I often have clients come to me wanting to update their living spaces. And Lex came to me with just that goal: to update her living space with a new coffee table.
She was ready to do away with her college furniture that managed to stick around way longer than intended, and purchase a piece that would suite her family's needs. She ask me to help her bring her vision to life and I was glad to help.
Step 1: Find a Table
Since Lex's current coffee table was not working for her space, we opted to source her a "new" table to refinish. Lex was looking for something round, Mid-Century Modern, and with storage. I knew this was not going to be an easy find, since there are few round coffee tables in the MCM genre and even fewer ones with storage. So I got to work searching all my favorite spots.
After plenty of not-quite rights, I stumbled upon a table posted on a local Facebook garage sale site. It was barely visible in the picture among all the other items for sale, but I could tell that it was round, had a shelf, and looked modern. It was the size Lex was looking for and even with the poor quality of the picture, she could tell the modern feel of the piece would be a Yes in her book.
But there was one glaring problem: the top was not made of a well-stainable wood. The top was a kind of laminate over pressed wood. And that's when it hit me: replace the top and modify the original design. I mean Pinterest is always talking about “hacks,” so how hard could it be?
Well let’s pause right there … the “easy” and “inexpensive” slogan that is linked with the ever-so-popular hack posts is a complete lie. Yes, I am here to tell you the truth and I know it’s an unpopular thing to say, but it’s never as easy or cheap as the post claims. Now back to Lex's redesigned table with the new top.
Step 2: Redesign the Table
Ok so I will admit, although I know the easy-peasy hack claims are a bit exaggerated, I maintained a little hope. So I proposed the idea to Lex and she loved it. Then I gathered some options for her to choose from.
We went with a poplar top, which we had made by a local woodworker. Although that option was more expensive (verse a pine top that we could not customize), it really suited the piece and her style to a tee. So we ordered the top and my friend Roger made it to our specifications.
Step 3: Choose Finishes
Once our new top was ready, we worked on selecting a stain. I mixed up a handful of stains that I felt reflected a mid century modern look and sent them to Lex.
She gave me her top pick, but I could just sense I was missing that “it’s perfect” moment. So I asked her a few more questions and got a better sense of where she was wanting to go with the design. I found an inspiration picture from a favorite store of mine and showed her a picture.
It was exactly what she was envisioning! So I went back to the drawing board and came up with the perfect stain. Once we nailed down the custom stain, Lex decided she wanted to do a simple white with a flat finish for the base.
I stained the top with the most gorgeous weathered gray. Since we were going for a modern look, I choose the beautiful smooth finish of General Finishes Snow White for the bottom, then sealed it with GF's Flat Out Flat for a waxed look.
The hard part was over (so I thought) and the table was ready to be assembled.
Step 4: Execute the Design (Enter: Drama)
Now remember when I told you Pinterest was lying to you and you almost stopped reading … well here's where the “easy” got real.
We got the top glued down as planned, but the once-flat top was no longer so flat. We clamped it down, figuring that it would surely straighten it out. Boy were we wrong.
I mean, we sort of had a feeling it was not going to cooperate at this point, but honestly every project has its bumps. Sometimes it's best to just walk away, say a prayer, and hope for the best. There are times when what seems to be a “problem” is just an overreaction from late hours spent on a project.
The next morning we attempted to remove the clamps only to find the top curling up!
I was on the verge of a melt down as my husband and I had walked through all of our options. Who am I kidding it was straight panic.
Before making a decision, I made a phone call to the lovely gentleman who made the top, in hopes that he could tell me what to use or how to correct the bowing of the wood. He suggested I run it over with the base and he would get it straightened out. So my husband dropped the table at his shop, and Roger added a center brace and reglued the table. It came back perfect!
Until … yes there is more!
The base required some touch-up due to the reworking, which was really no big deal. I worked on it a bit and then left it to work on a few other projects. When I returned to apply the final top coat, I noticed it had changed again: part of the the side was coming up!
It was minimal, but I decided to contact my woodworker. He advised us to bring the table back to him one last time and that he would add some nails. Ugh … nail marks on my perfect top?!?! He told me that I would hardly notice them and that it was necessary.
Here is the table on its way back for the second time.
The next morning we got the table back. Here is what it looked like …
After some delicate sanding I was left with these marks …
I just couldn't live with those nail marks in my perfect top as small as they may have seemed to some. So I used some paint to blend the marks in and voila!
The Result: One Perfect Coffee Table Redesign
"Jill is beyond fantastic. She helped find a table that fit my space and my needs, and then she completely transformed it into exactly what I wanted. The aesthetic I had in mind was a little more plain than her usual designs, but she went with it and created something perfect for us. She communicated every decision throughout the process, and was totally honest when something didn't go the way she thought it would. I couldn't be happier with the table or the experience."
Lex trusted me to find, redesign, customize, and refinish the perfect coffee table for her. Although all projects have their hiccups, we overcame and provided solutions that allowed us to create this unique custom table; perfect for Lex!
Of course you'd always want a real wood top instead of a laminate, but be prepared to add some extra support and reinforce the edges as real wood is prone to cupping. Moral of the story is you have to be flexible, patient, and solution driven. All projects will have there problems but most challenging are usually the most rewarding!