What do you get when you merge the legs of a contemporary table with the top of an older, drop-leaf table? The perfect solution to my dining room dilemma, that’s what!
With limited space in our condo’s dining room area, our round table took up too much space. I tried arranging it multiple ways but there was just no getting around it—literally, we couldn’t get around the thing! I needed a better, space-saving solution.Especially in newer apartments and condos, finding a table large enough to seat friends and family for a meal but not so big it encroaches on your already limited, day-to-day space can be a real challenge.
Well, I said to myself (yes, I really do talk to myself when trying to solve design and decorating issues), a drop-leaf table would be the perfect solution. Unfortunately, that perfect solution sounded a lot easier to accomplish than it turned out to be.
I began my search for a cute drop-leaf in some local furniture stores (for those of you who may not be familiar, a drop-leaf table has sides that are hinged and drop down flat when you don’t need the extra space). What? No drop-leafs? Seriously? While I did find drop-leaf type tables in about four different stores, they were more of a bar-height table than a regular dining table height. This was surprising to me as there are a lot of people in Southern California with very limited indoor space so you would think there would be more space-saving alternatives available. But, alas, this wasn’t so.
What to do next?
I started hitting garage sales, flea markets and thrift shops, hoping someone had grown tired of grandma’s drop-leaf table in their garage and had donated it. After walking into my sixth or seventh thrift shop, there she was in the back corner of the Goodwill Store. I was so excited! And the price…well you can’t beat $60 for a new dining room table that would finally allow us to be able to walk around it freely or it could fit nicely into the little window nook in our dining room. Needless to say, I was even more excited than before!
The table was outdated looking in both its finish and its style, with ornate, scroll-type legs that didn’t fit at all with the more contemporary/traditional style I had going on in my home…but, where there’s a table, there’s a way - and with a little furniture redesign, I had my dream table.
Some Assembly Required
Upon getting our new table home and carrying it into the house to figure out what to do with it to update its look, we sat it down next to our existing round dining table. Hmmm. A little light bulb went on over my husband’s head, and he suggested he might be able to take the contemporary legs off of our existing table and fit the new drop-leaf top onto those legs (Oh, how I love that man of mine!).
He’s not much of a carpenter. Could he really do it? Make it fit, be supportive and still allow it to open to have the extra table leaf put in? Well, after much measuring, hmmm-ing, cutting, more hmmm-ing, and an occasional curse word, the answer was yes, he could!
I knew I would have to strip and refinish the table because it was that very orangey oak color that was so popular years ago, and the wood in my house was closer to shades of espresso. The basic table was in place, now it was my time to get to work.
Bringing the Table to Life
NOTE: I didn’t take pictures of all the refinishing steps because there are thousands of photos and tutorials online to help you with that process if you’re not familiar with it. However, here are the steps I used to complete this project:
- Dismantle both tables.
- Thoroughly clean the table to be refinished and let it completely dry.
- Apply the stripper and let it do its job. I chose Citristrip Brand Stripper as it is safe for indoor use because it doesn't have all the fumes that some more “chemical” strippers have. You do still need to wear gloves and have your floor area covered really well so you don’t accidentally start stripping your floor. (Don’t laugh…I’ve heard stories!)
- After having the patience to wait the allotted time for the stripper to work (follow manufacturer’s directions on bottle), I began stripping the wood. I chose a plastic putty knife so I wouldn’t accidentally gouge the wood. Be sure you have lots and lots of rags available as you will most certainly need them. After you‘ve scraped and wiped off the first coat, you may find spots where you need to go through the process a second time.
- Once I had removed as much old stain and varnish as possible with the stripping process, I began sanding. I have two hand sanders that I can’t live without. One is round, and one has a triangle-shaped head. They are lightweight and easy to hold—but just so you know, it’s still a great arm workout! You will start with a coarser sandpaper and move to less coarse paper throughout this process. I started with 60-grit and then moved to 100-grit for the finish sanding. The more coarse grit will remove the residual finish that you may still have left after stripping. The finer grit will give you that nice smooth finish you want before you start staining. (NOTE: if you’re painting your table and not staining it, you don’t have to worry so much about discoloration left after you strip. You just want to get the varnish off and have a nice clean surface that will accept paint.)
- Finally it was time to start staining. There are few things in life that give me as much pleasure as putting on that first bit of stain or paint. What a transformation! It feels a little like magic. I chose to apply my stain with a brush and then wipe it down with a clean rag. I repeated this process over the whole table. There were some spots of imperfection on my table but I chose to leave these alone as I love the character it gives the piece of furniture. My “baby” had been around the block several times and I love to let that look show through.
- Once the staining was complete, it was time to move to the polyurethane phase. It’s really important to protect the top of your table. You will be putting it to a lot of use—placing hot things on it, spilling things, etc. Make sure you don’t cheat this step and that you have the patience to give it two or three good coats of polyurethane so the finish will last a long time. I applied the poly with a brush designed specifically for that purpose. If you don’t do this, you may end up with an uneven finish and fibers falling out of your brush, diminishing your “masterpiece.” Once the first coat is dry, you need to lightly sand to smooth out the surface…wipe gently with a slightly damp, clean rag…allow to dry and then repeat the process.
- After the entire table was completely refinished…hubby went to work and put the table back together again, complete with updated legs.
She now stands proudly in our dining room, given new life and once again having a purpose.
What Did We Learn?
You can’t make a round table fit in a square dining room—oh wait…that’s not true. You can, but the dining room just has to be big enough!
You can find what you need if you have the patience to keep looking until you find what’s right for your particular project, and you may even get it for a fraction of the price of a brand new furniture piece. (Total cost of this dining room table makeover was under $100, all in).
With a little ingenuity, you can make a piece that may not quite fit in with your current style, feel like it belongs in your space—and I promise, the finished result will be worth the work and you will experience the joy of giving an older piece of furniture new life. And let me tell you, it feels great!
Now what will you do next to “Love where you live”?