the great debate | to paint or not to paint

Marian ParsonsDecorating, Furniture Makeovers, Tips and Tricks

Right off the bat, let me say that I don’t ever mind my readers sharing their opinions here.  Unless someone is being downright nasty on a personal level, which is rare, it doesn’t bother me if someone disagrees with a decorating decision I make or they don’t like something I made, bought, etc.  If ever I do feel ruffled, I figure that I probably wouldn’t like every single decorating decision they make, either, and that makes me smile.  We’re all different and that’s okay.

I’ve grown a relatively thick skin over the years and sometimes even find the constructive critiques to be very helpful and thought provoking.  Sometimes they change my mind and sometimes they make me even more certain of my decision.

All of the varying opinions shared on my newly acquired art cabinet made me think about the process of deciding if a piece should be painted.  Well, maybe not that it should be painted, but the process I use to decide where I want to paint it or not.

As a general rule, I look for pieces that could at least benefit from painting.  They have watermarks, deep scratches, a dull finish, etc.  But, I do buy some pieces that could go either way as well as ones that I would never want to paint.


It is totally subjective, though, and you might put different pieces in different categories than I would.

I put this art cabinet in the second category.  It could go either way.  Those of you who love it as is, I agree with you!  It’s a very cool piece and I love all of the dents, dings, and quirks.


And, if someone wanted to leave it unpainted, I wouldn’t disagree with them.  It’s very cool as is.

But, I have a vision for it and I can see in my mind’s eye that I will like it better painted.

So, I thought I would share how I arrive at the decision to paint a piece that could go either way.  I’m actually e-mailed pictures of pieces quite often, asking for my opinion on whether or not it should be painted.  I have learned over the years that usually people don’t ask the question unless they want to paint the piece and they just need someone to tell them to go for it.

I usually give my opinion, but encourage them to follow their gut and be 100% sure they want to paint the piece.

Here are some things I do to help decide if I’m waffling over something I own…

No. 1

I look for inspiration pieces that have a similar feel to mine to see if I like them painted.

This piece belonging to Liz Marie of Liz Marie Blog was one of the pieces that helped me decide to paint my art cabinet…


…and this one came to mind as well…


photo via

And I’ve always loved this one I spotted in a magazine…


Having a visual helps me with imaging how my piece will look painted.  I love all three of those pieces, so I feel more confident that I will love my art cabinet painted as well.


No. 2

I “try things on” the piece.

Again, it’s nice to get a visual, so I’ll lay out paint swatches, hold up different hardware options.


As soon as I tried on this hardware from my stash, I knew I wanted something similar for this cabinet.  The wooden knobs and label slots were great, but I think rows of apothecary-style pulls would take it to the next level.

 I found some that I liked from this seller on Etsy…



No 3. 

I wait.

Sometimes it can take me months, even years, to make the decision to paint a piece.  Yes, paint can always be stripped or sanded off, but I would rather not go through that process if I can avoid it.  And I can easily avoid it.  So, I wait until I’m confident and I might continue to hit 1 & 2 to help me make up my mind.

There’s no need to rush into painting something I’m not sure about.



I feel like going through these steps helps me make better decisions about how to finish a furniture piece.  Or, at least, if I’m making a bad decision I’m doing it with confidence!

It may seem like I take a brush to everything, but I’m much more strategic and intentional than that and I hope sharing this with you will help you make some of your own furniture painting (or not painting) decisions…

the great debate | to paint or not to paint

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