This is a very common question I get from my clients..."Should I paint my antique furniture?"
It really boils down to a couple things....
-Is the piece valuable?
-Do I love it in it's current condition?
-What is it used for?
-Do you care more about the memories attached to it, than the piece?
-Does it go with my current style, or color scheme?
If the piece holds more, memory value, think about painting it. Maybe it was a wedding present, or passed down from a family member, or you have had it since you were a child. .Look at what the piece is doing for you now... If it doesn't fit a color scheme, or go with the style of you house, maybe updating it will help it to fit in perfectly. I know putting a coat of paint it it, seems super permanent, but it can always be stripped down to the beginning and refinished, as mentioned before. I think sometimes we get so hung up on what it has been it's whole life, and not what it could be. Wouldn't you rather have a piece you love, than an eye sore you want to hide in the corner of the garage.
If the piece it'self doesn't fit the style of you home, changing some details may help. Sand down the painted finish, to give it the look of age, this can really enhance a piece that has decorative elements, or claw feet.
If the piece is lacking chachter, try adding some wood appliques, or detailed wood molding. Look at Hobby Lobby for smaller pieces, and Lowe's or Home Depot for bigger, longer pieces. It can all be painted over, and it will look as thought it's been there all along.
I was put in this same position recently....My grandmother had left a piece to me when she passed away in January, It was a small cabinet that my, great-great grandfather had built. The piece was painted, and glazed at one point in time, but nobody seems to know who did it or when. The paint was old, very puckered cracks, and most likely lead paint, and no, I didn't test it. I think my kids are out of the chewing of furniture legs stage.
My dad brought the piece down to me with some other items, in February. It sat in my garage for a very long time, I just couldn't find the right spot for it. I needed room in the garage last month, so I hauled it inside, and put in the corner of my dining room. The thing started to become an eye sore. The color was a pukey yellow/green...and didn't do much for my house. I was just about to put it back in the garage when I discovered a spot in my craft room, it could call home, and serve a purpose as well. But it HAD to be painted.
So I took a deep breath, and like 50 pictures for the memories...and painted away.
I think my family would have wanted me to USE and ENJOY the piece, whatever color it ended up being!
I fell in love with it after the first coat. It has great little details.
There is a mirror tucked away on the back, it is very aged and wearing, hard to tell from the pictures, but it gives it such character. The frame piece of wood surrounding it, was painted in gold. It was cracking and chipping, but I left it the way it was. I love the color combo of the blue and gold.
I used it in the craft room, to store some of my painted animals.
I loved this little key handle, kept that just as it was.
I used Sherwin Williams "Solo", latex acrylic paint in "Waterscape". Solo is a contractors paint, and a little secret you should take note of. It isn't shown on the store floor, because it is marketed for contractors. It is the same makeup at the Duration Home line, which runs $56-$60. The Solo runs $40+, depending on the color. This product works great for wood, has good coverage, and now comes in darker, richer colors. You can buy it in 4 different sheen's, but for furniture applications I would suggest Eg-shel, or Flat.
After in dried, I lightly sanded any high points or edges.
Another technique I would suggest trying is Miss Mustard Seeds Milk Paint. It has a smooth, sand able finish, good for weathered looks, and combined with a wax can add to the distressing. It is a dry powder you mix, but they have lots of tutorial videos on their site, and it's really quite easy to use.