My first DIY refinishing project was a dining table and chairs. I’d seen my first French Provincial/Farmhouse dining table a week earlier and immediately squeed myself. “Rustic” seemed like a pretty hard effect to screw up, so I decided to buy a cheap dining set and attempt it myself. This is what I was aiming for:
My first port of call was Gumtree, where I spotted a pine table and chairs advertised for $100. According to the ad, the set was in good condition and the owner was only selling because she wanted a square dining table. What a steal, I thought. She’s practically giving it away! I called her and once she’d assured me that both the table and chairs were structurally sound, the bf and I hired a trailer and drove over.
The set had clearly been in her shed for some time. It was grimy, dinged up and rather curiously, speckled with glitter paint. Never mind, I thought – I’ll be stripping it anyway, and the knocks and bumps will add character. It wasn’t until we’d loaded up the trailer and were halfway home that I noticed one of the table legs shaking like a chihuahua on Red Bull. Turns out it had a substantial chunk missing at the base and had been “fixed” with a metal bracket. Structurally sound, my ass. What a rip, I thought. She should have paid me to cart away her trash! Lesson learned: inspect second hand items thoroughly before buying, and don’t be afraid to walk away if you’re not satisfied. In this case, I decided to keep the set, use the chairs as planned and convert the table into an outdoor workbench.
I hit Gumtree again and found another table advertised for $60. The seller had already stripped the top and base for his own aborted project (score!), so all I had to do was pick out a wood stain, some white paint and sandpaper and get cracking. I really had no idea what I was doing, but I figured if I stuffed up too badly I could just sand it back and start again. I didn’t take a before pic, so here it is as it appeared on Gumtree.
I painted the base with a coat of flat charcoal, then a flat white. I experimented with various grades of sandpaper until I found one that stripped the white back to the charcoal without exposing the wood. I concentrated on the corners, where the table would naturally experience the most wear. When I was happy with the effect, I sealed it with a few coats of spray varnish.
I used Cabot’s Interior Stain in Walnut for the top. It took three coats to achieve the look I wanted.
The chairs proved a more difficult undertaking. Even with my mum’s electric sander, stripping them was a right bitch. I suffer from weak wrists (shut up, it’s a thing) so I had to spread out the task over several weekends. Rather than paint the chairs to match the table, I decided to transform them with a bold green. This was my inspiration:
Bunnings didn’t have the right shade of green in enamel, so I brought in a green decorative box lid for them to sample. I primed the chairs in white, gave them two coats of charcoal, and finished with two coats of green.
I didn’t go as crazy with the sandpaper this time, as I wanted a more subtle distressed effect. Hint: unless you’re a sadist, don’t use a white primer under a dark top coat, because white flecks totally ruin the effect. Either mix a darker paint into the primer so it matches the undercoat, or skip priming altogether.
I finished up with a couple of coats of spray varnish. Even though I had bought a tin of varnish specifically for the chairs, I was completely over brush application by this stage.
My dining room is so freaking small that I couldn’t get the entire set in the frame, but you get the overall effect. Total cost including paint and varnish was around $250.