How to Strip Vintage Furniture

I picked up this vintage Parsons console at the flea market a while back and I've been meaning to redo it for ages. Well, I finally was able to cross the project off my house to-do list! I'm loving the bright acid yellow enamel in our living room. It looks pretty with the new sofa color.



The old finish was not all too offensive from afar (this is why the table was not higher up on the to do list). Pretty neutral here, right?



But up close! BAD CRACKLE! NOOOooooooooooo!


Here's the run down on how I stripped off at least 11 layers of paint and even some thoughts on painting with oil-based paints for that lacquered, enameled look.

I've used Klean-Strip Stripper and Citristrip before with great results. I happened to have some of both around for this project and I thought I'd figure out which one I like the best. I used the Klean-Strip for table top and the Citristrip for the legs.



Klean-Strip is like MAJOR caustic. Use it only outside or in a very ventilated space. Keep kids and pets away, and definitely wear gloves. If you get any of the gel on you, you will know in about five seconds. Ouch! 

So you're probably saying, "Jenny! Why would you use this product!?" And I'd say to you "Because I got stuff to DO!" This product works fast. In about 10 minutes, I scraped off the first few layers of paint. If I had waited another 10 minutes, it would have all bubbled completely and been ready to easily scrape up. I did end up putting on another quick layer of the gel and within 10 minutes that second layer was done. I should also mention that I don't usually use a paint brush to apply the stripper, like the instructions suggest. Mostly because I don't want to clean up a brush when I can use a putty knife just as easily (just like frosting a cake!), but also because the paint brush makes it harder to get a consistently thick gel coat. You're shooting for about 1/8-1/4" of stripper covering everything. If you're stingy with the gel, you'll be spending all sorts of time getting that old paint off.


Here's what the old paint should look like when it's ready to scrape. Klean-Strip recommends scraping the old paint into a stainless steel bowl, letting the chemicals evaporate outside and then discarding the dried paint, which is what I did.


So, all in all, after 20-25 minutes of work using the Klean-Strip, the table top was down to raw wood. Not bad!


For the legs, I pulled out my Citristrip, which is not at all smelly (it actually smells like oranges a little bit), and can be used inside. I got some of this on my skin too accidentally and I didn't even know! It makes me wonder how this stuff actually stripped off layer after layer of old paint, be it did! And it did it well!


So, the biggest bummer about Citristrip is it takes a while longer to bubble up the old paint. It took me about an hour and a half of waiting to get about 90% of the paint to release. And I went back and did some spot stripping to clean up some of the old paint that didn't come up the first layer. I think the legs took about two hours, when all was said and done. 


If you're doing this right, there should be zero amount of intense scraping. Wait until the old paint is super soft and bubbly, and they it just falls off. It's pretty crazy that in just a couple hours of easy work (most of that time was spent waiting), decades of paint jobs can be removed!

As far as a verdict goes between the two stripping gels, I think I'll probably stick with Citrastrip in the future. It did its job really well and it's easy to just do something else while you're waiting the extra time. I figure if I don't have the wiggle room in my schedule to wait an extra hour so I can avoid using super-toxic chemicals, there might be some bigger issues here. :)


Now, as far as painting goes, I am completely converted to oil-based paints. Latex is for walls. Oil is for furniture and floors. If you ask for Porch and Floor paint (which is usually oil-based), or Door and Trim paint (which is usually a water-based alkyd), you can get any color you want mixed. I actually had my local hardware store mix a Home Depot color (update: the color is "Citronette" from the Home Decorators Collection by BEHR) in Benjamin Moore paints, which is the opposite of what I usually do! ha!  :)


I used a two-inch brush to apply the paint. I don't like using foam rollers usually for oil-based paints, but I think that might be a personal preference? The texture of oil-based paints just works really well with a brush. Basically, and I'm sure I've said this before, it's just like putting on nail polish. It's like you're placing the paint. Once it's put on, don't mess with it. The brush marks will smooth out on their own. And if after the paint has fully dried (in about 24 hours) there are a couple of imperfections, you can sand or touch them up at that point.


