Posts Tagged ‘refinishing’

Late last fall, I undertook the job of refinishing our nearly 30-year-old kitchen table and chairs. (Wow, that just sounds so…old.)

The table is a well-made classic oak clawfoot table – it goes from a 4-foot round to a 5- or 6-foot oval with the addition of one or two leaves.

The chairs are Windsor-style. The table was a hand-picked gift from my parents and four chairs were bought as unfinished from Builders Square (before they were bought out by The Home Depot.)

If you’re not a kid, you remember oak in the mid-80s. It came in one glowing hue, fondly termed “golden.” Mine was a tad darker than some, but it still gleamed brightly. When Swimmer Girl outgrew her high chair, baby made five, and I found a pair of chairs similar to the others. They were pre-finished and didn’t match the others, but at least we had seats for everyone and one to spare.

I overlooked the set’s dated and mismatched stains as long as possible, but the table’s top was starting to show its age in profound ways. In many places, the finish was finished. Gone. Finis. Drinking glasses left dark water rings that soaked into the wood and took forever to dry. This is the “before” picture.

IMG_4545And truth be told, I finished those four chairs in haste so we would have seating – they were never my proudest project.  Looking back, I was juggling a toddler, a full course load in college and trying to manage household duties. In those days, DIY was just coming into vogue – there were no blogs or cable shows to inspire us, and home improvement store selection was pretty bare bones. I had little time or money to spend on stain and sealers, so I did what I could with what I was readily available. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As I started stripping and sanding, I had to smile at the chair that was the designated toddler seat: it had bare spots rubbed where the booster seat slid back and forth. And it had a chewed spot on one of the rungs. My best guess is frequent toddler food spills led to enthusiastic dog licking…and occasional gnawing.

After a quick strip and light sanding, my pieces were ready to stain. I used General Finishes gel stains in nutmeg for the table and java for the chairs, and a waterproof sealer.  That sounds really fast, but the fact is I did it as the season was cooling down into damp, rainy weather, so there were several days’ drying time between coats, and I changed my mind on the finish coat, so instead of finishing in a week, it was more like a….month? (I’d like to say we ate in the dining room every night in the interim, but the truth is, we ate out more than we ate in that month.)

I admit my mind wandered while I researched stains and labored over the refinishing process. I thought of my friends who either have or covet a rustic farmhouse table: rectangular shape, plank top, and chunky legs. Bench seating mixed with old-style sturdy chairs.

I briefly contemplated changing out our table and chairs for something new – either a farmhouse table, or an old-fashioned school table with swing-out seats, like this one from World Marketschool cafeteria tableBut I couldn’t justify the expense OR the waste of discarding a perfectly good table and chairs that just needed a little TLC.

When I was I looking around at my options, I discovered that “farmhouse table” isn’t as narrowly defined as I thought. It seems the common tie that binds this style is rusticity. No sleek, glossy, polished glass, brass or chrome in sight. No lovely, delicate Queen Anne-style cherry legs. Those pretty tables are reserved for formal dinners and diners.

A farmhouse table is for leisurely, boisterous, talkative family suppers and hearty breakfasts. Claw-foot and other pedestal tables, be they square, round or rectangular, are now incorporated into the farmhouse family. And that suits me fine…now that its finish is updated, it will hopefully serve as our family’s favorite eating spot for many more years. No pretense, just a sturdy spot to gather us together for the holidays and the everydays.

Have you refinished any furniture lately? It’s not hard, just time-consuming. But I can vouch for the fact that the time you spend sanding and staining may give you time to reminisce…and that can be a pretty good use of your time.

Happy refinishing,


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Granted, the math doesn’t work, but let’s hope my plans do.

As of today, there are eight precious weekends before Labor Day weekend. (And I am determined that Labor Day weekend is not going to be a weekend of labor for us this year.)

So what loose ends do I really really want to wrap up by the time the Vols kick off their opening game in 50 days?

