Reader Design Dilemma: Paint the Hutch?

By Kate Riley May 21, 2012

I get a lot of emails asking for quick tips or advice on DIY projects or design dilemmas and when I get a chance, I like to answer some of them here instead of with an email reply.  This latest one is from CC, and she writes,

Dear Kate,

“I have a 1960’s Thomasville china hutch that originally belonged to my grandparents.  I will never part with it for sentimental reasons. It is solid pecan wood and in great shape.  With that said, I would love to paint it but I feel horrible guilt, crazy, I know!  I am a grown woman with children of my own and yet I still worry about my mother’s opinion.  Please share with me your thoughts on what to do with my hutch.

Thank you, CC”


ccs hutch


CC also shared a picture of the room where the hutch sits, and she’s converting her formal dining room into a sitting room for reading and visiting with friends.  The space is 10 ½’ wide (shown) x 13 ½’ long and she will be adding some additional seating. 

cc living room


Answer:  Hi CC!  First let me say what a nice solid piece that is, lucky for you!  My first piece of advice is to remove the spindles on the side doors which make the piece feel dated.  Consider replacing the spindles with a single glass pane or even removing the side doors entirely. 

The second thing to consider is rather than painting the entire piece, try painting the inside white like Tiffany’s hutch from Five Hundred Miles.  

paint inside dark hutch


Brightening the inside with paint adds a nice contrast and also plays off the geometric mirror on the opposite side of the room.  You might also consider a subtle graphic area rug like this one to create softness underneath and add even more contrast against the beautiful wood floors and hutch.  After you paint the inside, I’d live with it for a while to see if the look grows on you.

If after a few months, you still feel the same desire to paint the entire hutch, then my belief is you should do what makes you happy and what works for your taste and style and feel absolutely no guilt about it.  Holding on to the hutch is how you pay homage to your grandparents but there’s no need to keep it the same wood tone if it doesn’t work for you, so go ahead and paint it. 

If and when you do prime and paint the entire hutch, I vote for a timeless color and a pale cream or warm white is a no fail choice.  (I love Ben Moore’s ‘Linen White’ and used it to paint my family room cabinets.)

Take a cue from these three hutches below, all painted a shade of cream or white and enhanced with a wallpapered or stenciled back.  Notice how in this first image, the side doors were removed, and the piece now feels fresh and modern.

painted hutch bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

Adding wallpaper to the back adds another chic pattern to the room like this version from Lonny magazine and can be replaced if you want a change down the road.

wallpapered hutch lonny

Lonny Dec 2010

One last thing, I’d glam up the hardware like this hutch makeover by Honey Sweet Home.  A little Rub n’ Buff should do the trick! 

honey sweet home hutch love

Honey Sweet Home

What do you have to say lovely readers?  Any other ideas or input you might have for CC?  How have you incorporated inherited furniture into your home and made it work for you? 




  1. I feel your pain CC! We bought a beautiful solid wood table, chairs, buffet & hutch from some friends and it is in perfect condition. Like you a part of me wants to give my small dining room a breath of fresh air but I hate to paint what is an immaculate set. Almost wish it was a bit beaten up so I wouldn’t feel guilty at all lol! Also have the added problem of my hubby who just LOVES natural wood and hates it when I paint anything lol!

  2. My first thought was exactly what you said, take the spindle doors off. I would definitely paint it an off-white and stick some kind of grasscloth or wallpaper in the back w/ double-sided tape.

  3. Great advice! I totally agree on taking off the spindles and dressing up the back first before painting the whole thing. And if you are gonna redo the room. . redo the rest before you paint the hutch.

  4. Oh, don’t paint it! I am one to paint EVERYTHING, but that is seriously beautiful!
    I agree… remove the spindles and possibly replace with glass.
    Paint or wallpaper the back of the hutch.
    Leave everything else and maybe update the hardware?

