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If Painting Antique Furniture Makes You Happy Then Do It

Yep, I said it. Painting antique furniture is something I do and if you want to paint your antiques…..go ahead. My project piece today is 100+ years old and I painted it.

You guys know I don’t restore wood furniture if it needs a lot of work. This wardrobe was missing veneer in places and I don’t do replacement veneer. I did question whether I wanted to paint this piece or just clean it up and oil the wood but in the end, I decided to paint.

antique empire style wardrobe

Paint Antique Furniture

Today is Furniture Fixer Upper Day and we lost another of our furniture painters this month. As time goes along some of us go in different directions with our DIY’s and that’s okay. I know I’m painting less furniture than I used to. At one time I was painting a couple of pieces a week or more. Now it’s a couple of pieces a month.

Anyway, we have a good tour coming up so be sure and click on the tour links at the bottom of the post. Also, I have a short video showing how I distressed and waxed this antique piece.

If You don’t Have any Antique Furniture then Buy a Piece

I bought the antique wardrobe at an online auction. I think I paid $55 plus a %10 buyers premium. Not a bad price. The auction description said this piece was made about 1910. There was a tag on the back and I could read some of it. The wardrobe was made by Rome Cabinet Company, Rome Georgia. I tried to research the company and only found a bit of information. The company was started in 1908.

clean old furniture before painting

Ckean and Repair The Furniture

I took the drawers out of the wardrobe and vacuumed everything inside and out. Then I cleaned the wood with Simple Green, again, inside and out. Don’t forget to turn furniture on it’s back and clean the bottom. There are usually a lot of cobwebs and dust in that area.

holes in furniture for repair

The original key and keyhole insides (?) were missing so the door wouldn’t stay closed and I needed to come up with a plan for a door latch.

repair furniture with wood putty

I filled the keyhole and the other hole with wood putty thinking I would need to drill new holes for the new latch.

how to paint antique furniture

Decide On Type Of Paint For Antiques

Miss Lillians No Wax Chock Paint

The paint color I decided on is a custom mix by me. I used Miss Lillian’s No-Wax Chock paint and combined two colors. The Industrial paint color I painted the sewing machine cabinet was definitely black and I wanted to give the black paint just a hint of brown to cut the blue/black color.

I added French Roast Chock Paint to the Industrial color and I can’t tell you the ratio of French Roast to Industrial because as usual, I didn’t measure anything. Mixing the French Roast color bit by bit into the jar of the Industrial color was the best way for me to get the color I was looking for. I wiped a sample of the paint onto a paint stick as I mixed the colors together until I had the perfect color.

Paint The Furniture

Before I could start painting, I had to wait for the putty to dry. Yes, I should have puttied the holes earlier but I forgot.

I applied two coats of paint and waited for it to dry. Usually one coat of paint covers well, especially this Chock Paint. But, I always miss a few areas around the corners and details so that second coat usually covers everything.

how to distress painted furniture

Distress the Paint

Then I sanded the wood wardrobe all over working heavily on the edges and any areas with missing veneer using my battery-powered sander. If I’m distressing paint lightly or want to have more control over the distressed finish I sand by hand using 150 grit sandpaper.

brush dust from sanding paint

I always use a paintbrush to brush away the bits of paint and wood from the sanding.

use a tack cloth to remove sanding dust

Then I use a tack cloth to wipe the remaining loose paint from the furniture.

dirty tack cloth

The tack cloth does a good job. You should have a supply of tack cloth in your DIY tool kit.

use FrogTape painters tape for straight lines when painting furniture

I didn’t paint the inside of the wardrobe but I did paint around the inside edges that would show when the door was closed. I used FrogTape to get a nice neat paint line.

waxing distressed furniture with Howard's Wax

Wax Your Painted Antique

For the finish I applied a coat of Howard’s Wax in Golden Oak to the wardrobe because it adds color to the raw wood and covers the hazy look of the paint after it is distressed. Once the wax is dry it just needs to be buffed by hand with a lint-free rag.

how to select new knobs for painted furniture

The painted wardrobe sat in the workshop for 3 weeks until I could decide on knobs and a latch. I don’t know why I was so indecisive on the knobs.

