Friday, January 11, 2013

DIY: Retro Coffee Table Refresh

A couple of Thanksgivings ago, we were playing ping pong in the basement of Ben's grandmother's house and I spotted an unused mid-century coffee table hiding under a mountain of boxes. Before leaving, I decided to ask if she had any plans for it, and if not, if we could take it home with us. She so very kindly allowed us to take it.

Then it sat in my storage unit (aka my mom's garage) for a year.

Before we could use it there were a couple of issues to address. 1// It needed to be refinished. Badly. there was a funny stain that looked like a butt-mark on the top (I wish I had a before picture of this). The color was a little too dark for our apartment - it had that reddish-brown 60s color to it - but I LOVED the style and it had good bones. 2// There were these two rectangles on either end that, when we got it, were filled by a stone and a marble slab (different colors) on each side. They make great paper flatteners for craft projects, but weren't working in the table. So I needed to come up with something else to fill the holes before the table would be usable.

Also, I'm indecisive. Figuring out how to redo the table to modernize it while keeping some of the original charm stumped me for about a year. Until I came across this in the holiday West Elm catalog and I knew I had an answer:

The black legs and the natural wood top were exactly the mix of modern and natural I was looking for, and (bonus!) it would coordinate with our media stand. Score. But what to do about those unfortunate holes?

Chalkboard! It pulls in the dark base and makes the table infinitely more fun. Anybody up for some Pictionary?

I should mention that before I rehabbed this table, we were using (for over two years) a 20" square table from Target left over from my college days. You know, the kind that costs less than $10 and has screw in legs? The two of us huddled over dinner on that almost every single night. It was a bonding experience for sure.

To get the look:

I went to the hardware store and got a gel stripper. We followed the instructions on the back of the container to strip the existing finish off the top of the table. It was gross to say the least and definitely a job to do outside (ideally not on a cold day like we did...our hands almost froze off and the stripper takes longer to work in colder temps). Because I planned to paint the bottom, we didn't strip it but simply took some sandpaper to it to rough it up a little so that the paint would stick.

After the stripper and residual was removed, we used painter's tape to protect the unfinished top while painting the legs. I used Behr self-priming interior semi-gloss in Beluga - a nice dark blue-gray - on the bottom and applied two coats. Once the bottom was dry, I removed the tape and rubbed paste wax into the unfinished wood to shine it up. The whole thing took a couple of hours on several days (waiting for things to dry...waiting for decent weather to be able to work outside).

Originally, I was going to just buy plywood boards cut to the size of the holes on the sides and paint them with chalkboard paint, but when I went to choose my plywood, I found actual chalkboard that I had cut to size at the store. So much easier than making my own, and it was less expensive too. The whole project cost less than $30.

Now the table has officially become my office, and I frequently work with my feet propped up because they finally fit without having to kick something off to make room. Happy dance!

Places to find your next weekend DIY furniture refresh project:

- A family member's basement/garage
- Craigslist
- Goodwill
- Yard sales

I just looked through catalogs to find ideas for what to do with it...Crate & Barrel, CB2, West Elm, even IKEA are good resources, and of course there are also design blogs and Pinterest. My favorite blog for great furniture before and afters is Design Sponge.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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