To update/paint antique inherited furniture or not?

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I have inherited an entire dining room/living room set of furniture from my grandparents and husband's great grandparents, and while I love all of the pieces I am worried they look too formal or too grandmotherly, especially since they are all in one room together. So, my question is do I leave everything as it is or should I chalk paint some or all of the pieces to update/modernize the room a bit? The dining room pieces were all refinished about 10 years ago.
q update paint antique inherited furniture or not, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
q update paint antique inherited furniture or not, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
q update paint antique inherited furniture or not, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
q update paint antique inherited furniture or not, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
q update paint antique inherited furniture or not, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
q update paint antique inherited furniture or not, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
  44 answers
  • Marie R Marie R on Jan 22, 2015
    A couple of thoughts, here. No. 1..maybe I'd have it all appraised. That might help decide whether you'd paint over it or not..in the meantime,,perhaps you could 'reverse' the idea of brightening with color or updating, by painting with brighter colors,,,pillows, rugs..baskets..chair cushions....the colors in that wall art are sweet! Looks nice,,,not sure I'd want to paint such cool pieces.

  • Barbara Barbara on Jan 22, 2015
    It's a pretty room. Just a thought.. what about switching the sideboard with the console table? The armoire type piece and the sideboard are both heavy pieces, and breaking them up may help. I have almost the exact same sideboard that I've been wanting to paint. They're pretty common, and I've seen a lot of beautiful painted ones on Pinterest. There's one where she just paints the draws, and leaves the body and top natural. I also agree with Marie R. about seeing how much they are worth. Have fun!

  • Susie Susie on Jan 22, 2015
    Please dont paint that pretty glazed corner unit; at least till you've had it valued; its lovely. I agree with other comments here - break the pieces up and mix with other, painted pieces for a more eclectic modern look. Matching stuff like cushions and curtains look a bit dated, so again, lighter, mixed-up fabrics would look lovely. I have used lime, mint and lavender in my sitting room (also have some dark furniture pieces) with a lot of white - pretty but not too girly! Pieces which don't have great value can easily be painted, but I try to remember that painting everything is a fashion, and on something old and lovely you may one day want to restore it - costly and it can damage the wood - been there/done that :-) Perhaps is some pieces are stained rather than actually being dark wood, you could strip and re-stain or wax lighter? Good luck in what you decide and share a picture wont you?

  • Country Design Home Country Design Home on Jan 22, 2015
    Hi Amy! How fortunate you are to have inherited such beautiful furniture! The issue, as I see it, that makes the room look dated and "grandmotherly" is that everything, from the walls to the floors to the furniture, is beige and brown. With the heavy satin drapes and the beige print side panels, everything just blends together. This is what I would do to update the room (and this is just my opinion...) That painting with the blue sky could be your color inspiration. I would remove all those puddling drapes and replace them with long light colored ones, in the middle and roman shades in the other two side panels ( I am assuming you want that for privacy...otherwise keep them uncovered for light). Recover the seat cushions in something lighter and brighter and change out the rugs with something more modern, like a graphic geometric pattern that incorporates your accent color. Just because the furniture is old-fashioned does not mean that the room has to be too! The trick is to blend the styles and create an overall effect with color. I am not certain why that sofa and coffee table are facing the dining table, but that makes the room appear very crowded. Is it possible to turn it the other way and face towards the other end of the room, creating a division between the two spaces? Then I would take that large china cupboard and put that where the console table with the mirror over it is presently standing. The china cupboard and sideboard are too heavy where they are together, and the cupboard is blocking the light from the window. Move the console table behind the sofa to create a pathway between the living and dining areas. Lastly, if I were to paint one piece, I would go with the china cupboard. I did one recently in Annie Sloan Duck Egg Blue and it was gorgeous. Remember, by painting a piece, you're not ruining it, just enhancing the details and beauty of it. Paint can always be removed if you ever decide you want the piece brown again. Whatever color you choose to paint could be your accent color throughout the room. Sorry this is so long! I just instantly have so many ideas when I see a space like this with so much potential!

