No. 99 Red

99 Red by Martha Leone Design 99b Red by Martha Leone Design 99c Red by Martha Leone Design 99d Red by Martha Leone Design 99e Red by Martha Leone DesignIn previous posts, I’ve written about the importance of teaching my kids how to manage money. When I started this business two years ago, it dawned on me that my kids could assist, helping with sanding, priming, etc. They eventually took on some of their own projects as they learned basic prep and painting techniques. This little partnership between my kids and me has grown to the point where now they buy furniture from me and do the work without much supervision. My involvement in their projects includes helping with choice in hardware and paint color, application of the sealer, photographing the finished piece, and posting it to etsy.

No. 99 is the latest piece by Grace, my 14 year old. The red paint has a transparent quality to it, even after two coats. It was sealed with Varathane water-based poly. It was offered for sale on etsy and craigslist and was sold in a week, much to the delight of my daughter!

Other samples of Grace’s work
(click each image to be take to the original post)

- She and I worked on this beautiful red piece together:

FairfaxDresser7 Martha Leone Design

Red Atomic Dresser

Anthony’s work

TV Console MarthaLeoneDesign1


Anna’s workAnna Table from leondesign

Gray Console2

79 Petite by Martha Leone Design  


Linking to: Miss Mustard Seed

Recent inventory

photo 4

Ok. Well it’s no secret among those who follow my blog, friends, and family that I’m really into old furniture, especially early 20th century and mid-century pieces. In the bits of time I have to shop during the summer months, I’ve found a few beauties. Most of these have been found in the past few weeks and each piece is uniquely beautiful even before the transformation it will probably undergo.
↑  This mid century dresser is just too cool for words. I found it last week.

photo 3

↑  A super solid wood piece with a basic design. I’m not sure what I’ll do with this piece yet but do know that the beautiful solid wood top will get sanded and stained.

 photo 2

↑  This French Provençal buffet is tall and just downright beautiful. What a great find.

photo 1

↑  Lane end tables. They’re solid and clean. I’ll probably paint them glossy white and clean the gold accents.

photo 6

↑  Two wood end tables. The proportions of the skinny legs and the long heavy tops seem whimsical to me.

photo 5

↑  I’m reserving this piece for the friend who sold it to me. She has recently moved and if she finds a spot for it in her new house, I’ll redo it for her as a house warming gift. It’s super cool and made of solid wood. I’m not sure of its age. Is it late 18th century???

bassett wiht silverknobs

This is the matching dresser to my Bassett in Industrial Black and White. Thanks to my good friend Cynthia for finding this piece.

Petite Knapp Dresser

↑  This piece was constructed in the late 19th century. The knapp joints date it to exactly between 1870-1900 when these unique joints were used. If you want more info on this, check out my Knapp Dresser post. With the custom services part of my business growing, I won’t be getting around to developing ideas for these pieces any time soon which means they will need to be shoved to the side in my workshop to make room for custom pieces and Peg Leg Vintage pieces coming in. I think it’s time to rent a storage unit.

#91 Before

↑  This piece is reserved for Peg Leg Vintage. A matching tall chest and nightstand were recently completed in glossy black with silver accents.

Dixie Buffet in Light Gray

SS buffet2 at Martha Leone DesignSS buffet1 at Martha Leone Design SS buffet3 at Martha Leone Design SS buffet4 at Martha Leone Design SS buffet5 at Martha Leone DesignHere’s a quick introduction to a classic piece. I have had the privilege of painting two dressers similar to this one. This style of furniture isn’t quite my style but I can’t help but appreciate its clean and formal look. The veneer top has taken well to sanding and staining every time I’ve tackled this particular make of furniture. Without over designing of over thinking the color scheme, it’s been refreshed with a clean shade of light gray. The top has been sanded and stained dark walnut and sealed with Varathane polyurethane in satin. It’s a favorite with my customers. Sells so quickly every time.

Steeplechase Buffet 1




Furniture Accessorizing on Hometalk

Many of us have discovered the art of painting and decorating furniture. As much as I enjoy painting, accessorizing a newly painted piece can be even more exciting. Recently, Hometalk asked me to curate a board of accessorizing ideas for furniture. I focused my choices on dressers that boast great hardware. Successful hardware should compliment a piece and highlight its style rather than compete with it. These 18 examples found on Hometalk are effective and can serve as inspiration for us as we work on our next piece.





