Painting furniture with finishes and glazes is a way to create a faux antique look, like the popular decor known as "shabby chic." But beware: Doing this could turn a valuable treasure into worthless trash!
Antiques Expert Francesca de la Flor has been restoring fine antiques for more than 30 years. Currently, she is working on an 18th century tavern table.
"It is a beautiful piece. [. . .] The one thing about this piece that is fabulous are its imperfections. This top, all of the patina that shows its age, is what really gives the piece value," explained Francesca.
"Patina" is the natural change in the wood's appearance created from years of wax, oils, and oxidation.
"The patina is what happens to wood over the years," says Francesca. "Wood becomes harder. It becomes warmer in tone. And when you have a good wood like walnut or oak or pine, what will happen is the piece will get a wonderful, warm quality to it that it doesn't have when it's new. If you paint this piece, you're going to destroy its value. You're going to make it look like any old table from the ‘30s or ‘40s that has a coat of white paint on it."
A can of paste wax and some super-fine steel wool is all you need to enhance this table's beauty.
"I'm using a 5-0 steel wool," said Francesca. "I want to make sure that it doesn't have any little pieces of rough steel. I don't want it to be rough. I don't want to scratch the piece. But I do want the wax to work its way beneath the shellac or old beeswax that might be on the piece. And I want it to both clean the piece and feed the wood."
Simply by waxing, you bring out the patina and the beauty of the wood. And you'll do it quickly and easily, without having to struggle with paint or destroying the value of the piece.
"This table sold for $45 at a flea market. Had someone painted the table, that's all it would be worth," said Francesca.
But after a little waxing and repairing the drawer corner, a fair price for the 18th century tavern table is $2,400. Now that's a true trash to treasure!
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