Coffee Table Makeover Stage one – bringing home the bacon!
One of the first things I was desperate to change in our lounge was our coffee table. It was the first thing you saw when you entered the room from the hallway and it wasn’t doing our room any favours.
Flaking veneer, numerous scratches and marks that no attempt at cleaning could remove made for an eyesore that had definitely had its day.
The coffee table was a great size though and also had a large shelf underneath which held my numerous home and garden magazines. I knew any replacement would have to be roughly the same size.
I had in mind the type of thing I was looking for and set to work scouring the web for possibilities. It didn’t take me long to realise that the image and quality I had in my head, did not correspond to the amount of money I had to spend.
There were plenty of cheaper coffee tables I could have bought but in my mind, apart from having no scratches, they looked only a fraction better than the version already sitting in our lounge. New wood made to look old really didn’t cut the bacon with me.
One day I spied an advert in the small ads on eBay, offering for sale a solid oak coffee table with turned legs and a little drawer in the front. It was painted with a dark wood stain but I immediately knew I could do something with it. Although it didn’t have a shelf, it was exactly the shape and size I was looking for. What really sold it though was its price tag of €18.
My hubby kindly volunteered to collect the coffee table for me and when he returned he told me the sweetest story. The coffee table was being sold by an older couple in their attempt to free up some space in their home.
They explained that it was part of a set of bespoke furniture they had commissioned when they first got married and they were interested to know what we intended to do with it.
My husband said it was like they were vetting him as to whether he was worthy to take on this obviously cherished piece. Once the couple found out that we intended to use it in our home (negating their fears that we wanted it for firewood!) they were so happy they sold it for €15!
How the coffee table looked when we got it home. You can’t see it very well from the picture but the drawer pull on the far left is bent and of course, there’s no shelf.
Coffee Table Makeover Stage two – Getting the look
So how did I get the look I wanted? Well, the first thing I do with any piece I buy is to clean the whole thing with soapy water. This also removes any grease (some of which you can’t see but if left, will wreck any finish you apply later).
Next, I sanded the table top using my handy Bosch electric sander until all the old stain was gone and I was left with the original beautiful light oak.
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My husband said he could probably make a shelf to go underneath so measurements were taken and off we went to stock up on supplies.
We ended up having the wood cut to size in the shop which was a great decision since our tool supplies at home leave a lot to be desired!
The planks were then simply nailed onto a crosspiece of wood to hold them together and the whole lot slotted perfectly into place inside the coffee table frame. It didn’t matter that the new wood didn’t match with the old since it was all going to be painted anyway!
Coffee Table Makeover Stage three – Paintworks
I decided I would use Annie Sloan chalk paint in ‘old white’ for the bottom of the coffee table and just sand the top and leave that unpainted.
Now I know Annie Sloan says you can paint over anything with her paint without having to use an undercoat but I haven’t found that to be the case for any of my projects so far. Maybe paint stains in Germany are stronger or something because whenever I try to cut corners and skip the undercoat stage I always end up with dark stain bleeding through my paint.
If you want to skip on the undercoating then, by all means, go ahead and try it but my advice to you would be to always use an undercoat first.
I know using undercoat takes more time but believe me there is nothing more frustrating than seeing that old dark stain seep through your lovely new paint job!
I usually have to paint at least two layers of undercoat. Between each coat, I do a light sanding with 120-grade sandpaper and a quick wipe down with a damp cloth to remove the dust before starting the next coat.
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After that, it was time for the good stuff! Annie Sloan chalk paint is expensive but the good thing is, a little goes a long way.
The paint lasts even longer if you water it down a little, which I sometimes do, depending on the piece I’m painting. Don’t add too much water though or you’ll end up with runs all over the place (unless you’re trying to make a wash but that’s another story!).
I tend to pour a little paint into a jar or other container and add the water to that so I’m not adding water directly to the tin. Just make sure the opening on the jar or container is big enough for the size of brush you plan to use.
You use the same process as with the undercoat – two coats of ASCP with a light sanding and wipe down between each coat.
I painted the first coat with the coffee table turned upside down, the second with the table up the right way. You would be surprised how often little bits get missed when you just paint with the piece sitting the right way up.
Coffee Table Makeover Stage four - Weathering
Looking at the coffee table once the second coat of paint was dry made me rethink how I was going to finish the top. The colour of the wood didn’t quite suit the new paintwork and I felt it needed to be toned down a little.
I wanted to create the weathered wood look I had seen on other projects where white wax was used to create the ageing effect. Thing was, I didn’t have any white wax to hand and was impatient to get the job finished.
Luckily I still had some chalk paint left over so I decided to mix some of that with the clear wax I had planned to use for the finish. First up though, I brushed the tabletop with a wire brush in the direction of the grain. Doing this makes sure the grain is free of wood dust created during the sanding stage and makes room for the whitened wax to really sink in.
Using a lint-free rag, I rubbed the wax/paint mix into the tabletop in the direction of the grain making sure to get right into all the nooks and crannies, then immediately rubbed it off again with a clean lint-free rag. The white paint was left behind in the wood grain which gave the table a subtle aged look and made the whole thing come together perfectly.
Coffee Table Makeover Stage five – Distressing and Waxing
I love the shabby chic look but if I’m honest, it has to be a bit more chic than shabby. Subtle distressing I feel gives furniture a homely, lived in look helping it to blend into the home and look as if it’s been there forever. With this in mind, I keep my distressing to corners or the edges of legs and to places which would normally show signs of wear and tear over the years.
So first up then, I took a piece of coarse sandpaper (usually grade 80 but anything would do in a pinch) and gently rubbed it over the edges of the table legs – less is more here, if you rub too hard you may take off too much and end up spoiling the whole thing. I also rubbed the drawer front along the decorative edges.
Once I was happy with the amount distressing I took a damp cloth and wiped down the whole coffee table again.
Normally I would give a tabletop a couple of coats of clear polyurethane varnish to finish and protect the wood from accidental spills. In this case however, as this was not going to be a high traffic piece, I opted for a couple of layers of clear wax instead.
Annie Sloan’s clear wax is the perfect partner for her chalk paint. Don’t worry though, if you can’t get it in your area and don’t want to buy online, any clear furniture wax will do.
I used a soft cloth and took the wax directly from the tin, rubbing the wax in and taking up the excess with another soft cloth. I have to mention here, I have seen tutorials on Pinterest where people take a teaspoonful of wax and use it to cover the equivalent of one square meter of wood. I’m sorry, but I have my doubts as to how effective that is going to be in protecting the new paintwork.
Annie herself uses generous amounts of wax and compares the process to rubbing in moisturiser on your face. By feeling the surface with your hand afterwards you will know whether or not you’ve used enough wax. If you can still feel the dryness of the paint you need to apply more. If the surface feels smooth and silky, it’s enough and you can move onto the next area.
Once I had the coffee table covered and had wiped off the excess, I left it overnight for the wax to dry and harden (curing). The next morning I used a clean cloth to buff up the wax and the table took on a lovely soft lustre.
The little drawer at the front of the coffee table holds a secret. Although it looks like there are three small drawers, there’s actually only one large one.
One of the iron drawer pulls was bent when we got the table so I knew I would have to replace them. I ended up getting these lovely metal pulls with a Fleur-de-Lys design from Butlers which I felt were perfect for the job. Although I had painted the inside of the drawers I also decided to line them with a pretty paper I found which would provide added protection against scratches.
I loved how this coffee table makeover project turned out. It was my first ‘chalking up success’ which also proved that I could get the look I loved without spending a fortune on expensive shop bought items. What do you think?
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