5 Ways to Update French Provincial Furniture

Painted Finishes on Vintage French Provincial Furniture Using An Overhead Projector – By Meranda S.

While French Provincial furniture is beautiful to look at just by itself, it can also become dingy and old looking over time. There are ways to make it more modern and artistic though. Here are a few ideas for ways to update your French Provincial furniture into a more modern style:

1. Update the Hardware –  Paint the original hardware.  Look to see how this French dresser painted in a cremy white has the original handles which are updated in a brushed bronze.  If you end up painting your dresser black, consider painting the pulls black and distress them to show the beautiful metal in the ornate parts of the handle.  This technique works with any paint color.  To make the pulls stand out a bit, consider adding a brown glaze to the painted pulls or a dark brown wax to show off the details a bit more.

2. Go Pastel – Painting your furniture in pastel colors is a great way to keep the authentic feeling while still updating the look. Distress the paint finish with a hand sander.  Even brighter paint colors look antiqued with a bit of brown glaze.  Paint on the brown glaze and wipe it off.  Consider painting with an eggshell finish as your basecoat, which gives the glaze something to grip on to.  The glaze technique leaves residue giving you an aged appearance.  If a paint finish doesn’t look right, add some glaze and you will love the finished look.  Glaze makes everything look nicer, and is the trick many professionals use for brighter paint finishes.

3. Black, White or Red – If you want a really modern look, you can paint your furniture bold black ,white or red. Consider going glossy for a very rich French look. Rust-Oleum has a wonderful oil based line called “Enamels Spray” that produces a rich glossy lacquered appearance that doesn’t need any priming. Consider only using this brand in the warmer weathered months.

4. Bright Colors – Fun colors can bring new life to your furniture. Neon pink, bold blue, bright yellow and glossy green make it stand out and also give a great juxtaposition to the classic style of the furniture itself.

5. Cushion Crazy –If you have chairs whose cushions are looking a bit rangy, don’t reupholster them with the same old boring stuff.

Example of Tip 1- Look how the hardware is painted blue, and slightly distressed? 

6. Patterns – Add bold stripes of color to boring furniture and liven them up. You can change the whole look of a piece with just a few stripes. Use tape to make sure your paint comes out crisp and clean

7. Frames – If you have a French Provincial mirror or picture frame, do not toss it away. Make it into a centerpiece by framing something unusual like a wreath of flowers or a chalkboard. It will stand out and make your home a talking point.

These are just a few ideas on how you can update your French Provincial furniture. There are so many opportunities to make the most of this beautiful style. Just take a few minutes to think about what you could do with it!

Author Bio: Paul and his wife Julie both spend quite a bit of time coming up with ideas, blogging, and researching all things related to childcare. They take care of all the necessary information related to “babysittingjobs.com/”. He personally thinks his blog will help with finding information on all things related to a babysitter.

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White Painted French Furniture

Wisteria now sells a stunning French chest painted white and beautifully designed to resemble the styles found in 18th-century France. The chest has vertually no distressing, giving it a very fresh look for your home.  The ornate medallion carving and trim are all done by hand, as well as the paint and distressing applications. This chest features mango wood construction which will last for generations.  Wisteria has this chest priced at $1,099.00

How To Get This Look For Your Home:

1.  Start With The Right Styled Furniture-  You cannot get the French look in your house without French furnishings.  Shop online at websites like ebay, amazon,1st dibs and look for specialty retailers such as Wisteria and Restoration Hardware.  Look in your local classifieds such as craigslist.  Vintage French furniture is very common, and has the right bones, and often times just needs a bit of lipstick.  Buy vintage furniture and upgrade and trade out some of your lower quality pieces with genuine antiques as you go along.

2.  Painted Hardware -Wisteria has painted the hardware on this chest.  The look is fresh and new.  Often times finding the right hardware can be a battle on it’s own.  Consider keeping an eye on ebay for French hardware.  Esty has become another place to look for inexpensive French hardware.  Hold out for getting the just right match for a special piece.  Shiny brass is common, as well as a bronze for rustic Provincial furniture.  In the past I have cheated and bought an oil rubbed bronze metallic paint which transformed my furniture quite nicely.  If you do decide to take this route, consider priming your hardware with an automotive primer first.  I have found this primer sticks to metal the best.

3.  Pick The Right White.   I just finished a summer of re-painting some of my older furniture in our home white.  Picking the right white can really make your pieces look expensive than the rustic old cabbage and roses white that was popular in the 80’s.

Choose a color that is has a sight gray hue to it.   Pick color families from beige, blue and green.  The colors will have just a slight hue and makes a difference than a basic primer white.  Brighter whites and glossy finishes work really well on modern Hollywood regency furniture and empire furnishings, but not so much on rustic countryside looks.   White is very rich, the hue just has to be right for Provence styled furniture.  When white furniture is put into a white room, the furniture itself should look richer than the wall color.  A gray hue will give you the just right pop of white in any setting.

French Armoire From Old Plank

Louis XV Style Painted Sideboard Seller Berkshire Home& Antiques

Tufted French Louis XV Painted Parlor Chair- Charming Louis XV french parlor chair, painted in a belgian white with beautiful aged patina and exquisite rose and ribbon carvings. Newly upholstered in an organic muslin with tufted seat.

French Provincial Painted Buffet- Handcarved painted buffet in tones of blues and grays. Rectangular top with molded edge and rounded corners. A pair of paneled doors with trailing foliate scroll over a shaped apron. One full inside shelf and one narrow shelf

French Painted and Parcel Gilt Commode- A french painted and parcel gilt commode featuring two upper drawers and two full width middle and bottom drawer. Brass pulls and hardware.

French Antique Louis XV Hand Painted Chest Seller Jean Marc Fray

French 19th Century Painted Bombe Commode, 

French 19th Century Painted Bombe Commode – his French Bombe commode has a wonderful shaped faux marble top, very abstract with wonderful coloring and patina. Solid brass pierced ormolu are on all corners, splayed feet, drawer pulls and escutcheon plates and plinth. This exceptional three drawer commode has a soft feel with painted lined detailing around the drawers and shaped side panels. Faux marble top is outstanding!

29 Of The Best Rustic Iron Hardware For Your Provence Chests

There has been more of a public draw towards rustic natural wood furniture without the heavy lacquer or polyurethane finishes. Many people are gravitating towards the unfinished furniture with all natural stains that look worn, rustic and embody a and antique old appearance.

If you like this look above, you may really enjoy bleached pine furniture.

The dresser above is featured on Decompras Elmueble is made of natural oak and tends to embrace the elaborate stylings of Provence furniture.  Instead of the prominent gilt hardware featured on classic French furniture, Provence style gravitates towards the rustic iron which works nicely on this piece.

A. Classic Hardware Drop Pull-Oil Rubbed Bronze $13.50

B.Classic Hardware Drop Pull Oil Rubbed Bronze $16.43

C.Bosetti Marella Louis XV Brass Handle Pull,Antique Brass Distressed $8.50

For More Brass Styled Hardware see this post…..

Classic French Provence Choices:

1.Classic Hardware Knob Oil Rubbed Bronze $6.27

2.Classic Hardware Drop Pull Natural Rust $25

3.Classic Hardware Drop Pull Distressed Antique Brass $14.50

4.Classic Hardware Pull French Antique Gold $10.71

5.Classic Hardware Drop Pull Antique Brass $14.71

6.Classic Hardware Pull French Antique Gold $15.26

7.Classic Hardware Ring Pull French Antique Gold $9.74

8.Classic Hardware Drop Pull French Antique Gold $17

9.Liberty Hardware Pull Kentworth $22.93

10.Liberty Hardware Pull Kentworth $22.93

Rustoleum produces an amazing spray paint that takes on the very looks of all the high end Oil Rubbed Bronze hardware. Ebay has some of the best selection of french hardware lots, and if you find a lot that you love why not spray the hardware to look like the high end oil rubbed bronze french hardware?

If you like the look of the old rubbed bronze hardware, and have a dresser with good looking hardware that you want to update, consider purchasing the Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze. I have had great success with it through the years. It particularly looks great with rustic barn colors, natural woods, black and really primitive colors. I think you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Here are some of the projects I have used it with in the past:

Dresser 1 – Striped Colonial With Sprayed Hardware

Hutch 2– Painted Black Hutch with Sprayed Hardware

Colonial Dresser– Painted Black Sprayed Hardware

Dresser With Sprayed Hardware– Look how I sanded around the brass hardware after the Oil Rubbed spray paint has dried, to reveal more of the shape of the hardware.

Additional Rustic Hardware For Countryside French Homes:

1. Cast Iron Large Gate Door Pull Set Of 6 $30

2.Bosetti Marella Classic Series Ring Pull, 1.97-Inch Diameter, Old Iron or Brass $7.

3.Bosetti Marella 1800 Circa Brass Round Knob, Oil Rubbed Bronze $7

4.Bosetti Marella Louis XVI Brass Drop Pull Oil Rubbed Bronze $10

5.Classic Hardware Appliance Pull Antique Brass $147

6.Classic Hardware Knob Natural Rust $10

7.Classic Hardware Card Holder Distressed Antique Brass $6.38

8.Classic Hardware Knob Natural Rust $16

9.Classic Hardware Hinge Natural Rust $13.50

10.Classic Hardware Card Holder Oil Rubbed Bronze $4.33

Classic Rustic Ring & Bin Pulls:

1.Classic Hardware Bin Pull Distressed Antique Brass $12

2.Classic Hardware Ring Pull Distressed Antique Brass 10.82

3.Classic Hardware Card Holder Distressed Antique Brass $7.68

4.Classic Hardware Bin Pull Distressed Antique Brass $5.30

5.Classic Hardware Ring Pull Distressed Antique Brass $4.76

6.Classic Hardware Knob/Plate Distressed Antique Brass $9.

