Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Painting Furniture

Yesterday a reader asked about painting caned furniture. Her question reminded me of this vintage chair uncovered by India Hicks and David Flint Wood when they moved into their island home. According to India's book, Island Life, the caned chair was originally a shocking blue. Following the example set by her legendary dad, David Hicks, she sanded the piece well and refreshed it with white paint and simple pineapple print upholstery.

Unfortunately the book doesn't address the caning. But a few years ago I had success lightly painting a cane-back chair with a brush. (A previous owner had already painted the natural caning.) Some people have success with spray paint. The trick is not to apply the paint too thickly, I think.

L.A.-based designer Carla Lane opted to spray paint the chair above. Other times though, she has her vintage wood furniture painted by a pro.

As she told us last year, “It’s expensive, but it’s worth it and you can customize your color...when you do anything in a high gloss you want there to be as few pits and dents as possible." Professionals can do a thorough sanding and patching job first, then spray furniture in a booth.

For more on caning in general, see this helpful Martha Stewart article. And let us know if you have tips of your own.

Photograph by Robert Capa, Magnum Photos, Copyright 1996 Estate of Robert Capa

Side note: ever since I spotted this famous 1948 photo (Francoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso) tacked to Hicks' "scrap wall," I've enjoyed keeping it on my own inspiration boards.

Top two images are from Island Life, Harry N. Abrams, 2004


suzannemarques said...

great tips! i have spraypainted a headboard before after sanding it and it turned out nicely. it was black, so nicks and dents hide easily. i'm sure it's not as easy with other colors?

Style Court said...

Thanks Suzanne!

Anonymous said...

Here's a tip that I've passed along to anyone who will listen!
I use something called "1-Shot Lettering Enamel" to paint wood furniture to a super high gloss in just one coat. It's amazing stuff, available at art stores and at
The only drawback is that I've yet to find an accurate color chart showing the various mixes. But if you're looking for white, Polar White is a good choice.

Style Court said...

Elisabeth, thanks for the tip :)

Kathryn Jane said...

I'm very interested in knowing how Carla Lane fixed the seat of that black chair. I have a beautiful cane chair that has a seat in much the same condition. I've checked into cane repair all over Philadelphia (where I live) and had no luck. Thoughts?

Style Court said...

Hi Kathrhyn Jane,

Yes Carla paid to have it repaired. I think she said it cost her less than $100. But in my experience hand-caning repair gets very expensive -- especially French caning!

I'm so surprised you don't have a workroom in Philadelphia. Hmm...could you take the chair to NYC? But surely there is a caner in PA.

Traditionally this was a skill taught to the blind--especially back when there were fewer job options.

Sorry I'm not more helpful!

Anonymous said...

Caning in Philadelphia.

Anonymous said...

I love that inspiration wall (and collection case) and the Pablo Picasso photo has always been one of my favorites too.