Tag Archives: coffee table

Mid Century Coffee Table … And We’re Still Here!

Well, it’s been SO long since we’ve written but we have some good reasons for taking a break from refinishing! Let me update you with some of the exciting things that have been going on:

First, Nik and I are about to finish up grad school, and Nik found out that he got a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship at UNC that will give him training in teaching at the college level, which is what he wants to do with his life. He took the position, which means we’ll be near Chapel Hill for the next few years. So…we started looking for a house, and a couple weeks ago we had an offer accepted on a place just down the road in Durham.


The deal is still under negotiations, but the inspection went relatively well so we’re hoping everything will work out. The house has a great layout (a small colonial, 3 bedrooms, 2 stories), but definitely needs some TLC! Our first few projects will include painting everything, replacing the awful wall-to-wall carpeting/linoleum downstairs with some engineered hardwood floors, updating the downstairs (and possibly master) bathrooms, adding crown molding and trim to some rooms, and figuring out what the heck to do with the kitchen. Ugh.


The kitchen currently has very limited cabinet space (that’s just about all of it above!), terrible formica counters, linoleum floors, and a dishwasher that sounds like a steamboat engine. We’re toying with ideas of moving the pantry (not shown above) to the other side of the room to create more counter space, possibly adding an island, or adding a banquette with storage cabinets on the other side of the room. But those are big projects, so we’ll have to tackle things one at a time.

The yard also needs some work, and we’re hoping to put in a nice garden along the side of the house. There’s a play set that has to be ripped down in the backyard, but it’s built with some cool weathered wood so maybe we’ll be able to turn it into a furniture project.

So, speaking of furniture, amidst all this chaos of finding a house, starting to write up our research papers so we can graduate, moving to a small apartment for the summer since our current place wouldn’t do a short term lease, and finding jobs, we have managed to squeak a couple pieces out. I’ve written about this first piece before, but I’ll refresh your memory. I’m happy to say it is finally finished (well…it will be tonight. One more coat of poly. I promise!). This eclectic coffee table was made by Edward Wormley, whose mid-century-style furniture designs are actually featured in some museums.

IMG_0585 IMG_0603

The guy who sold it to us knew it was worth some money, but unfortunately neglected to tell us the table had terrible water damage (see dark spot above). So we ventured to Raleigh and found some quarter sawn red oak veneer that we felt matched well enough for our budget.


We put off applying this veneer for about a year and a half because Nik is a perfectionist, and once it’s cut and glued, it’s cut and glued for good. So I did the cutting, which for 10 mil veneer can be done with a nice pair of scissors:


We then adhered it with contact cement which has to be applied to both surfaces, allowed to dry to a tack for about 10-15 minutes, then pressed together with a decent amount of force. We did one half, then the other to keep it alined. This stuff is stinky and noxious and can spontaneously light on fire…not fun stuff.

IMG_1707 IMG_1711

After adhering the veneer, we let it dry outside for a day or two and got lovely bubbles lifting up under the veneer, so we kept some heavy textbooks on it for a few more days and they went away for the most part. Next we had to fill the seam of the veneer, which we did with wood filler.


This worked alright…and the wood filler sanded pretty smooth and stained decently but it’s not totally invisible.

IMG_1759  IMG_1761

We had already stained the other parts of the table, but since it had been so long we did another coat of Golden Oak on everything (gotta keep the wood tone looking mid-century!). I didn’t think the veneer was stained dark enough, so I then went over it with a quick coat of Cherry (see the side by side comparison below), and I think it matches pretty darn well with the rest of the table now!

IMG_1764          IMG_1766

The grain of the red oak veneer definitely is much stronger than the original veneer that is on the bottom level, but overall I’m really happy with how it came out. It needs another coat of water based poly and then we’ll have to decide if we’re keeping it or selling.