  • Carol Butler Carol Butler on Jan 22, 2015
    Gorgeous pieces. I agree that the room needs more color rather than re-doing the furniture. I have many pieces that have been passed down through the generations and I can't bear the thought of changing them.....so much history. I also agree that the two heavy pieces need to be separated. The room will be gorgeous with a paint change and the furniture "switching."

  • Amy Marino Tsakopulos Amy Marino Tsakopulos on Jan 22, 2015
    Thank you so much for all of the wonderful suggestions! I need to figure out if I can move china cabinet or buffet to other wall as it might be a tight spot passing through from the den. I like the idea of getting different accents in more modern patterns and colors for pillows, curtains etc...now the search begins! I will post pics after...

  • Jean Thompson Jean Thompson on Jan 22, 2015
    How about switching your drapes to something less Formal.. the Shiny curtains distract from the Older Period Furniture. or add a Full Tablecloth to break up the Wood area in the picture, and add matching Full padded back Chair Covers that just slip over the whole back of the chair. that would modernize the look.. yet keep the Furniture with the original Finish. or here is a thought.. Depending how much space you have? How much space is behind the couch? if there is lots of room you could put the Buffet behind the couch like a Couch Table , The tall China Cabinet needs to be out of the Corner and on a flat wall away from the Window.. maybe use that smaller table over by the window.. or use it behind the Couch? Can you see what I am trying to get at?

  • Ruth Ruth on Jan 22, 2015
    I used to love antiques and lots of wood, but not so much now. I did paint my hoosier cabinet, but it had been painted before and spend 2 weeks stripping it 20 years ago. I did not want to paint round oak table so I use a tablecloth. I also plan to make something fun to use over the backs of the chairs to detract from all the wood. Maybe using some of the pieces in other rooms. I agree with appraisal.

  • Cynthia Cook Cynthia Cook on Jan 22, 2015
    NO....Please..they are in such beautiful condition...so much pretty detail work...also the value on these lovely pieces would crash!!

  • Nancy M Nancy M on Jan 22, 2015
    How wonderful to have these wonderful wooden pieces. Think and live with them for a while. Get them valued. Then decide. Great suggestions here

  • Nancy M Nancy M on Jan 22, 2015
    Sorry everyone, this is anerror

  • Wendy Johnson Wendy Johnson on Jan 22, 2015
    My only suggestion to add to the ones above is to maybe take one piece out of the room and use it elsewhere to make the room look less full. It could be used in another room for a purpose other than its intended one.

  • Sharyn Diaz Sharyn Diaz on Jan 22, 2015
    I absolutely love painted furniture but I wouldn't paint this set...not until I had it appraised.

  • Yvonne Day Aka Miss Ruby Yvonne Day Aka Miss Ruby on Jan 22, 2015
    Before you paint anything may I offer some ideas. First, get a lighter wallpaper or fabric to apply on temp poster board and put in the back of the china cabinet, it will create some depth and interest. I would also put an up light behind the china cabinet with something taller on top like an arrangement with some of the blues like in your picture. The two items there now look lost. Next I would raise your curtains. The one thing that antique furniture does is make a room look short, by raising your curtains as high as they can go or add a off white architectural element above then to bring the eye up. I can see a really pretty Austin rock wall or fireplace in the other room and by bring that color into this room it will bring it up to the level of the rest of the house. I would do the same over the picture over the console. Bring some of the colors out of that picture as throw pillows and table items. You have beautiful items and you are going to get a half and half opinion on painting them, so by doing this first it may help you decide what is best for you by taking baby steps. Let us know how it goes!

