It was tempting to just name this post ‘when to strip’ but you can see how there might be some confusion for those looking for something maybe not quite as G-rated as this! And after all, we are talking about painted furniture today, so we’ll stick with the facts.
Sometimes when wanting to makeover a piece of furniture, you may question to strip the piece or not. I mean, who hasn’t seen like 47 million pieces of furniture people have redone on social media with gleaming wood and pristine paint? Will it need to be sanded or painted or stripped? And how can you just make it better or even easy? Here are a few reasons to definitely get the stripper out.
- The current finish has lived out its usefulness, and you want to get down to the bare wood and keep it.
- You can see that there might be layers of old paint that have better colors than the current top coat, so a light stripping of one or two layers is in order.
- The current painted finish is damaged, and could not be repaired or painted over for a variety of reasons.
Of course, there are probably a million other arguments in favor of stripping a piece of furniture, with the most important one being I JUST WANT TO, so there. But let me show you a few examples of what I’m talking about.
This piece was a marriage of two tables put together by my dad back in the 60s. Although I have loved this table as it is, I feel it is time to strip the top down to the natural wood. It currently is a dull, metallic gold. Not hideous but certainly can use a facelift (can’t we all?) It definitely has outlived its usefulness in the ‘updated decor’ department, even though it could live on as is, I feel like it could definitely become more of a noticeable statement if it were stripped.
Being in a natural wood state will not only go with my current house better, but also highlight the base of the piece, which I think is the real interesting part. Consider this in the project queue. I may even decide to add a different, larger top on this table and just use this top somewhere else, but the jury is still out. I love that I can still change my mind.
This piece I found about 20 years ago when I was looking for a cabinet to paint. Good thing I rethought that decision, and got out the stripper. I purchased the orange stripper (that is a bit safer, as far as strippers go) and put on a first coat. Happily I am impatient, because I didn’t wait the full time as instructed since I was anxious, so when I began to scrape off the paint, it only took off the top layer. Lucky for me, I found this pink underneath! Whaaaaat???
More stripping revealed a few other colors, and now this piece has been living it’s best life as a blush beauty! I do love surprises, not the “jumpy-outy” kind but the “isn’t this a fabulous find” kind.
All this gorgeous color was covered up by this poop brown color. These are the doors for it, which I never stripped because I have always used this as an open cabinet. They are sitting in my garage, collecting dust obvi, waiting for me to change my mind about them. But since I am currently using the cabinet to house a television, these doors will have to sit in storage a bit longer. After all, it’s been 20 years, so what’s a few more gonna do?
Then there is this coffee table. When I bought it back in 2002, it was all the rage and fabulous! I was obsessed with it and loved how amazing it looked, until it wasn’t quite as fabulous anymore. It was in our living room like 4 houses back, shown here in 2008. It’s fairly large and requires a decent size space to fit.
The wood began to crack (you can see it in the above picture on the top), and the finish came off in chunks in a few spots which revealed plaster like white spots. In the photo below, you can see how thick the finish actually is. Sadly, this baby would have to be stripped.
I had it in storage for like 4 years because I had no room for it in a house we lived in, but then when we moved and it could be revived, I got out the stripper. I was sad to have to say goodbye to this aqua finish, it was pretty cool but looked like it had gotten into a street fight and came out on the losing end! Up close you can see that some of the exposed wood was originally intentional, as the finish was done to mimic a shabby but chic, peely chippy sort of finish. But once the finish began to flake, it was chic no more.
I wanted a weathered beach look, so I wasn’t trying to be too careful about removing every last speck of paint. I also chose to leave a bit of history, and allow the aqua color it started off as, to show through in a few spots.
After stripping and sanding to my liking, I protected it by using Matte Finish from the Bungalow 47 Furniture Paint line of products. This gives it protection without too much shine.
Of course the cracks are still there, but I must embrace those as part of the story of its life. We all have those don’t we? The cracks that some may view as imperfections can be seen as character and history. Nobody’s perfect and neither is this table, but I love it anyway.
I have this humongous breadboard that I bought at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, when we lived in California in 2002, that covers the crack pretty good. It’s actually sitting on this table to store it more than to hide the crack, but it provides a nice layer to the table and I do love all the patinas and textures together. (And OMG, my fave live edge box – for remotes – I purchased on a trip to Canada a few years back is the big feature of this grouping! I also have a ‘wood box collecting problem’. Sorry, not sorry.)
Of course, stripping is not something necessary to transform a piece of furniture. Many items can merely be painted, and using a chalk and clay based paint like ours, is super easy. Be bold and make those changes, to transform your furniture how you really want it to look. Well-made pieces are getting harder and harder to find new, for a reasonable price, so vintage or restoring/rethinking are my faves.
Sometimes its nice to know that you have options with your projects and don’t be afraid to try something new. You’ll be happy you made it more to your liking in the end. Drop me a comment if you’ve ever tried stripping furniture, was it horrifying or gratifying?