You can see here above that I work in sections. Each dip-and-one-side-wipe makes a roughly 4x8" rectangle. If you just slightly overlap each rectangle, all the while resisting the urge to go back and touch up parts, and you'll have a perfectly lacquered piece of furniture on your hands 24 hours later. Seriously, it's like magic.


I love a punch of bright chartreuse in almost any room. It's definitely one of my favorite colors.


Ooh, also, on a whim I hung the Magnolia mirror that I painted with chalkboard paint on the little stair landing. I think I love it. It helps balance out the heaviness of the gallery wall a bit. Plus, the girls love it for fashion show purposes, which happen around here more often than I care to admit.

72 comments:

Gina said...

Beautiful! I have to ask, where are the wires? I have a T.V. on a similar table in my living room right now and I can't figure out what to do with the wires. I guess it might be easier without a cable box?

M.L. Risson said...

Thank you for sharing another great project. I love the punch of color to distract from the black box ;)

Cara said...

Beautiful Jenny! I love the look of the oil paint too, is the regular rustolium oil paint discontinued in the states like it is in Canada?

Erin said...

Love it - you have such a great eye, and I love the DIY details. I'm officially inspired!

Surabhi Muncie said...

Jenny you have done it again! Your decorating style appeals to me so much and I cant resist but to visit your blog everyday anticipating your posts. My favorites are glimpses into your own home. I love seeing your ever changing landscape which you bring together so masterfully. You don't know me and will will never meet but you are in my life every single day, what a crazy thought right!?

My dream is to one day show you my living room, which I have been working on for the past year, inspired by your blog and your fearless style.

Can I be ever so annoying and ask you for the exact paint color for the yellow chartreuse you used in this project. Yes I am going to go and completely copy you right now!

Many thanks

Surabhi

Sheri said...

I second Surabhi - can you share the name of the chartreuse color you used? It's beyond fantastic. Please and thank you!

Jenny at LGN said...

Surabhi! What a lovely comment! Thanks so much for that!!

I'm working on digging up the exact paint color now. I can't find the paint chip and I'm having trouble navigating Home Depot's paint page online. But, I *think* it was from their new Home Decorator's Modern line. There's only a handful of colors in the collection, including a really great almost neon purple that I've been dying to use.

xxxx

Crystal @ 29 Rue House said...

Such a perfect color and I definitely needed a tutorial on this! What tool would you use to get into the nooks and crannies of some pieces of vintage furniture?

@Gina - Could you attach it to the bottomof the table and tape the cords up or something?


pve design said...

Wonderful. I used to do decorative painting and furniture painting. One suggestion is to use a spray gun with the paint or a roller so you have no brush demarkations. (Unless of course you want brush marks) I do love that color. Fantastic fresh pop!
pve

Jenny at LGN said...

Gina - post coming up on how to hide cords! It's a good one!
x

copperseal said...

What a great how-to with beautiful results! I think chartreuse was meant for lacquer.

Dan G said...

Amazing - I swear no one does a gallery wall of art like you do! Perfection with your table color!

Anna Williams said...

Yay for using one of my favourite colours! I've been experimenting with paint strippers as well (for windows though which isn't so exciting). The one I've been using is horribly toxic so I think I'm going to look for something else.

Beautiful work as always Jenny xx

Anna (My Design Ethos)

Marianne Brown said...

Um the result is amazing and thank you for documenting the process and giving such great instructions! I'm not a DIYer but you explain it so well I think I can tackle a project like this. You're pretty amazing...

allison said...

LOVE the table! Do you have a source for the animal print on the bench beneath? Any info so appreciated. Thanks.

Jenny at LGN said...

Hi Allison!

The spotted bench is actually hair-on hide. Here's the info:
http://littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-upholster-bench-corners.html

xx

EDYTA & CO. INTERIOR DESIGN said...

You are one patient and handy lady. It looks great!

Anna See said...

It looks fabulous! I have a gorgeous parsons table i got at a thrift shop. i painted it white, but i'll remember this post if i ever want a bright lacquered look!

Liz said...

wow! that looks great :)

do you also use an oil-based primer? I just painted a dresser in high gloss latex and it looks great, but the paint never really fully cured after three coats so the finish indents & gets marks really easily. wondering if i could just add a coat of oil-based on top of the latex? but guessing it probably isn't that simple!