We also refinished the wood part of a piano bench we bought for $20 a couple years back. I think I’ve written about the upholstery part and the rest was just stripping, sanding, staining, and sealing, so here’s the before and after for that project:


IMG_1734      IMG_1735

Some friends introduced us to a very neat reclaimed house parts store in Durham called the ReUse Warehouse, and we went there this past weekend. It was approximately 150 degrees inside with the NC summer heat (our SHINS were sweating), but despite that we found some cool old window sashes, one of which we bought for $10 to make into something fun. We’ll definitely be heading back there for other projects in our new house!

So, I’m sorry to all my readers for the long break, but we’re still here and always trying to find time to work on our projects! Once we get moved into our house, we’ll have lots and lots of fun DIY projects to write about there!

New (Old?) Works in Progress

This past week we revisited some projects started a while ago (almost 2 years ago for one of them!) to try to wrap them up. The first one is a designer coffee table from the Edward Wormley Precedent Collection, which is super high-end (when in good, probably un-refinished condition, of course). This table unfortunately had some water damage to the top level veneer, so Nik and I got some new Red Oak Quarter Sawn veneer at Capitol Lumber in Raleigh. We spent many tries color matching it to the veneer on the bottom level, and this came out the best.

Here’s the table with damage, and then stripped and sanded:

IMG_0587    IMG_0603

And here’s what the veneer looks like:

IMG_0820 IMG_0821

We bought plain 10mil veneer, so its very thin. Nik cut it approximately to size with a razor, then decided he couldn’t handle the anxiety of trimming it so it would fit perfectly. So I did this with scissors, and it came out alright. I trimmed it a bit too much on one side, but with some wood filler to fill in that little bit of extra space I think it’ll come out great.

IMG_1511    IMG_1513

Now we need to paste it down with wood cement, then sand and use wood filler, then stain the piece and seal it up! The wood cement needs 65 degree temps for 3 days to cure, so we’re basically waiting on the weather to get warmer for that. That cement stuff is serious business – it says to turn off all nearby pilot flames in your house if you use it (obviously we’re going to do this outside), so hopefully we don’t blow up the neighborhood. I’m not 100% sure how we’re going to get that perfect, because it IMMEDIATELY adheres upon contact of your two surfaces, so the veneer will have to be laid out perfectly the first try! I’m pretty sure Nik will go hide in a closet while this happens so his perfectionist anxiety doesn’t get the best of him!

The next project is a cool mid century china cabinet I picked up with the help of friends and their big truck and we’ve been storing it in their garage until it got warm enough to work on.

IMG_1273     IMG_1274

We had worked on it a while back, stripping and sanding some of the shelves and door fronts. Due to damage to the body, we decided to paint a large portion of it, and stain the top 2 shelves and door fronts. Here’s some pics of the sanding and some of the damaged areas we’re attempting to fix with wood filler:

IMG_1278      IMG_1277

IMG_1522    IMG_1523

We made some progress doing the staining and also priming the rest of it last weekend, and we also used our friend’s circular saw to cut new underlayment for the back panel since the old backing had issues.

IMG_1526     IMG_1527 IMG_1528

It’s starting to shape up! Next we need to finish shaping the wood filler for those problem areas, prime over that, get the whole body painted, and seal it up! We haven’t picked a color yet. White paint with stain is pretty classic for mid century modern furniture, but maybe we’ll mix it up a bit.

Modern White Coffee Table

We finally finished the coffee table we’ve been working on for months! Nik bought this table or $50 over the summer and was under the impression that it was covered with wood veneer. The people who sold it to us said it was from West Elm, and while I really like the style of furniture sold by this company, whenever I go into the store and look more closely at the furniture there, I realize it is made out of poor quality materials – rarely solid wood, and more often than not particle board that doesn’t even have good quality veneer over it. And then they’re asking $800 for a dresser! Or $500 for a plain coffee table! No thank you!

Anyway, we found out that the coffee table certainly wasn’t solid wood and wasn’t even real veneer, it was actually laminate veneer that couldn’t be sanded and restained. The laminate wasn’t great quality either, so even trying to remove and smooth out all the kid goop and crayon marks and sparkles from the previous owner was unsuccessful.