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Distressing Painted French Provincial Furniture

The best way to practice distressing techniques is on an old piece of furniture that is either a thrift store find, or something you don’t mind donating if the end result is not what you expected. Don’t begin your experiment with pieces that are valuable or antique furniture passed down in your family until you have tried this technique and are confident in the results.

Distressing adds a lot of interest and detail on painted furniture. It is the one technique that will improve a painted finish guaranteed! Over the years of selling white furniture, I have had more men love distressing than women. Distressing can look primitive, rustic and even masculine.

Your painted furniture should either have one coat or multiple coats of paint in the same color with bare wood under the paint. When distressing the piece of furniture, you should see the top color and the wood.

For a layered effect, use a neutral color as your base coat such as gray or black. When you distress the furniture, black will also show along side the natural wood color and your top coat paint color.

The worst thing you can do with distressing is have a white primer under a color. If your top color is white, then, it works just fine. Although you don’t want a red dresser with white paint peeking through.

The way to get around this is to fully sand your furniture before painting so you will have one coat of paint and your natural wood color which shows through distressing.

1. Distressing can be very simple. The first way of distressing is with sandpaper. Start by sanding it with fine sandpaper in the direction of the wood grain. This will greatly improve the look of your finished piece. Sand in the areas which would get banged up over time. The edges of the chest, the feet, the areas around the handle. You want your distressing to look as natural as possible. Use a hand sander, or a foam sander for great results.

2. Heavy distressing involves more than just sandpaper. Metal chains whipped on to a wood chest can depressions to the piece. Be careful that your distressing is random, and not obvious such as a screw driver, or a hammer. Chains work quite well for heavy distressing because the indents will be random than purposeful.

A. Now you want to emphasize the marks you made. You can either use a wood stain in walnut, or brown glazing. Either of these two colors will give the impression of dirt. Both techniques are simply done by painting on a coat of glaze or stain, and wiping it off quickly. Be sure not to use flat white paint with either two approches, as both the glaze and stain will permanently stain the white.

Antique Walnut Polyshade in Satin, or Pecan Polyshade in Satin are great stains to use over white or a color. Apply it with a brush and paint thinner, and wipe it off with a rag.

Be sure to wear throw away Vinyl gloves through this process, as it will save the time getting the chemicals off your skin once you are finished. Vinyl gloves stay on your hands easier than latex and can be used many times before throwing them away through out your painting projects

Simply paint on the stain or the glaze, and within a couple minutes after it sets and dries, wipe the stain off the piece which should leave just enough stain to collect in the holes to emphasize the distressed wood. Often times after glazing I like to add a polycrylic sealant to the furniture. With stain no sealant is necessarily. Enjoy your new antique looking white furniture!

This beautiful bathroom vanity is constructed in a size that is perfect for small bathrooms and is suited perfectly for any French Provence country decor. It has a durable resin top, one faux drawer, one door with one adjustable shelf inside, and a sliding back for easy plumbing connections. It is featured in a striking off white Bordeaux finish with rub through and antique finished fixtures with a biscuit ceramic sink. The Bordeaux collection also includes dining room furniture.

Floor to top of faucet: 41H Floor to top of backsplash: 39H Floor to top of counter: 35H Hardwood Solids with Red Birch Veneers; Resin; Ceramic; Metal

Bishop Coffee Table is shown in Antique White finish on base and Signature Stain top. This solid wood table has one drawer with antiqued drawer pulls.

LOUIS XV CONSOLE;Vintage Cygne Blanc finish on six drawer console with drawers finished in Heritage Stain. Antiqued hardware.

The Provence cabinet boasts hand carved detail and beaded trim for storage with feminine flair. Its antiqued mirrors and Vintage Cygne Blanc finish lend a nostalgic appeal.

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Painted Blue French Provence Furniture

Louis XV Hand Painted Fruitwood Armchair early 1900’s Petite Louis XV style hand painted armchair, newly reupholstered in a linen blend. Beautiful hand carved details over entire frame. Beautiful original paint ivory and blue From Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques

Blue can be one of the most calming colors to pick to paint your furniture.  A great bonus of picking blue is it works with raw distressed pickled woods, as well as silver very well.  Consider the galvanized buckets that you can paint for your outside garden.  The colors work seamlessly together.

This door is painted in a classic blue giving this home a very distinct French appearance.

Look how lovely this kitchen looks painted in a blue.  The painted appearance looks as though it has been distressed and glazed with brown to give it an antique look.

This vintage French Provincial dresser has been painted in a Robyn’s egg blue and brushed with gold.

This French Provincial Dresser was given a more modern look simply by choosing a brighter color blue.

Look how wonderful a muted blue can appear on a piece of furniture.  This chair automatically looks antique with this shade of blue.

Here we have a fantastic French Provincial buffet painted in blue, and antiqued with crackling paint.

This piece shows you how great blue can look with white detailing.

French Louis XV style painted bureau table with two drawers. Foxglove Antiques $4,200

18th Century French Provencale Louis XV Painted Fauteuil with A Rush Seat.  The chair has an upholstered back and cushion.  Circa 1748 Wirthmore Antiques $4,200

Louis XV Painted Console Table with A Faux Marble Top Wirthmore Antiques $5,495

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When To Prime Furniture, When To Sand: My Restoration Learning Lessons

Lacquered French Desk From Ralph Lauren

Priming and Distressing Mistakes are the number one thing I see most people mess up when they paint french provincial furniture.  (I have made my share of mistakes in the past, and eventually came to learn the tricks of the trade. Mine was by trial and error, perhaps you can learn from my painting mistakes.) Black has become tremendously popular because it simply looks fantastic as the years go by.  You can never go wrong with classic colors such as cream, black and gray.  Here are a couple tips to keep in mind when painting black furniture. 

DO NOT use white primer under black paint.  I see this mistake A LOT.

Do not use white primer under red paint, or any other darker paint color used as a top coat.

White primer is certainly fine under lighter colors such as yellow or cream, and lighter blues, but not under dark paint colors.

When you see this happen, or you did it yourself, you either faced two situations……….

1.  You only had a choice of only primers from your local hardware store.  There are really two primers on the market.  White, and tinted white, which is really Gray.

Painting walls and painting furniture require two totally different approaches.

For walls, it is recommended that you prime, especially if you have shiny walls, or oil walls, as latex paint will not stick to the finish.


Do You See The White From Distressing?

When I first started painting I loved black.  My phases went from loving mahogany to black, and now to gray, and I have painted everything in between.  Furniture doesn’t necessary need a primer if you are willing to work hard sanding the piece of furniture before you decide to paint.

In some ways, this is better than adding a primer, especially when you are adding color, because it gives you room to distress the piece of furniture, which gives a piece of furniture more depth to show through.

2.  When you see dressers which are darker in color, or black with white showing through, it might because the dresser was white to begin with.  Perhaps the dresser was a vintage dresser with the typical white and gold finish.  Henry Link Furniture, Thomasville, and Dixie especially have heavy white paint which is often oven baked on.  Striping this paint off is especially hard, so many people just opt to paint over it.  They then go to distress it, and the sand down to the original white finish.

There are two ways around this…… 

Mayfair Table By Ralph Lauren

1.  Simply Don’t distress your furniture if you have the original white manufacture paint under the top coat.  Consider going for a high gloss Regency look, which often doesn’t feature distressing, but looks like glass.  This can look especially nice on serpentine french provincial dressers.

2.  Start off with a base coat.   With black top coats, red works well as a bottom color.  You see many oriental chests that feature black chests which are distressed showing a red base color.

I tend to work with oils, and prefer my base coats to be in oil as it sticks better.  I also prefer my base coats to be as flat as possible, but finding oil paint in flat is next to impossible.  If you end up getting an oil paint in a satin, after it dries, you can simply just sand it.  Be sure it is dry.  I have tried out many oil brands, and they are all different.  One brand, I waited almost a week for it to dry which is just ridiculous.  Granted, it was during the rainy season.  Sanding down your first coat of oil paint in a satin finish just requires a fine piece of sandpaper.  Be sure to work with oil afterwards, because most paint simply will not adhere to satin oil paint.  Everything naturally adheres to flat paint, so I tend to use flat oil paint in my priming coat.

When you go to distress your furniture, be careful to distress your furniture with care, because you only want to sand down to the red coat, not the white coat.

Popular Primers On The Market:


Excellent WALL Primer

Behr came out with a Paint and Primer mixed together.  My mom just finished painting her home, which they hadn’t done for several years and she was SOOOOOOO excited about the new color, but much of her excitement was that the paint didn’t smell.  She phoned me up one night and was so excited over the color,…..”OH You have to try out a company called Behr…. not Bear, but spelled Behr,….. they have a primer mixed in with the paint”  She didn’t know that I have been painting with this paint for some time.  Perhaps she remembered using paint with terrible fumes.  May be I have been painting so long that I don’t notice it, but she said she painted her bedroom that night, and was able to sleep in it just a few hours later.  She was so happy with this brand.  It is really great.  I remember the first time I tried the new paint and primer, I used a dark navy and it covered the wall very very well.  I was just as happy as her.  SO, if you want to use brighter colors, or even black, use the paint and primer, but just sand down your furniture first.  For hard baked melamine finishes typically seen on vintage french provincial, use a light brown oil paint in flat, so when you distress your furniture, it is a base color that looks much like wood.