Sara Brammeier said...

Thanks for this tutorial! It looks beautiful!

Kathy said...

Hi Jenny, Your table looks amazing! I was just wondering whether you paint the vertical surfaces, like the legs, the same way you paint the top? Or do they have to be horizontal in order for the paint to self-level?

Jenny at LGN said...

Liz - It's hard to say what you should do here, but if you did a high gloss, you should need to seal the finish. Especially if you did three full coats. How far apart did you space those coats? You probably needed a full week of outside, warm-weather drying time. With a fan blowing. I would probably sand down (lightly) some of the new dings and put a fourth coat on and leave it to dry for a couple of days. Wait til summer time! Good luck! x

Kathy, I used the same approach with the legs, though with vertical surfaces, you have to be careful of drips. I just put on a lighter coat. Another approach would have been to lay to table on it's back while I painted the legs. I didn't have more than one or two drippy parts on the legs though and since oil paint has such a long dry time, I pulled off the extra paint with my brush. The self-leveling still happens with these vertical surfaces for the most part.

xx

Sabrina Kamphaus, RD, LD said...

Great looking table. Happy to see you picked the less toxic chemical paint remover ;)
Man I dig that color!!!

Erica said...

I am so amazed at what you have done with that space. It all looks great. The console colour is such a perfect addition.

Joi said...

You did it again!!! I've been painting furniture for years with oil based paint--it's the best! My father in law recommended it and I recommend it to everyone.

I'm Busy Procrastinating said...

I had been planning on trying out enamel for my next furniture painting job, based on your prior recommendations. While I love the easy clean-up of latex, I've noticed that it gets scratched easily, even with several coats of Polycrilic through my sprayer. This post was perfect, timing-wise!

katiedid said...

Thanks so much for all of the tips! The results you got are fantastic, and i am inspired to start a project of my own. So goo to know how to apply the paint without wrecking it with my normally impatient urges to go over it. Looks great with all of your art. :)

katiedid said...

That would be "good" not "goo". "Goo" would be the paint you are scraping off!

Kathy said...

Hi Jenny..., I absolutely love your use of color in your home. I'm so afraid of color in my own home but you're totally inspiring me to add some. You truly have an eye for putting colors together and an eye for the finished product! I think that is what I lack. I would love to know your process for picking and putting colors that are so different together in rooms. To me when you look at them alone you think they wouldn't look good together but the way you put everything together is absolute beautiful !! Where does your artwork come from ?

Sarah said...

thanks for the info. I've never stripped furniture before, and always wondered if the strippers really work like they say they will.

Sar=)

www.etsy.com/shop/owleyevintage

Cressie Matthews said...

I cannot wait to see your post on how to hide cords! I have a lovely TV console, but all the black cords hanging down behind really ruin it.

Kate/Katie said...

Oh man, thanks for this! I've been meaning to paint a bedroom set we've had for ages. Because of you I was thinking about buying a gallon of the Rustoleum paint in black. I will trust your tricks, but I still have one question. The bedroom set is stained and has a now dull glossy finish on it. Do you think I can get by with using a deglosser before painting? Or should I sand? Thoughts? Thanks again!

ivyjeanne said...

Love it all! I really appreciate the tutorial and am loving that green chair with the new pillow! Did you redo that chair as well? I've followed your blog for some time now but don't remember seeing it.

Joanna said...

That table is fantastic! I have a few pieces of furniture I've picked up from thrift stores but have been really nervous about how difficult it will be to strip the paint. Now you have inspired me to get moving! Thank you!

Jenny at LGN said...

Thanks for the kind notes everyone!

Kathy -
One of the first things I always tell my clients is to throw out the notion that things have to match in a room or a home. I am a firm believer that if you really like a color, or a piece of furniture, or a fabric, you should use it in your home. The end result, over time, will be a house that looks exactly like you and your life, where you're going, where you've been. It will feel lived in and personal. I feel like matchy rooms can feel anonymous, you know? That totally works for some people and I think those rooms are still really pretty, but I like personal rooms more than pretty rooms.

