DIY Doris is back from Christmas vacation, and this time is answering a reader’s question about a pair of end tables that they would like to re-purpose for their cottage.
Dear DIY Doris,
I have this lovely pair of end tables, that I just can’t bear to part with, however; I can’t stand their present state. I want to bring them to my cottage, but fear that instead of looking fresh, funky, and fun, they’ll come across as cheap, cheerless, and chintzy. Can you help me?
Tableless in Tryon
I have an end table almost identical to one of these! There are incredibly sturdy, and a great alternative to new tables. They have interesting lines, and would look great with a painted finish. I could really see these pieces painted white, or a pale beach-y colour like watery green or blue. One comment I will make is that for some reason furniture builders of this era were keen on hardware! They went a little overkill on the knobs.
When one finds pieces like this, more often than not, the hardware, knobs, handles, whatever you wish to call them are unsightly, offensive, strange…any number of adjectives could apply. Sometimes changing them seems like a daunting or impossible task. Some older pieces have different dimensions than modern pieces, and modern hardware does not match up with existing holes. If you plan to apply a painted finish, this does not matter! It is easy to buy a small container of wood filler, fill existing holes, and drill new ones! Once the holes are filled, a light sanding will smooth out the surface, and after painting, you will have a blank canvas for whatever hardware you like!
Hard ware CAN be expensive! I know I always seem to fall in love with handles and pulls that are exorbitantly expensive, like $20-30 per handle! If you are trying to redo the kitchen on the cheap, and need 20 handles/pulls, that price is probably not feasible, at least on my budget. However, if you are doing a piece of furniture and only need one or two, splash out! The perfect handle or drawer pull can finish off a piece and make it look unique and expensive, like custom furniture, as opposed to looking like your Nana’s end table with a coat of paint.
After you have painted your piece, you may want to protect the top surface from scratches and nicks. One way would be to apply several coats of a non-yellowing water based varnish (only over latex paint, of course). Another would be to have a piece of glass cut to the size of the table top. Probably the most important step in avoiding nicks, though, is curing time. That is the little piece of information on the can of paint or varnish that we all read, and then decide to ignore. “What do the paint companies know? That is just foolishness.”
We are all so excited to have the piece finished and placed in its waiting spot, we touch it every ten minutes or so, and as soon as it is not leaving paint on our fingers, we move it into position, and immediately put a lamp or a few tasteful knick-knacks on it. A week or two later, we try to dust the table, and when we move the lamp, we lift a big circle of paint off with it! Curing time allows the paint to not only dry, but also to harden through all the coats of paint, not just the surface. Latex paint is like a pliable skin applied to a surface, and until it is cured, or hardened throughout, it is vulnerable to nicks, bubbling, and peeling. The extra drying time is well worth it to have a beautiful custom piece of furniture in your home.