A furniture flip by content creator Christina Clericuzio, who has gotten hate for painting over wood pieces.

Furniture flipping is a booming business for content creators on TikTok and Instagram.But flips that involve painting over natural wood furniture often elicit backlash and hate comments.People get especially worked up when flippers paint over beloved mid-century modern furniture.

Growing up, Christina Clericuzio always thought the dresser at her grandma’s house was so ugly — with walnut brown wood and a diamond-like design on the drawer faces.

So when Clericuzio’s grandma was getting rid of it, it seemed like the perfect candidate for her new hobby: furniture-flipping, the practice of taking a piece of old furniture and restoring or refinishing it.

Clericuzio sanded down the walnut, removed the wood veneer, added drawer pulls, and painted most of the dresser white. When she posted the before and after shots online, she loved the new beachy look.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m a magician. I’m so amazing,'” the Connecticut-based content creator told Business Insider.

But then came the comments.

“This is criminal.”

“This is evil.”

“You literally ruined it!”

“I got humbled so quick,” Clericuzio said, adding there were people calling her dumb and all sorts of names.

She still thought the piece was cute and was able to sell it for $400 — but now she knows a mid-century modern furniture piece like that, restored to its original look, can sell for much, much more.

Up to $8,160, to be exact, according to a current Chairish listing for what appears to be the exact same dresser — a mid-century nine-drawer lowboy piece made by United Furniture.

Clericuzio is among countless furniture flippers on Instagram and TikTok who regularly get berated or even threatened in their comments over some of their work — especially when they paint over wood furniture, and even moreso if the color they go with is white, beige, or the widely mocked “millennial gray.”

Jennifer Beck, a Tennessee-based furniture flipper who runs Saved By Design with her mom, told BI she’s considered making shirts for her brand that say, “Forget about politics. How do you feel about painted furniture?”

Still, furniture flipping is booming. Some content creators, like Clericuzio, got into it during the pandemic and have been able to turn it from a side hustle into a full-time gig. Furniture flippers also give new life to a piece that might otherwise end up in a landfill — which happens more than you’d think with donated furniture — and buying secondhand is increasingly appealing to Gen Z, who view it as a more environmentally friendly way to shop.

So why all the hate?

Furniture flipping can divert old pieces from ending up in the landfill.

Demand is up for vintage wood furniture — without paint

Part of the backlash certainly stems from the current state of the furniture industry, in which it’s increasingly difficult to get your hands on brand-new, high-quality furniture.

The decline in quality in mass-market furniture has led many people to seek out vintage or secondhand pieces, especially those made of real wood, which was common in American furniture production in the mid-1900s but makes up a much smaller share of the retail market today, which is saturated with products made from engineered wood and other cheap materials.

As a result, the secondhand furniture market is booming, with vintage furniture sellers proliferating on places like Instagram and Facebook Marketplace.

The flippers said most of the hate comments tend to come from flips of midcentury modern furniture, in particular, a beloved and lasting design aesthetic from around roughly the 1930s to 1970s.

Many of the flips that draw the most backlash are of distinct midcentury pieces getting transformed into a more modern, and often more generic, painted piece that would fit in at Anthropologie — a brand Clericuzio loves and takes inspiration from for her flips.

But now that she’s been doing this a few years and is more knowledgable about furniture in general, Clericuzio said she understands where some of the critics are coming from, if not the hateful way they express their distaste.

“I really try to only work on midcentury modern pieces that, in my opinion, are just objectively ugly,” she said, or pieces that are so damaged they might be beyond a classic restoration job.

As for how she’d handle her grandma’s old dresser today?

“I probably wouldn’t even touch it,” she said, adding now that she knows more about furniture, she even sees more beauty in the original piece.

A restored rocking chair and credenza for sale in Atomic Age Modern in Mesa, Arizona.

Furniture restoration vs. painting

Ask any flipper and they’ll tell you how divisive painting furniture is, but some acknowledge that the desire to just paint over any old piece of furniture can come from a lack of skill.

“When I first started out, I did not know what I was doing,” Beck, the Tennessee-based flipper, said. When she started furniture flipping, painting was the only thing she knew how to do.

“All we were trying to do was change the look so that we could have a before and after photo and sell it,” she said, adding that meant her products were not as high quality as they could’ve been and she was selling some pieces for much less than she could if she actually restored them.

As she learned more about furniture and improved her skills, Beck said she was able to be more discerning about painting. Now she does high-end restoration and refinishing work, often selling her pieces for thousands of dollars.

She still uses paint, but in a much more limited capacity, like when the piece is too damaged for full restoration or some use of paint will add to the design and make it more appealing for her customers.

Beck said she also considers what kinds of pieces will actually decline in value if they are painted, according to appraisers, like high-quality antique, historic, or mid-century modern pieces, typically with a maker’s mark indicating the craftsmen who produced them.

It’s not just about making the most money. Beck believes there are some pieces that should be restored and preserved simply because they are rare, beloved, and culturally valuable.

But ultimately, it comes down to what she can sell to her customers. Despite all the vocal online haters of painted furniture, there’s a reason furniture flippers do it: the pieces sell.

Mike Coleman, a vintage furniture seller and the owner of Big Mike’s Vintage in Chicago, said he used to be strongly against painting over pieces, but after meeting skilled dealers who do it well, he’s opened up to it.

“It’s your house, your furniture,” he said, adding, “Do want you want at all times.”

But he said he’s seen plenty of TikTok flippers who just don’t know how to do it well in a way that will actually last, and he thinks most people should leave it to the pros.

“You can’t just spray paint over lacquered walnut,” Coleman said.

Before-and-after of one of Christina Clericuzio’s flips.

Critics of furniture flippers don’t always know what they’re talking about

One flip that drew hate comments and frustrated Clericuzio involved a brown shelving unit she picked up from Goodwill for $12.

She sanded down the shelf — which revealed it had previously been painted over three times: red, blue, and then brown — then painted over most of it with a light blue paint and added some mirrors, unique drawer panels, new knobs, and legs. She left the top wood visible, meaning there was actually more of the original wood showing than when she bought it.

Still, the hate comments rolled in. One that got over 4,100 likes read: “the way u take beautiful vintage pieces, n make em boring n modern should be put in the bible as a sin.” Many commenters were especially exasperated that Clericuzio threw away the “original” knobs.

But after the TikTok of the flip went viral, the woman who originally donated the shelf got in touch with Clericuzio.

The shelf had come from somewhere like Ikea, and the woman had painted it over herself several times in the years she owned it.

As for the “beautiful antique knobs” that commenters couldn’t believe Clericuzio tossed?

They sell for $3.99 a piece from Hobby Lobby.

Have a news tip or story to share? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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