Tag Archives: mid century

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:


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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:

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And here’s what the veneer looks like:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

Finished Wood Side Tables

We finally wrapped up these two side tables we’re doing for a friend, so I’ll post some before and after pictures. This wasn’t a huge transformation, just updating the stain color to a darker and less orangy color and fixing nicks in the finish by re-sealing it. Here’s how they started:

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And we stripped and sanded them down to raw wood:

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And then we stained them with 2 coats of Minwax dark walnut stain. We sealed these with a product we hadn’t tried before, wipe on oil-based polyurethane. Oil based polyurethane has a nice finish over stained wood, but we haven’t used it as much recently because cleaning up the brush is a pain since you have to use mineral spirits which never totally gets the poly out of the brush. But you can just use disposable rags with wipe on poly! So we put on three coats of this, since it is on the thinner side. Here’s how they turned out:

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The color looks a little different between the two, but in person they match relatively well. The wood patterns on the tops are a little different, though, but it makes the character of each side table more unique:

IMG_1022In the pictures, the finished product doesn’t look very different from the original, but in person they’re much darker and richer looking and they have a brand new finish. The wipe on poly left a smooth, luxurious finish so I’d recommend it. It took about 10 minutes to do each coat of poly on both tables with the wipe on which was a huge time saver. Hopefully we’ll be dropping these off with their new owner this week to make room for some new projects!

Contemporary Dining Table

In the last post, I mentioned the dining table we were working on. I had uncertainties about how this would turn out, but Nik was persistent about moving forward with this project, and I’m glad he was! To remind you, this is how the table started out:

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The top had tons of water damage to the wood and the finish, and the pedestal was gross and missing two of its support legs, making it unusable.Then Nik stripped it, reattached the board and we sanded it a bit. IMG_0781

At the end of the day (weeks?), this is how it ended up:

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Here’s a few pictures we took outside, to have some different lighting on the weathered wood:

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After stripping and sanding through the water-damaged finish, we noticed that the wood actually looked kind of cool – more of a “weathered” look than a “damaged” look.


It was still a little incomplete looking, so I stained it with a very light stain (golden oak) then sealed it with multiple layers of water-based polyurethane. We attached the legs, and decided we’d try to sell it like that! If it doesn’t sell, our other idea was the paint it and glaze it. Glazing can mean a lot of different things, but the kind we’d use would be glaze mixed with a dark stain or dark tinting. From my understanding, glaze looks like runny Elmer’s glue, and basically thickens the stain so it is more workable. We’d paint the table a lighter color and glaze over it to put some dark dimension into the cracks and imperfections, kind of like this dresser or this instructional guide. So that’s our backup plan if no one goes for the weathered wood look!

Mid-century Modern Small Chest

After success with our first small mid century modern dresser, we bought another one off craigslist for $60.

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This dresser had a few layers of paint on it, so we stripped and sanded it down. We had hoped to stain some of the body, but the wood wasn’t in great condition so we ended up painting the casing, and staining the drawers and feet. We spray painted the handles of this dresser as well with nickel and hammered copper spray paints. The finished product came out nice, and we sold it for $100.

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