  • Fiona Dorse Fiona Dorse on Jan 22, 2015
    Dear Amy I also pondered on what to do with my regency antiques. I asked my son who is 36yrs old if he wanted any of it when I left this mortal earth! He is in a completely different generation to me and my parents and grandparents and they do NOT want 'old brown furniture' that 'has to be polished'! So I took a deep breath and painted ALL of my furniture in French style and 'beach style' as I live at the coast and my friends and family all LOVE it! I also love the fresh feel that it has brought to my home. SO... If you would like to send me your email address, I would be very happy to show you the 'before and after'. Warmest Regards Fiona Dorse fiona@sovereigninvestmentmanagement.com

  • Swan Road Designs Swan Road Designs on Jan 22, 2015
    No, I wouldn't paint or change the furniture in any way. It appears to be in lovely condition. However, what you do have is too much furniture in your space. There is no law that says dining room furniture HAS to live in the dining room. The china cabinet's position in the corner is a bit awkward and is covering part of your window treatment, along with blocking view/light. Is there another room in which the china cabinet can live, a den, perhaps? Then, it could be used to display some of your cherished keepsakes. As for the windows, as someone else also mentioned, you might consider a change there. The current treatments are a bit overwhelming and rather than dressing your windows/doors are shrouding them. Look through some magazines, go to showrooms, department stores, etc. and see what other lighter treatments might better fit the space. The framed piece of art over the buffet is too large for its space and doesn't seem to fit style-wise into the room. It might be happier on a wall somewhere else in the house. Further, there is too much visual "noise." Take everything off the dining table except a nice floral arrangement. Thin out items on the tops of the rest of the furniture. Those few processes will make a world of difference. Please don't take any of my comments/suggestions as anything other than constructive. They are only meant to be helpful. They just come from many years of experience.

  • Alorin Alorin on Jan 22, 2015
    Maybe some colorful accessories like candles, picture frames and pillows. You could also have the chair seats reupholstered. The furniture is beautiful wood that should not be painted.

  • Marilyn Marilyn on Jan 23, 2015
    No, no, no! Don't paint that gorgeous wood! Add lots of color on the walls, pillows, recover the couch, curtains, open up the light, show off the lovely pieces!!

  • Virgi S Virgi S on Jan 23, 2015
    Don't destroy the beautiful finishes on good quality furniture. Save painting for damaged pieces. I agree with moving the china cabinet. Could be a great doll display cabinet for a girls room with fabric covered cardboard in the back to lighten it up. Would make a nice bookcase at the top of the stairs. Update the accessories on the server/buffet and change the picture to something lighter-maybe a mirror or iron with a different shape. Taller, skinny lamp/lamps. New pillows and fresh curtains would make a huge difference. You're so blessed to have these pieces and the memories of using them. With some of my antiques I can just imagine all the wonderful meals served, etc.

  • Linda Linda on Jan 23, 2015
    I agree with everybody--don't paint the wood. I would paint the walls a dove or darker gray. My daughter told me to do this and I thought she was nuts! "Mom, gray is another neutral!" I could not believe what a differencee it made. I love it. I think the curtains have got to go. I hired a "to be" teacher from our technical school for home design. I paid her 50 or 100 dollars for an hour's worth of advice. My dining room and my family room are a former huge mud room and a two car garage. {nobody knows this because it is so beautiful, now.} There are four windows--all of different sizes. This is what she said: Put all of the rods, etc. at the same height. We went as high as we could go. All of the curtains were to be white sheers. I made the curtains and I used 2 1/2 times the width of the windows. If you have privacy issues, do it three times the width. I just looked at your pictures again--so I would be sure to take the curtains on the right and on the left --to the edges. You could just put caps (instead of finials) on the edge of the rods. Raise the top curtains about 8-12 inches. I thought Suzy was nuts, but I said "I sell Mary Kay, and when I tell people that they can wear red lipstick, they think I'm crazy, but I have been doing this for 17 years and I know what I am talking about (I must admit that I do laugh at them when they say this and they are wearing a bright red blouse or sweater)--so since you are an expert and I am paying for your advice,I will take it. I tell you those windows look so dreamy, and calming. Just remember: sheer white and same height! Three of my windows are very wide, and I find that even when I buy the best rods they begin to sag in the middle after about three years! This just drove me bonkers! Finally, I thought of a solution. I put a steel rod inside of the rod. I usually get one that is 1/2 to 2/3 the width of the of the pretty rod. It works like a dream. Then, when I was almost done, I brought Suzy back--paid her a little bit more money, and she did furniture placement for me. It has made a huge difference. The rooms are much more elegant than if I had been left to my own devices. (Oh, and I would recover those dining room chairs in something more colorful and bright.)

