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  • skillfully done but query whether this repainting trend isnt becoming a bit kitsch. Repainting isn’t always better than worn wood, this blog notwithstanding. am getting a little tired of the bird genre as well.

  • I’m personally not a fan of the painted wood/decorative paper combination on furniture, but I appreciate that barb has a really distinct style and her work is definitely consistent.

  • Is that wallpaper? Where’s it from? And, what’s the method? I absolutely want to do something like that with my dresser. It is stunning and unique.

  • I’m new to this sort of thing…can anyone point me to instructions on how one would put paper on this and make it stay? What do you use?

  • It seems odd to me that the re-do is in a distressed style, made to look old, when the original already is old. I’m sure Baurillard would have something to say about the original being remade into a pastiche of itself…

  • I totally disagree- some furniture deserves to remain in its original wood state, but what was so special about that very average looking desk? The ‘after’ is spectacular and very thoughtfully done…love the lightly aged edges and subtle color scheme. And those knobs- a show stopper!!!! I really love this one!

  • wow! i love that this redo has a twist – it maintains it’s “antique-y-ness”(yes a made-up word) but looks so much cuter (not sure if thats a real word either). i think if you can pull it off and create something original and beautiful, why not? i see where this kind of project could go horribly wrong in someone else’s hands (like mine!) but i think you executed it quite well! certainly perfect for dressing up a plain or drab corner of the room.

  • i really like the new hardware, but think the top should be the same gray as the rest. reminds me of an Anthropologie piece. Looks like a lot of hard work was put into it and I can appreciate that!

  • I have a desk that is so similar to that (uh, the BEFORE picture, that is)…I would love to do something like this to it! Those rose knobs are the best part.

  • It’s so terrible! I thought the repainted version was the before version. I think it’s terrible to transform a nice piece of old furniture into this altar of kitsch.

  • …but i’ve never seen such pretty flower pulls before…those are nice…it would have looked cool if it were painted all yellow as well, but i do love a bird here and there. i don’t think birds are going anywhere. tweeties have always been around. ;-}

  • I think Barb’s work is beautiful. Even when it’s not always my taste I can appreciate the hard work and beauty behind everything she does. The gray color is lovely.

  • i like the original better too! i feel the knobs clash with the muddy color of the paint. i definitely appreciate barb’s skill but take serious issue with the pieces she’s tackling as they often look lovely as they are already! maybe she could focus on furniture that has no appeal to start with?

  • This is not really my style, either. I liked the original. I think it’s interesting, though, because so many people look at this blog and it seems we all have so many different ideas of what we like, what we would want to have…you can see it in the comments suggestion of the chair redo from earlier this week. One thing I decided this weekend (after re-staining a piece and it ending up looking EXACTLY like it did BEFORE I took the original stain off- frustration!) is that sometimes you have to just try to see out the vision in your head and see what happens (and not beat yourself up if it doesn’t work). So if anything I think it’s good to try something kinda out there and different, just to see if you can pull it off. This is definitely not your basic glossy white makeover, anyway.

  • I am a big fan of this desk redo! I think the colours, knobs, and paper top look amazing. Barb has a great eye. Does anyone have any resources to a DIY that outlines the steps to repainting and distressing old furniture?

  • This is on a separate issue. I finally got rid of a desk like that after it had taken up space for years and no one ever seemed to use it. It just doesn’t function very well as a desk because the space for your legs is too small so you have to sit in a certain way (on a small chair with both feet on the floor). Before you take on a project like this, you should make sure you like using the desk.

  • I have to agree with Tiffany. Even if it’s not your style, she obviously worked really hard, and is expressing her craft in a beautiful way. If you can’t appreciate it or wouldn’t do it yourself, then don’t do it yourself. This is a design blog, a free forum of ideas, and I think Grace does a fantastic job of presenting so many different options and perspectives on design. You don’t have to be mean or disparage the artist or call her work terrible or ugly just to voice an opinion.

