Who made this furniture

With painted furniture to the new color concept

Colorful furniture brings life to the home. But how do you paint furniture correctly and what do you have to pay attention to? Color expert Anna von Mangoldt has the insider tips and explains how it works here.

In countries such as Scandinavia, France and England, painted furniture is part of everyday decor, and color is used courageously for both walls and furniture. During my studies in England in particular, I experienced that people's desire for change and a beautiful home was usually greater than common sense.

The answer to the question of whether one could possibly have “had enough” of the selected color tone after two years was that it could be painted over if necessary. The question of whether the investment in the paint pot and the working hours would be worth it did not even arise. The demand for a perfected painting trade was also often limited - the greater the joy at the finished work.

We in Germany “work” a little differently than the English: white walls have been established in our country for decades, and the “good wood” is also very reluctant to be painted. We have less practice with the color design of our rooms, often find it difficult to decide, we like to invest in things that add value and don't like to waste our time on a prank project that may not be as beautiful as we hoped.

Anna von Mangoldt has been successfully selling high-quality paint for walls and furniture under her own name since 2010. Even during her history and art history studies, Anna realized that she would like to do something creative professionally. So she starts an internship with color designer Annie Sloan in Oxford and that changes her life. Anna has lived and thought in color ever since. The joy of different colors and their creative possibilities motivate them every day. As a real color expert, Anna gives tips on how to paint furniture correctly.

Nevertheless, in recent years there has been a noticeable desire for more color in our living spaces. The uncertainty of how to paint a piece of furniture correctly and which color to use for it is still great.

At that time I was infected by the love of the English and have changed the color of countless pieces of furniture over the past ten years. In the process, I tried a lot, made mistakes and, above all, enthusiastically found out how you can use paint to enhance old or unsightly furniture. In this post I would like to share my most important experiences of the last ten years and encourage you to embellish an old or unsightly piece of furniture instead of throwing it away or putting it in a corner.

What kind of furniture can you paint?

In principle, all furniture can be painted, all that is required is the right pre-treatment or priming. I would be cautious about antiques, designer furniture or highly stressed pieces of furniture and would first dedicate myself to the softwood chests of drawers, simple wooden chairs, oak showcases and dark stained cabinets, to name just a few examples.

Customers keep sending me photos of their painted works, which I am happy to share here:

Old showcase that was pre-painted with blocking primer and then worked on with chalk paint and wax

Nightstand that has been thoroughly sanded, primed with barrier primer and painted with chalk paint and wax

This softwood chest of drawers was only sanded because it was covered with clear varnish. Then it was worked on with chalk paint and wax.

Untreated beech chest of drawers that was painted without primer

Untreated beech chest of drawers that was painted without primer

Old desk that has been sanded well and painted with a matt varnish

The desk was painted with chalk paint and protected with a high-gloss clear varnish.

Softwood cabinet that has been painted with a semi-gloss varnish

You can also create great color accents with small furnishings.

How do I get the right idea?

I would first collect ideas in the form of photos and see whether you always like the same color combinations. Pinterest or Instagram are very good sources of inspiration. There are also many photos with step-by-step explanations.

Those who prefer to leaf through magazines can cut out inspiring photos and put them together in the form of a mood board.

Which color fits the piece of furniture and the room?

When the idea has materialized, you should get color samples.

  • If possible, do not choose the color in the store, but make a color swatch that should be at least A6 (larger, better). Some paint manufacturers already offer this type of pattern.
  • Try out on the spot in your room how the color looks on the piece of furniture.
  • Also keep in mind that glossy colors or varnishes, depending on the manufacturer, appear lighter or darker than matt colors.

Light or dark color? How is the effect?

Many are reluctant to use strong or dark colors. We often forget that a lot of wooden furniture is naturally dark and that colored or dark-painted furniture can be used to set accents and create contrasts.

Here is an example of a very similar chest of drawers that was painted once light and once dark:

After: dark or light

Note: You can see another before and after example of a dark painted chest of drawers in my blog post “Painting a chest of drawers”.


Too many wood tones don't look nice. Here I often recommend painting the wood that looks the least high-quality.

