Tag Archives: veneer

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!

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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

Green Accent Dresser

On my way home from work, I saw this beautiful dresser sitting by the curb of a neighbor’s house with some other unwanted items. I couldn’t turn down a free dresser, so after getting home, I dragged Nik and his car out to see it. We loaded it up and brought it home.

IMG_0426On another blog, we had seen a piece similar to this. She had stripped off all the veneer from the front drawers of hers, and found beautiful wood slats underneath. Nik was feeling adventurous, and started soaking the drawer fronts and removing veneer. For the most part it came off easily.

IMG_0853And look what was underneath! Wood slats!

IMG_0854We stripped the veneer off the top as well, but the wood here wasn’t in as good condition. The drawers had little worm holes in them which gave it such a unique look. We sanded them down and scraped all the saw dust out of the little holes. Then we stained the drawers with special walnut stain. We sealed the drawers with water-based poly since we didn’t want to get any yellowed oil-based polyurethane in the holes. It worked beautifully.


The top didn’t come out as nicely when we stained it, so we took a step back and decided to resand and paint the top and the rest of the body. I wanted to do a colorful piece, and Nik picked out a vibrant green color to try. After the first coat it was a bit shocking, even with the primer still showing through!

IMG_0576Since we painted the top as well, it was a lot of bright green. We decided to white wash it to tone town the fluorescence a bit.


We sealed the top with water based poly, but since the paint was satin (with a little sheen) we didn’t seal the body since sheen is protective on its own. We went to put it all together, and due to the humidity of the lovely NC summer, the wood had swollen so much none of the drawers fit! We had to sand down the lips of each drawer, and finally we got them in smoothly. We sold this piece for $200 to a couple expecting a twin boy and girl, who plan to use it as a changing table and dresser in the nursery.

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Cedar Lane Chest

Our bedroom always has lots of loose blankets and things floating around, so we wanted to redo a chest to use for storage. We found this beautiful cedar chest made by Lane on craigslist, and paid $80 for it. We loved the unique veneer patterns on the front of it. It sat around all winter while we waited for it to get warmer to work on it. Once we stripped and sanded it down it looked like this:

IMG_0798  IMG_0801 IMG_0802Some of the veneer was chipped in places, so Nik repaired this with extra veneer we had. We stained it with special walnut stain, and sealed the entire thing with polyurethane. IMG_0838   IMG_0423 IMG_0424After buying this piece, we decided it would be best to keep the waterfall dresser we previously refinished, since these two make somewhat of a matching set.