the table… a DIY story

or ‘a post with a zillion pictures and not very much useful information.’

since we were married in 2003, we have been using a beautiful antique table given to us by a family member who was moving. we both loved the table- great size for our rental home, great barley twist legs, and a perfect deep wood color, but not too dark. i’ve even seen almost exactly the same table at antique malls for a nice price (but we’re not planning to sell it… unless you want to make a generous offer)!

there were a few downsides to the table- it only comfortably seats 4. maybe 6, but then 4 people have the table legs against their knees. that’s not very accommodating- no one really enjoys straddling a table leg for an entire meal, even if it is a rather attractive barley twist. plus, there are grooves in the top that are NEVER CLEAN. never. crumbs, dust, dead bugs (i’m not kidding)… never never clean.

the biggest problem (side note- i realize this is a ridiculous thing to call a ‘problem.’ i trust that you will give me the benefit of the doubt on this- i am thankful for my furniture, my home, my family & my life in general. an imperfect table is not poverty, hunger, abuse, illness, pain… it’s just a table & i wanted a different one).
okay… the biggest problem with the table is that we have company pretty regularly. not always formal, but even playdates require a place to sit & have a snack. it’s not life or death, but a larger table was always something i thought about as i prepared for entertaining friends & family.

what i wanted- something rustic, farmhouse-y and big… something suited for everyday family meals (we use our dining room for all meals- no table in the kitchen), casual playdate snacks, dinner with family friends, larger parties & sit-down fancy dinners such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. that’s a tall order. i looked at these:
Farmhouse Rectangular Dining Table, Honey/Cocoa
$1,495 (on sale!)

Sumner Dining Table
$1499

i also looked at a few others… and believe me, i know that these are probably ‘inexpensive’ in the design world. i can see that they are nice, big, attractive tables from reputable companies. but in the interest of putting food on the table, i could not spend 6 months grocery money getting the actual table.

so off to craigslist we go! i am not an avid craigslister… i get overwhelmed & annoyed & would rather do anything else than dig & dig for hours each day looking for the perfect table. but i did check it out once or twice a week for about 6 weeks, which is a LOT for me. and behold- one day, there is an insanely large solid oak trestle table with FOUR leaves for sale. asking price- $275. i don’t have a copy of the picture they posted, but it wasn’t extremely helpful. i asked the buyer if it was available for $200 and set up a time for matt to go with me to see it. long story with unimportant details (such as driving to 2 different locations to get all the parts of the table, taking it apart into tiny pieces to fit it in the minivan, and holding caroline on my lap for a highly illegal 30 minute ride home)… here is what we bought:

this is in our basement, otherwise known as the boulevard of broken furniture… and that’s not actually dust. i had already started to refinish it before i took the picture. but you get the idea- it’s yellowy/orange oak. very nice 80’s-90’s chic.


see how big!???!! that’s with all 4 leaves- seats about 200. not really. probably 12 comfortably, 14/16 if we’re willing to squish. my friends are willing to squish. : )


oh… the closeup of the top. there’s a secret about the top. can you guess?

yup. the top is not real wood- it’s laminate. the edges, the apron, the legs- all solid, heavy oak.

but it’s huge, it was inexpensive ($200 is plenty of money, but for that much table?), and i’m determined to make it work.

i tried some combinations of paint, stain, sanding, sobbing (not really, but kind of)… and i came up with this:
items i found in my basement… which means they were left by the owners of our previous home. which means FREE. after an attempt at scrubbing, sanding & wiping the top (no effect), then an attempt at a ‘green’ refinisher, i ended up using the deglosser to prep the table and then painting on the dark walnut stain. i did about 3 coats of the stain- only wiping it off after the 1st coat. it took about 3 weeks to let it all dry & cure properly, allowing extra time for mosquito removal. yup- bugs kept dying in the surface of the table. awesomeness.

long story made slightly longer, i sealed it with a coat of satin finish polyurethane & it looked horrible. i sanded that lightly & then used 2 coats of high gloss poly. much better, although not at all what i was going for originally!

without further rambling… here’s the finished product:















this is a closeup shot with flash- you can’t see all these flaws unless you’re looking through a camera lens. see those funny spots? bugs. the streaks? i tried using a foam roller to apply the polyurethane. don’t do that– it’s bad.


see? lots of pictures… and not at all farmhouse-y or rustic or even kid friendly. but it is one thing: imperfect. which means it can be beaten on & scratched up without fear of ruining the finish; it can’t be ruined, really!

am i happy with it? yes.
was it worth the money/lack of money spent? yes.
do i wish i had a farmhouse table? well, i don’t really think so.
although i love the look of reclaimed barnwood & soft weathered boards, maybe this fits more in our room with it’s crazy painted ceiling & embellished fireplace. and i can certainly use less formal table linens & dishes to lessen the “I”M SO GLOSSY- LOOK AT ME!” effect.

i’m not going into the furniture re-finishing business, just in case you were wondering.

5 thoughts on “the table… a DIY story

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