  5. I love a painted hutch! If I would’ve kept my mom’s hutch, I was going to paint it. And, the pictures you provided her with are wonderful examples of painted hutches. I can’t wait to see what she decides to do with it. ; )


  6. I would think try paper before paint on the inside. Just to get a feel for the look.

  7. If you’re really nervous about doing anything permanent, cut thin, stiff cardboard to fit against the back of the shelves. Cover the cardboard in wallpaper, fabric, or even a great printed wrapping paper. You’ll get the same look as some of the photos above, but without the commitment. Live with it for a while, and it will help you decide on a more permanent solution.

  8. Thank you for this post! I have been battling with the exact same decision – an oak hutch that was given to me by my Grandma that came with a matching table and chairs. They are in perfect condition, but I hate oak. This makes me feel like I have options!!

  9. I often have the same dilemma. I just painted a hope chest that was my grandmother’s and even though it was beat up and a real mess, I felt like I was changing it so much that it wasn’t “hers” anymore. I know I’ll get past that ,but , it’s difficult when there is that sentimental attachment. I agree. Make a small change to the hutch and see how it feels/looks. It you want to do more, go ahead and love it. It is still the same hutch that was your grandparents, just with a little updating. Good luck.

  10. I often have the same dilemma. I just painted a hope chest that was my grandmother’s and even though it was beat up and a real mess, I felt like I was changing it so much that it wasn’t “hers” anymore. I know I’ll get past that ,but , it’s difficult when there is that sentimental attachment. I agree. Make a small change to the hutch and see how it feels/looks. It you want to do more, go ahead and love it. It is still the same hutch that was your grandparents, just with a little updating. Good luck.

  11. Rather than paint, why not consider staining it a dark wood shade, and adding some bright geometric wallpaper as the background? update the hardware and you’ll have a whole new hutch.

  12. These are just things…the memories of our loved ones are what’s important….that hutch is ugly…paint it! Definitely remove those spindles and the trim on the doors if you can!

  13. I totally agree with all of this advice! I have learned that I’m really really NOT a fan of wood unless it’s super dark, and then only in small doses (unless it’s a floor- then bring it on!!) So anyway I think that no one should feel guilty about changing a family heirloom to make it suit their style. Grandparents wouldn’t want their past treasures to be this giant eyesore that’s making us cringe every time we walk by; they’d want us to use and LOVE it. So I think making it into something you absolutely love is the perfect way to stay true to yourself while still embracing your roots and paying homage to your ancestors.

  14. I love the shape of that hutch! But, I think you will love it for the rest of your life if you paint it! I would see about getting rid of the spindles but I love the hexagon shapes on the bottom doors! I think that will look so cool painted! Good luck!

  15. If you are going to keep the walls blue or blue toned, I wouldn’t paint it right away. Take the spindle off and replace with glass if you want but that yellow toned color of wood stain is set off perfectly with blue walls. Try oiling the wood with an orange oil to give it a nice sheen. Live with it like that for a little while before doing anything as drastic as paint.

  16. I would paint it before I would stain it.
    You can always strip paint off down the line.. but stain.. well, that is forever. Do what you will love.. life is too short to live with something you don’t like. And if down the line, someone wants to restore it to it’s old finish, that isn’t impossible.

  17. Paint it and enjoy it. If, someday, someone down the line wants to bring it back to pecan it can be done. Life is short, enjoy it!

  18. I agree with you and is vote to paint it. That being said, I have my grandmas sewing chair in my bedroom and though it’s beaten, doesn’t match, and the upholstery is so worn I haven’t been able to bring myself to touch it yet!

  19. I agree with the posters that advocate non-permanent trial methods. Whether you finally paint it or not, it’s a measure of sentiment to have made the decision process such an intentional one. One tip I saw from Design Star was to use spray starch to adhere fabric [this would be for the inside]. Because the starch is water-soluble, it is not a permanent commitment. An option that I didn’t see in comments above would be to find a non-heirloom piece of a similar size this is already white to “test out” how the visible weight works in the room. Please share with readers the final decision!

  20. I agree about changing the door, but with a different look – as my 1st choice would be wood panels which you could inset, or even paper behind glass would look nice, but since you have kids, you may want to lean more in thinking about safety. Paint and paper and kids don’t mix to well.