WALL Primer

For the longest time, my favorite primer was Gripper as it is a fantastic primer, but I no longer use it on my furniture, but it is really good on the walls.  I first used it to seal a floor that was being painted white in an apartment building. It held up on apartment floors that dozens of people would walk on daily.

Kilz is another very popular primer.  Many people think it is one of the best primers out on the market. If you do use this brand, consider the spray paint primer…..Kilz Original Primer Spray Paint. The oil primer is especially thick and very hard to manipulateso I wouldn’t recommend it.  I have not tried their water-based version, so please don’t discount this brand all together.

I didn’t fully appreciate a great primer until I stumbled upon a fabulous primer that I cannot live without. Today I use it for all my painted furniture, and it has rejuvenated my passion for painting. Every primer is a bit different, and I am so thankful to have come across it.  My biggest secret is Cover Stain which can be found at most Hardware stores.  You also can order it through Amazon.  It is called Cover Stain By Zinsser and I use the oil paint that is tint-table. When ever I use this paint, I get it tinted the color I am wanting.  It only works with relatively light colors.  I tend to mix it in with other oil paints to get the overall color darker, because it is an oil base.  High Hide Odorless Oil Primer without Sanding – Odorless Primer

Overall Best FURNITURE Primer

*The most surprising thing is that their oil-based primer is thin rather than thick, and it goes on like butter. Considering it is an oil paint, that is rather shocking. This paint seems to have so many features that I just cannot live without now.

*As it dries, the paint strokes often even out.  I tend to use foam brushes after painting with a paint brush.  It is interesting to know this paint evens itself out compared to other oil paints which shows every brush stroke.

*In addition, the paint dries rather quickly. It can be dry within 3 hours, which you can apply another coat. By the next day you can sand, and it sands especially easy after 2 days compared to any other brand.

*This oil paint has teeth! It grips to almost anything without being scratched.

*Also, it is one of the ONLY oil paints that dries to a matte finish. I often add two coats of the primer, then I seal it with a Polycrylic water-based sealer, and then I add Johnson Paste Wax. It produces a perfect Swedish finish. This OIL paint can be tinted most light colors which makes it a dream to work with. It has rejuvenated my passion for painting and I couldn’t be more excited to paint furniture right now.

Your Safety and Health

HERE is some caution.  Please take this piece of advice seriously.  You need to wear a protective paint respirator when using oil paints.  This paint contains crystalline silica.  I always wear a respirator when dealing with oil based paints.  This paint contains crystalline silica, which when inhaled causes lung disease such as silicosis and possibly cancer. To avoid breathing in silica, wear a respirator approved for protection against crystalline silica dust.  I almost developed asthma because I sprayed this primer out of a paint sprayer.  Since then, I have thrown away my paint sprayer, only to go back to hand painting.  When you cannot breath, it is not worth it.  Use a respirator when dealing with these toxic paints.


If you have success with organic paints, please so email me, and I can post your success stories…..


How To Create Patina On Furniture

This lovely french Provincial Dresser features a detailed layered paint finish not typically seen on vintage furniture.  This chest has what looks to be a blue paint, accented with gold around the drawer frames.

Sold by Karina Gentinetta, an antique dealer in New York, this provincial dresser sure hits it out of the ballpark.

The distressing seen on the wood, and wear over time gives it that antique appearance.  As you look closely at some of the photos, the chest does have some dirt which might be just normal use over time.  It certainly adds to the overall time-worn appearance. 

When painting blue,  many people go wrong by just painting the dresser a shade of blue, and calling it a day.  Going the extra mile by adding the gold accenting can really push a vintage french provincial dresser from something typical to a dresser that looks to have antique worth and value.

Achieving the antique blue finishes are easier than you think.  Often times in the past I have used brighter pastel colors with a darker glaze.  The tip here is pastel paint.  Brighter colors wouldn’t normally be seen in the 18th century, and no matter how much dark glaze you might use over modern day brighter paint colors, the finish never turns out right.  Pastels are typical colors that were associated with Marie Antoinette  and commonly seen on Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture.  Sticking with antique color palettes will give your furniture an authentic appearance.

Glaze is a combination of binder and pigment.  Binder is simply the glue that holds together the paint) Glaze can give a translucent look to a piece of furniture when it is applied over the furniture paint.

In the past I have used simply paint alone, but to be honest it doesn’t do a great job.  You really have to be skilled to pull off the look working with paint alone without glaze.  It can frustrate you in the end.  With the method of working with paint alone as a wash, you have to work quickly with a bucket of water and a cotton washcloth beside you.  I paint it on, leave it for a few minutes and wipe it off, and pull the paint around on the surface as it begins to be watered down.  It takes a little bit more skill working with regular paint, but the overall effect can be much the same as a glaze.

There are many ways to use Glaze.  Ralph Lauren some time ago advertised his glazing techniques at Home Improvement centers as as a way of transforming modern day patterned or tole wallpaper.  Glaze can be mixed with any color.  Lauren advertised a series of colored glazes and showed through  by simply rolling on a layer of glaze it could transform wallpaper.


Ralph Lauren Wallpaper Glazing- Faux Finishes


Painting on glaze and allowing it to dry works terrific with wall finishes, because it builds up a translucent finish that paint alone cannot achieve.   With furniture I find glaze works really well by simply painting on the glaze, and after a few minutes working the paint off with a damp cloth gives it the authentic look of dirt building up in the corners over time.

With my green paints, I usually add a dark olive green glaze over top, which is then rubbed off giving it the look that it is old and worn and slightly blue than  green.

As you look closely with this french provincial chest by  Karina Gentinetta, you can see marks on this chest which gives it an old worn look.

Get some ideas of your own of how to create natural wear by using typical things around your house like the slapping the back of an old shoe with a black sole on the chest or something else that might leave a mark without indenting the chest.

The trick is to create marks that appear sporadic and subtle, and not giving any clue to what tool you used.


French Provincial Dresser Sold by Karina Gentinetta
French Provincial Dresser Sold by Karina Gentinetta

I cannot remember where I got these pictures, but they have been sitting in a folder of mine forever, because the paint finish is so beautiful!   As you can see this antique chair was painted with a pastel blue, and then finished off with a lighter gray toned blue in the details of the frame.  From my opinion, I would go about re-creating this look by starting out with a pastel blue base paint.  After it dries, you could use an olive glaze to leave a slight appearance of dirt and patina over time.

Painted French Finishes – Author Unknown
Cyan Duchess Chest By Belle Escape

Check out the layers of paint and glaze on this chest by Belle Escape

French Provincial Slipper Chairs are tremendously popular because most people  feel as though they take up less room than the typical armchair. They are perfect in a living room, office or bedroom as accent chairs.

Todd Alexander Romano sold this lovely Louis XV Style Carved and Painted Slipper chair with a lovely colorful print, showing us how incredibly attractive a vintage re-upholstered chair can look.

Chairs started being developed with upholstery around the mid 1650’s chairs. By the mid 1750’s designers started incorporating beauty and design rather than just chairs that served the basic function only.

During the 18th century, before furniture production began, chairs were being made with even more curves than ever in history.  The French had a great effect on the development and evolution of the chair as they truly were were the first ones to develop a lightweight and comfortable chair.

French designers were the first to develop chairs with incredibly ornate frames, while at the same time being comfortable to sit in.

The process of making one chair required an incredible amount of skill and talent.  Before the process of mass production the process of making a french chair was extensive and the materials that were required were considerable.

The Louis XV chair required more wood because the chairs frame was curved and was often made out of ONE piece of wood.

Chairs during this time has bow shaped backs and curved legs making the whole process quite involved.  The french were one of the first ones to come out with a whole line of upholstered chairs, including arm chairs, wing chairs, slipper chairs,  lounge chairs and sleeping chairs.

French chairs are still some of the most fascinating chairs to look at and still some of the most prestigious furniture a person can own.  I don’t think we will ever get tired of the French chair.

Louis XV Walnut Duchesse 1750, From Marinni Live Journal Russia

How To Sell Your French Provincial Furniture On Craigslist

French Provincial Louis XV Style Chair

French Provincial Louis XV Style Chair- Seller Shawnum On Ebay

Many people inherit vintage furniture sets from their parents and they don’t know how much they are worth in today’s market or where to sell them.  I am not an appraiser of furniture, and cannot give a fixed amount for a piece, but I can tell you that French Provincial sets are really popular since Restoration Hardware, Aidan Gray, and Wisteria all sell the same looks for hundreds of dollars.

French Provincial furniture has become a hot commodity with people who are looking for the same looks for a lot less.  Wisteria and Aidan Gray sell french provincial furniture with stunning paint finishes, new linen upholstery, and it really goes to show how these vintage sets can look stunning with a little bit of improvement, modern upholstery and a coat of paint.

For years, as a hobby, I would pick up french provincial bedroom sets and repaint them.  It enabled me to try out new finishes and resell them on craigslist.  For me, I enjoyed the process of learning new faux finishes, but I was also able to gather some valuable lessons in reselling vintage furniture.

From my experience the three main buyers for French Provincial furniture.  There are those who are looking for a set for their children, and the other market is the individual who is looking for additional furniture for their homes, and last but not least, there is the last buyer who turns furniture over for a profit.

