Monday, October 15, 2012

Coffee table at last!

As promised, I spent some significant time this weekend working on a long-awaited project: our coffee table. I've been on the hunt for a new table for awhile now -- the one we have (which I got off of craigslist about 2 years ago) is a very modern style from IKEA, and it just doesn't go with what I'm developing in the rest of the apartment. Last year I added some bird decals to it in a walnut wood-grain contact paper (details here), which definitely improved things for the time being.

But it's kind of hard to make something look anything other than modern when it's white and chrome.

It really started to bother me, especially as the room evolved with the new TV stand and our new couch. As I pondered what might look best in our space, I found myself gravitating toward a style I'll call "industrial rustic":`
(By West Elm -- and only $750!)

(Ballard Designs -- this one just a reasonable $379)

Obviously none of these were in our price range, and as much as I hate the the style of our current table, we love its size and dimensions -- a second shelf lets us keep clutter off the top (let's face it, reducing clutter overall is not a viable option), and the height of the shelf is perfect to fit our two wicker baskets underneath for additional storage (which is essential in apartment living). I decided that trying to work with the bones of the existing coffee table might make most sense.

So here's the plan I concocted: I thought that spray painting the frame oil-rubbed bronze would make it look more like iron (oil-rubbed bronze is basically black, but with a bit of a sheen at different angles). For the top and shelf, I decided to scrap the existing material and instead get some plywood cut to size and then stain it a rich brown color.

I tackled the frame first, dettaching the existing top and shelf by unscrewing a lot of screws (I was confident about being able to dissemble it relatively easily since it's IKEA). Then I brought the frame to the backyard for a coat of primer and then several thin and even coats of oil-rubbed bronze spray paint:

For the wood, I chose Minwax dark walnut. First I sanded the surfaces and edges, and then I applied a first coat to each surface using a paint brush.

Here's what the plywood looked like before (pretty standard plywood...):

And here's after the first coat of stain:

I allowed it to dry overnight, and then applied a second coat -- with just one coat, the contrast of the grain was a little too much (ie it was a looking a little too stripey). Once the second coat was dry, I applied a coat of Minwax clear gloss water-based poly, again using a brush. I let that to dry overnight, and then applied a second and third coat (with two hours drying time between each). The idea is to seal the wood as much as possible, since we use the coffee table pretty rigorously. All that dry time required so much patience....

Once everything was dry, I mounted the shelf and top on the frame, and drilled screws in to hold everything down.

And voila, our "new" coffee table!

And a reminder of the "before"

Some more afters (sorry for the bad lighting, I got impatient and took these at night):

I think it looks a lot better in the space, and I love the look of the wood grain. I do wish I'd been able to get something a little thicker than plywood, but there wasn't anything thicker that had the dimensions I needed to fit the frame. It's not a "forever" piece of furniture for us, but its definitely a step in the right direction for now!


  1. Sage: If you decide you want to upgrade to a top that is thicker and more to your liking in terms of grain and warmth, let me know. I can mill and glue up whatever you want here in the shop and bring it down to you for staining. It wouldn't take more than a couple of hours.

    1. Thanks, Dad! Will definitely keep you posted, but I'm resting on my laurels for now :)