Many of us who sell painted furniture began by selling furniture out of our homes, then grew and expanded by adding to our businesses over the years as we matured in the art of painting furniture. There are so many ways of painting furniture, and each artist can set themselves apart by developing their own style and approach to painting. Barb Blair, the owner of Knack Studios, has had tremendous success with her painted furniture business. She got her start by featuring her furniture in an antique mall. Today her painted furniture is featured in her own custom studio where she takes clients by appointment. Blair also showcases her furniture at Antiques on Augusta – an upscale antique shop in Greenville, South Carolina. Today her distinctive style is known across the United States. Custom finishes at Knack Studios start at $400, and they can range in price depending on size, finish, details and hardware. One of the most impressive details that originally caught my eye was Blair’s genius choice of color. Knack Studio colors tend to be more muted when compared to colors often found in antique furniture. Her style leans towards the gustavian and rococo gray and yellow tones. The softer lines often seen in cottage and french furniture have become tremendously popular in recent years – often taking the place of the stiff lines seen in much of the modern furniture being produced these days. Muted tones and clean traditional furniture lines have always had their place in American homes and will always remain in style as the fads come and go.
Even though almost everyone can paint furniture, it is often the choice of color which sets apart the amateur painters from the experienced professionals. Careful choice of color and aging techniques can suggest that a piece of furniture is older than it looks. Antique furniture is often much more expensive, and harder to find, which makes it highly coveted. Everyone wants the expensive antique painted furniture promoted in magazines such as Veranda, but who can afford the price points that come along with antique furniture? Painted furniture pieces can give you that antique look without breaking your budget. When painting furniture, if you take the time to add additional steps such as distressing, glazing or adding extra faux finishes can add a lot of detail to painted furniture giving it that aged appearance.
If you run into color confusion as I do, one book I would highly suggest is Colors For Your Every Mood: Discover Your True Decorating Colors by Leatrice Eiseman which you can pick up from Amazon used for under $8 dollars. She details a variety of antique color combinations found in various parts of the world which will aid any avid painter in determining the right color choices for period furniture.
Getting back to Knack Studios, we recently interviewed Barb Blair and I think that you will find what she shared with us to be very enlightening….
Meranda: How did you get started painting furniture?
Barb : I got hooked on painting when I painted my kitchen cabinets about ten years ago! the rest is history:)
Meranda: Every painter has a unique story of how they began painting. What was your story?
Barb : I started very small painting pieces and selling them out of my home, putting together a spring show and a fall show. Then I started selling at an antique mall , six months later opened up a second antique store location and then six months after that I opened knack studio. I have since stopped selling at the first antique location, but have maintained the second, and have just relocated into a larger studio that is perfect for the growing knack needs! I am proud to say that knack is a debt free business that has been built on a cash only business plan…..and it feels great!
Meranda: Why is it worth it to find an antique than to shop new?
Barb: While there may be some good to new pieces on the market…typically the antiques are built much better, with attention to detail and aesthetic appeal…. which makes painting those that have become cast off even more desirable.
Meranda : How has your style merged over time?
Barb: With time comes experience and with experience comes a level of comfort and confidence in who you are as an artist/designer. So, for me my style has stayed the same, just broader.
Meranda: What are your biggest design tips?
Barb: My biggest design tip is to live with what you love, and don’t feel tied to a specific set of design rules! let your space be a description of who you are , what you love, and who you are loved by! make it comfortable, inviting, and a haven for yourself and your family…..that is what home is all about.
Meranda: How can your home be different than every other home?
Barb: Your home will be different if it is a reflection of who you are….. such as collections, children’s art work , found treasures, character pieces, and a low amount of mass produced objects:) buy local and handmade!
Meranda: What are some of your tips for painting furniture?
Barb: Always work in a clean well ventilated environment. proper tools are absolutely essential, so do your research on what works best for your particular project. remember that it’s just paint, and have fun with it!
Meranda: Where do people go wrong with painting furniture?
Barb: Maybe they become impatient or expect perfection? the whole painted furniture concept is to see the beauty of imperfection…..when you can grasp that , painting becomes an adventure!