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Should You Paint Antique and Vintage Furniture? Unravelling the Hottest Debate in Upcycling

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

When it comes to upcycled furniture, there's one debate that never seems to cool down:

To paint or not to paint?

It's a subject that stirs strong opinions, but what we're about to explore might just reshape your perception of upcycling vintage furniture.

You see, as a group of upcycling enthusiasts and furniture painters who make their living from restyling pre-loved furniture, it’s not just a livelihood. It’s our fervent passion.

But it is important to recognise that not everyone sees the world through our artistic lens.

So, let's jump into the world of upcycling and painted vintage and antique furniture to answer whether it’s a crime against our heritage or a celebration of it.

Critics vs. Creators: The True Value of Upcycled Vintage Furniture

Our talented member artists and the broader community of furniture upcyclers often come under scrutiny for their restoration work on vintage treasures.

Detractors may argue that they're desecrating the historical significance of these pieces, but there's much more to this story than meets the eye.

You see, these upcycled and restyled pieces are far from random acts of vandalism. There's a hidden depth to this craft that often escapes the critical eye of the sceptics.

a resored and p[ainted mid century drinks cabinet with geometric motif

Upcycled Mid Century Drinks Cabinet courtesy of TFAC member Rachael at Classic Lines Designs. To see more of Rachael's work, click the image.

Artistry in Upcycling: Seeing Beyond the Surface

Peek behind the scenes, and you'll find that repainting vintage furniture isn't as simple as slapping on a coat of paint and calling it a day.

It's about seeing beyond the surface and unlocking the potential of each piece.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill brushwork; it's a full-blown artistic endeavour.

Furniture artists often collaborate with their clients on commissioned work, carefully choosing colours, finishes, and hardware that harmonise with the piece. They employ a variety of techniques inspired by both furniture restoration and fine art.

Their mission? To revive forgotten vintage gems, paying homage to their heritage and telling a meaningful story.

Reimagined early 20th Century Gramophone Cabinet by Jane at The Revamp Shack. To see more of Jane's work, click the image.

The real beauty in this craft lies in the artist's ability to merge the craftsmanship of the past with the dynamic creativity of the present, creating a breathtaking fusion of history and modernity.

The Untold Story of Vintage Furniture

Every vintage piece an artist encounters has a unique history and charm. These pieces have witnessed generations come and go, and there's a certain magic in preserving that legacy while making them relevant in today's world.

It's not just about changing their original state; it's about giving them a second life and a fresh purpose.

When critics dismiss this, they overlook the value of keeping history alive.

Let's make one thing crystal clear: we're not discussing priceless antiques. We're talking about giving a fresh purpose to 19th and 20th-century furniture like sideboards, wardrobes, drawers, and desks.

These are often heirlooms passed down through families, just waiting for a chance to be enjoyed again.

So the big question is, where’s the “crime” in rejuvenating a piece that has been sadly neglected or cast aside or upcycling it and sparing it from the gloomy depths of landfill?

Image courtesy of Charlotte at Not Too Shabby by Charlotte, Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Click the image to see more of Charlotte's commission work or visit Charlotte at her converted chapel studio.

Upcycling Vintage Furniture is the Ultimate Eco-Friendly Art Form.

Sustainability is paramount these days. Shouldn’t we all be more conscious of the impact of our choices?

By choosing a restored, vintage piece of furniture, you contribute to a more sustainable future.

You're giving these old treasures another shot at the limelight, and you're also doing your bit to shrink the mountain of waste and ease the demand for new, mass-produced furniture that spells a world of trouble for our planet.

Take this repurposed coffee table from TFAC member Glynnes at Creampot Furnishings. A fairly modern piece that had outlived its usefulness, Glynnes has completely transformed it to create a stylish upholstered footstool.

Image courtesy of Glynnes at Creampot Furnishings, Cropredy Oxfordshire. To see more of Glynnes' work, click the image.

