the stuff that didn’t sell.

Even after more than 25 years of refurbishing vintage furniture, I don’t always know exactly which pieces will sell quickly, and which ones won’t sell at all.  Somehow I still sometimes manage to get it wrong when making decisions about the new look for a piece.

In general, I find that pieces painted in a neutral color such as white, black, dark navy or grey sell really quickly.

While pieces painted in a less neutral color tend to take longer to sell, and sometimes don’t sell at all.  For example, I originally painted this bench in a smoky pale blue …

I thought the transfer was really pretty, and had the perfect message for a foyer.  And although the color wasn’t quite neutral, it also wasn’t really bright.

But it did not sell.  I gave it 9 months, and then decided to re-paint it in my favorite Dixie Belle Drop Cloth.

And it sold right away.

Sometimes the pieces painted in neutrals don’t sell either though.  For example, this dresser did not sell despite its white paint job.

This one really surprised me, the white pieces usually sell easily.  Was it the toile transfer on those two upper drawers?  I loved it, but clearly it was not everyone’s cup of tea.

After months of trying to sell it, I ended up sanding off the toile and adding an IOD transfer over the entire front of the dresser instead.

And once again, it sold fairly quickly.

But there are always exceptions to the neutral color rule, my mid-mod pieces painted in Fusion’s Park Bench green have always flown off the shelf.

And even this vintage piece painted in a vibrant green milk paint (Sweet Pickins In a Pickle) sold, although it did take a little bit longer than the neutral pieces.

I do think that you have to get to know your own geographical area and what will sell best in your neck of the woods too.  I suspect that the floral pieces may do better in the south, while here in the upper mid-west, people are a little more conservative.  I’m not sure if conservative is the right word, but we’re maybe just a bit less frilly (correct me if I’m wrong about that Southerners).  So whenever I add a floral transfer to a piece, I always assume it will take a little longer to sell.

The exception to that rule is this one though …

That’s the Rose Celebration transfer from with prima.  I’ve only used it twice, but both times the piece sold really quickly.

Then there was this piece …

For the life of me, I couldn’t sell this piece with the mirror attached. Generally, I find that it’s more difficult to sell a dresser with a mirror than without.  I think it’s because dressers are so much more versatile without their mirrors.  They can be used in a dining room, or a living room as a TV stand, or in the laundry room or home office.  You’d think buyers could just take the mirror off, but I think most people are reluctant to dismantle a piece like this.

But not me.  With my handyman Ken’s help, I removed the mirror and replaced it with some trim that I painted to match.

And that was all it took to get this one to sell.

Finally, I also find that certain pieces of furniture sell faster than others.  Dressers, nightstands and washstands are the easiest to sell for me.

Things like hutches, cabinets, buffets and chairs usually take a little longer.

And then we have desks and benches.

Desks have just never been a quick sell for me.  Perhaps it’s because people don’t really need desks anymore, or at least not in the traditional sense.  Still, I am a bit surprised that I haven’t found a buyer yet for this one …

At this point I plan to paint a mirror to match that can be hung on the wall behind it to turn it into more of a vanity/dressing table.  Then I’ll restage my photos and try again.  Maybe that will help, maybe not.  I will really be bummed if I eventually have to paint over it.  I absolutely love the IOD transfer I used.  I may have to figure out a way to keep it myself if I can’t sell it.

The benches that Ken makes out of old bed frames always take longer to sell as well.  Maybe it’s because I have to charge more for them to pay for the materials and for Ken’s time.  Some of them sold fairly quickly though, like this one in basic black …

Some of them took a fair amount of time to sell, but did eventually go, like this one …

and this one …

And that brings me to this piece.

This one started out as a bed frame.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a 3/4 sized bed (the original owner swore it was a twin, but I should have measured myself).  Once that little detail came to light, I sent the pieces over to Ken’s workshop to be turned into a bench.

