Kitchen Table Flip
About 6 months ago I found a gorgeous DIY kitchen table tutorial that I knew would be perfect for our breakfast nook. Tim rolled his eyes when I asked him if we could build it. I am notorious for continuing to add projects to our plate that we don't really have the time for. But my sweet husband would have helped me build it anyway! And then we realized how much the lumber prices had skyrocketed, and my DIY table promptly got pushed to the back burner.
Because I'm not good at keeping things on the back burner, I started checking Facebook Marketplace recently just to see if anything caught my eye that I could flip. Originally, I was looking for a round table about 54 inches in diameter, but was a little concerned about the table taking up too much of our walking path. Our kitchen, breakfast nook, and family room are all part of one long, narrow room that hasn't been the easiest to style. A table larger than our original would balance the space better, but I didn't want everything to feel crowded.
I was inspired to consider an oval table when I saw this Arhaus table in an Instagram post last week. It was certainly divine providence that days later this little beauty popped up in my feed not too far from where we live. The seller agreed to $20 and I picked her up that night! You might be thinking, that looks nothing like the inspo table, but I personally love my table even more! The turned pedestal base gives me Pottery Barn vibes but without the price tag!
If I'm being honest, refinishing furniture is not my favorite activity, but when it means saving a crazy amount of money on a dream kitchen table, I'm on board! I'm going to take you through how I refinished my oval table step by step. There were a few twists and turns through this project, which if you follow me on Instagram, you witnessed first hand. I wasn't in love with my first efforts as the wood did not end up being a color that worked for me. BUT, I figured it out in the end! And hopefully my trials and errors can help you for future flips! Although it is time intensive, it is not a difficult project so even a beginner can creating a stunning piece!
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Here's what I used
sand paper in different grits
I started by disassembling the table and cleaning the surfaces to remove gunk and grease build up. There were some areas with dried glue that I didn't worry about, but I tried to have as clean a surface as possible. I began sanding with my orbital sander using 80 grit sandpaper. This stage was the most time consuming because I was sanding off the finish and stain in order to expose the raw wood. If you are working with a piece of furniture that is painted or heavily sealed with poly, you may need to use a stripping agent first.
For the rounded areas of the base, I switched to using an oscillating tool which allowed me to get into the creases more easily. Once I had removed all of the finish from the table, I sanded again with 120 and 220 grit paper. For the table top I finished with a 320 grit for a nice smooth surface. I didn't bother with the 320 for the base and legs.
Note - between every sanding grit, I wiped the table down with a damp rag to remove saw dust and to make sure I had completely removed the finish. Your hands are the perfect tool to judge if there is a spot that is too rough.
Once my table was fully sanded, I made sure I cleaned it thoroughly with a damp rag to remove dust and dirt. I debated whether I wanted to stain the table or leave it the raw wood color. Ultimately, we fell in love with the light color of the natural wood. It is a stark contrast to the black table we originally had in our kitchen, and even though the table is larger, it helps to brighten up the space and highlight our black farmhouse chairs. Because I thought there was no need to stain or paint, I just needed to seal the wood with polyurethane. And that's what I did!
(in the picture below, the table on the left is raw wood, the right
has been sealed with polyurethane)
Once I brought my sealed table top into the house I realized that the color was not the same as when the wood was completely raw. The wood pulled a yellow undertone that did NOT compliment our wood floors and other décor. I was crushed and frankly felt like a failure. I reached out to my décor groups for support and advice. I struggled for a while with whether or not I should just paint the whole table black and be done with the project, but I really wanted to showcase the wood grain on the top. I was finally able to realize that this particular wood just naturally has yellow undertones which are brought out when you seal it. So no amount of sanding would ever change the undertone once you apply any top of sealer to the wood. My only option was to alter the color by treating the wood in some fashion.
So my next step was to completely sand off all of the perfectly applied polyurethane and start all over. I decided to only sand down the table top because I still hadn't decided what to do with the base.
