There was nothing wrong with my kitchen table per se. It was still sturdy, fairly attractive, and entirely functional.
There was just one problem. I was SICK of it!
It was the color mostly, I suppose. I’ve had the same table and chairs for 16 years, since just before my hubby and I tied the knot. And even back then I wasn’t in love with the natural wood look, but when you’re a poor bride-to-be and you find a really nice table at a really good price, you jump on it, whether it’s the table of your dreams or not!
But after 16 years and five moves and the addition of four children, I had grown reeeally sick of my table. In 16 years it has hosted hundreds of family activities, conversations, and projects, and been the site of at least 10,000 mealtimes. (Try to wrap your brain around that number!) Add to it that we homeschool and while we have no official schoolroom in our house, it seems a lot of our homeschooling ends up happening right around the kitchen table. It seemed only fair if I was going to have to look at a table so much, it should at least be a table I like.
Now we could have gone in search of a brand new table, but we may have searched the world over and not found a table I liked at a price we could also afford. The table and chairs we had were plain and practical, maybe even dull, but they were very lovely in a traditional, farm kitchen sort of way, not to mention they were very well-built. They just needed some updating! I’ve done some refinishing before, so a table/chair makeover seemed in order!
There was no question with me as to what color I wanted. I love the distressed look in white and had intentions of painting and distressing the entire table when my husband suggested I stain the top. I’d done paint and I’d done stain, but I’d never done both on one piece. But you never know if you can do something until you try, so…
I started with the chairs, because I thought they would be the biggest pain in the neck to refinish. I was wrong, but I’ll get to that in a minute. I lightly sanded the chairs by hand, then coated each with dark brown spray paint in a flat finish. (A dark undercoat adds to the contrast when you go back and do the distressing later. If a piece of furniture is dark to begin with, you may be able to skip this step, but I wanted something darker than the natural wood.)
Then it was time for the white topcoat. I went with a spray paint in a semi-gloss finish. I don’t like a lot of shine, but semi-gloss is easier to clean than flat or satin paint. In an area like a kitchen, I recommend going with the shinier finish for easier cleaning.
I used about one can of spray paint per chair in both the brown and the white and with the exception of maybe two chairs, was able to thoroughly cover each in one coat. (I used Rust-Oleum spray paint and it did an amazing job!) One of the things I love about distressing is that it really doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re trying to make your furniture look old and worn and furniture that is old and worn will naturally have flaws. If you’re distressing, don’t stress over making the paint perfect–you’re about to scuff it all up anyway!
The distressing is always my favorite part. Maybe it’s just the pleasure of destroying something, on purpose, that gets me. I don’t know. Anyway, I just took some sandpaper and went to scuffing away at my newly white chairs! You can distress as much or as little as you like, focusing on areas that would get beaten and banged up naturally with time and use, like corners and edges. As you sand through the topcoat you reveal the darker color underneath, which adds to the aged appearance.
I went through the same process on the bottom portion of my table. I removed the legs and sanded, painted, repainted, and distressed each. Then I taped off the tabletop and did the same to the skirt below it. (The skirt is the lip of the table beneath the part you actually eat on.)
Then it was time to start on my tabletop! This is the part where it got a little ugly. Literally. But it’s also where I came to see once again that perseverance pays off!
The top of the table couldn’t be stained until the current finish was completely removed. And I quickly learned that the finish on my table was very thick. I used a finish remover, (Formby’s,)…
painting it on, always in one direction, and then scraping with a plastic scraper to lift the finish off. I did this 3 times over every inch of the tabletop, sanding in between each coat. And if you ever use remover, remember it’s powerful stuff. It’s made for eating through finish, so unless you enjoy irritating skin burns, use good quality rubber gloves! (Which I was NOT doing in this picture. Latex gloves literally melt on contact with this stuff, so do as I say and not as I was doing here…)
Afterwards I sanded with a circular sander until I felt confident all the finish was removed and it was ready for stain. Then I applied the first coat of Minwax in dark walnut.
And it looked awful! The stain was blotchy and terrible–dark in some spots and barely stained at all in others. I have no pictures of it. It was too painful a thing to photograph! But I knew what had to be done and so I mustered up the courage to go at it again.
This time I did some serious sanding. I used heavier, 80-grit disks for my sander, sanding deeply enough to remove every bit of the new stain and then ensure that none of the old finish remained. (I’ve laughed and said I sanded so much my table is 1/4 inch smaller all the way around than when I began this project. And I’m only partially kidding!) Finally I went over it again with a finer, 150-grit and then it was time to try staining again.
|Don’t look too closely at the background of this picture.
Our garage is really, really messy right now…
Success! This time it was lovely. I seriously got weepy as I rubbed the stain on and my daughter was looking at me like I’d lost my ever-lovin’ mind. But to me it’s like running in a marathon or climbing a mountain–you see the end nearing and the joy and sense of accomplishment you feel are overwhelming!
Two coats of stain later, my table was looking AWESOME!
I added three protective coats of Minwax Polycrylic in a satin finish.
I prefer the polycrylic to regular polyurethane because it’s water-based and easier to clean up, but it does require an extra coat. The satin finish also shows more water spots and rings from drinking glasses, but a little elbow grease takes those out easily and I think a glossier finish makes things look…well…less old. The whole point of this redo was to create an old-looking country farm table, so I like the satin finish best.
So what was the cost of the entire project? About $120, the bulk of that being the approximately 16 cans of spray paint I used! Finish remover, stain, sandpaper, sanding disks, polycrylic, gloves, and a new brush or two made up the rest. I wouldn’t have had to spend even that much had I not had to buy more stain after my first fail and had I not knocked over my can of polycrylic. (The less clumsy you are, the easier these redo projects usually go, which is further evidence that if I can do this, anybody can!) Regardless, $120 is a steal for a table and six chairs, especially with a custom look.
Now, be warned; this is not a project for the half-hearted! While I wrote out all the steps like it was done in an afternoon, I was actually without a kitchen table for weeks as I worked on this. A husband and kids and church and a dozen other things always took priority, and of course each coat of paint and stain and polycrylic has to dry, sometimes for hours, before the next step can begin. I was dependent on the weather as well, since I did virtually all of my work outside. It all made for a long, slow process.
But the end result is very gratifying. Not only do I have a “new” table I love, one the whole family agrees has changed the looks of our entire kitchen, but I also smile with the satisfaction of knowing I made the transformation. It was my labor that turned something old and tired into something new and beautifully unique.
I’m in LOVE with my new table. And though I would never have dreamed I would say it before this whole makeover began, now I’m thinking I might be able to go another 16 years on this table…
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