  21. Great question. As a man, when I first saw the piece I said, “Never!”. But I agree with CG and I would first try stage one before re-painting to see if you would dare take the next step. But painted wood can be more beautiful than natural. In the end, its still a tough question and it largely depends on YOUR home and YOUR tastes. But if it were me……… I’d paint it.

  22. I have several thoughts on this hutch…first of all you may want to find out what the value is, which then may help you make a decision. I think Kate had great suggestions. Personally I love solid wood pieces and understand your guilt. You could also consider using it in another room for maybe a different purpose. There are so many ugly pieces of furniture out there that would look better with paint but this is not one.

  23. great ideas kate, I definitely agree with removing the spindles. Painting it or re-finishing it would be ok for me since it IS STILL THE SAME PIECE – so the sentimental value is still there, no matter what you do with it, just don’t break it down into pieces! Good luck CC!

  24. Ahhh this makes me so excited. I bought a massive 5 foot hutch on Saturday and thanks to you and your blog I have the confidence to paint it. I bought all of the brands and things your recommended and am done with the second coat of primer :) Thanks!

    As for her… wow that it a hard one. The jury is out in my case. Guilt is a terrible thing to live with and so is a piece of large furniture you don’t love. Will you let us know what she does?!

  25. PAINT IT!!!! It will look a million times better, my vote Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, Paris Grey on the inside and Old White on the outside then paint the hardware in the Paris Grey. I just did this to what was a very dated large piece of furniture and it looks beautiful.

  26. I would paint it linen white. As someone above said, your memories are in your heart – not in a piece of furniture. My Mom passed away 17 years ago and her memories are with me every day & her furniture is now white!!!

  27. Great piece. I would definitely paint it and remove the spindled glass doors completely to have the sides as open display storage. It looks like a nice solid piece of furniture that just needs updating. It would even be nice stained a darker richer stain as well, but still, get rid of those spindled doors.

  28. I totally agree about removing the spindles, and taking the doors off to have an open hutch then paint it.

    Another thought is if you can store the top part if it removes and use the bottom piece with your flat screen above or a great piece of art work. It would be a beautiful console.

    I would paint the base, I think in a color with a gloss to the paint, the lines of your piece have a cool contemporary vibe to it; 60’s retro. Color is where it is at these days.

    Times change and it is your home not your mothers or your grandmothers, it is ok to paint wood these days. It will only make you love it more.

    Link is for a photo of a painted dinning room hutch base turned into a console for a living room.

  29. I say do what you like and what will fit into your house. My Mom had given me an antique child’s rocking chair from when she was a little girl but the color just didn’t fit into my daughter’s room. I had it painted white with some hand painting details to match her room. I was so nervous what my Mom would say but when she saw it, she absolutely loved it!

  30. Also update the piece with some new hardware the handle pulls really date the piece.

  31. Great advice Kate! Totally agree with removing the spindles, and the side doors for that matter. What a difference that would make. And I think painted white, you would be able to appreciate all the gorgeous lines of the piece even more! What better tribute to your ancestors than to take an heirloom piece of furniture and fall in love with it all over again by making it reflect your personal taste! Just think: What would they do if they were apart of our generation? Probably the same things you’re contemplating doing! :)

    I have painted a few inherited pieces white, and have never regretted it. xoxo

  32. Been there, done that. My parents gave us a dining set as a wedding gift in 1980. Frankly, I never liked it, but it the china cabinet is huge, and I have a few sets of china and some beautiful pieces to show and use, so I have liked having the space. That said, I suffered the same guilt that my parents’ feelings would be hurt. Early on, I had removed the metal ‘grills’ that were inserted behind the glass. Just a bit over a year ago, I decided to take my paint brush to it. The next time my mom came over, I invited her to come see “what I did to the dining set”.

    She loved it!

    My dad didn’t even live to see it, but in retrospect, he took a paintbrush to everything in sight. What was I worried about?

    I can’t believe I thought about it for over ten years, agonizing over what my mother would think. I hope you will not hesitate a moment longer.

    We ARE grown women!

  33. Do we all have a sentimental hutch waiting for a new life? Somewhere along the way I saw the most unique idea where the top half of the hutch was somehow attached to the back side of the bottom and a granite top placed on it to create the most beautiful kitchen island. I suppose all the glass doors were removed. Now, I can’t find any pictures as a guide. Have you ever seem this done?