Empire by Martha Leone Design copy Empire2 by Martha Leone Design Empire3 by Martha Leone Design Empire4 by Martha Leone Design Empire5 by Martha Leone Design Empire6 by Martha Leone DesignApologies to everyone who can’t believe I allowed paint to touch this piece. I held on to this amazing dresser for two years before painting it last week. I could barely bring myself to paint it although I’ve seen many examples of beautifully painted empire pieces that other furniture painters have done. I intended to restore it to its original beautiful finish but ultimately decided to paint it white. It’s a tall and heavy piece and the light color helps tone down its potentially overwhelming presence in a room. The original finish was in bad shape and the crack across the top diminished its value.

It’s been painted three coats of white then waxed to a soft lustre.


This incredible piece was constructed in the mid 1800’s and has been signed by its maker. It’s a difficult piece to find and boasts all of those great design qualities that are indicative of empire furniture. The large antique glass drawer pulls might not be original to the piece.

It’s for sale in my Etsy shop and on Krrb.

Empire before



Linking to: Miss Mustard Seed

Waterfall #3

Waterfall3 by MarthaLeoneDesign Waterfall3a by MarthaLeoneDesign Waterfall3b by MarthaLeoneDesign Waterfall3c by MarthaLeoneDesign Waterfall3d by MarthaLeoneDesign Waterfall3e by MarthaLeoneDesign Waterfall3f by MarthaLeoneDesign Waterfall3g by MarthaLeoneDesign Waterfall3h by MarthaLeoneDesign Waterfall3i by MarthaLeoneDesign Waterfall3j by MarthaLeoneDesign

Thoughts on Design and Color
I’ve been developing my personal style and most enjoy my job when I’m creating bold statement pieces like this one. I’ve done other pieces in a similar style and thankfully, they have been well received by customers who want unique pieces of functional art for their home. If you follow my blog, you’ve probably noticed that most of my recent pieces are black and white. Two of my favorite colors, these neutrals lend well to this type of design when the composition is bold and a bit avant garde for the conservative Washington, DC market. Pairing my compositions with original hardware supports the desire to honor the origins of a piece of furniture.  I’m a sucker for original hardware especially when it’s as amazing as these bakelite pulls (not exactly sure if they’re bakelite).

More pieces like this one can be found here. If you missed the other waterfall dressers, here they are: Waterfall 1 and Waterfall 2.

This piece is available for sale.


Linking up to: Miss Mustard Seed  •  Sand and Sisal

Black and white in the kitchen and on another dresser


Drexel3 B-W by MarthaLeoneDesignDrexel2 B-W by MarthaLeoneDesign Drexel B-W by MarthaLeoneDesign Drexel4 B:W by MarthaLeoneDesignThis is one of those monstrous pieces that we don’t attempt to bring inside for proper styling and photographing. It’s a monster… but a good looking one. This type of furniture isn’t my style but I can appreciate its construction and quality. It’s a Drexel and has been painted in two of my all-time favorite color combinations. I’ve always believed that the larger the piece, the more neutral it should be.

I hand sanded the piece then primed it with a water based gray-tinted primer. This preparation is necessary when you’re going to paint a piece with latex paint (as opposed to chalk or milk paint). Ultimately, this step wasn’t necessary as I changed my mind after priming. Instead of using latex paint only, I made a batch of black and white homemade chalk paint. After two coats, it was sanded and sealed with Varathane water-based polyurethane in satin and sold soon after.

Using black and white in our house
These are a few vignettes of our house. Brackets for the shelf on the kitchen back wall were purchased from Design2Create. The reclaimed piece of wood was purchased at Second Chance in Baltimore, MD. Photographs were taken by Rebecca with RCA Colors.  The white area underneath the shelf will eventually be tiled.
Kitchen Martha Leone Kitchen 3 Martha Leone kitchen 2 Martha Leone

I painted this platter from Ikea black and white.

