (I know you may want to have furniture professionally polished/cleaned and some bits re-upholstered, etc.).
    We keep going back to a hotel in Queretaro, Mexico called La Casa de la Marquesa ( precisely because it is a gorgeous old building all furnished in antiques. The city is pretty enough, but it is really the hotel we go back for and we make the point of staying in a different room every time. They are all different and all beautiful - you just don't get that at a place where they standardise furnishings in all rooms! Your place has the potential to have that kind of pull with customers.
    Also, be careful not to be too "trendy". That is yet another tired look that has been done so much! The trying too hard to be cool and funky with "modern" plastic tat type furniture, "designer" looks, glass and steel, etc. Antique furnishings can be grand, glamorous but also cosy and comforting, so make the most of what you have, or even source some other pieces to complement them.
    Good luck with your venture and keep us posted!
    Jo Lucas thanked benny12345
  • Vonn
    I am sad that something said so comically was taken completely out of context. I think that Jo has regretted and also apologised for the fact she may have offended anyone. I am not young nor too old and haven't we all said things we could have taken back. Very harsh me thinks.
    Jo Lucas thanked Vonn
  • PRO
    Tania Mariani
    I would paint everything except for the wardrobe. That would be a crime.
    Jo Lucas thanked Tania Mariani
  • enberty
    Yes we all say things that we wish that we hadn't and I have been glad that someone pointed those things out. Sorry if I made you feel bad and I hope that your house becomes the jewel that you hope for - it is well on its way!
    Jo Lucas thanked enberty
  • Vonn
    That is so gracious of you enberty. What a decent person you are. It is exactly what you said, something in writing can have so many different meaning, to many different people. My hubby often says things that he doesn't quite put in the right words, he is a lovely man, but he is, by his own admission, not great with words. He would never offend anyone, but his words, if taken out of context could. Good luck to both of you.
    Jo Lucas thanked Vonn
  • Jo Lucas
    Thank you emberty. I agree that was very gracious. I will be a bit more careful next time. Anyway I have probably had all the advice I need now. Basically keep it or sell it BUT DONT PAINT IT. Thanks everyone
  • Vonn
    Good luck Jo, you deserve it, do let us all know what you decide though.
  • junegray
    I would keep the pieces I love the shape of and paint them with chalk paint, probably white, distress it and coat with two or three coats of polyurethane varnish. It needs no preparation, is so easy to apply two slightly thinned coats and easy to apply the varnish, it just goes on like water but dries to a hard finish. I have painted several pieces like this and they look great. Sell the rest or do some rooms with the original furniture. I wish you great success!
  • PRO
    NK interior design
    Congratulations for such a treasure in our life! :)
    It'll be very pity if by constructing our new interior you would get rid of existing gorgeous one. :(
    I hope you find professional architect or designer, which with love could help you to create your home atmosphere and save historical (for most of us) interiors.
  • Lauren
    My feelings on seeing the various photos:- a lot of these pieces of furniture are incredibly elegant and beautifully made and actually don't feel too over the top for the type of home you have bought. That being said I agree that when combined with the tiled floor and fussy wallpapers it does have a bit of a museum quality and makes it hard to focus on any one thing. I also think most people would find it hard to move in somewhere and do absolutely nothing to make the space their own!

    My suggestion would be to keep the tiled floors in the foyer (and bathrooms) but install wood flooring directly over the top of the tile in the other rooms (choose a wood visually cleaner and simpler so as not to detract attention from the furniture and beautiful windows). You could even carpet upstairs bedroom spaces if preferred all without damaging the tiles underneath.

    With neutral floors you can then paint the walls white or more contemporary muted colours (putty/greys/calico etc) to create a calmer uniform canvas on which the period features and lovely furniture will be the stand out elements. I think this solution would also be a more forgiving environment to pepper some ultra contemporary pieces if you wished along with the stunning antiques. It also has the benefit of being reversible in case a future owner desperately wants tiled floors everywhere!

