“So, that piece you did. You just paint it, right?” I tried not to choke and laugh all at once and instead I did some kind of unladylike snort thing.
The person was asking about a cute chair I had recently finished.
Ok.. before I go on… if you’re just joining the party this is a kind of a Part 2 to my post from yesterday, The Art Of Flipping Furniture. You can find it here if you wanna catch up, if not, continue to read on…..
As I’ve ventured into this interesting hobby/growing side business, I’ve learned there are all kinds of interesting variables going on.
The first being, it could be assumed that I go buy a piece of cast away furniture, run home, and slap paint all over it.
That being said, there are people who do that. It makes me sad to see a gorgeous piece of furniture that has obviously been hastily painted, and before paint has even dried they have snapped photos to put it up for sale.
It’s usually still sitting on a trailer, the back of a truck, in a yard or garage on concrete blocks with random junk around it. But my favorite was a beautiful vanity piece ( originally it was beautiful) sitting in a dirt yard on cardboard with crunched up soda or beer cans behind it and a tire to the side of it. No hardware back on drawers.
I am setting myself apart with other furniture artists who invest ourselves into our pieces for the pure love and joy of it understanding we will on some occasions, not get a dollar amount equal to our investment of time and resources.
We love making things once tired, bland, broken and ugly, beautiful with a fresh new life to give.
So, I thought I’d kinda conclude this topic by sharing a little of what goes into the process so when you see a unique, old, hand painted piece of furniture for sale you can also understand the price that may be attached to it.
We just don’t take it home and slap paint on it.
Get comfy, it’s time to go on the journey.
The first time I called it that, my family laughed. But really, I do view it as a hunt. I have several places I stalk online and really, if there is something super cool, and if it happens to be a good price, it’s gone instantly. You have to almost see it the second it’s posted to get it.
There are so many things that I don’t want, or that are not that old or even that impressive. I know what I like when I see it. I also consider what it’s flip ability is. If it’s something I want personally, well I have a little more wiggle room ’cause I don’t mind paying a bit more for something I’m keeping.
Now I’ve learned the hard way, just because I’ve found an item I want, confirmed with the seller, set a time for pick up and got an address doesn’t mean I’ll get it.
Without blinking an eye people have sold things out from under me. I try to understand if they are that desperate for money from someone else who gets there an hour before I do… well they must need it really bad.
It is still ridiculously frustrating when that happens.
But when I find the item I want, and arrange pick up with seller it’s time to do what I call …..
Go bag the game
As a hunter, if you’re successful you get what you’re hunting for. But here’s the deal, once I score a piece of furniture it’s rarely close by. I’ve driven one way over an hour to get pieces.
All the cool stuff is a good drive away.
So, there’s time and gas going to get the prize. I’ve gone to some seedy kind of places getting stuff. I usually am the one helping load or doing it alone ( yay for girl muscles)
I take blankets or something to put down because the furniture has usually been stashed or stored somewhere, it’s old, total filth, sometimes it has an odor and desperately needs cleaned.
I’m thrilled, load it up and head home. That’s when I can officially let my ideas start forming.
I have it.
Nothing is worse than seeing a piece I want, having ideas, then not getting it.
Usually when I get a piece home I do an assessment of it, what it’s needs are. Some pieces are pretty straightforward and don’t need much more than a light sanding and washing down to prep them.
That is really, the rare thing.
Most pieces need anything from a lot of sanding, to sucking leaves out of the inside of a cabinet and removing years of dust, dirt and grime before I can even consider painting.
Sanding. I do most of it by hand. It’s off the charts messy.. for me and the furniture 😉
I’ve bought pieces with veneer damage so I need to set aside time to do repair work before anything else can happen.
Some areas have cracks and holes that require wood filler. Once that’s placed it has to dry, be sanded, and often filled again to the area is smooth and level.
Have I mentioned my carpentry skills have increased a 100% doing this work? haha
Old furniture is cool, but age has caused the varnish to get dry and brittle and it’s often flaking off. This all has to be sanded before any painting begins.
I’m going to use this chair that I’m currently working on as an example….
Sometimes, as in the case of chairs, the legs or connections are loose or separated and need glued and clamped to make them more secure. The seats are usually original wood and have become weak and brittle.
New seat bottoms need cut…oh but that means a trip to local hardware store to get some plywood for new seats. Time to spend some money.
Can’t have my potential customer falling through, can I ?
Ah! And now, we get to paint! The chair has been sanded down removing all old flaking varnish, I’ve glued and repaired legs and support bar, washed the piece, air dried then sprayed with a Matte shellac to prevent any bleed through from dark areas.
Once that set, the chair got it’s first coat of slate blue that I love. Once it dries ( chalk paint has a fast dry time) it will get touched up in areas that were missed, allowed to dry, lightly sanded, then I will clear wax it and go back with a dark wax that will accent and pop all of its unique details out. While that settles, I will take it’s new seat, add the new foam and fabric I purchased to make a bright cushion for it. All that will remain to be done will secure the seat back to the chair ( fortunately it had all it’s original screws)
After that, it will finally, be ready for a new home.
Other stuff in the process
Sometimes, on furniture a piece of hardware or fixtures are missing so I have to hunt it down which depending on age is tricky, again another cost involved in process. The perfect piece has all of its original fixtures.
Oh speaking of the hardware… all that is usually tarnished and dirty from years of neglect so it needs taken off and cleaned. Sometimes, it’s an easy job, other times it’s time consuming and frustrating.
Some pieces have bad veneer damage and I’ve made the decision to take it off.
Can you say, work? It’s a ton of work scraping off glued on veneer. However, if the surface is especially bad it’s worth the time to get to a fresh smooth surface underneath it.
Other times, I’ve tackled the veneer damaged and focused on repairing it, especially if I’m painting it.
Some pieces like a desk I did recently, require being totally sanded down, which I do by hand.
One table I recently purchased, it’s so cute, it opens up and the closes back to a half table. I wanted to try and sand the top down and re stain it and perhaps do a color on the table. Hubby got a good start on it but I’ve been working on all the edges this week, Do you know how tedious it is, sanding those edges? Or how careful you have to work with the veneer so you don’t chip or crack it in the process?
This is just a slow, time consuming process, but the end result will be so worth it.
Some recently finished work…..
So back to that original question….
“So you “just” paint it, right?” Well, as you can see the painting, new stain, or whatever look it gets, is really the last part of the process.
It’s the fun part.
Picking up and purchasing the piece, cleaning, repairing, sanding, prepping, painting, then top sealing with wax or a poly top coat, cleaning hardware, making new cushions etc. are all a part of the unique process of renovating antique or vintage items.
Besides the cost of the actual piece, the time and gas to get it, the supplies needed to do the job, and the hours and labor the artist puts into it may help you understand better the pricing on a unique, one of a kind, piece of hand painted furniture that you won’t be able to find at your local furniture store.
Thanks for hanging out with me in this two part special! I hope this gives you a little more insight into the topic of “renovated” or “upscaled” old furniture. I hope that it has also given you a better idea of the labor of love it is for so many of us.
Do you have any hobbies or projects you enjoy that you do as a “labor of love” and enjoyment?