Still Life Martha Leone

Here’s what it looks like before painting:



Cobalt Credenza



This credenza was done on a tight turnaround for a client who found this piece and worked with me to develop the design. It mimics the design direction of a recent piece I did. In this post, I’ll share a product review, process, and show a bit of how I present ideas to clients who request custom work. But, first the pictures of the final piece:Blue Credenza2 by MarthaLeoneDesign Blue Credenza3 by MarthaLeoneDesign Blue Credenza4 by MarthaLeoneDesign Blue Credenza5 by MarthaLeoneDesign Blue Credenza6 by MarthaLeoneDesign Blue Credenza9 by MarthaLeoneDesign Blue Credenza10 by MarthaLeoneDesign

- Taped off the areas that are to be left unpainted. Notice the horizontal pieces of tape. That’s the reminder to self NOT to paint them!
- Lightly sanded the entire piece except for the taped off areas of front panels.
- Primed with Kilz tinted water-based primer.
- Painted three coats of Sherwinn Williams All-Surface water-based enamel and quickly discovered that this paint would not work (see product review below).
- Shifted to Benjamin Moore Aura paint in satin and after one coat, the desired result was achieved.
- Sealed the top with Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane in satin.

For mid-century pieces with tight-fitting drawers and cabinet doors, I’ve learned to tape off the edges and never paint them. If painted, they will scrape against surfaces and eventually stick or the painted surface will get scratched over time. Better to go clean by using tape on every edge.

process 1 MarthaLeoneDesign process2 MarthaLeoneDesign process3 MarthaLeoneDesign

Blue Credenza11 by MarthaLeoneDesign

Product Review
I use Benjamin Moore Advance and Aura paints exclusively for mid-century pieces because of their consistent performance. The stuff is amazing. However, Sherwinn Williams has been trying to get me to use their paints and I’ve read good product reviews by other painters so after my client speced a SW color, I decided to try it. I purchased their All Purpose water-based Enamel. Due to the dark color choice, that paint was recommended. After three coats, I wasn’t getting the opacity that I wanted and came to realize this particular product would not achieve the desired result. I’m sure other SW products are great but would never recommend the All-Surface Enamel.

This design mimics the concept in this piece. Design options were drawn for the client using Adobe Illustrator.

Design for blog

Final design


Linking up to: Miss Mustard Seed •  Elizabeth and Co.  •


Black and White Nightstand


BlackWhite by Martha Leone Design BlackWhite2 by Martha Leone Design BlackWhite3 by Martha Leone Design BlackWhite4 by Martha Leone Design BlackWhite5 by Martha Leone DesignI worked on this small nightstand on a day when my energy level was running low. So, the design is spontaneous and not preconceived. It’s another one of my studies in contrasts: Black / White; Glossy / Flat; Smooth / Textured.

It started as a red piece. The top was sanded and left raw. The base was painted two coats of white paint. After much sanding to achieve lots of texture, it was cleaned then sections were painted black.

So, what do you think of the white circle? I’m not sure about it??? Maybe I’ll paint over it but before I do, could you let me know your thoughts? Thanks!!!



Linking to: Miss Mustard Seed


Two Unpainted Pieces


, , ,

Gatefold4 by MarthaLeoneDesignGatefold2 by MarthaLeoneDesignGatefold3 by MarthaLeoneDesign

These two pieces are too beautiful to paint. The gatefold table might date back to the 19th century but I’m not sure. I’ve probably diminished its value by sanding the top to the raw wood. I did that because it was in soar shape and needed refinishing. The legs boast the rich original finish and have few blemishes. Wow.

The birdseye serpentine maple dresser is one of the most pristine antiques I’ve ever seen. It was signed and dated 1900 on one of the drawers. I wonder if it was typical in that era for the maker or owner to sign their furniture. Either way, it gives me a glimpse into the dresser’s history. The birdseye texture is produced as a result of unfavorable growing conditions for the tree. The Sugar Maple attempts to start numerous new buds to get more sunlight, but with poor growing conditions the new shoots are aborted, and afterward a number of tiny knots remain.*

The gatefold table will be for sale in my etsy shop as soon as I can figure out how to price it. :)

Birds Eye3 MarthaLeoneDesignBirds Eye MarthaLeoneDesign Birds Eye2 MarthaLeoneDesign

* Source:



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,080 other followers