There were several options to alter the tone of the wood such as pickling, stain, and bleach. I decided to try bleaching the wood because I already had bleach at home and I knew I didn't want to darken the wood. I applied household bleach all over the top with a bristle brush, brushing the same direction as the wood grain. *NOTE* when bleaching wood make sure to wear gloves and a mask! Safety first!
Once the bleach soaked in and was dry, I lightly sanded the top and wiped it with a damp rag. I decided to do a second layer of bleach and repeat the process. This was all trial and error for me. Bleaching wood does what you probably think it does - it makes the wood lighter. After 2 coats I could still see a yellow undertone when the wood was damp, which meant it would still look yellow after a poly coat. I decided to lightly apply a gray stain to "dirty" the wood a bit. Before staining, I needed to stop the bleach from continuing to affect the wood, so I brushed on an equal parts solution of white vinegar and water. (Trust me, I did not have all of this knowledge before this project. I did a LOT of research!!!)
Once the table was dry, it was time to try stain. I made sure to have mineral spirits on hand to thin the stain and ensure I had as light a coat of stain as possible. I let the table sit overnight allowing the stain time to dry. After all of the sanding I had done, the wood still didn't take the stain in a few small spots. I sanded the table yet again to attempt to remove some of the stain and even out the tone of the wood. And that was the magic touch because the wood started to look worn and weathered with subtle touches of gray throughout the wood grain!
And the gray helped to remove the yellow undertone! I let the table sit out in the sun all day and periodically ran a damp cloth over it to simulate what a coat of poly would look like. No yellow! With the table top finally ready for a few coats of polyurethane, it was time to figure out what the heck to do with the base. I decided to paint it black, which was 100% the best decision and also the easiest part of this project! I used flat black spray paint and applied 3 thin coats to prevent runs and drips.
So let's talk polyurethane. There was a major debate between people I sought advice from on whether polyurethane or polycrylic was the best choice. Naturally, I chose to listen to the advice of a professional wood worker and used polyurethane because he said it would be the most durable and easiest to apply without streaks.
Using a foam brush, I applied several thin coats of matte polyurethane to all of the surfaces, waiting 2 hours in between applications (according to the directions on the can). The grain of the wood rose after each coat of poly, so as instructed, I gently sanded with 320 grit sand paper to make everything smooth. I applied 4 coats of poly in total (I did NOT sand after the last coat) 3 coats would have been ok except the wood grain continued to rise a bit in one area and I wanted to make sure the table top was as smooth as possible. I let the poly cure for 3 days before we assembled the table for use!
I am completely in love with this table and how much it has changed our space! I had to adjust a few pieces of furniture to accommodate our gorgeous new addition. The antique trunk we originally had behind the love seat competed too much with the wood tone of the table, so it has a fabulous new home at the foot of Jackson's bed! I also switched out 2 of our kitchen chairs for a black farmhouse bench that had been sitting on our front porch! I think it pairs so well with the remaining chairs!
Shop The Look
I tried to link everything I could. If it's not linked, it's most likely vintage or a DIY
bench - my exact farmhouse bench is no longer sold, but here are some very similar styles!
This project was a major undertaking for me, BUT I am a novice just like most of you and I figured it out! The biggest piece of advice I can offer from my experience is to wipe your piece with a damp rag before applying a sealer. This will show you what color and tone the wood with look like once it has been sealed. If you don't like it, change it BEFORE you apply poly!
I hope you find some inspiration here! If you are styling on a budget, I encourage you to shop Facebook Marketplace and other used furniture sites! Don't be intimidated by the thought of flipping your own furniture! There's not much that re-sanding can't fix if you feel you've made a mistake! And there's so many resources out there to help you be successful - including me! And the fact that you can save so much money by refinishing your own dream furniture means you can use that money for other décor and styling! On a side note, if you've read this far...do you see that bench in the back of the picture above? That's my next flip! Still deciding on a color, so check back for an update! Don't forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page so you never miss an opportunity to be inspired! And make sure to follow along on Instagram and Facebook for more easy tips and DIY's along with a peek inside our every day life!