    As others have said if you really dislike some of the pieces or don't feel they work in the space then look at selling them. Put funds raised towards high end feature lighting and warmer textiles - rugs/linen drapes etc to make the house feel more inviting and personable.

    Let me know what you think and good luck with such a lovely problem!
  • amw122
    I am so envious of you with that beautiful house and furniture. It might surprise you the difference it would make giving it a proper clean and polish and perhaps repair to bring out the colour and style back and much of it could fit into more modern decor. Also before you could even think of painting any piece like that, I would hope you would get the opinion of experts and valuers, you may be sitting on a fortune - which would be rendered worthless if you 'modernised' it. My cousin thought a piece of furniture she had, had too long legs and was going to take a saw to them. It turned out it was a Chippendale sideboard.
  • jackcrispesq
    Hi, it warms my heart to read so many people writing such positive comments about old dark furniture, as said earlier so much has been lost to so many tends that disappear so quickly. If people want painted furniture it is so easy to find in so many places. Ultimately, only you can decide the outcome of the pieces. Good luck with your project it's beautiful and will be well worth every effort.
    Ps. People who want to moan should find themselves a site for that sort of thing, this is a place for design ideas and creativity sharing, and really to be honest many old people do smell so get real, not their fault but it's the truth.
  • Pauline Hobson
    Hi Jo, I have agreed with so many comments here I have given up. I understand where you are coming from in many ways but, and forgive me if it seems harsh but I feel you really and truly don't appreciate what you have there. Someone mentioned in an earlier post it was to be a hotel. In my opinion it is so original and also beautiful, it could be marketed that way......Its a no brained. lighten and freshen it up in other ways.....its the originality which creates character, memories, many things. Rant over.....
  • Vonn
    Here Here jackcrispesq. I suppose everyone is entitled to their likes and dislikes though, but there is a time and a place and a way to say things! I watched a programme yesterday and they ripped out the original Victorian cornices and every fireplace. I hope they went to a good home, but that is what they wanted and although I can appreciate and have used some modern touches, I couldn't do without my Georgian fix, it must be in my DNA. I joke with hubby that whilst I was most definitely "upstairs", he was door boy, well below cellar level even. We can but dream, I don't want to dig too much into the past, I was probably destitute or scullery maid at least! We do have an awful lot of items that if it wasn't for technology, imagine how dreary our lives would be, especially in the kitchen. Live and let live, is my motto, but it is possible to be nice! Have a nice day y'all.
  • amw122
    The flat I live in was built in 1900, the previous owner ripped out almost all the cornices and woodwork and 'modernised' the flat. Added to that, the current trend of the time was to cover the ceilings with Artex. These are fashions of the day and now I wouldn't call that creativity. Something of the heart of it has been taken away from it and my neighbour who was a young man, didn't want his flat modernised in that way just used paint to put new life in it and it worked very well. The woodwork and cornicing was beautifully proportioned to the size of the room. My flat was modernised with narrower woodwork and some cornicing removed completely, it's lost it's style. The creativity and design was already there and it's sad to see it getting destroyed in that name.
  • Jo Lucas
    Thanks for responding. Just for clarity. I have absolutely no intention to rip out any of the original fixtures and fittings including floors, windows, cornicing etc. my problem was how to modernise. I have all the original furniture and if I retain that AND all the original features the house looks rather like a museum. My question was therefore whether to keep the furniture and paint it or sell it, give it away and buy new lighter but classic pieces. I have come to the conclusion from everyone's very helpful comments to give away most of the furniture apart from a few pieces and then modernise with new wardrobes and beds etc. I'm thinking along the lines of timeless design classics like eames. So any ideas for furniture that could work well with the existing house would be really appreciated
  • silyab53
    Poor you - what a dilemma this plethora of varying advice is. Stunning house. Love It. My advice - Keep everything, live in it for a few months and do absolutely nothing!!! Meanwhile, look at the light in your rooms throughout the day, the shapes the details and the colours. You'll then find perhaps a colour detail from a tile to put on the walls or marry with light fittings etc. This is a Grand house - don't rush it! Good luck and do let us all know how it goes, room by room, and how the Spanish lessons are going too. Bee
  • Jo Lucas
    Thanks bee. That's the plan. Spanish is ok up to cd 7 of 8 of michel Thomas........
  • silyab53
    Get a Spanish au pair for a few months and insist she only speaks Spanish to you! LOL My Spanish is rubbish otherwise I'd volunteer myself. I'm good at painting if you need a free slave though!
  • PRO
    I would be honoured to give a paint touch on one of this rooms...
  • Emma Bell
    Would be great painted with chalk paint to create a shabby chic look :-)
  • Sandi
    Lots of great comments here...only going to add one. I have turned all my wardrobes into cupboards. Now have huge storage space I didnt have before and apart from one that we hang all coats in, stuff gets folded now. Also used them for books, blankets, duvets, linen, towels....endless and much more useful. So....reconfigure your wardrobes as a start. Re- do your rooms with the furniture in mind and preserved. I have stayed in many stylish hotels with ancient gorgeous old furniture. Here is one of my favourites.
  • robercrest
    Great idea also for all those old TV cabinets languishing in consignment stores and bedrooms unused. They can be bought on the cheap now with all the flat screens!
  • Alison Heppell
    Keep the furniture as is and paint the walls
  • PRO
    Fifi De Lyon
    Jo Lucas, you created such a buzz with your house and furniture! I agree with most people, PLEASE DO NOT PAINT the furniture! I would just have the walls re-done with some Farrow and ball paint and /or Cole and sons wallpapers. Baines and Fricker could fit there well too... I would re paint skirting to another colour and see afterwards what else to do. For the gorgeous bed-couch, re-do the upholstery for something more fun (check out woven cotton materials or heavy linens) If you need names for upholstery a curtaining etc , I can ask my friend who knows people there. Alternatively I can give you names for the UK. Good luck. Urszula
  • Barbara STewart