This originally wood-colored dining table looked very clunky and the wood tone did not match the floor and the chairs. When painted dark, it looks narrower and more elegant.

It may be enough just to paint a shelf or a showcase from the inside. This showcase was only painted pink on the inside.

Sometimes it is better to just give your furniture a colored background and paint the walls. This old oak showcase looks much more elegant in front of the blue wall than in front of the originally light wall color.

“Noble furniture” in front of white walls usually looks “normal”. “Normal furniture” in front of colored walls, on the other hand, usually looks “classy”.

Sanding, why?

Light sanding ensures that the subsequent coating can adhere better. Even if some manufacturers say that their colors stick without sanding, I generally recommend sanding furniture that is used in everyday life. The adhesion is definitely improved.

Note: In my blog post “Painting a chest of drawers” ​​I explain step by step how to proceed technically to paint a piece of furniture.

Prime why?

Despite sanding, a primer is required for many wooden surfaces. The primer ensures that the coating dries evenly, adheres well and that old oils or other wood constituents do not discolour the coating.

For the following types of wood, I would always recommend a primer with a plywood primer: Oak, mahogany and pine tend to secrete wood constituents and discolour the subsequent coat yellowish.

All of this furniture was sanded and painted with a barrier primer.

All of this furniture was sanded and primed with blocking primer.

This stained surface is common on old furniture. If you don't coat them with a barrier primer, the paint will turn yellow and you have to start over.

Can I paint plastic-coated surfaces?

Paint has to adhere to a surface in order to hold well. Most paints do not adhere well to the typical plastic-coated surfaces of inexpensive furniture. Therefore, some manufacturers offer primers that can be applied for better adhesion. I have also often seen customers paint plastic-coated furniture without a primer, especially if it was in the room for decoration (for example a bookshelf). In the case of furniture that is subject to heavy use, a color would not last long on such a surface.

Painted plastic-coated dresser:

Painting or painting with chalk paint?

Chalk paint is a matt, very easy-to-use emulsion paint that is becoming increasingly popular for painting old furniture. It takes its name from its very powdery, matt surface. Most chalk paints have to be protected with a wax to make the matt surface resistant.

I like to recommend chalk paint for old furniture or if you like a livelier surface. The wax ensures that the paint looks very natural and has a lot of depth. However, wax is sensitive to heat and therefore unsuitable for table surfaces.

A paint looks more even, but also not as natural. For this, a coat of paint is more resistant and better suited for furniture that is subject to heavy use.

Furniture painted with chalk paint and wax

Furniture painted with chalk paint and wax

Furniture painted with chalk paint and wax

Roller or brush?

The best way to apply paint is with a paint roller when it comes to straight surfaces. I prefer to work with a roller and brush: I use the roller to create an even application of paint and with the brush I paint everything that I cannot achieve with the roller.

Tip: High-quality work material ensures a better result. It is worth investing in a good brush once and taking good care of it. Brushes that constantly lose hair or have very coarse bristles are unsuitable for painting furniture.

You can find details on the right work material and how to best paint a piece of furniture in my article “Painting a dresser”.

Sealing with clear lacquer or wax?

Wax is a naturally shiny protection for furniture that has been painted with chalk paint. It is suitable for normal use, but not intended for table surfaces that are subject to stress. Wax is sensitive to heat and moisture.

Even in its matt version, clear lacquer looks shinier and less natural. You can claim more of it for that.

What should I look out for when buying paint?

Depending on what you want to paint, I would pay attention to the following things:

Make sure to buy primers, paints, and sealers that are water-based. They hardly smell and can be easily washed off with hands and brushes.

For children's furniture, make sure that the color is “suitable for children's toys”.

For table surfaces or banisters, the lacquer or clear lacquer should be resistant to hand perspiration. Otherwise the surface will be soft and brownish.

I hope that my contribution made me want to paint and show that you can turn old furniture into real pieces of jewelry through color. Thanks to the water-based products that are available from painters, hardware stores and various online shops, it is much easier than before to paint furniture yourself at home.

From my own experience I can say that painting furniture is addictive - once you have seen how much nicer a piece of furniture looks, you want to have more and more of it.