  • I really enjoy reading all the comments on the “to paint or not to paint” issue, especially as I have a view to establishing a business similar to Knack in the future. I currently also have a pair of gorgeous cane back chairs, and am TORN between leaving them as they are, and painting them. I can go either way. I certainly understand when people feel it is almost ‘sinful’ to paint wood, especially when it is in good condition. I am a huge fan of natural wood, and many of my own pieces are simply waxed or varnished. HOWEVER, I do think that pieces like Barb’s are ‘feature’ pieces- that will inject personality, color and an eclectic feel. Very few people would furnish their entire house with all re-painted furniture. Her pieces are creative, and from what I can tell from the photos, extremely well executed. Furniture & houses should not be static- they grow and change with their families. Many of my favorite unpainted pieces have spent at least a portion of their lives painted- wood can be stripped again, and the tiny remnants of paint on some of my pieces provide sweet reminder of their previous lives- it just adds to the beauty. Finally, there are many pieces out that are languishing in basements and attics because they are structurally OK, but maybe a little chipped or worn, or just not the right style for their owners. Surely it is better for them to be bought out, used, enjoyed & admired. If a well-executed coat of paint makes that happen, it can’t be all bad, can it?

  • Suspiciously? What does that mean?

    I think it’s a great piece- just because a few people don’t like it doesn’t mean everyone reading doesn’t like it. I personally only leave comments when I feel a worthwhile conversation is taking place- not just to say “I love it” like most people.


  • I have to say, I’m not a fan of this redo… I think the After color scheme and pattern are kind of drab, and of course the Before is just worn. I actually much prefer the leap she took in the link you referenced, going to that bright beautiful orange!

  • Fabulous redo. I know this old furniture very well. This is not by any means an expensive piece. It is thin veneer and impossible to sand and get back to its original lustre. The old thin veneer does not keep keep the original stain well either. I know how much work it takes to prep the piece for the paint! Then the work involved is extraordinary. And then finish coats to protect. I think the paper on top fits perfectly with the design. Otherwise it would just be another old boring desk given that its shape is so standard.

  • Thanks for all the kind words about this piece! I did have a lot of fun with this one….. as I do with all my pieces!:) The top of the desk is done with wallpaper, that I bought when our one and only decent wallpaper store went out of business here!! I can’t remember the brand (sorry) but I always use Modge Podge to adhere the paper to the surface and two coats on top of the paper to protect it. Just follow the drying times on the label. The most important part when papering is to make sure the surface is very smooth and once the paper is applied make sure you gently work all the bubbles out to ensure that it dries properly. To help with the bubbles it is best to apply the MP very evenly with a foam roller . Hope that helps!!

  • oh for pete’s sake.

    Let’s get our panties out of a wad and just be happy for Barb and her successful business! She deserves it whether you like her stuff or not!

  • I can’t help but wonder if the first comment was on a more positive note then the others might follow suit. I think Barb’s piece is lovely. The color is one that is used a lot in France and I think your painting is superb. The knobs you chose to adorn it with are beautiful. The desk is now pretty and eye catching.

  • Worn wood is worn out. Barb’s vision for the desk pulls together its pleasing lines and treats it like a piece of garden furniture. Roses, flowers, and a sturdy taupe…NICE.

  • This is derivative of Shabby Chic, reminds people of Anthropologie… It’s like Anthropologie is informing people. I hope that’s not true. This trend is a cliché. I like old stuff, and I like a lot of modern things, but I am getting weary of new old-fashioned stuff, or let’s update this by making it look like I found it in the curb looking kind of mis-matchy, because it looked too boring in its authentic state. I mean, yeah, it’s pretense. Make a lot of work to make something look a little more ruined, such as you might “find” something at a flea market and “recognize” its potential, but making it look like you left it like you found it, when really you wrecked it that way on purpose. TRENDY. What are you going to do when you don’t like it anymore, change it back?

  • I hate it. It would have been so much more attractive if it had been sanded and re-stained a mahogany color to preserve the original piece.

  • Wow, people have a lot to say about this piece. I think it looks wonderful. I have a desk very similar that I wish I could send to Barb to recondition for me. She has some wonderful pieces on her flickr.

