Can of Paint
Saying that a can of paint can make anything look new is like saying that make-up can make an ugly person pretty. It’s one of those bold lies that companies sell and make money off the senseless. But the right paint can freshen up an aging piece of furniture and make it kinda cool for a couple more years until the paint starts chipping and you have to break down and buy something from an actual furniture dealer that doesn’t also sell potholders and car air fresheners.
Since we are still at that stage in our family where IKEA is our go to place for home goods, and the bulk of our kitchen and living room necessities were purchased there about five years ago, painting has become my trick to prevent our place from looking like a sad bachelor pad.
It started with my daughters bed, a nice heavy wood twin one that I got for $75 off craigslist. It was brown and looked a bit like something from the Brady Boys room. A few cans of white spray paint later and ta da! My then three year old is a princess.
Then we did The Big Dining Table, purchased from our next door neighbor for $35. This time I actually used a brush. And high gloss paint. If you are going to use high gloss paint, you better be damn good at painting. Every flaw shows. And it stinks. You’ll have to leave that sucker outside for a while to dry or open the windows in the house. And you will have to make sure your toddler doesn’t have access to permanent markers anytime soon. Semi-gloss is the way to go. Tell the paint mixer that your kids are going to wipe their grubby hands on whatever you paint and you need to be able to wipe it clean.
One of the great things about painting furniture is that you can get punchy with it. Most furniture is made to blend and that’s fine if you want to stay in 1985. But I live in a world where we need all the help we can get to feel refreshed and cheerful. One of the first things you will see those TV designers do to freshen up a room is replace pillows, buy a brighter throw rug or throw out the darkest hunk of crap in the room. To have a little color in your house means that you are possibly optimistic, fun, creative, brave. Or at the very least it means you aren’t completely opposed to following my advice.
Here’s my off the cuff advice about painting furniture:
1) Don’t paint an expensive piece. If you have a gorgeous china hutch from great grandma, but it simply doesn’t suit your style, sell or trade that hunk of sentiment to another family member who will appreciate it and use the cash to buy something else for your home. I say this as someone who has been terrorized by the furniture whores in LA who will PAINT ANYTHING, antiques be dammed! The chances are good that whatever color you choose will NOT be the color that someone else wants later so you are stuck with the decision of what to with it in 5 years, grannys frail voice ringing in your ears. When I paint something, I am basically thinking, “OK, chair, this is your curtain call. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.”
2) Only paint a few select things in your home a bright color. The last thing you want is for your place to look like the clown posse has been there and crashed it. Too much color isn’t super cute, it’s super tacky. You want your visitors to be pleasantly surprised by the color, not distracted. If you choose to do the kitchen table and chairs in yellow, for example, do not also do the cutting island, shelf and cabinets. It will not work. Not unless you are Betsy Johnson. And maybe not then, come to think of it.
3) Choose your color based on your personality, not on the matchy-matchyness of it. As I said, this is not 1985 and you are not going for a Garanimals look. One of the first things I ever painted that I was totally satisfied with was my back door at my duplex in Nashville. The door was old and rickety and depressing. I vamped it up with a deep, deep red and loved it. Even better, my duplex neighbor, Laurie, painted her door a sea-faring green. I am willing to bet that anyone who came to our place, knew which door was to which girls place since the colors fit our personalities at that time. That being said, I don’t expect to see a large purple armoire at my friend Marc Mitchell’s house, even if he is entirely fun and witty. Hi Marc! Be fun, but be wise too.
4) Do It Right. Start with an odd chair, maybe the one in the corner over there. Or the wood footstool. Sand it. Otherwise you are wasting your time because the paint will begin chipping off in a month and you’ll be pissed at yourself. Yes, the sanding can get tedious. Just do your best and be glad you are painting something cheap, ok?
5) Make some other updates to the room too. The thing is, if you have a brown and beige living room and you paint the bookshelves green, you end up with a very noticeably large green bookshelf in your otherwise unnoticeable living room. To fall back on the old bag of tricks… throw blankets, pillows, curtains, flowers, vase, colorful books. I wonder where you could get stuff like that? Maybe IKEA? Man, they owe me for this post.
6) Brag about your achievement. It may not fall under the definition of art, but making the old new with paint is rewarding in many ways. You saved money, you made your space better and you flipped the Mathis Brothers the bird for a couple more years, at least.
Would love to see what you guys have spruced up with paint. Send me your photos!