The first set of buyers are usually parents of toddlers who have outgrown their baby furniture, and are looking for something beautiful, but within a budget.  Often times they are looking for something freshly painted, which looks like new. Sadly, solid wood furniture can be hard to find, which leads many people to craigslist, ebay and second hand shops which carry vintage quality furniture.  New parents enjoy the first time experience of decorating their children’s rooms, so often times they want something nice, and not used and abused.

In the past I would pick up french provincial dressers, paint them a cream, distress them, glaze them and resell them for around $280 for the typical french provincial dresser.  9 drawer dressers I would price around $320-$340.  These dressers were freshly painted and refinished.  If you are selling a simple vintage dresser without the paint finishes, don’t be afraid of pricing your furniture a little high, which gives you plenty of room to lower your price.  Most new parents want a fresh creamy white set, than any other color.  When I experimented with color at one point, I also noticed some of these buyers moved on to other pieces because they wanted white dressers, not colored pieces.

The second buyer are people who are interested in decorating.  They are looking for French, Swedish or cottage looking furniture to improve their homes.  French furniture has been tremendously popular in all the current magazines.   Since this furniture is not available at an affordable price point, it forces most people to buy it used.

I have noticed that some cities have more french furniture than others.  Port cities will have more french furniture than the middle of the United States.  The bigger cities have a fair bit of nice looking antiques on their local craigslist, and within thrift stores, but every location will vary.  Living in Washington DC, I found I really had to dig around for French Provincial sets, while living in Seattle, more sets would show up monthly.

The third set of buyers are the people who are looking for sets to refinish, and turn over for a profit.  These people can range from the average husband or wife who paints to supplement their income to antique shops with a country wide market.  These buyers are working with budgets, so they will try to get the lowest price possible.

It is important for both buyers to be fair and deal with each other with the utmost respect.  Remember, buying from one another is supporting families not huge box stores with multi-million dollar budgets.   Spring and summer are times where these vintage sets would come out, where as the winter times are slower.

In terms of how much to sell your set for….

Looking through craigslist is a great place to see what other people have their sets marked at.

To do a country wide craigslist search, COPY one of the lines into google search:

french provincial set site:craigslist.org


french provincial dresser site:craigslist.org


french provincial site:craigslist.org

From my own experience, I normally didn’t sell furniture in sets.  The reason for this is many people think twice when a person is asking 1K for a used set, compared to 200 dollars for a piece of furniture.  From my experience, most of my furniture tends to fly out the door around $180-$280.  Beyond the $300 range, people tend to hold back.  Again, start out high, and you will have plenty of room to move around.

French Provincial Dining Sets:

If you have a french provincial dining set with a hutch and a table and chairs, consider selling the table and chairs as one set, and the hutch separately.  In the past I have refinished hutches and sold them for $380.  Depending on the location you can sell them for less or more.

French Provincial tables vary in price.  Round french provincial tables are quite popular and very hard to find.  I have sold only 2 in the past several years.   Many people who have smaller areas to work with love the smaller french tables which work perfectly in a nook, or the house that doesn’t have an official dining room.

Vintage dining room tables donated at thrift stores often have the leaves misplaced, so expect this if you shop at second hand stores.  If you do have a set which does have the leaves, it is worth quite a bit more, than a table which the leaves are missing.  French provincial chairs are also hard to find.  Most often, typical french sets have 5 to 6 chairs.  It is not uncommon to also buy sets with only 4 chairs.

Most of the time I would find sets without chairs and would sell the individual tables for $180- $380.  10 foot provincial tables are hard to find, and would be listed close to $400 or more depending on the style.

Generally in the past I have sold my french provincial tables for around the $180- $380 mark, China Hutches around $340 mark and a set of french provincial chairs $280 for 6 or so, depending on the look.

Pricing furniture on craigslist is much different than having a retail store which typically asks for much more.  French provincial furniture on ebay are often listed by antique stores whom don’t mind listing at a certain price point until it is sold.  In addition, furniture which is antique, is worth more than furniture which is vintage.

French Provincial Bedroom Furniture

Every set is different.  I have seen some sets with 7 pieces, and others with only three pieces.  Some provincial bedroom sets were created for children, and others for adult bedrooms.  One dead give away that a set was originally marketed towards children is they often include a hutch or desk.  Some of the Dixie French provincial furniture often comes with only one nightstand, which I would find frustrating, because most adults like sets of two.  Wood dressers were mostly marketed towards adult sets, but white sets were common for adult sets as well.

I specialized in selling dressers which were repainted, and distressed, and the average price I would ask is $280. Larger dressers I would sell for more, and french provincial sets with serpentine fronts (the wavy fronts), I would sell for much more because they were very hard to find.

Nightstands in my experience, I would sell anywhere from $40- $100 each.   If you have a set of two, they can be a great find for the decorator, or the parent looking to improve their children’s room.

I normally didn’t sell the mirrors with the dressers, because it tends to date the dressers even more.  I would sell off the mirrors by themselves for $40-$60 dollars each.  Many people like the curvy mirrors for their fireplaces than for the dressers.

French Provincial Living Room Sets:

French Provincial upholstered sofas and chairs can be the hardest to sell out of all the sets.  Vintage sets often have spectacular frames, but terrible fabrics.  These sets are often bought by those people who don’t mind putting the work into them to have them slip covered or re-upholstered.  A french sofa from Restoration Hardware can easily cost up to 4K, so these vintage sets are really great for the specific buyer who doesn’t mind investing in the right fabric for their home.  A professional upholsterer can range anywhere from $400 to $2000, so remember that they might be keeping that in mind when looking at a vintage set.  The living room coffee tables and end tables fetch around $60- $100 dollars a piece.  Marble coffee tables can range from $180- $280.  There is a huge market for these pieces because of the style.

Including words like “shabby” or “cottage” “cottage furniture”, “shabby chic”, “painted furniture”, “beach”, “coastal furniture”, “white furniture”, all will call attention to those buyers who specifically look for french furniture.


My Gold & Navy Floral Dixie French Provincial Dresser Makeover

Repainting furniture in lighter colors such as white, cream and beige are fairly easy to achieve with a few coats of paint, but it is the darker colors such as navy, or red which can be challenging.

In the Nordic countries in the 18th century red pigments were very expensive so it was very uncommon to have a deep red painted chest.  Today we have a number of paint colors at our disposal, but many people still have a difficult time getting an even coat with these rich colors.

For my Dixie french provincial chest makeover I used gloss navy paint, and ended up putting close to ten coats on the dresser in order to get an even coat.  This again reinforced to me the proper process of painting darker colors.

Although this french provincial chest was one of my first makeovers, I learned a good lesson of investing in good paint that covers well, which in the end saves a lot of time.  Ideally if you have a French Provincial dresser with a baked finish, or hard finish, you will not be able to just paint over it with any old paint.

The very first step I suggest is to lightly sand it with fine sanding paper.  I recommend buying a good sheet sander which saves a lot of energy.  The Black & Decker Sheet Sander is only $30 dollars.  I find I go through a lot of sand paper, and I can save money by buying individual sheets and cut them up myself for less money at our local hardware store.

(Norton Sandpaper 80 Grit 20-Sheets per Pack has 20 sheets per pack, which I cut down to 4 sheets per page giving me 80 sheets to work with for only 14 dollars)

Over the years I have found sometimes it takes more work to sand but it is worth it in the end.  I tend to gravitate towards using an 80 grit sandpaper over my entire piece, and finish with a 120 grit to get rid of any swirl marks before painting.  80 Grit sandpaper is especially nice if there is a previous paint finish, while 120 is good for most finishes to provide the paint something to grip on to without fearing of any swirl marks.  I find I can use 80 grit paper over and over, while 120 grit gets worn down quickly.

Ideally you will want to work with a french provincial dresser which is wood to begin with, rather than the white provincial dressers which at one time was sold as children’s sets.  The children’s sets were the typical white baked finish rather than the adult french sets which were quality wood stained.

Start with a good flat oil based paint as a primer for those white based french provincial sets.  For other top based colors, black can be the go to color for a base, and works with almost every color.

Rustoleum creates a great flat oil paint in black which sticks to almost everything without peeling.  I also noticed they have the same thing in brown, which may be even better to replicate the color of wood.

I have used these products even over melamine tops after they have been sanded with no problems of them peeling over the years.   I enjoy working with oil as a base because it sticks to almost everything without peeling.  It has been the secret to my success with furniture.

After your furniture has dried, your top coat is ready to be applied.  If you are planning on applying many more coats such as a glaze over a white finish, then use egg shell paint.


French Provincial Furniture Hardware

Antique Vintage French Provincial Style Brass Drawer Pulls Furniture Hardware

French Provincial Style Brass Drawer Pulls – Ishovelhead On Ebay

While painting vintage french provincial furniture maybe one of the best ways to transform an existing heirloom, changing the hardware can be just as dramatic. 

French hardware is still some of the most beautiful hardware on the market, and while most french provincial dressers already come with fancy french hardware, that doesn’t mean you cannot add on additional ornamental details which can push it up a notch.

Antique French Hardware is available through ebay or at specialty hardware stores online.  I was fortunate enough to live close to a specialty hardware store in Arlington, Virginia, but they still did not carry any of the antique styles I was after.

Today if you want a vintage Louis french style dresser pull, ebay is still the best place to look other than searching your local salvage antique stores.