selecting new furniture knobs

Select The Proper Hardware or Drawer Pulls

bought the dark gray almost black knobs at Hobby Lobby thinking I would use those but there was not enough contrast with the dark paint. Sometimes it’s nice to go with the same color as the furniture but not this time. Next, I pulled knobs from my stash and tried those. The mercury glass knobs were a definite no.

rounded feet on antique empire style furniture

I tried two different kinds of large glass knobs and they didn’t work either. I finally pulled out all the small antique clear knobs I could find in my stash and had just enough of those to do the trick. All of the knobs are not identical but close enough.

picking a new latch for old furniture

Now it was time to work on the latch. I tried all kinds of things then decided on a key-type drawer pull. The back plate for the key was too ornate and I found a plain, no-frills plate to use instead.

Spray Paint The Drawer Pulls or Knobs

spray paint hardware pulls or latches for newly painted furniture

I spray painted the pieces with Rustoleum Black Primer and then Oil Rubbed Bronze (Rustoleum).

paint furniture black then distress the painted furniture along the edges and details

Drill Holes For Pulls or any Necessary Hardware

Next, I drilled holes in the wardrobe door and attached the knob. Then on the wardrobe body, I added a simple hook that hooks into the open part of the knob. Of course, the latch needed a bit of distressing too.

antique empire style furniture

The feet are my favorite part! I’ve always been told that rounded feet like this mean it’s an Empire-style furniture piece.

you can paint antique furniture

I’m happy with the new look and……. I painted an antique. You guys know it’s not the first time. If you have an antique piece of furniture or just a pretty piece still in good condition and you want to paint it……just do it.

This piece is one of my best auction buys but if you want to see some really awesome box lots of stuff I got one time click here.

antique wood furniture painted black and distressed

The wardrobe is on wheels and they work wonderfully. That’s not always the case with these old pieces.

View The Video – Painting Antique Furniture

How To Distress And Wax Painted Furniture

What do you think of the new look? Would you paint an antique? If you don’t like it painted just tell me. Even if you disagree with me you can always express your opinion here as long as you do it in a thoughtful manner. It would be a dull world if we all liked the same things. Leave a note if you have the time.

If you liked this piece you will love this one! Pottery Barn Knock Off | Themed Furniture Makeovers

Time to take the Furniture Fixer Upper Tour. Just click the text links below the “before” makeovers collage….

Furniture Fixer Upper projects

Antique Dressing Table Makeover from Confessions of a Serial DIY’er

Chalk Paint Desk from Girl In The Garage

Spring Meadow Painted Dresser from Salvaged Inspirations

Painting Antique Wood Furniture from Petticoat Junktion (You are here)

As always, thanks for being here, Kathy

Author: Kathy Owen
Kathy Owen is the founder of the home decor blog Petticoat Junktion where she shares tutorials on painting furniture and upcycling thrifty finds into unique home décor. Her DIY projects have been featured on the Home Depot Blog, Plaid Crafts, Behr Designer Series, and in numerous magazines. Kathy’s newest website is HappyHomeDIY.com


  1. I love this! It’s probably my favorite piece of yours that I’ve seen. I have not been able to bring myself to paint over antiques. Perhaps soon after seeing this.

  2. I love this old wardrobe! I personally try to keep an original finish whenever possible. But it’s a personal choice. Replacing veneer is hard…I’ve tried without much success. That being said, I love the way this turned out. The color combined with some wood peeking through makes it look like it was originally painted. And you did a good job on replacing the door latch. It looks great!

  3. Hi Kathy! You did a great job keeping the antique look. I love black on antiques. I just painted one myself.

  4. I love how this piece turned out. I guess the mirror was missing but was any of the brackets with this piece? I painted a piece just like this one a couple of years ago and I made a new mirror and frame for it. However, I had to guess at what it would have looked like. Your piece is almost the same piece. Great makeover!