  34. Great advice for CC and very timely for me. I have some gorgeous period furniture of my late mother’s which is in very good condition but which I’d love to paint. I also have some beautiful period reproductions of my own but they’re oak, which I now hate. My sons grew up with them and I’ve been stressing over whether or not to paint those pieces, since the kids have told me they would someday like to have them. Here’s the decision we collectively made: My mother is gone and therefore doesn’t know or care what I do with her furniture. The boys have told me they don’t care, either, and to do whatever I want with my furniture. Some of the oak pieces are in showroom condition and I have been reluctant to paint them for that reason. I decided that if I don’t like them in oak and want them painted, I should go ahead and please myself. It’s just furniture. There…..BOOM. Now the only decisions to make are ones of color choices.

    If CC’s reluctance has anything to do with her belief that the piece is solid pecan, she should rest easy. Very little furniture manufactured in the sixties was solid, with the exception of Henkel-Harris. That is true today, as well. The door frames and drawer fronts may be solid but undoubtedly the rest of piece is veneered.

  35. My vote: paint it! You wouldn’t be asking if you loved it the way it is. Painting it will bring it to life and highlight a lot of the pretty details on it. Who are you keeping it for in its original state? It’s yours now and you should love it. This is what I tell myself any time I ponder the same thing. :)

  36. We also converted our dinning area into a sitting room and I love it. My first thoughts were to get rid of the spindles or remove the doors completely. Next I looked around the room and noticed an abundance of wood tones from the floor to the side tables. I think some contrast to all the wood tones would really add some spice to your space. Since the cabinet is a focal point a fresh coat of paint in white or linen would liven up things nicely, so would some updated hardware, you’d be surprised how knobs and pulls can change the entire look of a piece of furniture. If you don’t want to replace the spindle with glass, you could check out Home Depot or Lowe’s for grill/mesh like panels, that would give you a little geometric design, which could be spray painted to any color you’d like. Good luck CC.

  37. I’m with Amy (above) I’d stain it a bit darker and then paint or paper the inside. A shade or two darker stain will keep the “look” of the original but give it a more updated look. I also believe your grandma would want you to do what you want with the piece to make it work in your home.

  38. Paint isn’t permanent! Many pieces have been restored to their natural wood beauty after decades of really bad paint jobs. If, down the road, you want to restore this piece because it has value as an antique (many years down the road or even generations down the road), it can be stripped and varnished to let the natural pecan wood grain show through. This comment is assuming that the piece is solid and not veneer!

  39. I love the furniture painting craze, and it makes a lot of sense when you are trying to bring life to some piece of junk furniture you got at a yard sale, but if you have something beautiful like this, do not paint it. Please. Edit, edit, edit. Sometimes doing nothing is the best course of action. Change the room to fit this piece, not the other way around. If I may make a terrible sports analogy: good coaches manage according to their player’s strengths. They don’t try to change their players to fit a pre-determined scheme. That’s what you’ve got here. This piece is an all star, and you’re trying to change it to fit the room.

  40. I love that creamy white hutch! So gorgeous. Love the idea of painting the hutch. Painting or wallpapering the back of the hutch looks so beautiful. My mom has a solid wooden hutch. It is a very nice piece, but needs updating. The finish of the wood is no longer in style and the hardware is very outdated. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint is the best option if the piece doesn’t have a classic look/finish.

  41. Paint it! I struggled for years with bookcases I wanted to paint. FINALLY I did it and I love them again. Changed the feel of the room 1000%! Sounds like you are wanting/needing a change and what could be better than a nice reading room in your home. Make it your space and do what feels like you. You’ll be thrilled every time you go into the room. The piece was your grandmother’s and she loved it the way it is but now it’s yours and it should fit your lifestyle! You’ll love it because it feels like you and nothing will take away the fact that it’s still the same piece that your grandmother enjoyed.

    Loved Kate’s advice to change/remove the doors. Also liked the advice to get the room where you want it and paint the china cabinet last.

    Good luck I know it’s difficult.

