before and after

before & after: pretty painted furniture part I

by Kate Pruitt

I know that painting or drawing on wood continues to attract controversy, but today I’m excited to share two* of the prettiest painted furniture pieces I’ve come across recently. First up is this Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired table by Jesse Dresbach, owner of the furniture-restoration shop Nine Red. We’ve featured some of Jesse’s skilled restoration work in the past, but this may be my new favorite — the combination of the ultra-dark espresso stain with the rich, earthy color palette is wonderful, and the pattern is a worthy homage to the talented architect and designer who inspired it.

According to Jesse, the secret to this project is Frog tape, but I would have to add a patient, skilled hand to the requirements. If you don’t feel like acquiring either of those, you can always purchase the original from Nine Red. Great work, Jesse! — Kate

*Stay tuned for Part II, which we’ll post in the next hour!

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full post after the jump!

Time: 8 hours

Cost: $45

Basic Steps: I sanded down the tabletop to bare wood, and roughly sanded the sides and legs. Then I stained the top with two coats of Minwax oil-based stain in “Jacobean.” After it was dry, I coated the entire top in a Satin Minwax Polycrylic. I lightly sanded with a 400-grit paper before taping. I browsed my book of Frank Lloyd Wright designs and started taping based on one of his window patterns. Then just paint within the lines, like kindergarten! Remove the tape, clean up any leaks and lightly sand before sealing. I chose to distress this, so before sanding and sealing again, I sanded the edges and rubbed the whole piece in Jacobean again. Then I sealed in several coats of polycrylic. The legs were a simple sand, paint, distress and seal!

My advice: Frog Tape. I repeat, Frog Tape! I ran out, so I used blue tape for this and found myself carefully fixing leaks. Also, sample-sized paints of your color choice will save you a lot of money if your pattern has this many colors! I used Martha Stewart samples, which have a mini paintbrush built in the cap — a handy little surprise! Lastly, a sanding sponge makes all the difference in the world when you distress. — Jesse

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  • I appreciate the effort, but the distressing makes it look dirty. I would have liked it better if it had been kept crisp and clean looking.

  • yeah, gotta say, not loving it and agree that crisp and clean would’ve suited the furniture’s structure much more.

  • I think it’s beautiful. Just the right amount of detail without overwhelming the simple structure of the piece.

  • This is amazing. Great work! Gonna tuck this away in my *to try sometime soon* files.

  • I love it! I have the EXACT same table (that needs a makeover), and am going to do something like this. The design is so pretty!

  • A gorgeous table, but I agree with Emily, if you are going to put the hard work and effort into such a beautiful piece, why would you want it to look aged? However it is still a very inspiring piece, I love the pattern and variety of colors.

    • hi guys

      “aged” is a look a lot of people prefer in their furniture- we see a lot of that in before & afters. i realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s good to remember that some people prefer to never have that “new” look ;)


  • I really love this and the aging doesn’t bother me at all – I think it’s very subtle. The pattern is gorgeous and the color combination is really unexpected and lovely.

  • Thanks for the compliments! The color on the legs is almond. I struggled with the “to age or not to age” issue – it looked really great before the distressing too, but I also thought it would be fun to make it look like someone painted it this way 40 years ago – like it’s been handed down over the years or something. Maybe I’ll try a crisp one next! :)

  • Jesse,
    Thanks for sharing! I think it has an awesome vintage look and it is certainly one of a kind. B/c it is lightly distressed, you don’t have to worry much about that scratches that will inevitably happen to a painted surface. Love FLW’s designs, too! I have a bare wood piece that I haven’t done anything with for 15 years–time to get to work!

  • I like the “aged” effect because it contrasts nicely with the modern look of the top. Sort of the way the base’s silhouette looks old fashioned against the streamlined top.

  • Love this table ! But need to know what frog tape is and where one gets frog tape….
    Thank you, C

  • Sadly I don’t think that the lines of the top match the curvature of the legs. I think it would have been better on something with straighter, simpler lines.

  • Well done! You’ll never please everyone. What matters is whether YOU like it. It’s something I would be proud to have done. Congrats!

  • Thank you! And yes, that’s the link for frog tape. It’s great stuff, a chemical reaction on the edges forms a barrier as SOON as paint hits it. It’s more expensive, but will save you SO much time.

  • I cannot say enough about frog tape. Forget the blue painters tape – there is no comparison. I like the table, with or without the distressing. It is a very inspiring project. I think one done in a Navajo-inspired motif would also look great. Well done.

  • We’ve just finished a week’s decorating and I’m sitting relaxing lookinat at Design Sponge – just saw the Frogtape video – if only I’d known about it a week ago – the results looks FANTASTIC!!! We’ve got paintbleed!

  • It looks amazing – I really like the contrast of the lines and the curves of the table. And I am definitely buying Frogtape! One question I have after being lured by D*S into the realm of furniture refinishing – why does polycrylic give you a clear finish, but it turned my dressers yellow?

  • I love this- we have a side table with similar legs and I’ve been at a loss as to what to do with it. This is so inspiring!

  • Jeeminy there’s a bunch of negativity up in here. It might not be your cuppa tea and it might not adhere to your high design standards but it’s always nice to see what people do with things. When was the last time you submitted a before & after, huh? I love it.

  • Love this!
    Was it hard to get the tape straight and the design mapped out? Any tips on how to lay out the pattern?

  • Amazing! Beeeuuuutiiifull! Only I would have painted the base black so that it did not contrast with the top. But its awesome!!!!!

  • This table is simply beautiful! Amazing job! Would put it into our living room any time! I just have one question: what kind of colours were used for the pattern?

  • I actually just painted this EXACT Ethan Allen table myself a few months ago. It’s a table my parents gave to me after using it as a place for plants. It got worn down and had horrible stains from the dirt, so I sanded it down and painted it this beautiful tropical aqua color. I looks 100x better. It’s such a great table and I love what you did with yours too!

  • The table is extraordinary to say the least! It would sell beautifully in Taos or Aspen! Looks like a lot of hard work and very creative! It does not look dirty, it looks aged, anyone can leave a simple clean look, yours took some inventiveness , I love it ! Keep being creative and remember one mans trash is another’s treasure.

  • I am in the field and not often do I see a piece that stops me in my tracks to take a second look. Love the artistic vision in this piece. It really shakes me, moves me and makes me feel all other sorts of things. Wouldn’t change a thing!! Great work and incredible vision!