April 17, 2017

Painted Furniture Part 2

Painted Furniture Part 2

If you missed Painted Furniture Part 1 here is the link

How Can You Know When to Paint?

You will become a detective.

**  The furniture should give clues.  It is good to know the different types wood that went into furniture production in the area where you live, other parts of the country, and overseas.  I found a link to the Museum of Furniture that has good pictures of different types of wood. Wood Species in Furniture
You can compare wood colour and grain with this site.  Try to figure out with what you are working.

** Check drawers, inside doors, and backs of furniture.  You are looking for furniture maker markings.


Sometimes they are burned into the wood.  In this case, it was on the inside of the drawer.  Sometimes the markings are on a piece of paper that is pasted to a surface under a table or chair or back of the furniture.

The marking above is a little hard to read, but it says "National Table Company".
With a little investigation, I found out that this piece of furniture originated with 
North American Bent Chair Company started by J.G. and A.B. Hay (from Woodstock) in Owen Sound. Associated with National Table Company and Owen Sound Chair Company

Further to that, I found out that the National Table Company was established in 1898 - 1929 and then again from 1938 - 1960.  Right away I noticed that they closed during the Great Depression and re-opened just before WW2.

With some further digging, I might be able to find furniture catalogues, if I'm lucky or references to the types of furniture that were being built at this company.

** Check the construction of furniture for clues.  Drawers are often dovetailed, the bottoms of drawers can be one solid piece, the backs of furniture can be made of tongue and groove boards and not thin plywood.  Other clues are if chairs and sofas have horsehair or what looks like excelsior or thin wood filings as stuffing for seats and backs.


** Another clue is that well built good furniture is heavy.  The Mid-Century Buffet above will weigh a lot.

After you have looked for all of these things, you may still be in the dark.  If you are, take pictures and ask antique dealers, try to find the piece on line, or ask someone who knows about wood to identify it for you.

You can still get copies of Sears Roebuck Catalogue from 1897 and I think other years are available too.  They are reproduction copies, of course.  The catalogue has some very good renditions and descriptions of furniture they were selling then.

Sears & Roebuck 1897

Once you are accustomed to styles, construction, finishes, etc. you will quickly be able to assess pieces of furniture.

Reasons to Paint

There are some very good reasons to paint furniture.

** Someone has already painted it.  I'm not talking about factory painted furniture, but a previous owner has decided it would look better with paint.  I'm talking about pieces like my orange dresser that cannot be brought back to its former glory.


** Furniture that has been damaged with scratches or gouges that would require perhaps wood filler to fix.

**  Rescued furniture that is otherwise going to the landfill or thrift store.  People are not very often throwing out precious antiques.

** Also, furniture that can only partially be salvaged - perhaps the drawers or spindles, etc.

** I think that any furniture that comes from a "flat-pack" store is fair game for a paint job.  I've seen some pretty nifty looking paint applications on these pieces.


** Sometimes the finish is just too far gone to buff up.  I must say, though, that most of my furniture is not new.  It is old and some of it antiques.  There are some nicks and dings and for the most part, I just don't see them.  Perhaps because I choose not to notice.  But, when furniture is painted and then the paint is scratched off in places and then powders and dark waxes are used to age the piece it is hard to see the difference.  I do like the look of painted furniture, though.  I feel torn.

** Paint today is not what it used to be.  Painting over old finishes is much easier today and can be done with very little preparation.  As little as two coats of paint can completely transform a piece of furniture.

** Paint has been used in ways I'm sure many of us have never thought about.  Throughout history, during times of war or invasion, people have tried to disguise very expensive furniture by painting it.  The paint covered over all of the beautiful wood, the marquetry, the ormolu (gilded brass or copper), and hid the craftsmanship and joinery.  Invaders, thinking the furniture was peasant furniture and not worth the effort would pass it by and look for better loot to carry home.

Drenched in Ormolu

Even though we are not at war and we are not being invaded, paint still comes to the rescue.  It has saved many pieces of furniture from being discarded. 

 Paint is not to be discounted for its contribution in making our homes and furniture so much more appealing.

I would only urge you to go slowly when considering painting furniture.  At some point, the current styles and trends will end.  It will happen and something new or different will take its place.  Chances are that the beauty of unpainted wood will reign again, someday.

Whether you choose to paint the furniture or not I leave you with a quote from Natalie Morales

"Furniture is meant to be used and enjoyed." Natalie Morales

Post Script

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  1. Oh Barbara, this is a great post. I'm always a little chicken about painting things and yet there are some you'd just like to! Your hints on what to check for are outstanding, especially for a novice. I have some furniture at my lake house that needs an overhaul so I think I might be doing exactly what you said in a few months and checking it out.

    Meanwhile, thanks again for coming to Marmelade Gypsy. So glad we have connected in the Land of Blog.

    1. Thank you, Jeanie for your kind words. My purpose is to give useful and helpful information. If my posts are doing that then I am happy. Good luck with your furniture at the lake. You can get in touch with me if you have any questions.

      I am glad that we have connected with each other.


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