  42. CC has got a great starting point-what a great piece of furniture.Whether she decides to stain it a dark ebony and add a wallpaper in the back – thinking Schumacher’s “trellis”in navy and white- or go for a greige with a back gound of Schumacher’s ” Chenonceau” would definitely work and you get years of enjoyment out of an old piece.Bur definitely lose the spindles, that’s for sure !.

  43. Okay, I get the guilt over painting an antique…but how do you convince your spouse???? I have an old hutch that has a great shape and is heavy and solid pecan, too! It isn’t even a family heirloom-my mother in-law got it when she was first married at an estate sale and it had made the rounds among my husband’s family until it ended up collecting dust and bug spray cans in my mother in-law’s garage. I rescued it and I think it screams “paint me white!” but my husband says no way. Thoughts….????

  44. You could try gel stain, to update the color without getting rid of the natural wood. Gel stain is great since you don’t have to sand the piece, you can apply it to almost anything. I have a Thomasville hutch from 1964 that I picked up at a thrift store. It was in great condition when I got it but the tone of the wood didn’t match the rest of the house. I painted the inside white and used a blue, white and brown fabric on the inside back. For the outside I used the darkest color gel stain I could find (can’t remember the color, its been a few years). I also updated the hardware to silver. It looks very modern and I get a lot of compliments. No one can believe its almost 50 yrs old and I only paid $65 for it.

  45. I say paint it. Your mom would want you to enjoy it and be happy. (My mother was guilted into not painting her kitchen cabinets by a painter, so she lived with cabinets she hated for YEARS. Seriously, life is too short.)

    I agree with painting it and putting some grasscloth or fun wallpaper inside. Good luck!

  46. I love your practical baby step advice…great to try less drastic measures first as once you paint it its a pain to try and go back!

  47. Great timing for me! I have a buffet that I’ve been on the fence about painting. I knew I should when I gasped with glee when I saw the white hutch photos!

  48. Paint it! What better way to honor the memory of your grandgarents than to turn the piece into something you absolutely love! I’ve painted several pieces including a hutch and my dining table. I had to get over the same feelings, but I am so glad I did! I live with them and they make me happy instead of living with these pieces and feeling ambivalent about them (while constantly envisioning them painted!)

  49. I think your advice was perfect.
    I, too, have a little hutch that I am debating about painting. I will do the inside first and see how it goes. :)
    ox bj

  50. Oh my gosh, PAINT it! It’s dated and really needs a new look – it’s nothing personal mom or granny! I like sweetnothingsbj’s suggestion to start with the inside – especially if you’re [still] nervous….then follow through as Susan suggested: Paint it, fall in love with it and ENJOY it!! Keep us posted!

  51. I like the idea of painting or papering the inside and living with it for a while first. However… one word about the idea of papering. I think that works well, IF what you are putting in the hutch isn’t too busy. However, if you are putting dishes with lots of design or color, then paper behind it would just clash, in which case only paint would be best. I also like the idea of removing the doors completely. I recently painted over my parent’s 1940 oak kitchen table, and am thrilled with the results (thanks to your good advice and directions, Kate). So if you decide you would still like to paint it, then go ahead and do it! You’re the one who has to live with it.

  52. Go in steps. Remove the spindles or doors first. Not enough? Paint or paper the back inside. Not enough? Paint it white. Really, the wood is a beautiful tone. With something funky inside and those spindles gone, the accents on the lower half will look cool instead of dated!

  53. PAINT IT!!!!! I agree with removing the spindles but the rest of the piece is gorgeous and it would look so great painted. It would still be your grandparents piece that holds all those great memories and you would get so much more enjoyment from it and they would want you to love it!

  54. A couple of thoughts. Are you reluctant to paint because you want to pass it down to other family members? Are they sentimental? My children are not at all sentimental and are much more contemporary than am I. So I know painting my hutch would not ruin it for them in the future. They don’t want it! Also, instead of painting the inside first cover some foam core with paint or fabric and fit inside the upper cabinets. That way if you don’t like the change you can just pull out the foam and no harm done.

  55. Your advice is spot on (as always)! In taking a second look at the piece, I would even go a step further and jigsaw out the bottom pieces and replace with glass or fabric, etc. The piece definitely needs updating, and I’m sure CC won’t regret making the changes.