    Painting furniture sounds easy but there is a lot of time and hard work involved, depending on how you want it to look. If you think you want to replace it sometime down the road, just give it a good clean, don't spend all that time and energy on something that you do not intend to keep, and sell, donate etc., over time. I think I read in one of the comments to keep your favourite pieces. Remember that you purchased the property with the furniture, so you must have had some incline at the time what you were going to do with the furniture. If you have the room, move all the furniture into that and as you decorate your house, perhaps you can incorporate some pieces throughout. Not an easy decision for you, good luck.

  • PRO
    Fifi De Lyon
    But I agree with Silyab53 you know, just move in there, live there. bit... then see what you feel like doing... I guess walls in some or most rooms are fabrics tapisserie? You bought such a beauty, really! wow!
  • silyab53
    Aaw, thanks Fifi! I wonder how it's all going? Can't wait to find out.
  • gilliifer
    This is wonderful.lucky you. I would restore and bring in an interior designer with expertise in the period.
  • mrshste

    Would love to see progress pictures of this beautiful place...

  • PRO

    If painted and restored furniture were not En Vogue i'd be out of business. You just need the right mix and the right colours. You cannot beat old furniture, it was built to last unlike a lot of today's rubbish. I literally am in love with the house and your furniture, just needs the right touch !! Why buy new when you don't need it??? Paint it and save a fortune, re-vive other pieces and keep them as they were. The only time i vere towards new is Kitchens and bathrooms. Good luck x

  • ehill503
    Hello Jo, have you thought that once you have stripped out all the dark wall and floor coverings, and maybe changed the window coverings for something in a lovely pale floppy
    I enjoy, then all that dark furniture will look completely different. The mixture of cool contemporary colours, and no clutter plus some lovely dark antiques can look stunning. Whatever you do, the house looks stunning, hood
    U know and enjoy it.
  • ingabrereton

    It must be overwhelming to be surrounded by someone else's taste. I agree about giving it time and not making rash decisions but perhaps spend a bit of time looking for really striking pieces of art and sculpture to display against the very striking interior you have inherited from the previous residents.