After a little scrubbing Nik at least got it to this point:


But the finish looked bad, and I finally agreed to Nik’s suggestion to paint it bright white. We spray painted it with gloss white spray paint, and after a few coats it was indeed white, but it was not an even smooth finish.


We finally went over it with 3 coats of gloss water-based polyurethane and sealed it up that way. All that troubleshooting, but its finally done and up for sale, and I think it came out nicely:

IMG_1033 IMG_1034 IMG_1037              IMG_1036

Weekend Projects

If I post about some projects in progress today, maybe we’ll work extra hard to actually finish up some pieces this weekend so I can show the final product next week. There are FOUR things we’re working on currently, and my goal is to have 2 of them done by the end of this weekend to clear out some space in our apartment.

The first I gave you some teaser photos of in my last post, which is a set of side tables for one of Nik’s coworkers. She just bought a new house, and is trying to phase out of her “grad student furniture” into “real people furniture”. We found these great solid wood side tables on craigslist, and told her if she didn’t like the way they come out, we’ll keep them because we love them! Here are original pictures of one of the tables, minus the drawer which Nik was already busily sanding.

IMG_0885     IMG_0886

Both tables were in pretty good condition, but the finish was a bit dated and orange-y. We stripped them down and sanded both tables:

IMG_0902     IMG_0901

She wants a dark stain, so we went ahead with dark walnut. In this next picture, the table on the left has dried stain on it, and the one on the right is freshly stained, so the stain “lightens” as it dries. Now the two tables look about the same. I think we’re going to do one more coat of stain to darken the rich color a bit more. Finally, we’ll do a few coats of poly and these tables will be done.

IMG_0934Our next project is this West Elm coffee table that I posted about a long time ago…it has been slow progress since it ended up not being made of wood that we could sand and re-stain. So we ended up spray painting it a high gloss white. The spray paint looked pretty streaky and terrible (from the humidity? from our lack of experience with spray paint? because the coffee table is huge and flat and streaks show up more? who knows…) so our plan is to sand the white coats smooth with very fine sandpaper, and then to do a spray paint clear coat. We tried this out with much success on the drawers, so now we just have to clear coat this beast (hopefully without gnats landing on the sticky surface…they can’t seem to resist the bright white), reattach the frame, and put the drawers in:

IMG_0930Ok, on to the next project. On our way home from the beach this past weekend, we found this little side table at a yard sale for $20. I thought it was cute, and Nik thinks it will be a good piece to experiment with some antiquing techniques like sanding and glazing that I’ve been wanting to try. I want to strip and stain the top, and then paint the rest, and the painted areas will be where we try the antiquing. We might also replace the hardware with something more modern.

IMG_0935        IMG_0936

The final project (ongoing for almost one and a half years now…) is this quirky contemporary coffee table made by the famous designer, Edward Wormley. I can’t remember if I’ve written about this table before, but it is a piece that has potential to be worth a lot of money (a slightly larger version of this table that was in original pristine condition sold for around $3500 in NYC when we were looking up information on the designer.) Of course our piece is refurbished, but we’re trying to keep it looking as it did when it was new. This is what we started with:

IMG_0585 IMG_0587

Unfortunately, after sanding we found the top level veneer was very water damaged, and when we tried to sand it off, we started sanding through the veneer.


So, we started by at least staining the undamaged area a golden oak color:


After testing colors extensively with test swatches we bought from Capital Lumber in Raleigh, we finally purchased some veneer that matched as best as possible to the veneer on the lower level. We ended up with rift cut red oak, and we have a 3’x4′ piece of it that is sitting in my bedroom waiting to be adhered and stained.

IMG_0820 IMG_0821

Nik is nervous about cutting the veneer, which is thin enough to do with a razor blade. It wasn’t cheap, so we’re procrastinating since dealing with  veneer is uncharted territory for us. It shouldn’t be too difficult if we take good measurements and make straight cuts, so once we get up the courage, this is on our list of things to do.

So hopefully, one or more of these projects will be wrapped up this weekend and I’ll show the final pictures next week!