The best way to plan out your furniture transformation is to start with the decision of hardware.

Changing the pulls of your dresser must be done before  painting, as it requires sanding down the drawers and filling in the previous hardware holes with wood filler.

I have found that Plastic Wood – Wood Filler has been the best brand I have worked with to fill in chips of wood, or existing drawer holes.   The trick to this brand is to close the container as soon as you are finished taking out as much filler you are needing to use.  The material over time and exposure to the air will get hardened making it more difficult to fill into the gaps of wood.

Buying the 4 ounce container over the 8 ounce container will almost guarantee you wet wood filler to work with, as you use it sporadically amongst your furniture makeovers.   After the wood filler is dry, sanding is imperative.  Sand the areas around the wood filler and apply another layer of wood filler, making sure the area is even with the existing wood.  After the second coat dries, be sure to sand with a fine sandpaper to even out the overall texture.  Don’t forget the inside of the drawer.  You want the inside to be just as beautiful as the outside.

Gold plating and buffing brass hardware are options for restoring genuine french antique chests.  With most french dressers I improve, I tend to spray the white washed french hardware gold, and finish it in gold leaf which gives it that genuine metallic feel.

Silver leaf is available, and is just as beautiful and works well with off white, beige, and french gray dressers.  While spraying hardware may be taboo to many furniture restoration experts, it serves as a quick up-date.

Additional Links:

  • 20 Common Painting / Furniture Restoration Questions Answered- Hersite
  • Ornamental Furniture Molds From Top Quality Moldings- Meranda’s Picks – Hersite


Pr. Antique Nautical Shell Brass Hardware Drawer Pulls From Kyle’s Antiques New Jersey






10 Vintage Brass French Handles Pull Furniture Hardware From Twin City Lady



How To Faux Crackle French Provincial Furniture


Many people love aged furniture finishes which are often naturally changed from ever changing weather exposure, and distressed from being handled over time.

Finding the just right furniture style with naturally worn paint can be next to impossible.  There are a number of faux finishes that can give the look of a naturally aged appearance; one of those being crackle paint.  You can take an ordinary piece of furniture and transform it with a few faux painting techniques that could give the beauty of a genuine antique.

The number one mistake most people make when using crackle paint is ONLY using the crackle finish without pairing it with other faux painting technique such as glazing and distressing.

This beautiful bombe crackle finished chest is from Interiors Online.  As you can see this mastered finish has glazing around the handles which highlights an aged appearance.  Look at the overall base color and crackle color.  They are almost identical, which is truly the best way to crackle finish a piece of furniture.  Add on top of that glazed oil paint  was added to highlight the beauty of the curvature of this fine bombe style.

Another huge mistake is using a modern colored paint such as white, crackling the piece of furniture, and calling it done.  Brightly colored white paint is a dead give away that the piece has been newly painted, and is not an old piece.

Crackle should only be combined with antiques, (OR an antique style, either color or shape)  if you are going after a genuine look.  Crackle paint should always be combined with a off-white, a beige, gray or a color which is a historical paint color, and then dulled by either brown stain (Minwax Polyshade in Antique Walnut), or brown glaze  (brown paint mixed with glaze) to give it a slightly used aged look.   Do NOT use a metallic glaze.  Metallic glaze is another dead give away it is newly finished, and fantasy than antique.

Another mistake is using crackle all over the piece of furniture, (unless you are a professional and are skilled at combining other techniques).  I have made this mistake and the finish turns out quite messy and lumpy.

Crackle paint is sometimes very hard to paint over because it can lump together in the process.  Going back over the finish messes up the chemical process of crackling that often times less crackle is more in the long run.

Crackling an entire dresser can give a very busy appearance.  Try a number of pieces before using crackle over an entire piece. I would highly suggest going over your finish with the same overall color in some areas to make it less busy, and adding a glaze or a brown stain which will highlight the crackle in a subdue way.

Vagabond Vintage From Mothology.com Featured in Home Beautiful

The beauty of a crackle finish is that it can conceal problem areas.  If you’re considering stripping a piece of furniture down to it’s original wood finish, you could consider sanding it quite well, and crackling in the problem areas.

A) Before painting, be sure to sand your french provincial furniture.  If you have a natural wood french provincial dresser you may want to sand it well, and not prime it.  After the crackle finish has dried you can distress it, and then move on to glazing the entire piece.

B) If you have an already white french provincial dresser, prime it first using an oil based primer, such as Rustoleum’s Black or Brown flat Oil based paint.

Techique 1- Using Regular Glue.

Step 1- Sand your furniture, (prime if necessary) and apply your base coat.  (Your (water based) base coat of  paint will be the color that shows through your crackle finish)

Step 2- Once your base coat is dry, apply a semi thick layer of Elmers glue.  You can dilute the glue to make it easier to work.  Let the glue dry almost all the way, then apply your top paint color which is mixed with Elmers glue.  The paint ratio to glue should be 2 to 1.  2 cups of paint to 1 cup of glue.  Let the paint dry, and within 48 hours you should have a beautiful crackle finish.

Another variation of this finish is to paint a base coat, let it dry, paint on glue, and let it dry until it is tacky, (more than 1 hour, but not more than 2 or 3) and paint on your top coat.  If it doesn’t crackle, the glue is too dry.

Several tips I have used:

– Use a brush, not a roller to apply the glue

– Applying the glue thick than thin, which gives a better crackled appearance.  Experiment with more glue which is supposed to produce wider cracks.

-When painting the glue, use random brush strokes so the cracks don’t come out in the same direction.

– Try not to work on vertical finishes.  Turn your furniture piece over one step at a time and apply the glue and let it dry.  This technique can be time consuming, but worth the trouble to get an even finish.  Working on vertical surfaces can cause the glue to run together in a gloppy mess.

Technique 2- Porcelain Crackle Glaze

Porcelain crackle glaze is a bit different. Porcelain crackle is supposed to replicate old china which has aged over time.  Ideally this finish looks the nicest on vases, lamps and statues which would be made of porcelain.

The first coat is painted, crackle is applied, and dried, and glaze is then rubbed onto the finish revealing the very small cracked details.

French Provincial Furniture From Artisan8

This amazingly charming BASSETT french country buffet available from Artisan8 on esty comes with a detatchable hutch.   Hand-crafted distressed look  involving a 6-layer paint application for a one-of-a-kind piece. Architecturally detailed and slightly elevated by four french-styled legs.

Drexel Touraine French Provincial Furniture

Drexel produced a stunning french provincial furniture set from the mid 1950s through the mid 1960s called Touraine which is still quite popular today.

Drexel designed both a bedroom set and a dining set in this series.  The furniture was inspired by the curvy lines classically found in Louis XV furniture which became popular during the period of 1730 to 1775.

The Touraine bedroom dresser sets featured very soft lines which were accented with gold and cream.  Louis XV furniture often has a very feminine look which can seem very sensuous and romantic.  The unbroken curves are one of the key features of classic Louis XV furniture.

This unique style is expressed in the delicate curves of Touraine dressers which extend down from the drawers to the legs of the furniture.

The Touraine collection is one of the only french provincial collections to feature a serpentine shape other than Bassett’s Versailles collection.

Serpentine chests and Bombe furniture is quite difficult to create and quite hard to find.  A genuine antique french serpentine chest can be quite rare and pricey for any collector.

The larger 9 drawer Touraine chests feature 6 side drawers and 3 smaller middle drawers.  This unique design offers a substantial amount of storage space.

The nightstands in the Touraine series do a great job of drawing inspiration from genuine Louis XV nightstands which feature a slender style often not seen in other french provincial collections.

Prices can vary greatly  for individual pieces in the Touraine collection, and complete sets often go for $1500- $2800 depending on the condition.

Continue Reading…

My Journey In Painting


I have had a lot of fun over the years doing furniture makeovers, trying new paint techniques and giving old furniture an updated look.

I love to paint because it allows me to experiment with faux techniques and it allows me to explore truly antique paint colors.  I also enjoy the challenge of turning something dated into something beautiful.

I make over furniture as a hobby, and I try to focus on classic upscale styles such as Chippendale dressers, French furniture, American styles which I usually make over with paint.

French furniture has become my choice of furniture because it has so much potential. You really cannot paint a classic chippendale dresser yellow or pink, but you can with a French dresser. The curvy lines of most French furniture pieces are just brimming potential.

There are three ways that French furniture pieces are typically redone….

1. Bright Colors and Patterns – Typically either solid colors or dramatic patterns such as the prints Jonathan Adler is famous for.

2. Faux woods and Marbles such as are found in the palace of Versailles, or Tuscan blacks.

3. Antique Swedish looks – High end white finishes.

So just how did I start painting?

I am Canadian, while my husband is American, so I wasn’t able to work full time when I first moved down to Virginia. We went through the extensive immigration process, which meant at first I couldn’t work right away after arriving in the United States.  It allowed me some time for small projects and makeovers.

But it wasn’t until the second year of our marriage when our apartment building went through a management change that things really opened up for me.  I ended up becoming manager of our apartment building. Actually, I managed two buildings, which allowed me plenty of opportunity to learn how to mix different paints, and do small DYI makeovers. It helped tremendously that the owner of the building was open to DIY changes. He was grateful for any improvement and allowed me great freedom in decorating the buildings.  I really took to painting and really took an interest in color theory. I have learned to love faux finishes and the possibilities they hold for creating period looks.