I thought he did a brilliant job of re-working that footboard, but Ken was not happy with how it turned out.  He didn’t like the fact that the footboard had those corner posts that stuck up on either side of the seat in the front.  I thought that would be OK though.  It was already mostly painted in Dixie Belle’s Sawmill Gravy and had the Cosmic Roses transfer from with prima on the back.  I’d done this combo before, on this dresser …

and it was a success.  So I touched up the paint here and there and listed it for sale.

But this bench just hasn’t sold.  Is it the color?  Is it the floral transfer?  Is it those posts sticking up in the front?  Or is it a little bit of all three?

I’m not really sure.  So I’m going to change all three.  Last week it once again went back to Ken’s workshop.  He cut off the tops of those posts in the front, then he replaced the two outer boards on the seat.

Now it’s back in my workshop.  I’ve sanded off the transfer and am now giving some more thought to its new look.  Any ideas?  I’ve very tempted to just paint it black.

For those of you who also paint furniture, what do you find sells best in your area?  Do you have a magic formula that works every time?  Leave a comment and share your experience with the rest of us!

35 thoughts on “the stuff that didn’t sell.

  1. I’m the same as you, everything white or black sells. I’m sick of painting those colours. I painted a buffet in a real deep green. It had lots of interest and sold quickly. I think people are loving these rich colours, maybe because of the cottage core trend. I live near Melbourne in Australia. X


    1. Thanks for your comment Catherine! You’ve inspired me to consider adding more greens to the mix. You’ve also introduced me to a new term, cottage core. I’m always the last one to catch on to new trends and I hadn’t really heard of cottage core, but after a little googling I think it perfectly describes my usual style 🙂


  2. Thank you for this! I have a booth in a shop and I’ve also been baffled at times about things that sell and things that don’t! It is such a guessing game! Some of my favorite have not sold or took a long time and then things I was just not real happy with sold! Who knows?!?! Your work is so beautiful so nice to see that it’s baffling to you too!!


    1. Yep, definitely baffling some times! And I’m always torn between painting something in a fun, new way, and painting something so that it will sell quickly. Every once in a while those two are the same thing, but not often.


  3. Same here in northeast Ohio! I sell my furniture at a local antique mall and white, black and green are my best sellers. Lately black has been extremely popular. Dressers and chest of drawers are my number one sellers.


  4. Great post, I think all of us furniture flippers have the same questions/experience. I see YouTube videos of Kacha, The Turquoise Iris, Brittany Pistole, and others who paint bright colors with lots of detail, creating one of a kind art pieces. But for most of us, we create pieces that are on trend with current decorating styles and utilizing easily available decorating accents like stencils and transfers. For the most part, in highly trafficked areas, my furniture sold quickly. Except one small dresser. Painted turquoise with stencils. Took it home, sanded it down. Painted it soft pink also with stencils, it sold quickly. I agree with the washstand/dressers being the easiest to sell. People invest in the big pieces like hutches and China cabinets and only buy one of those every 20 years or so. But smaller pieces are easily tucked into a hallway, dining room, living room. And they have storage and create a statement. As far as colors I like the whole gamut of neutrals from black to gray, from putty to sawmill gravy, from whites to creams. And pairing two neutrals together makes me happy, subtle but adds interest. I think the bench issue is that you need an entry hall, mud room or covered porch to utilize these, unless the headboard is not too high. And lots of houses lack any of these. So the buyer pool is limited. Also, since you are not in a shop, you don’t have the same traffic and someone has to search for your ads, again limiting your audience. I don’t think any of your choices have been wrong, you just didn’t have as many views to sell your piece.


    1. Great insight Laura! I think you’re probably right about the benches, not everyone has a spot for one. And maybe I need to consider bringing this one into the shop where I sell on consignment rather than trying to sell it on my own. Thanks for that tip, I’m going to give that some thought.


