Add New Life with Lacquer

A lacquered piano by Scout Design Studio.

Whether you fall in love with a vintage piece in need of refinishing, have something at home that could use a facelift, or wish to add a pop of color to a space, lacquer could very well be the answer to your design needs. In the hands of an expert, lacquer is an excellent (and stylish) way to give furniture new life—an opportunity to enhance your piece’s best features or create an eye-catching element in a chic, bold shade. Here, the talents at Dallas-based Scout Design Studio provide advice and inspiration for how to use lacquer to take a piece to the next level:

Know the difference. Lacquer is skillfully sprayed in many thin layers to create a smooth, hard surface that cannot be achieved with regular enamel-based paint. Known for its durability, lacquer can transform cast-to-the-curb furniture into modern showstoppers that will stand the test of time.

Focus on the details. The beauty of vintage furniture is in the bones. If you love the shape and detail of something, ignore its ugly finish. Lacquer illuminates the surface and accentuates details in the furniture that are otherwise lost in the background. Carved drawers and sabot feet suddenly pop against a lustrous finish. Original hardware that would cost a fortune today can be polished to a bright shine.

Determine if lacquer is right for you. Lacquer can be applied to many veneers, but it is not recommended for Rosewood or Mahogany, as the oils in these woods tend to bleed through the finish. As with any refinishing, it is important to consider the pedigree of your furniture and the risk associated with modifying an original piece.

Consider contrast. Lacquer is a great way to spice up monochromatic upholstered goods. Dismal tone-on-tone chairs are easily revived with lacquered frames and a modern print.

Select the right color. Are you refinishing a family heirloom or a thrift store find? Go bold and trendy with a piece you found on the cheap, stay neutral with something you intend to keep forever.

Remember lacquer doesn’t have to be glossy. We love a crisp glossy piece of furniture as much as anyone, but satin and matte finishes are beautiful (and timeless) alternatives.

Leave it to the pros. The application process is labor-intensive and requires a dust-free environment as well as adequate prep. Plus, lacquer’s quick dry time leaves little room for error. Invest in professional refinishing and you’ll own a piece that’s uniquely yours and can be enjoyed for many years.

TSG Tip 166 and photo provided by Scout Design Studio in Dallas, Texas. Scout Design Studio sources, sells, and transforms unique vintage pieces. Their services include lacquering, staining, upholstery, and more.