But to paint, or to stain – that is the question.

Choosing wood as the material for a piece of custom furniture may be a decision that’s less about the wood (or it’s quality) itself, and more about its ability to take a certain finish, like a stain or paint. Even here, it’s easy to see why wood is such a popular choice of material for furniture – the possibilities are endless for customization. With wood as your base, you can truly achieve any look or fit any space.

If you’re reading this, it means you’re reaching the final stage of your custom wood piece – it’s all down to the final touches. So, are you staining or painting? Here’s how to decide.

  • Painting: When you’re painting a piece of wood furniture, you can go in endless directions depending on the look you’re going for. Want an airy, whimsical style? A light colour paint will work. Styling a kid’s room to use bright primary colours? Paint’s your friend. Darker paint colours have also become more trendy recently, using dark blues, greys, and greens to add depth to a room. Painted wood furniture will look at home at a cozy cottage, a modern bedroom, or a living room that’s reflective of its owner’s one-of-a-kind personality. Anything goes with paint.

While paint is thicker than staining options, it will cover any details in wood grain and colour. It would be an excellent option if your piece, for whatever reason, uses several different types of wood. That said, it will also take fewer coats than stain and will hold up well against wear and tear. Having a paint colour handy may be easier for touch ups through the years; as it ages and fades, chips may occur revealing the wood grain below. On the other hand, that may be an effect you’re after!

  • Staining: So you’ve decided to embrace the look of natural wood, but couldn’t find the right type to suit your desired look, budget, and durability? Stain is the way to go. Stain allows you to enhance your wood’s organic features, or even customize its colour to better match your styling while retaining its rich qualities. It won’t completely cover it, like paint will.

Staining is often a more cost-effective option for finishing your wood piece, though it will require more coats to get a finished look. But be mindful that some types of wood may take to stain easier than others – pine, for instance, can blotch with stain. Also think about the style of furniture you’re dealing with; furniture with intricate details and small nooks will be more difficult to get even stain coverage, since deeper layers will change the overall tone and colour. Paint is more uniform and will more easily maintain a consistent tone, but you may also lose some of that intricate detail with the thicker consistency of paint.

Going with paint or stain will dramatically change the look of your piece – we recommend sampling your options before you commit. Once you start, it’s difficult to go back!