  • Cathey DeRosa Cathey DeRosa on Jan 23, 2015
    Your furniture is beautiful. Do you know how hard it is to remove paint from furniture? It is a miserable job and sometimes the piece will never be the same. I don't care what the experts say. Maybe if it's not antique, go for paint. Antique; I would never do it. It's antique for a reason. They are treasures from your family or elsewhere. Everything now is paint, paint, paint. I do on some pieces that I know have no worth. But the mixture of antiques and painted gives any room that "pop" they talk about. The painting everything era will not last forever. Every style makes its cycle as you well know. Your rooms will be a conversation piece, beautiful and eclectic. Good luck with your decision.

  • Jeanie Randall Jeanie Randall on Jan 23, 2015
    If you prefer painted furniture - paint away. They are yours and they need to be functional and pleasing to YOU!

  • Kathleen dynes Kathleen dynes on Jan 23, 2015
    no do not paint them they are beautiful like they are. Painting them makes them loose their value. You could try a few of the pieces in other rooms such as the bedroom or the radio cabinet in your bathroom would look great or in the foyer noneed to have all of the pieces in one room. You are so lucky to inherit such beautiful pieces as I said again do not paint them they will not be antique anymore

    • Michelle Michelle on Jan 24, 2015
      @Kathleen dynes I did mine. LOVE IT. I had some ethan A stuff. Wow this must be your Gmas stuff. Only comment. Turquoise All I heard was WOW where did you get these. This is awesome. Sure worked for me

  • Amy Marino Tsakopulos Amy Marino Tsakopulos on Jan 23, 2015
    Well, I'm still a bit torn about painting the furniture. I did get an appraisal and it's 1930s pretty common furniture and painting wouldn't affect the value that much. But, I'm thinking for now I'm going to get lighter curtains and more colorful throw pillows, as well as either a white slipcover for the couch or different fabric. Then, I will reassess and see how it all feels. I did try rearranging pieces, but it just didn't work...and there is no other room in our house to move any of it. We have a formal dining room, but converted it to a playroom/office, so that's why everything is all together. Once we are done needing a playroom then it can be separated to help. I will post pics when I make some changes...thanks so much again for all the input, it really helped!(:

    • See 2 previous
    • Debbie Debbie on Jan 24, 2015
      @Amy Marino Tsakopulos You could also recover the dining chair seats with a brighter fabric. I've done mine twice. Very easy. Tie it in with your new lighter curtains. I would also edit some of the pieces if possible.

  • Darlene Matthews Darlene Matthews on Jan 23, 2015
    get rid of the table runner and make all curtains the same and update the rugs remove the books too much stuff overpowering that furniture BUT - do not touch that beautiful wood except with linseed oil. Can you put the side table behind the couch and move the highboy to a wall? ( Decorating ideas from the homeless. You got 'em- lol)

  • Yvonne Day Aka Miss Ruby Yvonne Day Aka Miss Ruby on Jan 23, 2015
    I found a picture of what I was describing in my earlier post.https://www.pinterest.com/pin/148689225170161670/

  • Yvonne Day Aka Miss Ruby Yvonne Day Aka Miss Ruby on Jan 23, 2015
    Another thought, you can take the door off of the cabinet and use it as a wall hanging or just prop up on top of the cabinet with a light behind it.

