Six Things to Consider When Choosing a Piece of Vintage Furniture to Paint

You are ready to try refinishing a piece of vintage (or not quite vintage) furniture? Awesome! Maybe you have a vision for a certain look that you want to achieve, but you aren't sure which piece to choose. I know from experience that choosing the wrong piece can turn your fun project into an incredibly UNfun one that pisses you off so much that you eventually give up, toss it and head to a big box store to purchase an expensive, wasteful piece of garbage! (can you tell that I hate that option??) So, keep reading to learn how to get your next (or first) project started off right!

The style and size of the piece are most important, but there are a few other things to consider when deciding on a piece. I will lead you through the steps I take when I'm planning a project or on the hunt for a customer request.


My first step when planning a project is to look for inspiration. Instagram is a great place to find it, but Pinterest is also a treasure trove of inspiring looks. On the gram, I search hashtags like #bohofurniture #refinishedfurniture #farmhousefurniture #chippyfurniture #furnitureflip or you can get more specific like #bohonightstand or #farmhousecoffeetable .

On Pinterest I just search for exactly what I have in mind. You can get pretty specific on Pinterest.


Once you have found your inspiration pictures, look beyond the finish and staging at the actual furniture pieces and determine what style of furniture they are. They might not all be exactly the same but overall, are they ornately detailed or more clean and classic. That is important to determine, because once you start looking at actual furniture, you will want to be able to narrow it down somewhat to avoid becoming overwhelmed.


Clean lines


This is pretty self explanatory, but super important! Measure the space, don't guess! Write down those measurements! Trust me, you don't want to forget! Grab a tape measure to bring along with you. It is really hard to guesstimate size sometimes. Also, don't forget to measure your car......cause how are ya gettin it home, Cheryl??


I recommend that you decide on a budget before you start looking. You don't have to, but for someone like me, whose love of everything vintage has caused me to overpay, it's good to at least have a range that you are comfortable with. Also, don't be in a rush. The piece you want at the price you are willing to pay is out there. Patience is key when thrifting. I will say this, however, if it's a great deal it will disappear quickly, especially if you are hunting on facebook marketplace. So to clarify....... if you find a piece that fits all of your criteria including price, lock that baby down! If it only fits a couple of your criteria then be patient and keep looking.


What types of damage are you willing and able to repair? When you find an option, look carefully at every side, pull out each drawer, check for sturdiness. Is there a funky smell? That could mean there is mildew, or that it came from a home with smokers or naughty boy dogs that mark their territory. Those issues are definitely fixable, but do you want to deal with the extra steps it takes to resolve them? Are the drawers falling apart? Hard to open and close? Missing hardware? Again, all fixable but they require skills that go beyond sanding and painting. Not a problem? Cool....just make sure to note those issues before you buy the piece......instead of getting it home, unloading it and noticing the bubbled veneer all over.....because that sucks.....for real. So check the surfaces, legs, drawers and note scratches, chips, and any other damage. Something else to note here.....if there is something that you aren't sure how to repair, than it may be a chance for you to learn something new. But if you just want a straightforward piece to paint then take the extra time to look it over closely.

Type of Wood

Ok, this would seem to be the least important factor but, especially if you are going to be painting your piece white or light colored, it definitely matters. Woods including mahogany, cherry, cedar and knotty pine can bleed through your paint job and cause yellow to reddish stains. (Stains like marker and oil will also bleed through but you can get away with a can of spray shellac to treat small spots). If you are painting your piece black then it's not really a concern. However, if you are painting a light color or white, then you should know that you will need to prime any of these woods with a shellac based primer to avoid bleed through. Not a deal breaker, but it will increase the cost of your project and add to your timeline.

bleed through on painted furniture

Once you have the perfect piece, then it is time for the next step......Choosing your paint! Keep an eye out for my next blog post on how it's done! If you learned anything from this post, please give it a "like" and comment! I'm happy to answer questions, as well! For more tips, tricks and inspo, follow me on my Instagram page @swanksurroundings

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