Painted French Furniture: How to Refinish

What You'll Need
Stain or paint
Polyurethane varnish
Plastic putty knife
Protective mask

If you find painted French furniture second hand, such as from an antique shop, you may find that the condition can prevent you from making a purchase. It is worthwhile imagining how the piece of furniture originally looked or what it can look like if you take the steps to restore it. By following a few steps, you will find that the process of refinishing furniture is not as difficult as it would first appear.

Step 1 – Prepare

Begin by preparing the area in which you intend to work. If possible, work outside to prevent problems with fumes. Spread drop cloths over the floor and ensure the area is well ventilated. Gather all the tools that are necessary to complete the task, including a face mask to protect yourself from dust and fumes.

Step 2 – Strip Paint

Carefully apply paint stripper to the entire surface of the painted French furniture with a paintbrush. Leave it in place in accordance with the instructions, which should not be longer than 15 minutes. Follow this by scraping away any paint or stain with a plastic spatula. Avoid using any metal tools as they can damage the wood. Use a rag to clean the excess paint stripper from the furniture.   

Step 3 – Sand Down Surface

You will need to sand the painted French furniture to remove any remaining finish from the surface and level it out. The grit level that you use will depend on the type and condition of the painted French furniture. For example, if there are delicate or intricate designs in the wood, use a fine grit sandpaper. However, if it has been thickly painted, a coarser grit will be necessary. Wear the mask during this process to avoid breathing in any dust. Once complete, wipe down the furniture with a soft damp cloth to remove the resulting particles.

Step 4 – Apply Color

Make sure the paint or stain that you intend to use is vigorously shaken to ensure that none of the color has settled. This will help you to achieve an even color. Apply the substance with a paintbrush, avoiding drips and uneven color by not overloading the brush. In addition, you should dry-wipe the paintbrush against a clean surface to remove any loose bristles. Complete the application over the entire item of furniture and allow it to dry before applying a second coat, if necessary. Leaving it to dry will also give you a better idea of the end color.  

Step 5 – Apply Protection

After the color has been applied, you will be in a position to protect your painted French furniture. This is easily achieved with a polyurethane based clear varnish, which will protect your work by acting as a sealant. Apply the coats evenly using a paintbrush and allow each to coat to dry before applying another.