  56. I agree painting is the way to go. It is still your grandmother’s piece, nothing will change the fact it was once hers. But now it’s YOURS, and the piece deserves to fit your style. It’s the best of both worlds really.

    My question to Kate is what color should she paint it? I have a similar paint combo in my dining room (Light French Gray by SW on top and Pure white by SW on the bottom) and I want to paint my hutch but am afraid painting it white would make it fall into the background. Can it still work perhaps if I line the back with a lively wallpaper?

  57. Paint it! In the unlikekly event that you loose sleep over this over the decades, you can always strip it back down. If it is circa 1960 we are not talking antique, just a loved hand me down. DO IT!

  58. Paint it (white/cream/ivory)! Remove spindles and UPDATE THE HARDWARE! :)

  59. It’s yours NOW! Do what makes you happy. I think it’s beautiful as it is (maybe not the spindles, those should go) but if you prefer a lighter look I think cream would be beautiful.

  60. Go ahead and paint it. If sometime down the road, someone prefers the wood, it can be stripped and refinished. You’re not ruining it for life!

  61. Yep. Paint it. I have several antique pieces that belonged to my great grandmother and was always told to never paint them… something about decreasing the value. But after years of wanting to freshen those old pieces up, I’m finally doing it and loving it so far! Viva la paint, man!

  62. let me just say that i can Totally understand your feelings here. I too worry about what my mom is going to say too.. she’s very traditional.. stained wood pieces are best kind of thing. i am actually painting a table right now and i keep thinking “glad my mother in law gave this to me and not my mom!” lol! but i do agree you need to do what will make you happy to live with. it’s still the same piece.. just an updated look. like that paint commercial where they show a dresser being painted again and again through the years! do you have any of your grandmother’s dishes or a cool bowl or vase??.. that would be really cool to display! good luck and do post what ever you do!

  63. Though I would normally say, not to paint something that was an antique in great shape because of resale value, in your case I say you should paint your hutch. To not paint it would be like keeping your fine china put away and never using it. What a waste! If you don’t paint it but you don’t like the hutch the way it is, you will probably at some point resort to putting in a guest bedroom or some where that it can’t be seen or used much, at least by anybody that is somebody. What a waste. You should make it something that YOU enjoy and that you would not be afraid to use or show. It is better served that way and then instead of hiding something that is precious to you, you can get the chance to enjoy what is precious to you. Sorry for being so wordy!

  64. I wouldn’t paint it, give it to somebody who will truly enjoy it just the way it is. :/ I’m sure your mother would love the natural wood look in her home! I’m down for painting some thrift store finds, but such an expensive antique?

    If anything, put some removable wallpaper on the inside.

    10 years from now, white painted furniture will be the “dated” look. Then what?

  65. Fantastic! I would have never thought to do that. I have a lot of old furniture that I’ll inherit when I get my own home one day, and this is very useful information for me to stow away. Thanks for sharing the tips!

  66. I love the idea of taking off the spindled doors altogether. Go in baby steps, until you find what you like! If you’re afraid to paint, try the temporary solution of painted/wallpapered foam core on the inside to get a feel for it. Glam up the hardware, and go from there! :)

  67. Sometimes these hutches are in two pieces. Looking at the placement in your room, it might be nice to take the top off and put a big screen TV on the top. You could then put the top in another room. I would paint it. Your grandparents would want you to be happy.

  68. I definitely like the idea of moving in baby steps. A thought, looking at the hutch and mirror-if you are good with intricate cutting, cut out the pieces behind the molding on the bottom and it would have the same feel as the mirror. Could put something on the inside of the door to add interest, maybe whatever you do to the inside of the hutch?

  69. I agree with Hannah. If you want to change the look without doing anything major, remove the doors with the spindles or all the doors across the top, leave bottom doors in place to hide storage. Put a t.v. or stereo system on the shelves with some books and pretty pictures, etc. Don’t change the finish. If you do, you may regret it later on and finding a place to strip down a piece and refinish it – major hassle and expense, plus you loose any value that the original finish gave to the piece. If you want this to be a true antique some day, don’t mess with the finish, preserve it. There’s a reason those gorgeous old chest on chests we see on Antiques Roadshow are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars 300 years after they were made – ORIGINAL FINISH is one of them.

