One of my absolute favorite styles of vintage furniture to refinish is French Provincial Furniture. I’m not talking about the 17th and 18th century furniture made in France, but rather the imitation pieces that were very popular in North America in the 60s, 70s and into the 80s. Painted French Provincial Furniture can look so fresh and modern while maintaining an air of style and elegance. Below we will share with you how to paint Frenchies as well as some of our favorite pieces, including our newest piece, to give you some ideas for painting French Provincial Furniture.
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Characteristics of vintage French Provincial furniture
Some features typically found on French Provincial Furniture include:
- Serpentine lines. Dressers and buffets typically have curved or scalloped edges on the tops, drawers and doors. Higher end pieces may have curved drawers.
- Curved legs. Curvaceous legs typically have extra carved details or other embellishments.
- Ornate hardware. The beautiful brass hardware is usually floral-like with swirls and flourishes.
- Extra details. Some pieces may have gold color accents or even marble tops.
The French Provincial style was imitated by both quality manufacturers and mass production companies. Some brands well known for their quality that mastered this style are Drexel Heritage, Henredon, Thomasville, Dixie, Broyhill, Stanley and Bassett (USA) and Malcolm and Gibbard (Canada).
This beautiful buffet was made by Canada’s oldest furniture factory, the Gibbard Furniture Company. It was beautiful as it was but didn’t appeal to modern tastes.
How to paint French Provincial furniture
Whether you want chalk painted French Provincial Furniture or you are using a different type of furniture paint (you can read more about why I like mineral paint here), the steps to paint your Frenchie are the same.
Step 1 – clean furniture
Use a good degreaser, like TSP, to clean the oils and direct from the surface of your furniture.
Step 2 – sand furniture
If you are keeping parts of the piece wood, sand off the old finish. Be careful not to sand too aggressively as it is not uncommon for these pieces to have wood veneers on the tops and drawers and you do not want to sand through.
For areas you want to paint, a little scuff sand just to give the surface some tooth is all you need.
I always use tack cloth to remove all the dust residue before painting. We always order in bulk here.
Step 3 – prime furniture
Confession: sometimes I skip this step! If you’ve been doing this for awhile, you get a feel for when primer is necessary for adhesion and coverage and when it’s not. If you don’t paint furniture often, I recommend you use a primer to get the best possible finish.
Step 4 – paint furniture
Apply your paint with a foam roller in multiple, thin coats. You can get more tips on how to get a smooth finish here.
We like to use mineral paint from Cottage Paint. You can use code threecoatsofcharm10 for a discount!
Step 5 – add details to compliment the French Provincial style
Clean your hardware. We like to use this product. If you have wood areas, stain or apply an oil finish. Add any design elements you want (think transfers, distressing, stencils, glaze or texture paste).
Step 6 – protect your finish
Chalk painted French Provincial Furniture requires a top coat. Other types of furniture paint may have a built in top coat but it’s always a good idea to add an extra layer of protection with a polycrylic varnish like this.
Inspiring ideas for painting French Provincial furniture
Here is the Gibbard buffet painted and ready for a new home! I usually opt for more clean, solid finish on Frenchies but I went a little rustic on this one and I love it!! All you need is a little distressing with some sandpaper along the areas that would naturally see wear.
Some more ideas for painting French Provincial furniture are:
Boldly painted Frenchies
Natalie from Ray of Sunlight chalk painted this French Provincial dresser in a gorgeous deep blue!
Bright and fresh painted Frenchies
Denise from Salvaged Inspirations chose a beautiful white milk paint for this French Provincial tallboy.
Modern design Frenchies
These pieces can also look amazing with transfers or modern details. We decoupaged a fun paper on this pair of Malcolm nightstands.
A dipped look is also a trendy way to give a Frenchie a modern look.
Painting French Provincial furniture can be a beautiful way to update a piece. We hope you enjoyed learning how to paint French Provincial furniture and seeing some inspiration of what is possible for these pieces. Drop us a comment below and let us know how you feel about Frenchies!