  • I think this piece is very unique and beautiful. I wonder if these more radical redos would be more appealing to people with less imagination if they were photographed in context of a fully “designed” room, to give naysayers more of an idea of presentation.

    I think the possibilities of how these different pieces can be placed in a room are just as exciting as the pieces themselves…

    also I must add that there is nothing cliche about something custom and one of a kind, and I think it is safe to say that reusing furniture is becoming less of a trend and more of a classic application of design.

  • I find the negative comments about this piece pretty amusing, really. Such drama over a desk! Lighten up, folks! It’s a nicely done job. So it doesn’t conform to whatever your personal sensibility is…big deal. Frankly I’m more interested in where Barb found those amazing knobs than anything else!

  • I love the fact that Barb is refinishing and repurposing pieces that might otherwise be collecting dust elsewhere. I like the environmental aspect of giving furniture a new life, versus heading out to IKEA to buy something new. (Not that I don’t looove IKEA… but reusing is grand!)

  • While the refinished desk is not my style, I think it turned out quite lovely! Much more pleasing and interesting than the original.

  • So to clarify, I like this redo and am not categorically contra painting wood. But am skeptical of our current DIY mentality (and having ’70s flashbacks regarding same) that putting on a coat of paint and doing a little tole painting always makes something better. I think anytime someone takes an “always better” stance the design moves out of the equation and the kitch enters. (You are brilliant and funny Julia B!)

  • I am very surprised at some of the comments. Even if it is not your thing, you have no idea how much work a “redo” of this calibar is! It is not just a coat of paint and pasted on paper. Try to purchase an old, decent painted piece that has years of beautiful wear and patina. It will cost a fortune. To recreate that look takes skill, patience and many steps of distressing processes, preping so the paint sticks, etc etc. It is not even easy to cut of the shape of the desk top wallpaper. Try to make all those curved edges decent. A very nicely designed redo that took much work.

  • Wow! What can I add to this great discussion? I love the desk re-do, but also love unpainted wood with a glowing finish. And I know of examples, like birds-eye maple, that should never have been painted (in my opinion). Is it better, truer to the maker’s vision, to have a piece rebuilt and refinished? I love second-hand furniture that is well-made and interesting but hate having it sold to me as a wonderful antique, as if! I don’t know or study antiques. (I study landscape design.) But, as a designer, I think of how it will fit in , how it acts–accent? foundation piece? –and how it functions. These pieces are the Ikea of their time.

  • Does anyone know where the wallpaper came from? A boutique in Brooklyn has the same paper in their dressing rooms and I would really like to find where to get it.

  • I personally think Barb did a beautiful job! Sure, assuming the wood wasn’t in horrible condition, she COULD have just stained it or oiled it, however: it would look nice, but it would also be so…ordinary. Now it’s unique.
    I don’t always think wood should be painted (for example, I would never touch an original Arts & Crafts piece with paint). But here’s a piece that needed a “Lazarus Moment”, and Barb gave it a chance at a new and loved life!
    Great work, Barb!

  • Barb is very talented. It’s not that easy to get “the look” of old without it looking contrived. Whether you like the style or not, she’s out there rescuing furniture and rehabbing it. There are enough positive comments here to show that she has a market.

  • How about a male opinion? I thought the “after” was the “before”. I totally appreciate the work that went into this piece, but, honestly, it seems disrespectful to take a cool old piece with some real history and remake it as a frou frou cutsey thing.

  • I agree with “a guy said”. It was a nice old piece of furniture that would have looked great with some restoration. I really thought the AFTER was the before. Something picked up at the Starvation Army or the like. The AFTER would not have a place in my home.

  • I think that this re-do could have been achieved without ruining a beautiful piece of antique furniture. If you go to any thrift store, you can find a veneer paneled desk with a similar style that is just begging to be painted, rather than use something as beautiful and well made as this piece. In 5 years this piece will look dated, cheap and probably be thrown away…

  • The knobs are great, and the gold goes well with that mauveish purple. Brilliant. I feel like my grandmother, Audrey, would have liked that.

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