5 Ways Interior Designer Birdie Fortescue Decorates With Painted Furniture

A subtle combination of textures and surfaces is what gives a room both character and authenticity. The most visually appealing interior designs blend painted and polished furniture from different eras with balance and flair.

Achieving this look in your own home is easier than you think and painted furniture ideas are a great way to breathe new life into unloved rooms.

If you’re buying parts for this, be sure to pick out what you like first. It’s so much easier to create an eclectic look around pieces you love than to scatter a room with furniture that lacks emotional appeal.

Birdie Fortescue

Birdie Fortescue is an interior designer who likes to combine contemporary and antique furniture. She is editor-in-chief of Homes & Gardens.

1. Look for simple combinations


(Image credit: Birdie Fortescue)

This elegant hallway perfectly demonstrates how simple this combination can be. These highly decorative 18th century rosewood cabinets are a stark contrast to the clean, contemporary lines of the Wensum pedestal table, yet the two sit in complete harmony.

This look could easily be replicated with a retro sideboard and painted coffee table, an inlaid hall table and painted console table, or a distressed painted armoire and mid-century desk. The possibilities are endless as long as the final combination is balanced and works within the larger room scheme.

2. Contrast a dining table and chairs

Dining room

(Image credit: Birdie Fortescue)

In a dining room avoid matching your table and chairs: instead choose contrasting finishes to add interest. Even a highly decorative table like the inset in this room is perfectly balanced by the less formal painted chairs. In fact, the contrasts here are what tie the scheme together.

This striking dining room makes the most of the dramatic potential of painting ideas; using matte and gloss finishes wisely. The unexpected addition of the contemporary painted pedestal table and polished mid-century chairs makes this scheme sing.

The dynamism of this combination of finishes gives the piece a strong personality perfectly suited to an entertainment area.

3. Layer the design

Wooden coffee table, white beams on the ceiling, green walls, wooden furniture

(Image credit: Birdie Fortescue)

This unusual vaulted room is decorated with a tapestry of living room furniture ideas from different periods. The design was created in layers, ranging from the early 19th century bookcase to the charming driftwood coffee table in front of the sofa. As the entire height of the room had to be taken into account in the scheme, the lighting also played a crucial role in balancing the space.

The use of painted French lanterns gives a softer, lighter feel than similar brass pendants and offsets the darker colors and gold frame of the painting above the bookcase.

The framing of the contemporary paintings on the side walls then links back to the whitewashed coffee table to create a visual thread that ties all the rooms together.

4. Strike a classic-contemporary balance

Chest of drawers and desk in wood, green carpet

(Image credit: Birdie Fortescue)

This stylish guest bedroom strikes the perfect balance between classic and contemporary by mixing styles in a simple way. This would be an ideal look to recreate if you have inherited many dark bedroom furniture ideas.

The key is to make a frame with the polished pieces which can be complemented with painted, upholstered or contemporary elements.

Here, the inlaid French semainier, the writing table and the sofa are balanced by the painted chairs, the upholstered armchair and the painted mirror. The addition of contemporary fabrics and upholstery introduces another layer of interest that makes the final look fresh and inviting rather than stuffy and old-fashioned.

5. Juxtapose styles from the same era

Green bed and lampshade, wooden bedside table

(Image credit: Birdie Fortescue)

If you’re aiming for a very subtle effect, try pairing furniture from a similar era but with a different look. In this predominantly green bedroom, the inlaid bedside table and painted headboard are both 19th century French but have completely contrasting finishes.

Without the polished table, this piece would lack structure and there would be nothing to balance the strong tones of the painting and its frame. The polished cabinets in the second room perform a similar function; balance the soft tones in the space and counterbalance the rich colors of the abstract painting.

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