Our Coffee Table Search

I have a tendency to be particular when it comes to my home decor. Sometimes I find that cool, unexpected piece of furniture or decorative knick-knack and have a perfect spot for it, but other times I can NOT find the right piece for that tricky spot. Where my beautiful coffee table now lives, is a perfect example of that spot that I could just not find the right piece of furniture for.

After we painted our living room and rearranged it about 45 times, we knew we would be needing a decent sized coffee table, as there was a large space to fill in the middle of the room. I wanted to see what a rectangular table would look like so I tried our temporary TV stand (it’s amazing how many “temporary” pieces of furniture you start off with when you buy your first home). This TV stand was really an outdoor coffee table with a glass top, but it served its purpose. So I dragged my fake TV stand in front of our couch. It was okay, but just didn’t seem right. Our couch has an ottoman that comes out from one side and it felt a little boxy. I knew I had to begin my coffee table search.

My brother-in-law had a large coffee table with large drawers for storage that he was no longer needing and he offered it to us for free. I’m a sucker for free furniture and I saw its potential so I gratefully took it, in hopes that this would fill our coffee table void. Now this coffee table was definitely no antique and it had its fair share of condensation rings from cups. I gave the top a good sand, roughed up the sides, stained the top, and painted the sides (this was a bit of an experimentation project – I roughly painted a gray/blue base coat and painted white overtop, then sanded my edges for a rustic look). I wasn’t in love with this table, but I was satisfied enough so my husband and I lugged it into our living room and put it in front of the couch. Too big. We dragged the temporary TV stand back to its place as temporary coffee table and my brother-in-law’s newly restored coffee table became our new temporary TV stand (and it sits there to this day – still temporary). My coffee table search continued.

At some point in all of the coffee table fuss, my husband suggested a round coffee table. I gave that tricky spot in front of my couch a good long look and I liked his idea (I married a good one). So I narrowed my search to round coffee tables. Oh, but I didn’t just want any round coffee table. I wanted a round pedestal coffee table – something that looked like it came straight out of Pottery Barn. Well I honestly want most of my stuff to look like it came straight out of Pottery Barn. Anyway I searched antique stores and thrift stores, all along researching how to cut down a round pedestal kitchen table into a coffee table – just in case. I began to feel like I wasn’t going to find it, but I didn’t give up.

Then one evening I went on Craigslist. (Craigslist is my secret weapon when it comes to finding deals. We found our couch on Craigslist and our solid wood dining room chairs at $5.00 a piece on Craigslist. It doesn’t get much better than that!) This wasn’t the first time in my coffee table search that I looked on Craigslist, but I try to check Craigslist at least twice a week if I am looking for something in particular. After searching high and low, I found it. The round, pedestal coffee table I had been searching for. And it just so happened that the dimensions were perfect for that tricky spot! We negotiated on a price (tip: always negotiate on Craigslist) and picked up our solid wood, Amish made table.

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It was in perfect condition, but we wanted to update it a little so that it would match with our other furnishings. I had a few different ideas for its final look, but we ended up staining the top and painting the base white. Initially I wanted to stain the whole piece and whitewash over my stain. I did this with our pine dining room table top and it turned out beautifully. It did not work so great with this table. The coffee table had a nice thick coat of poly over its original honey colored stain that my superhero of a husband worked to sand for me. I learned that whitewash on oak does not look the same as whitewash on pine. In the end the whitewashing idea went out the window.

The Process

To start, I re-sanded the top of the table. I wanted a nice dark brown on top so I stained it with several coats of Minwax Early American. I just kept adding coats until I liked the color. Since my stain had so many coats I let it dry for over 24 hours. Then I painted the pedestal base in a white, semi-gloss, acrylic wall paint. I always use Benjamin Moore paint on my walls and trim so I just used the paint I had on hand (tip: I always use the paint I have on hand when I do a furniture project. It’s cheaper, earth friendly, and it helps tie in the colors throughout my home). Benjamin Moore is the best. I am a firm believer in the phrase “you get what you pay for” when it comes to paint.

After two coats of white paint and a nice, dry, stained top my table was ready for its final phase. I like to use polycrylic instead of polyurethane when I seal furniture. It is a lot less stinky because it is water based and it is incredibly durable when several coats are applied. There are two types of polycrylic I used on this table. For the top I used Minwax clear semi-gloss. You need to make sure you have a good synthetic bristle brush and apply in a very thin coat. Once the first coat is dry, lightly hand sand with a fine grit sand paper and apply another thin coat. I repeated this process until I had 4 coats of polycyclic applied to the top.

I also applied a polycrylic to the base to increase durability and prevent scratching. I do NOT use Minwax polycrylic over white paint. It will yellow. I found a great product from my local paint store called AquaZar. It is a Zar product and a little more pricey than Minwax, but definitely worth the investment if you plan to use a water based polyurethane over white paint. If you pair AquaZar with a quality paint like Benjamin Moore and are careful, it will reduce yellowing. Be sure to test out your polycrylics on a small area of your piece of furniture to see how it reacts with your paint. I used AquaZar in a semi-gloss (mainly because that was the only finish my paint store had in stock when I bought it). I just used 2 coats of AquaZar on the base. The process is similar to the Minwax polycrylic application – a light coat and a light sand between coats.

And the finished product turned out better than I could imagine!

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It’s amazing what a little love and sweat can do for a piece of furniture! We love our new and improved coffee table and I am relieved to have my tricky spot filled. Patience pays off, my friends!

The Materials

Power sander

Fine grit sand paper

Paint brush

Synthetic bristle paint brush (polycrylic application)

Cloth (for staining)

Top: Minwax Early American Stain (stained until desired color) , Minwax Polycrylic semi-gloss (3-4 coats)

Base: Benjamin Moore White semi-gloss (2 coats), AquaZar water based polyurethane semi-gloss (2 coats)

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