  • PRO
    AJH Furniture

    I would say paint it. Dark wood furniture is not in fashion at the moment. unless it is a valuable antique go for it.

  • maria galvano
    CRIME mix it up with contemporary if thats your taste it will look far more edgey. if you just dont like the look of all the beautiful pieces then sell to someone who would treasure it. Quality is always in fashion please respect it and dont paint it. House looks stunning lucky you
  • PRO
    Tim Wood Limited

    I would have all the furniture you have a question mark on valued, before you touch it or think of discarding it. The pieces you don't like or don't work for you may fund some or all your changes.

    Then I would look here and elsewhere for Interior designers who are near you with a portfolio of work you love or who show work with properties similar to yours. Then see three or four, then choose who you feel most comfortable with.

    You obviously love the property or you would not have brought it. A good local professional should work closely with you to leave the best intact and let you put your stamp on your home, so it really feels like home.

  • goldensafira
    Hi Jo Lucas , I am curious to see the updates on your Dilema! The true when you finish I may come down and stay in your boutique hotel ,sounds very appealing to me your project ! Hope all the best !
  • Nicolette
    Amazing! Agree that you shouldn't paint the good quality carved pieces - some dark wooden furniture does lend itself well to a paint job but the ornate pieces here should be kept and loved in their original state - chalk white walls will show them off best in my opinion - totally wonderful to have acquired this - I am very envious.
  • kazza_hayward

    What beautiful furniture! I love the washstand, the cabinet in the dining room and the bench chair in the hall; I'd keep those and sell the rest I think - apart from a wardrobe or two maybe which would look gorgeous in a cream/sage green/light grey chalk paint. I think it would look lovely in the house but understand it's not everyone's cup of tea. Amazing tiles and front door too - you're v lucky!

  • Josephine Geeson

    Lucky people! I'd keep most as it is and add coloured or other era designs to compliment and co-exist with them - agree with kazza, might paint the wardrobe, but in a rich dark colour.

  • T J

    Personally, go for it! have so many options, depending on what your personalities are like go for bold and bright, muted colours if you are wanting something less flamboyant, and if you fancy a change decorate them again!....sometimes a bright room with a statement piece in its true form could really make it wonderful....if I got my hands on your place I would be in decorating heaven! Keep us updated with what you choose to do

  • Kayleigh Angus

    1. I would paint all the walls white or something plain and fresh - I think instantly the house will feel refreshed, brighter and the furniture will not look as horrible.
    2. I would not paint the furniture, ideally sell.
    I think the double bed looks lovely, but the singles I would sell (from what they look like in your photos).
    3. Rugs You could get a nice rug for the hallway? This would take away from the tiles being overbearing. This could also be a good option for bedroom - putting a large one under the beds and side tables

    4. I think the entrance is beautiful but the plants don't add anything of beauty.

  • PRO
    Jo Sloanes

    We sell Frenchic Furniture Paint. Chalk paint with no chemicals, no smell and dont have to stir it. We even paint our customers leather

  • Rachel Riley

    Paint the walls not the beautiful furniture. Wood like that would really pop against a dark green/blue, if your not into dark paint work I'm out of ideas.

  • Dundrum 16
    Hola Jo! Que tal? Just found your post and the very lively discussion this morning and I'm dying to know what you've done in the last two years. Perhaps you're so busy running your business you don't check Houzz anymore - hope not, as it would be great to see an update.
  • janine_staines

    Oh I am completely green with envy! To buy a beautiful house and score all that gorgeous furniture - how fabulous! I haven't read all the posts but agree that to paint most of these pieces would be a crying shame. I also agree with having a few antique dealers look at your furniture and assess it's value; then sell the pieces you're not so fond of & enjoy those pieces you love.. At the risk of causing upset to anyone, the only pieces I'd consider painting would be those that are damaged beyond restoration but could still be usable &/or functional.... My head is still spinning at all that fab furniture - IF you could find it in Australia you'd be paying $$$$$$!

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