Custom Furniture Painting.... or Not?

When we first discovered painting furniture could actually be a viable business we bought pieces, painted, listed, and hopefully sold them quickly. We were stuck on boring… white, distressed, clear waxed. But they sold and it paid the bills.

It wasn’t long before we had customers ask us to custom paint other pieces for them. Wow, this took me out of my comfort zone. They wanted different colors and specialty finishes. Could we do it? Would they like what we did? But, on the other hand, it was a guaranteed paycheck!

Why not do custom paint work?

Many painters feel like it stifles their creativity. I find it has been quite the opposite for me. When asked if I can create a different finish it might scare the heck out of me but, like a good used car salesman, I say, “Sure, we can do that!”

In the past, I have been really challenged by some of our custom requests.

One of my requests was for a pearlized finish in a metallic gray on an antique imported hutch. I was used to painting white, gray, white, white and gray, throw in some aqua, back to white! So, I had to do a little research on pearlized paint and with some trial and error we created a gorgeous piece.

Another customer had a triple dresser that had been in the family for years, and it looked like it! It was beat up, had mold, been painted white, and was pretty ugly. She wanted a “wood grain” look to match her dining room paint color! After experimenting with dark wax we came up with a beauty that matched her home perfectly. Yes, out of my comfort zone but we were paid as soon as it was finished.

Taking on custom orders can be an advantage to your business in many ways:

No inventory to purchase (cashflow)

You set the price

The deposit covers supplies

Staging can be simple

No time spent on listing or showing

It’s sold as soon as it’s finished

Usually leads to repeat business or referrals

Make sure you have a portfolio of your work available to give your customer an idea of your technique and ability to do the job.

It’s important to have a contract between you and your customer for custom work.

Items you need to cover in your contract/quote:

Clear understanding about colors and finishes (including hardware)



Deposits (non-refundable, percentage, etc)

Timeline and projected finish date

Changes to original request

Liability for the piece

Pick up and delivery if needed

Storage fees if needed

There are times when good inventory hasn’t been available and having custom work has kept our business going. We have learned to welcome custom jobs!

Be as good as your word. If you make a commitment to your customer make sure you do everything in your power to keep it. Your reputation is your business… good or bad.

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