As far as art goes, I've posted about a ton of great places to look: 20x200.com is amazing. Art.com is rebranding and they have a truly EPIC selection of prints and even some original works (found one of my favorite original vintage pieces on art.com actually!). Most of my art was found at flea markets, thrift stores and eBay. If you poke around on my site a little and find the tag "Art" there are lots of good links to sites and also some fun tutorials for DIY art. Hope that helps!

Kate/Katie - You're probably asking the wrong person because I'm a notoriously lazy refinisher. I hate, hate, hate sanding. Probably because I've lived in city apartments for most of my adult life. Dust gets everywhere! But! I think there is something to buying one or two of those handy sanding blocks in a fine grit and rubbing down the whole thing once or twice. It's not sooooo much the gloss that you need to worry about (especially if you're using an oil based paint), but more the oils, dirt and potential spills, etc that are sitting on top of the gloss. You know what I mean? They'll sort of hover under the new paint and that could mean problems later. A light sanding and/or a good cleaning with a TSP spray will do wonders for you!

ivyjeanne - Nope, I haven't touched those chairs yet. I got them from the flea market a year or so ago (I'm pretty sure I've posted about them before). I have this seriously FAB apricot silk velvet that I really want to reupholster them in, but I do sort of like the kelly green too. I wish the green fabric were in better shape. It's a little worn in person, but does the job for now!

xx

Zainab Razvi said...

Hi Jenny. I was wondering if you add floetral in your oil based paints to help the paint strokes level out some more? I recently painted a vintage Drexel campaign style desk with Rustoleum's oil based paint and even though most of the brush strokes spread out, there still are some left. Should I have just done one stroke and left it? I am tempted to strip the top and repaint it!

House@heart said...

Hi!!
I love the colour you chose, it perfectly compliments the space!! I am so amazed how glossy and shiny the console looks, and I understand after only one coat?!?! You must be a paint wizard!!! Love, love the colour!! Can't wait to see how you hid the wires!!:)
Ozana

Zainab Razvi said...

Also, I'm obsessed with your blog. Its one of the first sites I visit everyday! Your parsons table looks great, it adds a really nice pop of color!

flowergarden129 said...

I love the color too! I really hope you are Able to figure out the color name and post it. I'm planning to paint a bed yellow when things warm up, and I think your color choice might be perfect for it. Thanks.

Kate/Katie said...

Thank you!

Ashley said...

Aaahhhhh!! Looks fantastic! And, I am giddy over your suggestion on using floor and porch paint to get a custom enameled color. After I tried the Rustoleum Enamel on a few pieces there was no turning back, but I was bummed on their limited color selection. Thank you! Thank you!

http://diligentdesigner.blogspot.com/?m=0

RD Shugart said...

I hate to be dense, and my only excuse is I'm in the middle of a detox, so ... when you write that you work in a rectangle, do you keep the brush going the same direction? Or do you really do a rectangle. I'm thinking it's the former, but I haven't worked with oil based paints before and I have a hutch that is in dire need! Again, I apologize for the stupid question! :)

Dani said...

Jenny, do you always do multiple coats of paint when you use oils? Thanks!

Nancy said...

Jenny,
You really are masterful at this stuff, and so inspiring to me. I love that color, and am just getting into oil base. Thanks for all your steps and thoroughness, and enjoy your beautiful piece. I know I do!
xo Nancy
Powellbrowerhome.com

Jen @ RamblingRenovators said...

Beautiful job yet again Jenny. Every piece you add to this room is so unexpected but totally you.

erika g said...

Looks great Jenny! i was wondering... could I use porch paint on my kitchen cabinets? would i have to completely strip the old paint or just sand it down? I am about to repaint them and love that the porch paint was self-leveling and glossy.

dreamsinhd said...

jenny you are amazing! the yellow looks absolutely gorgeous!

Carmen said...

I love your style and how hands on you are! My husband and I were just talking about the pros and cons of oil based paint - neither of us have ever used it before, but I'm eager to try it out on something. Love your insight! Great job!

jo said...

