You can flip that thrift store find into a beautiful showpiece with a few simple French Provincial furniture makeover ideas. This furniture style was popular during the 1960s and 1970s, and you can easily find all kinds of pieces at any thrift store or vintage shop. They tend to have pretty details and lines but a less-than-lovely finish. Fortunately, from painting to swapping hardware, there are so many ways to give a dated dresser or table a totally updated look.
Basic Distressed Painted Finish
You can give your French Provincial furniture an easy makeover using a basic distressed finish by cleaning and sanding the piece and applying paint without primer. When it's dry, sand along the edges with a medium-grit sandpaper to give it a worn look and bring out the details that French Provincial furniture is famous for. Although you have to wait for the paint to cure before you sand, this is an easy project because you aren't really going for a perfect finish. When you're done, give the piece a clear top coat of polyurethane to protect it.
Matte Spray Painted Surface
Often, spray paint is the best bet for furniture with lots of curves and details (kind of the point with French Provincial). Because you aren't using a brush to apply it, it's way easier to get into those little crevices and avoid drips. Take some time to apply it, though, using light and even coats. Prep as you would with any paint job - clean it well and sand lightly to help the paint adhere. You can use a spray primer and then at least a couple coats of matte or chalk spray paint.
Two-Tone Color Scheme
Update a French Provincial desk or table with a two-tone color scheme. You can do that by stripping the paint off the top using a commercial paint remover from the hardware store. Stain the top, and paint the legs or bottom portion using any painting method you like. Finish everything with a clear top coat. This style looks best with a neutral-colored paint, since that really lets the wood of the top show.
Neutral Colors for a Modern French Provincial Look
You can paint French Provincial furniture in neutral colors that match your walls to give it a super updated feel. Stick with the same color family, often shades of white or ivory, to allow the details of the furniture (rather than its color) to be the focal point. Matte paint works well here too, especially if your walls also have a matte finish.
Contrasting Accent Colors
Because the details are a huge part of this style's appeal, one cool paint idea for French Provincial furniture is to use a dark color for the majority of the piece and then add gold or light-colored accents on the decorations. This takes a steady hand, but it's not especially hard. Paint the furniture as you normally would and then use a small brush to apply the accents. You can even use a paint pen if you need to do really detailed work. Once everything is dry, be sure to cover the piece with a clear top coat.
Painted Color Block Decoration
Another way to update the look for painted French Provincial pieces is with color blocking. Paint most of the piece one color, and once that has cured, use painter's tape to block it off. Then apply another contrasting color. Because the straight lines of color blocking are a contrast to the curves and decorations in the style of the furniture, this is an instant update. Don't forget to add new hardware.
Rub-on Transfers or Decoupage
Embrace the curves and graceful style of French Provincial furniture by adding to it with even more decoration. You can pick up rub-on transfers on Etsy or at a craft store and then apply them to the furniture. Decoupage is another option. Just cut out any image you like and use Mod Podge from the craft store to apply it (easy directions are on the bottle). Always seal the furniture with a clear coat afterward.
Tips for Choosing French Provincial Furniture for a Makeover
Not all vintage furniture will work for a makeover. Certain pieces work better than others.
- Look for useful furniture. Pieces that have a practical function will be far better upcycling candidates.
- Choose all-wood when possible. Some French Provincial items are made of melamine, laminate, and other plastics. Although it isn't impossible, it's harder to makeover pieces that aren't wood.
- Make sure the item is sturdy. Time can affect the condition of vintage furniture, especially if the piece wasn't super well made to begin with. Check your picks over for wobbles, cracks, and other condition issues.
- If you're painting with a brush, look for a piece that isn't too complex. Carving and lots of detailed texture can make it harder to get a drip-free finish.
Use One Piece or Several
Updated vintage French Country pieces are a great way to give your home a Boho look everyone will love. Use one piece or several to create the atmosphere you want, and have fun experimenting with lots of different DIY paint jobs and updates.