After the apartment buildings got sold, we moved on and I started painting furniture.  As we were in the process of moving, I needed to get rid of some furniture and I discovered the joy of selling things on craigslist.  I found that there were a lot of people out there interested in looking for nice quality furniture.

I decided to look for only furniture I loved myself. I focused on colonial and traditional furniture styles which were easy to find in Virginia. I learned that people really loved classic white and black finishes.  While some of my girlfriends painted colorful pieces, I learned that only certain types of furniture worked with certain colors.

Regency Barrel Chairs Cut Down And Turned Into Slipper Chairs

Regency Barrel Chairs Torn Apart and Re-Upholstered Into Slipper Chairs

As I got more into painting, our small 2 bedroom condo quickly became overcrowded with all my painted projects laying around. I felt so bad for my husband, but every business has to start off some way or another.

We constantly had wet painted furniture all over the condo, and there were times when it drove me kind of batty. I learned how to be a very neat painter, because often times I had carpet I had to keep a meticulous eye on.

My husband started blogging, which over the years turned out to be a full-time business. He left his job as an attorney, and we both moved towards making money online. Living in a 2 bedroom condo, with one bedroom holding all of our furniture, I painted furniture while he worked hard on our Internet adventure.

Today, we blog full time, and I don’t paint furniture anymore for re-sale, but still paint in my free time.  I really enjoy trying to master Swedish finishes. They intrigue me, and I am still experimenting with other finishes as well. I am still learning and growing, and I am hardly a master, but continue to learn along the way.

You can find more of my home here.

French Provincial Living Room Furniture

Turning a rather plain piece of furniture into something spectacular can truly be a lot of fun.  Some of my favorite french provincial furniture pieces are the marble-topped living room vintage sets.

French provincial marble living tables consist basically of the base of the table which is made from wood, and a marble top which is inserted into the wood base. Many of the 1950’s french provincial coffee tables and end tables were made with luxurious marble tops which even today is still a very expensive material many people still have to stretch their wallets for.

Marble itself is an extravagant choice for counter tops in kitchens, but  is often bypassed because of its high cost.  Marble is one of the most beautiful materials in the world, because of its complex patterns and deep colors.  Marble comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns.  These vintage marble sets can be picked up for as little as $50 dollars a table which pales in comparison to the cost of purchasing the marble, then having it cut to fit a particular table, and then making the furniture.

A marble coffee table or end table can bring a touch of elegance to any home.  Most of the marble tables seen in high end hotels and homes have marble tops with wooden stands.

The process of turning a raw stone into a beautiful piece of furniture is a rather complicated process.  One aspect of marble furniture that must be appreciated is the rather dangerous job of finding and processing it.  Marble is found in the mountains which means that obtaining it involves the use of dynamite.  They essentially blast off parts of a mountain and collect the boulders that are blown off.  Those huge pieces of rock are then taken into  workshops where they are cut into large slabs. The slabs then are cut into sizes and are then waxed and polished.

In many countries these jobs are carried out by very advanced machinery, but in developing countries, many of these processes are still handled by individual workers with the help of small, semi-automated machines, which makes it very labor intensive.

Maintaining marble tables is a very delicate process.  Marble scratches and stains quite easily if it is not sealed.  If you do buy a french provincial marble coffee table set, you will have to consider the cost of having it sealed yearly and then polished as frequently as possible to maintain the good looks of the marble.

Avoiding placing wet, hot or cold drinks on the surface and always using a coaster.   Keeping your marble clean of debris, drinks and sharp objects will help keep your marble furniture beautiful for a lifetime.

Living in Provence Dane McDowell

Architects and interior decorators around the world still draw inspiration from the Provençal region.  Living In Provence features sections on gardens, and useful information on restaurants, hotels and guesthouses.  Its gardens are visions of paradise rediscovered, its houses–whether looking out over sea, forest, the countryside, a shady terrace, or a patio full of flowers–reflect a secret harmony between interior and exterior.  Living in Provence features how to achieve Provence Style from a variety of angles, featuring contemporary houses, village houses, farmhouses, log cabins and lodges, and historical buildings.

About the Author

Dane McDowell is a journalist and academic. She is assistant editor of the magazine Résidences-Décoration, and has also contributed to Connaissance des Arts and Figaro Magazine.

Christian Sarramon (photographer) spent long months traveling the length and breadth of Provence to create this book. He works for leading interior design magazines and has published numerous books, including the Book of Roses and Provence Style.


 French Provincial Furniture Ideas – Living in Provence By Dane McDowell

My Louis XV French Provincial Chest Makeover

My French Provincial Louis Dresser MakeoverWhite-washing is basically applying glaze mixed with white paint to the surface of your wood furniture, giving your piece a two-tone effect.

The two tone effect is basically where the wood shows through the paint finish.  You can achieve this result by liming, which can be picked up at your local hardware store, or paint alone can achieve this finish.

This effect ONLY works when you have unfinished wood which enables the paint to soak into the furniture.

White-washing can also work with oil based paint in combination with paint thinner.   If you are working with vintage French Provincial you might run into a stumbling block like I did, where you have a really hard white melamine paint that is baked on.  If you have patience you could strip off the paint.

Every dresser is different, some manufacture paint finishes are relatively easy to remove, while others are very difficult.  If you have a white french provincial dresser that has a white finish, check out what I did with my painted french dresser:

I had a white dresser so I decided to fake the appearance of a white painted piece which was distressed showing the wood underneath.  What I did to mine was started with a orange oil paint, and layered on color with slight distressing in between to produce a finish that looked to have layers of blues and creams and beiges to the finish.You can also achieve this look by mixing water based paint with glaze BUT, for most of my pieces I prefer to work with oil paint, rather than with latex, so this article discusses OIL rather than latex paint

 I would highly recommend Rust-Oleum’s oil paint in satin or flat finishes. Rust-Oleum’s satin oil dark taupe is one of the most frequent colors I use when I paint furniture

Using a faux washing technique with soft butter yellow satin oil paint is one of the best colors to use on top of dark taupe.  Additional oil colors such as the butter yellow can be purchased from specialty paint stores that tint oil paint.  I use this technique on a lot of my projects.   I have come to know that my local Home Depot paint store no longer carries this color.  Here it is on Amazon.

Rust-Oleum 241238 Satin Enamels Spray, Dark Taupe, 12-Ounce

The other color which works well is Rust-Oleum’s color Fossil in latex .  Again using white-washing techniques, Rust-Oleum’s oil flat paint tinted with an off white works extremely well in creating a washed Swedish finish.

Rust-Oleum American Accents Spray, Satin Fossil

 I would suggest Sherwin Williams for oil paints, and you also can get virtually any color with Behr’s Paint and Primer in one.

Here are a few of my staples:


If you are working with latex paint a glaze can go a long way toward adding depth to your furniture.

Ralph Lauren Faux Technique Glaze

If you are working with oil, translucent finishes can be achieved by simply working with paint thinner and stippling it on to your furniture just like you would with glaze.

Ralph Lauren Faux Technique Glaze 

Many french provincial reproduction furniture pieces have such durable finishes that they are almost impossible to chip, which is an excellent quality to have.  If you are looking for a french dresser, and you want to make it over using a white washed appearance, I would highly suggest working with a dresser that has just a wood finish and no paint.

Typical white french provincial furniture pieces are often found with rock hard enamel paint.  The challenge with these white finishes is they are especially hard to strip.

Many vintage manufactures have taken the enamel finish and combined them with chemicals such as melamine paint and baked them in large ovens, which gave them rock hard solid paint finishes. Stripping these finishes is next to impossible.

So what do you do if your original paint is white?   

The dresser I painted was solid wood, but also had an original white finish, so I had to duplicate the look of wood with a coat of orange paint, so that when I distressed the furniture, it would give the appearance of some depth to the paint finish.

The next layer is an off white beige color, which I was able then to distress showing the orange.

After the distressing, I used a white oil paint diluted with thinner and dabbled it onto the dresser giving it a little bit of a textured look.  Additional white washes were applied to give it an overall white effect.   I did about 7 layers of additional washes until the entire piece was finished.  Here was the transformation.

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Painting Colorful Furniture- Two Decorating Options

Picture Credit – parinomercatoantiquario on ebay

Vibrant Colorful Painted Furniture

Vibrant Colorful Painted Furniture

French Provincial furniture is often very curvy and delicate that it is the perfect choice of furniture style to paint in a bright color.

French nightstands, cabinets and dressers can often be found at very reasonable prices that it makes redecorating very affordable. Bright colors do make dramatic statements, and often become the focal point of any room.

Accent furniture gives you the opportunity to change the look of your room without making a huge investment. Consider french provincial living room end tables, or french provincial tall bed side tables, as they are easy accessories that you can paint and then combine with throw pillows which easily tie in the bright colors.

Living room end tables and coffee tables do not have to match the existing furniture, and they also can be easily be repainted months later with ease.

Large 20 drawer green painted wood grain cupboard From The Butler & The Chef20 Drawer Green Painted Cupboard From The Butler & The Chef

Option 1: Combining A Neutral Wall with Bright Furniture, and Accessories

Having a neutral colored palette will give your room a good base to work with. Neutral wall colors work with every color well, and give your furniture that perfect balance for colorful accessories and brightly painted furniture.

White, or light gray is a neutral wall color that will work with any furniture color and most any decorating scheme. The palest shades of gray works with every color, and the darkest of grays will add elegance against bright furniture.