  5. I have the same struggle with what color to use. Everyone in our area seems to be looking for pieces that fit into a nautical look. That means lots of white sells and I finally decided that if I want to sell a piece – white it is. Occasionally I will use another color to highlight a piece – gray, black or dark blue or stain the top and paint the base white. Sometimes I rebel and paint a piece another color but it may sit awhile or end up coming back home for a remake. I also use transfers – mostly ones of a nautical nature and these sell well – flowers not so much. You just never know but I was glad to see I’m not the only one who doesn’t hit the jackpot every time.


    1. I’m guessing that you live on the coast somewhere Mariann! Nautical is not super popular here in Minnesota, and our nautical is more about lakeside rather than oceanside. I have to admit, I haven’t really done very many nautical pieces. Maybe I should give that a shot!


  6. I live on the southeastern coast and anything white, off white and the blues and turquoises sell here. Anything beachy or nautical. I did one dresser with a flowered transfer and it took months to sell. It finally did to someone who lived in another state. Dressers and smaller pieces sell best. A lot of condos and beach houses here. Also hand painted or stenciled beach or nautical things on them and stripes sell well. Unfortunately, not many transfers with those. Guess we really have to know our market 😁 Your pieces are always gorgeous! I swooned over the Rose Celebration dressers!


    1. Yep, we really do have to get to know our individual markets. What sells in California or Florida, may not sell in Minnesota or vice versa. Lately it seems like the pale blues and turquoises aren’t selling well here at all, which is a huge bummer to me because I love those colors!


  7. What a timely post this is-thanks! You must have been in my head recently.I am on the West Coast of Canada and aside from desks (which COVID has helped sell) my experiences are the same as yours.I am often surprised at what sells quickly and what does not.I always enjoy when family are open to me “going creative” on a piece that they receive gratis. Really enjoyed todays post!


    1. It sounds like so many of us are in the same boat, finding it difficult to predict what will sell. Or, becoming bored with what we know will sell (neutral white or black pieces). I guess we just have to try our best and know that occasionally pieces are going to have to go back to the drawing board.


      1. Crazy thing this week I sold my two “risky” pieces-a mustard console table and a pink milk paint cupboard! One never knows….


  8. I have no idea about this, it is just my thought after reading your post. I noticed the floral transfer that is selling right now has red hues and the one that didn’t sell is the blue hues. Wondering if perhaps it is the color scheme and if red hues are more popular right now?


    1. I’ve always rather avoided red hues (except at Christmas) since they’ve never sold well for me, but I think you might be right about the warmer color scheme of the Rose Celebration being preferable to the cooler colors in the Cosmic Roses.


  9. I’m not a furniture seller but these type benches still looks bed-ish to me. I like it better since Ken removed the posts by the seat. If it were mine, I would remove the top posts & frilly top also. It would be more versatile in different areas of the house. I would prefer it in solid drop cloth or black. You do awesome work though. Your pieces are beautiful.


  10. I always admire your beautiful benches! If my foyer was big enough, I’d love to have 1! Just a suggestion, this one looks like it needs arm rests.?? Maybe it’s just me, seeing weird. I think your pieces are very pretty, whatever you decide to do with them. 😉


    1. My other benches have all had arm rests made out of the foot board, but in this case that didn’t work because the foot board was so low. Ken and I pondered it, but decided we wouldn’t be able to make armrests that looked like they fit with the rest of the pieces, so we went without. I do agree that arm rests are nice though!


  11. I think you’re right on with painting it black and maybe just adding a small transfer to the upper part of the back. I LOVE the desk with the writing on it. It’d be perfect for the school library! 🙂


    1. Well … spoiler alert … I tried black, and didn’t love it. So after first repainting it black, I ended up going in another direction. Stay tuned because I’m going to share it next week!


  12. It’s great to see a recap of your fabulous pieces. While neutrals seem to be the trend, you manage to make each piece unique. Thanks for the inspiration.


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