Why I Don’t paint Furniture backs

I see the question all the time “do you paint the backs of pieces”, here is my answer…No! Well, usually not anyways, and here are my top 3 reasons why:

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1. Outta sight…

Most backs are not seen. They will be up against a wall their entire life. Any paint on the back would be wasted and unseen.

I do make sure I wrap the corners so there are no visible, unfinished portions from any angle.

Occasionally there will be pieces that are meant to be in the center of a room, occasional tables and things like that, if I have reason to think the back will be on display, I would finish it, of course.

This table, for example, went up against a metal stair railing, in an entry, and was visible from all sides, so the back was painted.

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Customers will also sometimes request that all sides be finished, they know the intended placement, at the foot of a bed for example, and I would finish a back at the request of a customer.

2. “They” don’t do it

Have you ever seen finished backs on factory finished furniture? Me neither. Go to Ikea, or Ashley, or RC Willey and look at furniture backs. Most are particle board backing to begin with, but if there is a wood backing, they are seldom finished to match the front. Pull out drawers, stain usually stops the second you can’t see it.

I have nice furniture in my home by Modern Standards, Pottery Barn, Stanley, Babies Dream in my sons room and Ashley Millennium Collection (their higher end line) in my room…none have finished backs



Baby’s Dream:

I’m not trying to duplicate a factory finish, my pieces are hand painted, made to order and I want to keep them unique and special. I want the quality of a factory finish, with a the character of a one of a kind piece.

3. To preserve the story

This is the biggest one! The backs almost always tell the story of a piece. They will me marked by manufacturers with dates, brands, or line information and once covered, that is gone forever.

This mustard piece in my entry, without the markings, I would never know it was made in 1956

Some brands place their stamp and numbering on the back that represents when a piece was made. Drexel, for example, marks their pieces very nicely, the numerical portion represents when it was made.

This piece is in my own home, the 454 represents that it was made in April 1954.

There can also be paper labels on backs that show where pieces were made or from moving companies that have handled them. To me, these are the story of a piece. They tell the age and where it has traveled, like luggage stickers or passport stamps. Part of what sets pieces apart from mass produced furniture is these stories, so I treasure them.

I’m no preservationist, I paint furniture to make it a showpiece again, but I also believe in knowing when to quit 😉

I add one more luggage tag, to the upper left corner on the back, and send it on its journey🌎✈

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Cindy

    Oh, a lot of detail in your answer to the question. Things I never thought of. Thank you, again.

    1. Brandy K.

      Thank you Cindy! So glad you found some useful things in there!

      1. Tynisa dixon

        I have a piece I want to restore but I can’t read all the writing on back.I wish it someone would have more care about this vanity”s story.in still trying to find info.
        1930’s I think.

      2. Susan Davis

        Where do you order your tags from?

      3. Brandy K.

        Amazon labels and a reinking stamp

  2. linda thomsen

    I do paint the backs but if there is an original label I paint around it leaving it as is.

  3. Mary Turbiville Windsor-TwillDo Furniture

    I had a 1960’s wardrobe from Western Auto that I redid a few years ago. Very Inexpensive piece, but it had the WA label on the inside of one door. To preserve that history, I left that exposed when I painted/wallpapered the inside of the piece. I’m with you on the information on the backs of old pieces, but many times I will give it a coat if its plain. I hear my grandmother’s voice in my head telling me the back side should be as pretty as the front…….

  4. melnebee

    I’m so glad to see your opinion on this. I always leave the back or bottom unpainted to help preserve the story of the piece as well. I think it’s important to see the natural wood, or other layers of paint to have an idea of the history and journey a piece has taken. It gives me a more personal feel for the piece.
    Just like my parent’s dining set that I’ve now passed on to my daughter, you can look under the tabletop or the back of the buffet and see that it’s been white, turquoise, and that god awful 1970’s gold antiquing, before being brought back to white again. It makes me smile. ☺

  5. Fiona Debell

    My grandfather and great grandfather were master cabinetmakers in London, UK. My dad and I had a discussion about this very subject whilst in a stately home (think Downton) – we both agreed that if Chippendale did not finish the backs or bottoms it would seem a pointless exercise for me to ‘overwrite’ the knowledge of generations!

    1. Brandy K.

      I LOVE that!! What a perfect way to say it!

  6. I’m right there with you! I will definitely paint the back if the back is nicely finished already because it belongs in the center of the room (desk) or if it’s going to be exposed. Or if it’s just really really bad. Hahaha Otherwise, I believe in leaving it alone.
    I love that you put your own tag on there too!

  7. sue @ Bethany Pickers

    Totally agree! Can I ask where you get your stickers? I have been shopping around for prices.

    1. Brandy K.

      I got a self inking stamp from vista print and paper labels from Amazon

      1. Kellene

        I was going to ask but decided to search the comments first. I love your labels!! Great idea!!

      2. Brandy K.

        Super easy too! Thank you!

  8. Pamela

    Love your work

  9. cmr

    I made the mistake of sending a little old rocker that my Grampa had made back in the 50’s off to a furniture refinisher just to be stripped so I could re-stain and finish it, back in the early 90’s. When I got it back, the guy gave me a note to say that on the bottom he had found written in pencil, my Grampa’s name and the date he made it. Made me sick that I had sent it to be “dipped and stripped” when I could have easily done it myself and saved the personal note. Can’t get it back once it’s gone.

  10. Kimberly Lester

    What is the difference between Boss and Slick Stick? I am painting an “cherry” executive desk that you find in most school offices. Will both serve the same purpose?

    1. Brandy K.

      Boss is a stain and odor blocking primer, slick stick is a gripping primer. They are not a replacement for each other and should rarely, if ever, need to be used together

  11. kat

    What colors did you use on this piece? Thank you, Trying to find a color to order for my table and buffet.

    1. Brandy K.

      Im sorry, not sure which piece you are referring to, there were a few pieces pictured in this post

  12. Donna V.

    Brandy – I’m curious as to where you had your logo created and, when you painting pieces with hinges, do you simply paint over them? Will the paint stick?

    1. Brandy K.

      I had a graphic designer create my logo. I tend to be a hinge painter, this paint does great, too thick and it will chip off

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