 Beige is one of the hottest selling colors for home sales as most people can see themselves living with a neutral beige. Not only is beige a color that is warm, it also works with every color on the color wheel. When investing in a sofa, it is smart to choose something with a simple earth tone which can be updated with throw pillows. This simple logic works the same with the paint color on your walls. Neutral colors give you the freedom to pick out strikingly colorful art paintings, or accessories.

Option 2: Using The Same Colors On The Walls As The Furniture

The easiest way of coordinating a room with a colorful piece of furniture is to take the exact color and add it into the wall color, or curtains or throw pillows. Paint can be matched with any fabric or accessory with today’s paint color matching technology. This is a very easy way of getting that “designer feel” in your home.


How To Paint Furniture Black Like A PRO

Gorgeous Black French Dresser From Cassie's - Primitive And Proper

Gorgeous Black French Dresser From Cassie’s – Primitive and Proper

French provincial furniture has caught popularity with designers and decorators as the new Tuscan looks sweep the magazines.  More decorators are getting resourceful transforming old vintage pieces that have the charm of high end looks, into the expensive antiques they see in the designer show rooms.  Black has always been one of the most popular choices of the past and of today because it is a color that works with every other color of the color wheel.  Black and white will always open up your choices for your walls, and fabrics compared to other colors.

Perhaps you are an experienced painter, and have transformed hundreds of pieces; we would love for you to leave your insights into painting tricks and tips of the trade.

 If you are a new painter, I hope I can share some valuable tips that I have learned first hand over the years that I have painted furniture, and hopefully to encourage you in your next transformation of your plain dresser into something spectacular.

Anyone can paint a dresser black, but there are certain tricks to make your painted pieces higher end.  When painting, your final product should look as though you didn’t do it at home.

Rustic painters prefer to see brush strokes, and in antiques you often see brush strokes, but one of the biggest tips I can pass on is that your piece is very smooth that it looks like a manufacture finish, or a higher end antique worth thousands. Part of achieving that finish is either using a spray, or using a foam brush which evens out your painting strokes.

Another way of adding to the overall finish is faux techniques most people do not know how to do, or even consider which we explain more below.  Each of these steps will make your painted piece look as though you bought it at a high end shop, and antique gallery, or possibly pass as an antique.

1.  Distressing

Distressing is a sure way of adding depth and interest to a dresser, table, or nightstand.  When I first began painting, I always made sure I primed my furniture, because I wanted the paint to stick to the furniture I was finishing.   I was afraid of the paint lifting off the furniture, so I always made sure I primed.  As I experimented and advanced in my painting, I found I was pretty limited when it came to distressing because you cannot buy primer in black.  Often times they could tint primer, and the best you could get was gray.  Behr has come out with a paint and primer mixed together, but at that time I was pretty limited.  Looking at all the distressed pieces out there, I couldn’t understand how many painters achieved the finish of distressing.  It wasn’t until much later, (almost a year)  that I just disregarded priming all together, and made sure my pieces were sanded well, so I could use my main color of paint instead of primer AND then paint.   The options then started opening up for me.

Some of the vintage french provincial furniture have “baked on” white epoxy finishes that are almost impossible to remove with stripper, so in those instances, if you want a two-toned affect, you will need to prime your piece, and paint it red, and then finish it with a black coat.  If you are an experienced painter, you could faux finish your piece in a wood color, and then go ahead and paint it black and distress it.  This will give you the same effect of a wood piece painted black.  This goes the same for melamine tops which are often seen on french provincial furniture.  Be sure to really sand your melamine top before painting.

The trick to distressing is the sponge sanders found at your local hardware store.  I have found using a sponge sander gives you the flexibility and control of where and how much you want when it comes to distressing.  Using a hand electric sander can often take off A LOT of paint, which can force you to go back and repaint some of the areas.  Using a hand electric sander might come in handy if you have several layers of oil paint that you want to expose.  When it comes to regular latex paint, the paint is just too thin, it often takes off too much.

The art of distressing is to sand in the areas which would be worn.  Sand under neath drawer handles, or on the feet of your chest where feet would bump over the years.  Sand where items, bowls, vases would be placed on the tops of your buffets, or on the edges showing the beautiful lines of your furniture.  Distressing is a sure way of breaking up the black and giving an interest that grabs the eye each time in passing.

Martha Stewart Chinoiserie Sideboard

Martha Stewart Chinoiserie Sideboard

2.  Glossy Black

Furniture will always be a high-end designer choice when it comes to furniture finishes.  Glossy black paint always looks fantastic on curvy furniture such as french bombe chests or serpentine dressers.  When it comes to gloss finishes, the biggest tip I can pass on is to be sure the furniture you are planning on transforming is without blemish.  Glossy finishes will pick up every imperfection which is even more magnified when you use any type of gloss finish, so fine sanding is imperative if you choose to go this route.   Spray painting could be the easiest option if you are doing a small project like a chair.  If you are planning on doing a larger piece such as a buffet or dresser, use a sponge brush, which evens out each stroke.  You may have to do 3 or 4 coats of paint, but your piece will be as even as a babies behind.

3.  Faux Finishes 

Faux finishes often has some sort of highlight in ornate details of the furniture.  Often painters try to replicate this aged look by applying a beige or gray paint to bring out the beautiful depths of heavily carved furniture.  With my experience, I highlighted an empire dresser that I painted black with a light gray paint in the areas it was carved.  Over all, I wasn’t pleased with the look, because the gray painted areas looked too heavy and obvious it was paint than occurred over time with natural age.  I washed it off and noticed that the watered down remnants of paint that were left, perfectly highlighted the areas leaving a aged look, pointing the eye to the more detailed parts of the chest.  It did a remarkable job of making the dresser look more expensive than it was.  If you do plan on trying out this technique, dilute your beige/gray paint with a glaze, and be sure to have a damp rag to remove the extra paint leaving very little behind as your highlight.

Graham And GreenGraham And Green

Painting Black Furniture

 I never considered using a green wash on black until I had seen it done on an antique metal canister, so I tried it for myself. The trick with using green paint, is to paint with a damp rag in your other hand washing off the excess paint.  Like the gray / beige paint in the suggestion above, it is almost more useful mixing your paint with a glaze.  As the green paint dries over the black , you will get a feel of applying more or less in the areas you want aged.  Like any aged furniture, you want to try to leave the green paint where rust would normally happen.  I have used it on ornate chairs, and it has really pushed the value of my furniture up a notch.

4.Using Red As A Base Coat

Another technique often seen with black furniture is distressing with a red showing through as the under color. This is particularly striking with Asian furniture. This is simply accomplished by painting your furniture piece with red, and then painting your top color black.  When using this technique it is not imperative that you use oil paint, but it is my preference.  You can use regular latex paint, which will work perfectly.  As normal, distress the furniture in worn areas.

Primitive & Proper’s Perfect French Provincial Painted Furniture

Primitive and Proper Painted French Chest

Cassie Bustamante and Theresa Carver now owners of Primitive and Proper, a successful restoration business,met by chance through a Craigslist transaction a number of years ago and wouldn’t consider anything else they would rather do than paint furniture.

One email lead to the next and the two were exchanging ideas and eventually teamed up together refinishing wood furniture, that had once seen better days.

Located in Virginia where antiques surface often, Theresa brings a unique edge growing up in North Yorkshire, England which is known for their antique gems and painted furniture. Both are busy mothers find time to paint after their children go to bed, get their inspiration from their children’s playfulness, and hope to pass on their treasures to moms looking for a creative piece for their growing children’s rooms.

Their selection of painted furniture range from cottage styles, to old world black polished pieces, to French painted furniture.

Primitive and Proper search all over Virginia, DC, and Maryland for their unique furniture finds, but they also work on commission if you want a custom painted piece of furniture. Having a large gallery of pictures, a person can certainly get ideas from their wide selection of sold pieces.


This gorgeous curvy French Provincial dresser was painted by Primitive and Proper. The beautiful blue and distressing really gives an attractive look to this mid size french chest.

Q: How can amateur painters accomplish this beautiful professional finish you achieved with these two nightstands?  Do you have any tips for first time painters wanting a unique look for their furniture using paint?

Cassie- “I would not consider myself a professional painter as in some sense  I use the good ol’ fashioned method.   I do not have a sprayer, as many furniture painters do, and do everything by hand.  With that being said, it is very important to invest in good quality brushes for a smooth look as well as good primer.

I use zinnser, which smells awful, but works beautifully.  I have found with zinnser I only need to lightly sand the piece to be painted.  Once it has been sanded, the primer is brushed on by hand and it is very important to follow the direction of the wood and go in nice straight lines.  You can “feather” as you brush on so that you won’t see where you lifted the brush off of the piece.

Once the primer has dried, you can use another coat of primer, which I do in the case of white pieces.  After the second coat of primer, I begin painting and use just latex paint.

I prefer to use Sherwin  and Williams harmony paint which is low voc, cost efficient, and good quality.

I personally prefer the eggshell finish, which was used on these tables.   Again, follow the same brush strokes as your primer for a smooth and even look.  After the piece has been painted with 2-4 coats of paint, the edges are distressed by hand with 80-120 grit sandpaper.

Some sites will recommend higher grit, but i prefer the lower grit and just move my hands very rapidly as I distress to avoid getting scratchy marks (if you do get these marks, you can touch them up).

Once it has been distressed and wiped clean with a damp paper towel, I sometimes choose to antique it, as was the case with these nightstands, to give it a more old world look.

