You hear about it all the time — people finding great vintage or antique pieces of furniture on Craigslist or from their great-great-aunt’s basement or even on the curb, throwing in a little elbow grease, and voila, they have an awesome one-of-a-kind statement maker in their homes.
But once you get your hands on such and item, how do you know where to go next? More importantly, in the case with most antique pieces, how do you decided whether to stain or paint?
While we may not have a clear cut answer on that, here are a few things to consider when looking to leave your mark on Great Auntie Bess’ china hutch.
Do you have the time to commit to stripping an intricately patterned piece with great attention to detail, or do you only have time to give it a quick sand to smooth out the rough edges? Does it have coats of lacquer or paint on it already that would need removed before another step could be made, or does it just need a freshening up?
Age of Item
How old is the piece in question? Is the wood still porous enough to accept an even stain, or would stripping and sanding the item cause more damage to a delicate existence? Does it bear the weight of years of other people’s dirt, or would a quick scrub-down make a huge impact?
Design and Materials
Is your find constructed of beautiful tiger-grain wood that would lose it’s appeal with a coat of paint? Or is it made of such elegantly delicate scroll work that applying a stain would be a nightmare? Is it a sturdy item but perhaps not constructed of the best materials? Or is it of impeccable quality (and possible value) that paint would obliterate? Also consider what drew you to the item — was it the lines of the piece, or the grain of the wood? Did you pick it with the intentions to overhaul it or curate it?
You’re hard-pressed to find a vintage piece that doesn’t have a smidgen of wear-and-tear on it. Does it just have a few scratches, or some giant knicks? Does it have pieces missing, noticeable patch-jobs, or marks from water, fire, smoke, or other catastrophes? Are they blemishes that give the piece it’s character, or marks you’d rather see covered up?
Has the piece been passed down generation after generation since the Mayflower, or does it carry a special significance to you or a close family member? Will someone important to you be distressed if you change the color or finish of it? Have you made sure you’ve asked anyone who might have an investment in the piece?
Do you find yourself drawn to natural woods in your other furniture choices, or do you find yourself surrounded by painted surfaces? Are you wanting this piece to be a counter to the rest of your home, or to blend in with what you already have? Also, are you looking to hold on to your new find for the foreseeable future to pass down another generation, or is it just a place holder until you can get something you like better?
Hopefully after considering these questions, you’ll have a clearer idea on what your next steps should be concerning refinishing your vintage and antique furniture.
Have any other considerations you’d like to add to our list? Add them in the comments below, and don’t be afraid to share your refurbishing projects as well!