Faux Painting Furniture

Faux painting furniture is fun, and a very adequate way to juice up your furniture, and fit it into your interior design again. You might create something great out of a junk-piece. Or out of a plain untreated Ikea-piece of furniture...

Hiding or Staining

A decision on hiding or staining depends on the surface of your furniture-piece. Staining will keep your woodgrain visible, and hiding will cover the surface with a coat of paint.

A new, untreated piece can be stained right away, and an old piece has to be stripped to the bone before you can stain it. Stripping can be done with chemicals or a paint burner. It's a bit of a job, but once you count in the work, it's do-able (in one day). Another option is: to give (parts of) your piece a new wood surface by gluing on slices of veneer or plywood. When using plywood, work away the edges with stripes of veneer.

For all other faux painting techniques, you apply a primer over the old paint coats. Check the surface to see what it's made of. Old wax coats are very hard to paint (that is: its hard to make paint hold on to them) - remove them if you can. Synthetic coats need a special synthetic primer, and old oil based coats need a primer too before you can paint acrylic paint on them. If you want your paint coats to hold, spend some time on your preparations (sanding and cleaning)

Staining over old coats of stain

You can do that with oil-based stain, or a shellac sealer with some colorant added. But, it won't be as pretty as waterstain on fresh wood. you'll have to divide the paint very carefully, in thin layers. You'll find more on this subject on the page about painting over laminate.

Faux painting furniture that's laminated

Laminate is a special material, that needs a special primer. The best thing is, to take a shellac primer and work on that with either latex or oil-based paint. The latex can be protected with a polyurethane laquer. Shellac primer is available in white, and in a transparent version too. Click here for more on painting over laminate.

Faux painting techniques based on a hiding coat:

Serious fun

You can do fun projects like: painting the refrigerator door in a marble look - it'll be like removing a stone, every time you have a glass of milk. Or fauxing your table in a marble-look.

But also a really exquisite antique-look can be achieved, when you make a careful design. If your chairs have a semi-antique shape (like some untreated-wooden Ikea chairs), a dark woodstain with a few careful decorations can do miracles. And if you match additional details, you can have an exquisite and unique piece of furniture.

Ideas for faux painting furniture:

  • Faux laid-in faux stonework
  • A faux leather-look
  • 30's black-brown details
  • Faux laid-in wood or wood panelling
  • Decorative stripes and frames
  • Simple floral decoration
  • Tole painting patterns

In making your design, proportions are the key. The old recipe for an ideal harmonic proportion is 5:8 - the golden mean or ratio. Use it when you decide where to put a decorative stripe (around a panel), or to decide the size of your faux woodpanelling. Using matching colors is the best method to adjust your piece to the rest of your interior.

Decorative painting ideas

In faux painting furniture, decorations need to be 'functional': not too much or too little. Use a sheet of paper to make a design. This is a bit like cake decoration - there should be sufficient decoration, but not too much, and elements should fit together and be in harmonizing proportions.

For floral decorations, painting stencils are very convenient. There are lots of beautiful patterns to choose, you can see them in advance, and repeat them as often as you like. A too modest decoration is more convincing than a too rich one.

Faux painting furniture in historic styles

It may be worthwhile to do a little research on furniture styling periods. But don't try to copy things: just use pictures to tickle your imagination. If you 'invent' a furniture piece yourself (in a certain style) it will look more authentic, because it's based on the form of your actual furniture-piece. If you base your design on old designing principles, it will look homey and harmonious.

Aging a piece

In achieving a convincing antique-look, good staining is the key.

  • Take fresh wood and stain it with a water-soluble stain, to make the color go into the wood. After that, do several layers of transparent laquer.

If you want to give a stained piece an extra aged look, add some brown paint to the laquer. Apply it thick and go over the piece with a clean cloth, so that the dark stuff stays in the edges.

Wood colors go warmer all by themselves through the ages. Old woods never have a cold look, unless they're whitewashed. Fresh oak has a more greenish hue, but the older it gets, the warmer (more orange) its color becomes.

Old colors

Faux painting furniture was done in the old days too. People used tole decorations, stripes, stains and marbling to decorate their furniture. If you want to create some faux antique paintwork, or faux antique painted decorations, use very modest and moderated colors. In the old days, the available pigments were mostly natural earth-colors. Earth-reds and greens were used instead of the chemical bright ones we have today, and the old-day blue colors were more like lavender. These colors will make you faux antique look convincing.


For a fresh, cold whitewash look, first give your piece a light neutral or blueish grey primer.After that, take a matte acrylic white paint and put it on. Use a clean cloth to rub a little paint off again, especially on the edges, to make bits of the darker primer shine through. You can use other colors as well, as long as the primer is darker than the top layer. Cold colors will add to the 'white' look-and-feel. Artistically, this faux painting furniture look can be associated with a beach-look or with french kitchens.

If you want to really go deep into wood finishing techniques: check this wood finishing blog by Wisno Mustikasari Purnama. It has lots of information on wood and furniture finishing.

Related pages:

Oil Painting Techniques

Acrylic Painting

Watercolor painting

Color Schemes

Interior Painting techniques

Interior Painting Ideas


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