  • Finish refinishing a bedroom dresser. After languishing for a year, this has drifted to the top of my priority list only because I am tired of feeling guilty every time I pass it in the garage.
    • Put the finishing touches on our new master bathroom: paint walls, hang a shelf, re-do the cabinet storage and hang a chandelier. Easy peasy, right?  Don’t answer that.
      • Recover the dining room seat cushions. By hook or by crook, they’re gonna get done this summer. I have the new foam cushions, I just need fabric and some quality time with the staple gun.
        • Power wash and paint the porch rails and front door. This is one of those jobs I really have to psych myself up for. But the good thing is, the porch stays shady all day long.
          • Find the perfect couch for Mr. Official’s man cave.  It will make it the bees’ knees up there.  And once it’s installed upstairs, the final loose end for the summer is….
            • Paint the stairwell areas and hang pictures. I promised myself these areas should wait until we were moved in. Well, we’re moved in and the days are slipping past.

              So there you have it:  my top weekend projects to finish before September 2, not counting the garage cleanout at the old place.  Most of these will take about a weekend to do, if I use my time wisely (and maybe get a little help. Hint, hint.)

              I just noticed that everything except #3 and #5 involves paint or stain. Guess I better stock up on brushes and rollers and paint thinner.  Joy.

              But I’m not going to think about any of these until we wrap up the next housewarming party, which happens tomorrow night.  It’s gonna be great to see some old friends of ours and get acquainted with some other Friday night football widows as the men in striped shirts swap gridiron war stories.

              Happy project-ing!

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              Time to Strip!

              My kind of stripping is exciting and a little dangerous:  it involves slowly peeling off layer after layer, until you get down to bare…wood.  Using chemical solvents and a palm sander.  (What were YOU thinking I meant?)

              What am I stripping?  Dressers and bureaus and chester drawers, oh my.  (Hey, who knew they all mean the exact same thing?)  For whatever reason, throughout our marriage we have always crammed ourselves into one shared dresser, (plus closet space for hanging clothes, of course.)  I’m not sure why we’ve always scrimped on dresser storage. At various times, our bedroom has been too small for much furniture, but even when we have had plenty of room, we’ve always been constrained to 4 to 6 drawers. Which means the closet is often crammed full of things that would be better relegated to a drawer.  Things like t-shirts and sweaters. And socks.  Yeah, even socks.

              When we finished our bathroom addition two springs ago, an added bonus was trading the wall closets for a walk-in, and gaining a blessed additional 28 inches of floor space along one wall – and it is usable wall space at that, no longer taken up by mirrored closet doors (shudder). Finally, this master bedroom was master-bedroom-sized.

              I frugally shopped for a new platform bed (actually it’s a faux platform – our box springs are nestled within its frame) with a seriously comfy leather headboard. It was worth every penny I paid for it at S&E Consignment…and it wasn’t all that many pennies. The next bargain I scored was two night stands from World Market. (Another store that is near and dear); they were marked down and a coupon arrived just in time to knock another nice chunk off the tab, too. With those pieces, the room began to take shape – an eclectic mix of modern and East Indies, dark woods and green and fawn shades. Relaxing and streamlined. A heavily discounted Tommy Bahama duvet cover and shams (Overstock.com, you are da bomb); a man-sized brown slipper chair, new lamps and drapes completed the transformation from this:

              to this:

              Then it was time to consider storage. I searched high and low for a set of dark wood low and tall dressers.  I found a few I loved, but gasped at the sticker price. I found a few that were within my self-imposed budget, but they were flimsy. (Dear Target, You do many things well, but please understand that real furniture does not contain laminated plastic “wood grain” finishes or glorified cardboard anywhere in its composition. Hugs, Terry)

              The 4-drawer tall bureau in the photos above has been our one-and-only for several years.  By my best guess it’s a circa ’30s or ’40s vintage piece, which we snagged from my grandparents estate sale. Nothing flashy, nothing trendy…just a very well-made, solid wood, mahogany-toned, clean-styled piece…and then the epiphany struck. What I was looking for was here all along!

              AND we had the matching low 6-drawer dresser in our storage shed. That piece is a little more scuffed up than the 4-drawer tall bureau, but it is repair-able.  A few bucks for stripper and sandpaper, a quart of stain and a bit of wood finish, and voila.

              And…that’s as far as the idea.  For the past year, the low dresser has sat in our garage, patiently waiting for me to start working on it. But last weekend, I decided the time had come.  So I suited up with ratty clothes and protective gloves, and slathered on the stripping gel.

              As I finish each piece, I’ll post some before, during, after shots.  Maybe somebody can help me figure out the correct name for the style and period of these two pieces.

              Happy (and safe) stripping!

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