Antique Furniture: Repaint or Leave it Alone?

Thinking of refinishing old furniture? Not so fast! Sometimes restoring an antique piece can degrade its value. Hear what the experts at Antiques Roadshow have to say about repainting furniture.


In looking to buy furniture, some people want to look for original furniture. Maybe they see it's a great trend to paint furniture right now, you see the milk paint movements and the chalk paint movements and they layer the paint and they [unk] great looks. Some people cringe, they cringe more before when brown furniture was more popular. At the same point in time we go back and if we'd go back a hundred years [unk] museum that are finishing things because they thought that's what it was. Often people would buy a piece of furniture that was in its original finish because they wanted to be the ones to refinish it. Because they wanted to know that it was done right or [unk]. When you look at restoration refinishing you have to ask the questions, did it lose value because it was refinished? Or did it lose how it was needed to be refinished? If you come across the pace that's been heavily repaired the price should reflect that. In other words, if you have something in perfect condition that would have been worth $2000 with an old finished all original, and the tops replaced and the [unk] replaced and it's refinished. Then it's probably worth $500. Now, the drawer still might work really well. If it's worth that to you for utilitarian or decorative purposes that's fine but just don't pay the price for something that's not right. If you go and refinish a piece that didn't need to be refinished, you might be degrading value and that's one factor for one style piece of furniture. At the same point in time you might find pieces of furniture that are totally out of style that are copies of an original and often it's been reproduced later, it's not going to have as much value. And if you want to put a coat of paint on that and make it work, I don't think it's any different and we're seeing a lot of that going on. Shabby Chic movement a few years ago, you know that's coming back, we're seeing resilience there with the various milk paints and chalk paints. So, people are painting things, you do want to choose what you're painting and you do a little educating about what you're going to put the paint on. A lot of people are doing it and the pieces were decorative to begin with and they'll be decorative or more decorative. I always tell people if you want to do something to it, that makes it more what you want in your house, then you're not lowering the value, you're making it more useful to you.
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