There are specialty glazes you can purchase, but I use my trusty minwax stain and brush it on, and then wipe off with a rag, again following the lines of the paint.  You can use as many coats of stain as you need to achieve the desired look.”

My French Provincial Pedestal Desk Makeover

French Desk Makeover

French Provincial furniture has been known for their beautiful lines and timeless looks.  Most often vintage french provincial furniture have been produced in sets such as living room sets, dining room sets and bedroom sets, but on the odd occasion, some pieces were manufactured alone.

This desk is unique because I haven’t seen a double pedestal desk in the french provincial style without the wood being painted.  With this piece I really loved the wood, and decided to just improve the look giving it an old world finish which would fit into any European or Tuscan style interior.

I find using a natural fiber chip brush which you can get for 2 dollars at your local hardware store always produces the nicest finishes.  Natural chip brushes will give you best control when painting with this specific oil paint.

How to Achieve the old world stained look with Artists oil paint:

Mix in a bowl, (preferably a throw away bowl) or line it with aluminum foil) artists oil paint, and a little bit of paint thinner.

(Don’t mix them together, just have both in a bowl)

Brush on the oil on to the wood. You will be able to see what looks good and what looks too thick.  If you find the oil is too thick, try using a small (small) amount of paint thinner, on your brush.

(This paint is not meant for furniture, but it produces a spectacular painted old world finish that is hard to attain with regular wood stain.  I have found that I put up with the draw backs for the beautiful finish.  If you decide to try this, know that the paint take an extra long time to dry.  The first time I tried this on my walls, I got impatient and tried to paint a clear plycrylic and I ruined the entire finish, that I had to take paint thinner and scrub it off.  If you decide to try this finish instead of sanding down your project and staining it as usual, do have a room where the piece can dry untouched for a good week or so)

I find working in sections very helpful.  This is a very quickly working finish.  You don’t want to over work the finish, and it helps to have lots of paper towel handy in case you have to wipe the finish down and try again.

It is a dry wipe finish, meaning you are really having to work the brush to spread out the finish on your piece.  Be sure your furniture is LIGHTLY sanded, for the oil to stick well.

After it is finished drying over a weeks period, you will want to spray it with a clear sealer.

It is VERY VERY important your first sealant is a spray.  I made the mistake of touching my furniture too early and it messed up the entire finish.  If you spray your piece, and it isn’t dry, it won’t hurt the finish.

Winton Oil 200ml Burnt Umber, Klean-Strip ”Green” Lacquer Thinner, Quart, Wood Chip Brush — 4 Inch

Minwax 24444 Polycrylic Protective Finish

Minwax Polyurethane Spray – Satin

Minwax Polycrylic, Satin 1/2 Pt

12 Natural China Bristle 3″ Chip Brush

My French Provincial Desk Before the Makeover
My French Provincial Pedestal Desk Make Over After
French Provincial Furniture Makeover
French Provincial Desk Makeover
French Provincial Desk Makeover
My Faux Burl Wood Makeover Painted With Oil
Faux Finished French Provincial Nightstands Dixie Dresser

This nightstand was originally a white dixie Hutch dresser.  I ditched the hutch and just made them into nightstands.   I filled in holes for the original hardware and drilled new holes for these beautiful large french handles.  Check out the entire post here.

Before- Manufacture Finish Dixie Dresser Hutch


My French Provincial Dixie Union Flag Dresser Makeover

French Provincial Dressers are one of the most perfect designed dressers to paint abstract designs. They work so perfectly because painted furniture  was common on Antique Louis XV and XVI furniture, so the look transfers easily to french provincial pieces.

The Union Jack Flag has caught attention of the design crowd, and the geometrical flag has been featured in a number of interior design blogs and magazines and it has even made its way into fashion.

Upholstered furniture is the new trend with these geometrical flags, but can be very tricky because flags are often not sold by the yard or meter at your local fabric store.  Painting a piece of furniture on the other hand can be very easy with any flag pattern.

With my flag dresser, being that I was working with the Union Jack Flag, I painted my piece in white to begin with.  Then I taped the lines of flag, and once the paint was dried, I removed the tape, and added a brown glaze to antique the dresser.

(If I were to do it all over again, I would certainly use a flat paint instead of an oil based color.  The reason for this, is oil paint can be very thick, and working with tape, you want your paint to COVER in one coat (or 2), not making it so heavy that when you pull off your tape there is an obvious ridge where the paint built up against the tape.

Flat paint usually is the best to use when you are working with bright colors.  Learning from experience, it took me about 8 coats of semi gloss paint to paint a wall orange.  In the end, the walls were not perfectly finished because each layer of paint makes your walls imperfect.  You always want that sanded finish that fresh drywall provides.  The lesson I learned that I can pass on, is to make your first coat flat, and if you want a gloss, then paint it after your walls are covered with the flat paint.

So my recommendation after doing this flag dresser is to always sand first, and paint in flat paint for all your colors, and then go over the dresser with a WATER BASED polycrylic clear finish when you are completed. Never use oil based polyurethane on white.  In a year it will turn a ugly yellow, if not in a day.

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HOW To Upholster Your Provincial Headboard

French Headboard Featured on Bob Vila

French Headboard Featured on Bob Vila

Buying a French bed is a timeless furniture choice.  Classic French beds have been around for centuries, and are still as much popular as the French style is featured and popularized in the higher end interior design magazines.

French antique beds are normally made from sturdy wooden frames and are often delicately carved which makes them both interesting and elegant.  The workmanship that goes into a carved bed takes patience and skill in order to get the precision and detail which can make them quite a bit more expensive.

Many antique French beds are made from a variety of woods, depending on their particular country and location.  Some of the most common woods found are mahogany, walnut or Black wood.

Often seen in the rococo beds, the footboards are also delicately carved, which makes them highly coveted.  A common signature to French furniture is the curvature of the legs of the furniture.  You will see the circular feet on many footboards, chairs, and chests.

There are a number of great styles when it comes to antique French beds, but if you are on a tight budget and you really want the look of a French home, why not go for the reproduction French provincial beds of the 50’s and 60’s? Many of the beds were made to mimic the antique Louis styles but on lower end scale. The 1960’s French provincial furniture is pretty easy to find, and relatively inexpensive in price.

1. Painting- One way of recreating the antique looks is to paint the frame of the bed. There are three main French styles you can paint.

A) Classic Gold is a very traditional French look. Gold works with every single upholstery as it acts like a neutral, so you are free to choose a variety of fabrics, as gold goes with everything. One very simple way of painting your piece gold is to spray it gold, letting it dry and gold leafing it for a realistic sheen of actual gold. Tips on leafing can be found here. Once the leaf has dried, you can rub on gray and with a damp cloth wipe the excess paint off which will stick in the cracks.

B) Classic cream is always a beautiful French choice. Be sure to get a creamy white with a green undertone. Once your paint has dried, add a brown glaze to add to the antique feel of aged furniture. You can buy glaze at your local home hardware store, or home depot, or Here – Wm Zinsser 04201 Blend & Glaze Decorative Painting Liquid

C) Swedish Grays are always an upscale French look. It is often a grown up style because it is not found on new furniture, but classic antiques. You can get that antique feel with gray and finish it off with a yellow wash. I have tried most of all colors with French furniture, and a cornflower yellow works the best over gray. Like the steps above, (after your gray has dried) paint on the yellow, (doing small sections) and wipe it off using a damp cloth. The muted yellow should give your piece the feel of a white wash but leaving the gray color intact.

2. Upholstery – You can create the rich looks of higher end antique French beds by simply buying the curvy headboard that was popular in the 60’s and upholster them with rich French fabrics. Classic antique French patterns were floral and landscape scenes. It is a relatively easy process to upholster a bed frame, so don’t feel overwhelmed.

You will need 4 major things to complete the task. 1. Batting 2. Fabric 3. A Stapler 4. Nail head trim.

The batting can be found at your local sewing fabric store. Ideally you want to find a flat foam padding, or cotton felt. You can always stuff inside the flat felt if it isn’t fluffy enough, but you will always have a smooth surface when it comes time to upholster. You do not need an industrial upholstery stapler, but they cost just as much as your basic stapler, (check below for links)  . A t-150 will work just fine, which can be purchased at your local hardware store for 20 dollars.   (I have been using a T-150 for years, and haven’t bought a electrical upholtery gun, but after seeing how cheap they are, I might order one!)

When it comes to finishing off your project, I would highly suggest getting nail head trim which you apply with a real nail every 3rd nail head. It gives you a nicer and cleaner appearance, and saves a lot of energy of lining up each nail so it is perfectly straight and in line with the rest. You can buy 30 feet for around the 7-15 dollar mark from Nails to You on ebay.  With that said, you can have your stunning French bed with fractions of the cost of an antique.

Hitachi N3804AB3 1 1/2-Inch 18-Gauge Narrow Crown Finish Stapler

Surebonder 9600 Pneumatic Fine Wire Staple Gun with Carrying Case

Arrow Fastener T25P Wire Staple Gun

Cotton Batting Medium Grade Roll Natural
Hillman Fasteners 122682 Upholstery Nail (Pack of 6)

Today with the convenience of ebay, you can shop around for antiques from all across the nation (and world) from the comfort of your home. Many antique dealers are now listing their inventory online which has made it easier to locate the antique you are after. With all the antiques in one location and the option of comparison shopping, it has made the prices honest, in addition to healthy competition to get the consumers business. Always go with a seller with a strong reputation of positive feedback. Be sure to get shipping quotes before committing to the bid to buy.

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