Restoration means restoring something to its former glory, and in the case of a priceless antique, it can require extensive research and expertise. Renovation is turning something into a different version of itself and usually involves paint. Some things to consider when choosing a piece to renovate is whether the piece is an antique. Some antiques can be valuable, and painting may devalue the piece. That said, if you've had great-grandmother's china hutch in the garage for the last 20 years, you've deduced that it isn't a priceless antique, and you know the only way it's coming into your house is if it gets an update -- go for it!
Sometimes furniture is only as valuable as how much someone is willing to pay for it. Other times it's only as valuable as how much you treasure it. And if you can treasure it in your home painted blue, then by all means treasure it in your home instead of letting it age in your garage. In other words, you don't need anyone's permission to restore your furniture in any way that you choose, but it's always a good idea to know what you're painting first.
Vintage pieces are usually fair game, but because midcentury-modern pieces can sell well as-is, that's something to consider before painting them. But if it's a piece that already belongs to you and you want to paint it blue, refer to the above paragraph.
Your best bet for painting a piece of furniture is to choose a paint specifically designed to do just that. Your choices are as varied as the colors and typically limited only by personal preference. Grab a couple samples of various brands, and play around with them until you find the one you like best.
That will also depend on what you want your result to be: smooth and modern, or textured and distressed? Chalk-style paints, milk or mineral-base paints, and acrylics are all great choices and versatile enough to give you different looks. It's fun to play around with all of them to find your favorites.
Most furniture paints boast the ability to apply without the need to sand. While this is for the most part true, there are some exceptions. Regardless, you might want to consider a primer. Some old paint and stains (think mahogany) will bleed through your new paint job, meaning that coat after coat, the stain will show through and affect the color of your paint.
In general, you can assume pieces that appear to have a red-tinted stain will be bleeders. When in doubt, it's best to just go ahead and prime. Some furniture paint lines offer their own primers or stain-blockers that are designed to work with their paints.
Adding paint to a formerly stained piece will highlight any details it has. While that refers to pretty architectural details, it also applies to any blemishes. Be sure to fill holes and sand out scratches prior to painting for best results. Even a distressed finish will benefit from a little blemish control beforehand.
If you're considering renovating pieces often, some invaluable tools to have on hand include:
Here are more great ideas from Better Homes & Gardens on what to add to your DIY toolbox.