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furniture flattery

From Habitat magazine - issue 19

Colour blocking, pops of bright paint and bolder distressed finishes – painted furniture is the daring darling of the moment.

It started with a coat of demure white paint, or a soft distressed pastel. Now, painted furniture has grown in style and boldness with one-of-a-kind pieces making a real impact in our homes. Stronger colours and even pops of neon brilliance are transforming second-hand furniture into statement pieces.

Refurbishing or upcycling old furniture is something anyone can do – often with just a lick of Resene paint. Older furniture may look dated but is often solid and well-made, so has plenty of life left. Some paint, new handles perhaps, and that chest of drawers can go from dowdy to delightful. Bargains can be found online, at garage sales and second-hand stores, often making upcycling an older piece cheaper than buying something new. Renovating and reusing furniture rather than throwing it away is kinder on the planet, much more creative and results in individual looks.

The classic distressed look is still popular but these days the traditional soft pastel base is often replaced with a much stronger or brighter colour.

Painted red and white drawers
Classic colour blocking is used to stunning effect by Rick Handel of Rick Rubens Recreations, who added three Resene Jalapeno red drawers to a sideboard in Resene Quarter Spanish White.

This look is straightforward to create. You can have the bare wood showing beneath the colour of your choice, or you can have a base colour peeking through a top colour – as though the furniture has been repainted before and the original colour is coming through. Or both. You can then finish with a coat of Resene Aquaclear urethane to protect the furniture.

Blue painted drawers
Painted blue chair
Drawers: For the Aurelie dresser, Olivia used three coats of Resene Regent Grey and sanded this back in places to let the wood show through. She then applied a coat of Resene Walnut from the Resene Colorwood interior wood stains range, rubbing it off while it was still wet, to enhance the natural colour of the piece.  Chair: For her Jacquline chair, Olivia Neveu of Lucille first painted two coats of Resene Hullabaloo then using a drybrush technique, added a sheer coat of Resene Regent Grey over the top. When this was dry she sanded the chair back, showing the base of Resene Hullabaloo in places and the wood in others.

A very current approach is colour-blocking, as seen on the red and white sideboard opposite, with pieces sporting two, three, five or more different colours. The trend is for bold colours – bright yellows, hot reds and shocking pinks.

Colour blocking can be very straight forward if, using a chest of drawers as an example, the bulk of the piece is one colour and the drawers another. For the more advanced, where more than one colour is being used on a single surface, use masking tape for clean, straight lines between colours.

Painted coffee table
Painted outdoor seat
Coffee table: A simple yet stunning coffee table made from a recycled pallet, created by Kiki Mitchell. It's painted in Resene Windfall and distressed to show glimpses of the timber below.  Outdoor seat: This outdoor seat was painted by interior designer Kerryn Dunshea, using Resene Lonestar.

The trick is to paint your palest colours first as it is easier to paint dark over light. Antonia Marino who upstyled the piece shown above to her client's design, says the handles on this retro dresser, which were both recessed and raised, were a challenge to paint. She suggests that you ensure the design works with the peculiarities of your piece so you don't unintentionally end up with some very tricky brushwork. Or, engage a professional!

Painted drawers
Painted dresser
Drawers: Designed by Olivia Nordstrom and executed by Antonia Marino of Voodoo Molly Vintage, this complex paint job uses Resene Half Colonial White (the outside of the dresser), Resene Alabaster (feet), Resene Riptide, Resene Nero and Resene Bright Spark (which was softened with a little Resene Alabaster). Dresser: A classic mahogany dresser is given an unexpected treatment by Paul Roest of Industrial Design, using Resene Smiles (yellow), Resene Smokescreen (mid blue), and Resene White.

The biggest benefit with painting your old furniture is that as fashions and your tastes change, you can repaint it a different colour or pattern, or strip it back and start again for a whole new look. Paint will not damage your furniture and, in fact, provides a protective layer. This means if you ever want to re-embrace the natural beauty of the wood it is made from, the paint can be removed and replaced with Resene Aquaclear urethane with no ill effects.

Painting is certainly not the final finish for your old furniture, but a whole new beginning.

Top tip

If you want a solid paint finish on furniture, the best paint to use is Resene Enamacryl, which is a waterborne enamel paint with a gloss finish. It's extremely hard-wearing but is easy to clean-up and low in odour, unlike traditional solventborne enamels. For a semi-gloss finish, use Resene Lustacryl. For more furniture project ideas see the Resene website, 

* Lisa Brook of Urban Habitat transformed this side table with Resene Lipstick, finished off with Resene Aquaclear.

words: Mary Bell
pictures: Supplied

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Colours shown on this website are a representation only. Please refer to the actual paint or product sample. Resene colour charts, testpots and samples are available for ordering online.   See measurements/conversions for more details on how electronic colour values are achieved.