Painting Vintage Furniture as Artistic Expression

The joy of painting vintage furniture lies in the creative freedom it offers.

Furniture becomes a canvas where you get to play with colours, styles, and designs, turning each piece into a work of art.

These pieces aren't just furniture; they're expressions of individuality and creativity.

A means to connect with our heritage whilst ensuring that our client’s homes reflect their style and personalities.

Image courtesy of Jennifer at Upainted, Limavady, Northern Ireland. You can see more of Jennifer's work at Stone Row Artisans, Coleraine or click on the image to go straight to her website.

Upcycling as A Balanced Act of Artistry and Appreciation

Critics may not always applaud what Furniture Artists do but like many things in life, this craft is a balancing act – a tightrope walk between preserving the essence of vintage pieces and creating something new and beautiful.

It's a blend of artistry and appreciation, revitalising these treasures without erasing their history.

Just like this beautifully restored vintage sideboard by Rachael at Classic Lines Designs, based in Morley, Leeds.

Or this from TFAC member Rebecca at Upcycled by M, based in Bristol. Click on the image to see more of Rebecca's work.

Value: Beyond the monetary measure

Ultimately, there will always be denigrators who feel that painting vintage furniture is an act of vandalism that diminishes its financial value, and in some cases, that’s true.

But let’s redefine “value”. It's not just about money; it's about usefulness, beauty, sentiment, heritage, and personal stories.

These pieces can be transformed to serve a new purpose, adding elegance, preserving memories, and inspiring future generations.

And what is “value” anyway? It isn’t just about the money.

There are so many other ways to perceive “value”, for example:

  • Usefulness: Think about that well-used dining table with all its nicks, knocks, and scratches. Sure, you could sell it - or worse - discard it altogether. But then, consider this: to replace it with something similar, you're likely to spend a pretty penny. Alternatively, a careful sand down, rewax, and perhaps new legs could make it a modern, functional and stylish piece of furniture that might easily last another half a century.

  • Beauty: An ornately heavily carved antique mirror will have some monetary worth, but a fresh lick of lighter colour paint and its aesthetic appeal adds a touch of elegance and charm to a room. Plus, you keep something that you love.

  • Sentiment: Have a bureau passed down through generations? It's not just furniture; it's a vault of memories from your family's past. Just because it doesn't quite fit with your modern interior doesn't mean it should be thrown to the curb. A little restyling can make it fit right in while preserving those cherished memories.

  • Stories: An old typewriter might not be worth much in terms of money, but the stories it could tell, having been used by a famous family author or during a historic event, make it priceless in a different way. It just needs a polish and spruce up, and it will be a thing of beauty and inspiration for generations to come.


  • Sustainability: Opting to give new life to existing furniture is the ultimate sustainable choice, extending far beyond traditional measures of value. It may not be the most glamorous option, but let's not underestimate its essential role in safeguarding our environment - for now and for the long haul.

FACT: Recycled furniture isn’t just a trend. It’s a guaranteed way to ensure long-term value while lightening the collective environmental load.

So, the next time your eyes catch a vintage piece undergoing a vibrant transformation, remember that there's an artist behind it, giving life to history and making the world a bit more colourful, a bit more beautiful and a whole lot more sustainable.

And for that, we should be thanking them!

Join the Upcycling Movement!

The Furniture Artists Collective is an inspiring community of independent creatives and skilled artisans united by their love for innovative and sustainable furniture and home decor.

We stand firmly behind businesses that share our core values and actively work to foster their growth within the industry.

Our mission is to shape the future of furniture and home decor by promoting eco-friendly practices and celebrating the beauty of sustainable design. Together, we breathe new life into cherished family heirlooms and vintage finds through the art of upcycling and restoration.

Be part of our inspiring journey and subscribe to our blog for the latest updates, trends, and stories that fuel creativity and sustainability in the world of home interiors.

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