  70. If I may make a suggestion, I would try to find a sofa or chairs with classic lines and contemporary fabric instead of painting the hutch. If you put modern pottery in the hutch, hang modern artwork, and use a modern rug you might be surprised how different the hutch will look. It has a beautiful finish and I think long term painting it will look “so 2012.”

  71. I would probably leave the spindles – thinking that they would look so much better painted. Wallpaper in the back is a great idea and a way to add some great contrasting colors. Another idea would be to paint the bottom of the hutch one color and use another color on top. Honestly, there are so many great ideas here – most any of them would give this piece a new modern look.

  72. By now, your head is probably spinning with all this advice ;-) CC & many others have given great advice to update it gradually and make it YOURS. The fact that you don’t like it as it is, is the best reason to change it.
    The valuable pieces that increase in value due to original finish are HANDMADE pieces of furniture, very limited in the number made. (originals) The hands that make them no longer exist to recreate them. A factory-produced piece is completely different, as it could once again be mass-produced just as it was before. Have fun in the transformation!

  73. I feel your pain. I own several antiques, some handmade, some factory made. I cannot bring myself to paint them. In fact, some of them had been painted and I had them stripped and refinished. Painted furniture gets chipped and tired looking. And after so many coats, they lose their fine detail. I understand that for some people only handmade furniture is desirable. But eventually, factory made furniture , made from quality woods will become more valuable and desirable. Why? Look at the poor quality materials being used nowadays. Fiberboard and cheap, unseasoned pine that is stapled together. Furniture from the 50’s, mid century, is hot now. The 60’s furniture is going to be hot in the near future.
    You might want to try some of those suggestions. You might want to paint the whole thing. After all, it’s yours to enjoy…..however you decide.

  74. I’m so happy you posted this! I too have a Thomasville dining table and hutch from my grandparents that I want to update but am so afraid I’ll ruin it. I have had it for so many years and wonder when I will find the courage to just tackle it. So I loved reading this whole topic, comments included!
    Two questions:
    Do you recommend one coat of stain, 2 coats of paint, and a top coat?
    Also, if CC had a dining table sitting right next to this, any recommendations on what to do with that?
    I thought maybe stain the top espresso and paint the table legs and chairs the same color as the hutch? I don’t know!

    • Hi Angie, if staining, I typically do two coats, wood conditioner helps before you stain to keep it looking even. With paint, the same, always two coats after a coat of primer. If using enamel paints, you may not need a protective coat since they dry pretty hard to the touch, but with stain, I always add 2 coats of polyurethane.
      I like your idea of preserving the top of the dining table in wood and restaining it, and painting the chairs and table legs!

  75. I agree with everyone’s advice to paint it – I have a sideboard that needs painting and I’m dreading the process. If a piece of furniture is prepped and painted well, does that reduce any paint chipping with frequent use? I need to paint a kitchen table and I have a big fear of it looking pretty for a little while, but then getting chipped from constant use of my 3 boys. Any advice or feedback?

    Thanks for the great post btw – first time commenter – new reader.

  76. This hutch looks awfully large for that space, especially in the picture that shows the couch across from it. Is there anywhere else in the house that it might work? I would think about moving it to a larger room before you paint it, and then see what might work for that specific space.

  77. I agree with the comment paint the thrifted stuff. Nice wood furniture made here in the USA is a thing of the past and some of it needs to be preserved. I saw some horribly painted pieces at an antique fair last week and it made me sick to my stomach. My husbands grandmother “antiqued” her dining room set in the sixties, basically ruined it. We used it for awhile but every time we sat at that lime-ish green table we thought “what was she thinking when she painted these pieces??”

    Everyone is going to stripping and sanding in a few years. Just my humble opinion from someone who painted her kitchen knobs country blue and sat some ceramic geese with bows around their necks in the window sill just a “few” years ago. :)

  78. PLEASE post photos after! And I agree with everyone, painting it & removing the spindles would make it beautiful. I think any woman, mom or grandma can appreciate the work and difficult thought process that goes into painting a piece of furniture that has been handed down. It is like putting extra care and love into it, to make it even more special. Do it!