Lovely! Any word on the color yet? And did you just choose a paint chip at HD and ask them to mix it into the porch & floor? I'm used to the non-tintable rustoleum options! Thanks!

JO

Grace G. McNicholas said...

Are there different sheens (ie semi gloss, high-gloss, eggshell) with oil paint or is it just one?

Rachel Fackender said...

That color... GASP! It is that perfect pop of color. Thanks for the tutorial - I can't wait to apply it to my treasures :)

Megan Smith said...

Jenny, do you prime before you paint with oil based enamel? I couldn't tell exactly from the picture if that was bare wood or not. I've painted one piece in oil and love how it turned out, but hate the cleanup. I know I need to suck it up and starting using exclusively!

Kristi Lynn said...

This is great! I used that citrus stuff on an old sideboard but I had some problems with it. The yellow is amazing

Jennifer BNHblog said...

Ooohh, I simply adore a shot of chartreuse in any room! Thank you for posting this---I got some really good insights. I've been scared to try oil based paints (it has a reputation for being smelly and hard to clean) but the results just don't compare to other types of paint. I am definitely giving this a try the next time I paint furniture. Thank you!

Ez said...

Oh my goodness your table look fabulous! Thank you so much for sharing the process with us. I've been wanting to apply a lacquer finish to some old furniture the my grandmother gave me, and now I feel like it might actually be doable! Thanks again! xo Ez

Natalie said...

Hi Jenny - thanks for all your lovely posts, they are so inspiring. Question - what do you think of using the porch paint for kitchen cabinets? I love how yours finshed so glossy and think it could make sense for painting (unfinished) wood cabinets but would love your thoughts. Many thanks!

Brooke said...

I love it in the new color!! Fabulous job as always!

Ashley Hurt Callen said...

This is so helpful! My kids destroyed a coffee table I painted w/ latex. Glad to know oil based is the way to go.

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Keira Martins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keira Martins said...

Hey that's cool... Wealth out of waste. Vice idea. Thanks for sharing

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Lindsey said...

Amazing job! I am about to strip a vintage high chair that has several bad paint jobs on it. When you use oil-based paints on horizontal surfaces (like the table legs) was it runny?

Carrie @ Cosy Carolina Interiors said...

I LOVE all your color!! Thank you for all the painting tips, too.

bfarhardesign said...

Jenny- Do you have a recommendation for stripping paint off of furniture with lots of wood turnings?

Newburgh Restoration said...

Can I ask, how did you bring this parson table home from Chelsea? The requires a car bigger than a taxi. Do they hold it for you till you get a car? Debating on how I could go and make similar purchases.

MeMoBaby.com said...

Hi Jenny, I know you've offered many details about this project, but I'm curious about clean-up and the fumes from the OBP working inside during cold months. I painted a dresser with BM's oil this summer and the biggest hassle was cleaning the brushes. What are you using and what is your process? Are you painting right in the living room? Our dresser had to sit in the garage for three weeks to allow it to off-gas before I could bring it into the kids' room.

Gabrielle - Design Mom said...

I love this post so much! Clear instructions. I love that you compared two different types of stripper. I love that you talked about "placing" the paint and resisting the urge to touch it up. You make everything seem so doable!

Breeding Fancy Art Prints said...

"Why would you use this product!?" And I'd say to you "Because I got stuff to DO!" Ha! Keep it real, sistah! Great post!

Sandra Carson said...

Its so colorful and very spacious too
awesome work
petfinder

L said...

Jenny-This looks lovely! I have an old table & some doors that I have been thinking of painting, however I was concerned about the idea of removing what is probably lead paint. Is there any extra precautions that you might need to take because of this? Someone else asked about turned wood. Do you have any suggestions for tools when working with less than flat surfaces? I'd appreciate any insight you have. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

Cedric Tan said...

These are so nice. I love your simple ideas and tips about furniture. I think they are so valuable. I also would like to share a site that talks about furniture, you guys can get a lot of ideas from there too. Here it is: http://www.innovationliving.com.au/

Amberly said...

I don't know if there's a more helpful post! I am so excited to get a piece of furniture and try this. I feel like I have so many more options now when it comes to furniture shopping! Yay! :)

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