  • Swan Road Designs Swan Road Designs on Jan 23, 2015
    Yes, the furniture definitely is of the '30s era and you have what would be considered a complete "suite," which includes a dining table, chairs (including one head chair with arms), china cabinet, buffet, and server. It is somewhat unusual for all the components of a set to survive as beautifully AND all together. Your furniture would be considered in the upper mid-range of cost in its day. Not terribly expensive, but not affordable to all...and, because of the number of pieces, a stretch for a homeowner's budget. Think back. What do you know about your grandparents? The furniture could be telling you a nice story. You are approaching your challenge reasonably by changing the surroundings rather than the furniture itself. While painting it might not devalue it, painting it and discovering you wished you hadn't is a horse of another color. My late husband was a furniture restorer and always worked under the philosophy of "whatever you do, make sure it can be UNdone." Do a little of the "furniture shuffle" and live with things for a while. I always recommend several months, at least 6 before making a hard and fast change. Everything in the suite is beautiful and ALL wood. They were constructed in a time when folks took pride in what they produced. I have pieces made in the same era that I dearly love and they didn't come from any family member. The only thing I can do is quote one of my grandfathers, who was a funny, wise and wonderful man, "Take it easy; make it nice." There is so much wisdom in those 6 little words.

  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Jan 23, 2015
    @Amy Marino Tsakopulos You may want to reconfigure the room first. There seems to be too much furniture in the room. Perhaps you could move the small wall table on the right to behind the sofa to use as a sofa table. Then move the higher corner cabinet to the other side and the buffet could move down a bit. I agree with changing the wall colour before painting the furniture. Find a pop of colour to add in the accessories as well. I am not opposed to painting furniture, but do suggest that if there is the possibility of selling it in the future have it appraised first for value. They may tell you it has great value but trying to sell it for that price may be a difficult project. So in the end do what fits your view of your home and the atmosphere you want to create.

  • Lucid Designs Lucid Designs on Jan 23, 2015
    It all seems to be in perfect condition. Would be a shame for that to be covered in paint.

  • Bev Bev on Jan 24, 2015
    I agree...these are beautiful pieces...I wouldn't paint. Updating the other aspects of the room will help. Also, maybe, move some of the furniture to other areas of the house, use them for different purposes. China cabinet would be great for a bathroom. Small sofa table by an entryway. You get the idea.

  • Fab and Pretty Fab and Pretty on Jan 24, 2015
    I have to say no, they're all in beautiful condition. You can balance the 'look' by using really en vogue and cool fabrics and edgier lamps, dishes, etc.

  • TexasTea TexasTea on Jan 24, 2015
    Don't paint, they are beautiful as is.

  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Jan 24, 2015
    Please don't paint. Your furniture is beautiful as it is.

  • Tammylrichard Tammylrichard on Jan 24, 2015
    I wouldn't paint the furniture. I would add some colour. Walls, pillows, rug. Maybe recover the dining chairs. Maybe put the table under mirror behind couch, like a sofa table & then put the taller cabinet on that wall so its not squished against window. Put the mirror over the other cabinet with picture.

  • Judy Judy on Jan 24, 2015
    I think if you would re think accessories and add some punches of color it would be what you need. Maybe something soft and with color like a fern over the corner cabinet instead of a basket. Remove rugs . Remove the table runner and placemats, they don't seem to fit the table. Try grouping a center piece with a tall candle, a pretty tray, etc. on table. Window treatments seem too much. Simplify them and use all the same treatment. Simplify coffee table and get rid of piles of books. Place a simple basket or tray there instead. Try puling l a few colors out of the painting on the wall for pillows. Lighten up a bit. That will take away the dated look of the furniture and make it seem more updated without painting it. Just play around with accessories. Try taking every accessory out of the room and start over. You will be surprised what you may have in other rooms that will look good in this room. If not go consignment shopping for accessories.

