I’ve been re-doing old, cast-off furniture for about 7 years now. It all started as an affordable way for my husband and I to furnish our home. Then, I discovered that other people were interested in the pieces I had painted, so I decided to try my hand at making money painting furniture.
I’ve sold painted furniture at flea markets, antique malls, off Craigslist, Ebay, and Facebook. I even held a weekend long “Cottage Sale” in our backyard.
Now, I have a nice little “permanent” space at a great antique mall up in McKinney, Texas where I can easily showcase the pieces I have for sale. It’s a fun hobby, and has also been a profitable business for me.
Many things in the furniture painting world have changed though in the past 7 years. One of the biggest is the advent of time-saving furniture paints like Milk Paint, Chalk Paint, (or my favorite Fusion Mineral Paint).
Add to that the creation of Pinterest and the never-ending inspiration it provides, it seems like everybody and their brother is now trying their hand at furniture-flipping!
As a result of this boom, it’s getting harder to turn a good profit at this business as the supply of good old furniture dwindles and competition from other furniture painters grows.
So, if you are thinking of making money painting furniture I have a few tips to share about how to maximize the money that winds up in your pocket.
TIP #1 Set your Maximum Buying Prices
Before you can sell a piece of furniture, you have to buy one. But the prices to buy and the prices to sell can vary depending on where you live.
Every part of the country is different, so it’s a good idea to take some time to get to know your own local market before you begin buying and selling.
- How deep is the supply of good quality old furniture for you to buy?
- And more importantly, how much are people around you willing to pay for painted pieces?
Your local supply and demand needs to determine what you pay for a piece to re-do.
My goal is to price my finished pieces 2-3 times what they cost me.
After being in my area for five years now, I know what I can sell a dresser, chest of drawers, and dining set for.
I also have a maximum price that I will spend on any of those pieces. I will not pay over $75 for a chest of drawers, over $100 for a dresser, or over $125 for a dining set.
Here in suburban Texas, our local supply of old furniture is pretty thin, so my max prices may be higher than what you might be able to pay.
Having that maximum price though keeps me from getting “Craigslist crazy” and jumping on any piece that’s out there.
Be patient. Take time to find a deal.
TIP #2 Invest in Tools, Not Toys
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There are certain products I need in order to do quality work with my painted pieces. At the most basic level, those are really only 2 things:
There are loads of products out there though being sold by furniture paint providers which I have not purchased, simply because I find them unnecessary.
Now, let me be clear–I am a faithful boutique brand paint user, and am frequently asked why I pay $20 – $40 for a quart of paint when I can get cheap “oops” latex paint to use for 1/4 that cost at Home Depot.
My answer is that I see my furniture paint as a tool–it saves me great amounts of time and works excellently for my projects.
So I will gladly spend the money for the paint, but I do not always buy the accessory paint brushes, wax brushes, stencils, buffing pads, pearl paint, tiny little mixers, plastic lid covers with spouts, etc.
So if you’re just starting out, there is no need to buy everything offered by your local furniture paint retailer–and I am a retailer myself!
As your business grows and you have greater capital, you can purchase some of those things later that you find fun or helpful.
As my business has grown over the years, I have purchased more of those accessory products and really enjoy using many of them. But they were not essential to my business when I was first starting out.
TIP #3 Curb your Paint Enthusiasm
Speaking of paint . . . I do love and regularly use chalk paint and Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint. But at $25-$40 a quart, let’s be honest, this stuff is expensive!
(update April 2015, I now use Fusion Mineral Paint in place of chalk paint. I find it produces excellent results for a more affordable price, and it requires no wax…yes you heard me…no waxing required. If you’re interested, you can see my step-by-step comparison of Chalk Paint vs Fusion here.)
One way I have found to help my bottom line is to use my paint wisely.
I don’t go out and get a new can of paint every time I buy a new piece, but rather I always try to use the paint I have on hand first before purchasing new.
MIX PAINT COLORS TO MAKE THEM GO FARTHER
It’s so fun to look on Pinterest and get creative with new colors and techniques, but paint costs can really add up!
So instead I mix colors I have on hand to come up with new colors to try.
I also keep a can of Annie Sloan Pure White and Old White on hand, to tint any other chalk paint I have to a new shade.
Thinning your chalk paint with water also helps the paint last longer, and I have found that it still provides perfectly good coverage (I do not thin Fusion Mineral Paint with water).
DRY BRUSHING USES LESS PAINT
Another technique for saving paint is to try dry brushing a project.
When dry brushing, you hardly use any paint, so it’s a great way to use up that last little bit hanging out in the can, and, it creates beautiful effects!
CUSTOM PROJECTS HELP BUILD YOUR PAINT SUPPLY
Lastly, I use my custom work projects as a way to build up my personal paint supply.
When painting a custom piece for someone, I build the cost of paint into the price I charge. Typically, I have plenty of paint left over after their furniture is finished. When this happens, your paint collection can grow a little at a time, rather than costing a fortune from the start.
I hope that these strategies may help you as you try to launch out into selling painted furniture.
I wanted to offer simple, practical tips, but also want to say that it’s important to find your own creative “voice”.
Be unique, offer pieces that are different than what’s out there. Try new techniques, and maybe get creative with hand-painting.
Trust your creative instincts, and someone will come along who appreciates your unique vision and style!
UPDATE – I’ve learned a few more things in the last year and recently wrote another post with 5 More Tips for Making Money Selling Furniture.
Hope it helps you go a little further in turning your creations into meaningful profit!
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