  5. I love it! I have not heard of those brands ….will have to Google them. What a difference the stain and wax makes!
    I have two pieces I have my eye on to finish! laura in Colorado

  6. I’m in agreement with you, Paint It if you want to! I always try to research our pieces, to find out if they are true “one-of-a-kind” antiques. In my research, I’ve found that many items are definitely old and well-made, but not necessarily a Smithsonian antique. In fact, we had a nice 5 drawer chest-of-drawers, and the label on the back said “Larkin”. Reading up on Larkin Furniture, we found that Larkin, at one point in time, their furniture was given away as premiums with the purchase of Larkin soaps and food products!
    Paint can enhance so many details of a piece, and keep it going as a well-loved useful item for many more years….I really like the color and distressing on your wardrobe…beautiful choices!

  7. What a sweet find, Kathy. I think the cabinet looks so good painted black! Much nicer than had you restored the wood. Black is the perfect color for this heavier piece and as always, the distressing is perfection.

  8. Damaged antiques can be really hard to repair… sometimes it’s just easier and better to paint it. I love the black paint with the new pulls and latch, my friend! xo

  9. I’m so glad you had it painted. It really does make a difference. My husband is the same way about real wood but anytime we painted paneling or something in the house he loved it.

  10. Absolutely Beautiful, Kathy!!! I would paint antique furniture and I have many times! I love the color and distressing!!!! What a fabulous job!!!

  11. I have a china cabinet that belonged to my grandmother. It is (was) a very dark wood and really didn’t go well with our furniture here in Florida. After months of indecisiveness about paint it or not I bite the bullet and had it done. I love now even more because you can see all the wonderful depression glass that was also my grandmother’s. My husband hates the idea of painting wood but admitted that the finished product was quite pretty.

  12. Hi Vicki, There may be some confusion about the company. This company was definitely in Rome, Georgia because it said Rome Cabinet Company, Rome Georgia on the tag.

  13. Having grown up outside of Rome, Georgia I thought you might like this information on Rome Furniture Company.

    Not in Rome, Georgia but in Garner, Massachusetts this article details the history and closure of this furniture manufacturer:

  14. It look great! Good choice on the knobs, too. I don’t have an issue with painting antiques if it will improve their appearance, like this one.

  15. I have one just like that one but mine has a mirror attached. I also painted mine. I believe mine was as old or older, it belonged to my great-great grandparents & I’m 63. The story is it came over in a covered wagon from Alabama to Texas.

  16. My brother, who repairs furniture, is always in my head when I’m asking myself this question. As a result, I have a hard time painting old wood – but I love the way it looks. This turned out really nice! And I am now obsessed with finding a similar piece of furniture – it is absolutely charming.

  17. I absolutely love it! Before it looked like a boring yellow wooden wardrobe, and now with the paint finish, it actually looks more like an antique piece that has a story. Great job!

  18. It is beautiful, love the look. I agree paint it if you want. Did the same with an old buffet from my grandma for my daughter-in-law. It turned out lovely.

  19. I absolutely love the painted version. I don’t always feel that way, but this looks so good in the color choice as well. Way more likely to be purchased and used. Great work.

  20. Love the color and handles! But too much distressing for me. And yes, I paint antiques, too, if they’re damaged. Beautiful!

  21. I’m always torn over whether to paint or restore. If there is damage the decision is easier. The wood grain is pretty but I love the painted version! It still looks old but refreshed. Love the custom color!

  22. I love this in black…it was the perfect choice! Love how you solved the latch dilemma too! XOXO

  23. I love how you painted this antique piece. The colour you chose and the distressing is absolutely PERFECT. Beautiful work, as always.

  24. Kathy I am so glad you painted it and the color and distressing is perfect. Great piece.

  25. I love that you painted this piece! I have an old oak dresser that I have been thinking of painting. One day I think Yes, do it and the next I think No, you can’t paint over that gorgeous wood…..but I think I am finally convinced. Love the color, latches, pulls. Love everything about this piece. Great job! I look forward to your projects…..Thank you!

  26. I do like it. I would be scared to paint an antique, personally. But this looks great. I would do just a little less distressing on the drawer edges for my taste. Will the hook rub paint off the key knob on the latch? I would never have thought of securing it that way. Good job!

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