  79. I would defiantly axe those spindle things too. I would say paint it all!! I am adventurous like that. Painted what was a lovely cherry wood dresser hot pink for my daughters room. if you dont sand too too deep you can always easily strip and go natural again.

  80. Thank you to all of you! I know the spindles are definitely going! The back will be stenciled or papered! And I am 75% leaning toward painting. It is just scary!

  81. I think the painting advice is always going to differ based on how many decorating trends the person offering the advice has lived through. Just one or two? Paint away! Those of us ::waves to Dea:: who have grew up with harvest gold appliances, then went full on country blue and dusty rose, then LOVED our brass accents and wallpaper borders, then swore our everlasting adoration of jewel tones, are going to say something completely different. I will always remember a Seattle Times article in the 80’s that featured a complete home remodel that stripped out every defining characteristic of what we would now call a gorgeous mid-century home, and replaced it with Miami Vice style architecture and decor. But it was fresh! And modern! Not like that outdated early 60’s stuff!

    You have a heirloom piece of furniture that would be a nightmare to strip back down to bare wood, which trust me, you will want to do someday. Removing the side doors and painting the inside is fine. I’m redoing a pie safe from my gg-grandparents, and I’m painting the inside a ridiculously trendy turquoise because I know repainting it will be a breeze, the wood is too stained to leave bare, and it was painted in the past. But I believe most things look best through the years when left close to their original state.

  82. CC, Have you talked to your mom about the idea of painting the hutch? I have a hutch that was in my grandparents’ kitchen for years. It is pecan also and a bit dated, but cute. I stuck it in my guest bedroom just figuring it was off limits to paint, where it sat for years. Then one day my mom said out of the blue, “Why don’t you paint that little hutch? It would be so cute in a color!” D’oh!!

  83. I inherited my mom’s matching dining room table and china cabinet from the 60’s. The legs are curvy french ones. I just finished painting the set black. They really look french now…so happy with the results. I think my mom would love the outcome too. Thanks Kate for wonderful information. It gave me the courage to do this.:)

  84. Hi Nancy. Yes, I talked to my mom about painting it and she let out an audible gasp. UGH!

  85. My mom is gone now and I have the hutch that I grew up with, purchased in the early 70’s. It is solid walnut but very dated and I have really been wanting to get rid of it for about 10 years. (She gave it to me when she downsized many years ago.) I am sure now that I want to paint it and lovel the creamy white colors shown here!

  86. I’m with Julie… and your mother. If you’ve lived through a few decorating cycles, you know that painted furniture (chalk paint, spray paint) is a fad. In ten years you will regret it and there really is no turning back. Painted furniture over time looks crummy as it chips, discolors, and loses definition. A piece with this much detail will be VERY hard to paint well unless you are a professional. This is a beautifully made Thomasville hutch make of solid pecan. Take off a door or two; update the hardware; put wallpaper in the back… but don’t paint.

  87. Painted furniture is the way to go…today. In a couple of years from now that look is going to be “out”. You have such a beautiful piece of furniture, once you paint it you will never get it back to it’s original condition. I have to agree with Lindy, take off the outer doors (maybe store them away, don’t get rid of them), update the hardware and paint/wallpaper foam core for the inside. Looking at your mirror on the opposite wall, it almost appears to have similar detailing as that on the bottom doors of your hutch…I suggest picking a color that you like and painting both the detail on the mirror and the foam core for your hutch. You could choose a fresh white or maybe pick a fun accent color to make the room “pop”. This would give you the updated look you want without permanently altering your hutch. Whatever you decide to do, truly your grandmother would just want you to be happy:)

  88. I agree–the piece itself is important…not saving it in the condition that it was passed to you. I’ve been struggling with the same issues, but this post (and comments!) made up my mind for me. Thanks everyone!

  89. Hi Kate,

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for including my hutch on your lovely blog! I really appreciate it, and am happy to have found you – you have great ideas!! x

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