I was supposed to write a post today giving an update on my master bath makeover… but you know what they say about the best laid plans. My plans changed because there are certain pieces of furniture that just stick with me… pieces where I find myself writing the post while I work on them… pieces where I literally can’t wait to download the pictures… and can’t wait to write down that piece of furniture’s story. This before and after is one of those posts.
Someone from Mike’s office contacted me back in the fall about working on a primitive table that she was getting from her family. The table was literally in pieces in the pictures she emailed me and I decided to take a look at it in person before we moved forward. She invited me out to her grandmother’s home, where the piece was stored, to look at it in person. Her family has lived just outside of Raleigh, where the city meets the country, for years. Her parents live across the road from her grandmother, in the house she grew up in. Her grandmother reminded me so much of my own… full of quiet Southern grace and pride. There’s nothing like an Eastern NC grandmother. The love and togetherness of the family showed in the way they came and went from each other’s homes… the way they took care of each other. It was also evident in the treasures stored in her grandmother’s basement.
As we made our way to the table, we walked past antique jugs lining the basement stairs. We walked past dressers and tables and old baskets. We walked past a gorgeous antique cabinet that displayed candy in her family’s old country store. And in the back, tucked neatly into a corner, we found the table she wanted to restore.
The table, while in bad shape, was part of her family’s history and I wanted to help her transform it into something she could use and be proud of in her own home. If anyone understands the ties that bind us to family furniture, it’s me. As our inspiration, we used this photo from a Country Living article…
Source: Country Living
It depicted a primitive farm table almost identical to hers cut down and used as a coffee table. We opted to employ the same tactic. The table had been damaged by water in its past and the bottom of each table leg was severely damaged. Cutting the table down to coffee table height would allow us to remove the damaged pieces and get down to good wood.
I brought the table home and got to work. The first part was the most nerve-wrecking one for me. I had to pry each board off the table and then using a hammer, beat each of the old nails out of the board; trying to keep them straight enough to reuse later. Once each board was removed, I measured and cut the table’s legs down to the height we had decided upon.
While the base moved inside to be painted, I lined the table top boards up to sand them down. The goal with the table was to stay true to its personality and to keep some of its history. We didn’t want to create a coffee table with a perfectly sanded and smooth top… we didn’t want a perfectly painted base. Instead, we wanted to keep bits and pieces of the old paint finishes. So, the boards got a light sanding… enough to smooth them over but not enough to remove all their paint. There are some great imitations of aged wood out there… but there’s nothing quite like the real thing.
Painting the table base was supposed to be the easy part. I had a plan… but once again, my plans were foiled. The plan was to use milk paint on the base. We had selected a soft gray for the base and I felt like milk paint would enhance the primitive feel of the table. But here’s the thing… milk paint is notoriously unpredictable without a bonding agent. And when dealing with a truly old table, there’s a fine line between staying true to its past and making it look too old and grungy. Long story short, the milk paint was a little too chippy, a little too messy for the table. It just didn’t work. So I went back and painted the base with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint; mixing a very pale gray using Paris Grey and Pure White. I distressed the edges, letting some of the old paint and original wood shine through and waxed with a very light coating of dark wax.
Putting the table back together was a little nerve-wracking as well… it was the first time I’d seen the table fully assembled. Fortunately, I’d numbered the boards as I removed them and that made reassembly much easier. I added each board back to the base, using a nail gun to make sure they were securely fastened. After all the boards were on, I went back with the original nails and hammered them into their original spots.
I finished the table top using Danish Oil. Danish Oil is great because it stains, seals and protects wood in one step. It’s easy to apply and leaves a warm, weathered finish behind.
I’m excited about the way this table turned out and about the new lease on life it’s been given. I can see it in a family room… its big size is the perfect anchor to a comfy slipcovered couch. It’s the perfect surface to put your feet up, relax and unwind; the perfect height and size for an impromptu and casual meal and a glass of wine. I see board games, football games and cups of coffee in its future, with many new family memories to be made.