  • Chris Sabol Chris Sabol on Jan 24, 2015
    Since the monetary value is not that much, looking at the lines on the furniture, I would paint it something light, and antiquing it to look like French Country. The furniture is beautiful but it looks, to me, out of place and a little too dark and old-fashioned for the style of your house.

  • Amy Marino Tsakopulos Amy Marino Tsakopulos on Feb 10, 2015
    Hi everyone, your suggestions helped me so much! I finally figured out a way to rearrange the furniture that seems to work really well in this room. I got rid of the coffee table for now, and pulled the couch up to the dining table. I also removed the leaf in the dining table making it smaller which helped too. New curtains, rug, throw pillows, recovered dining chair cushions, and some new accessories. The only thing I have left to do is raise the curtains up and make them all the same level, as well as add some bamboo roman shades on all windows too. I am going to do outside mount of the bamboo shades and one long one for the French doors that will mount above the door, and two smaller ones on the other windows. My question now is though what color of bamboo shade should I go with? A darker mahogany color shade, light bamboo similar to the table runner/placemats or something in between? The curtains are light blocking, so I don't have to have the bamboo shades for privacy or light blocking, mainly just for decoration. Any thoughts on that? Thanks!

  • Fab and Pretty Fab and Pretty on Feb 10, 2015
    jaw dropped! You really created a much more relaxed and chick feel! Love it

  • Swan Road Designs Swan Road Designs on Feb 10, 2015
    Don't you feel much "lighter" with the changes? However, you still need to lose the place mats. Keep the runner on the table if you wish, but the mats are too big for the space and you really don't need them unless you are eating. As for the roman shades, if you don't need them for anything other than decoration, then you really don't need them. Again, you're getting too busy. Leave the open and airy feeling. Remember, I commented somewhere earlier that the windows were "shrouded?" Don't repeat that effect with adding roman shades along with your drapery panels. Save the money you might spend on the roman shades to use on something else that would make more of a difference. The rug under the table is wonderful. Lots of spirit! The furniture looks even lovelier with your rearranging and decor changes. The whole room appears larger.

  • Amy Marino Tsakopulos Amy Marino Tsakopulos on Feb 10, 2015
    Thank you! Yes, I do feel much lighter and more like me now! Here is a photo now without the placemats...better? Also, I can still return the curtains...do you think they are too much pattern with the rug? Should I do more neutral curtains/bamboo blinds instead?

  • Fab and Pretty Fab and Pretty on Feb 19, 2015
    Hey there, I'm not sure bamboo blinds would be right either. The curtains are nice, I'm just not 100% and if you're not either...can you sew? Would you be able to sew well enough to come up with ring top clip panels and maybe opt for something more grounded like the area rug, which is awesome. Grey flannel decor fabric? Speaking of the area rug...I made some industrial chic place mats with heavy canvas, something like that might look great when you do need to use the table! Maybe a stripe in the tone on the rug. http://www.hometalk.com/diy/craft/centerpieces/urban-industrial-chic-placemats-7174838 ...I'm really loving this room!

  • Kelly Cabral Kelly Cabral on Feb 24, 2015
    Great improvement on the room. I do think the curtains are too much. Maybe a faux wood slat blind painted the same color as the walls. Or since that is the window wall, maybe paint it a lighter shade and paint the blinds the same as the wall. This should make the room feel bigger and you will still have the light blocking effect you wanted to achieve with the curtains.

  • Doris Jean Miller Doris Jean Miller on May 25, 2017
    I have used The Victorian House Finish Rejuvenator for years in my home and for my business. I sell antiques and used furniture in Oklahoma. I prefer no paint on furniture that is good condition like yours. The Rejuveantor is not just an oil like lemons and has no water like oil soap. Its a cleaner that will remove grease and grime and any kind of buildup and replace the natural oils to keep the finish looking like new for years. I have saved some really nice furniture with one easy application..put it on and wipe away years of buildup. Brings back the original finish. I buy in Tulsa but they are the web. www.thevictorianhouseproducts.com>