Midcentury Coffee Table Makeover

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and Bubbly

Moving into my first solo apartment was very exciting… and a little terrifying. The thing is, I had NO furniture. I was about 23, living far from home, going to grad school, totally broke, and all of my worldly possessions fit in my Dodge Shadow. The tiny studio apartment I rented wasn’t furnished, but my landlord was able to loan me a few things that previous tenants had left behind — a twin bed with a broken frame, a little kitchen table, a bookcase. Then I went to Goodwill. And it’s here that I found the cutest little coffee table. Now, I didn’t need a coffee table — I didn’t even have a chair — but I had to have it. And it was $6.

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and Bubbly

That coffee table has now moved with me at least 10 times since then, back to the States, and from state to state, and I just can’t give it up. I fell in love with the midcentury lines of the table and its little shelves, but I thought its original “fake wood” color was “so ugly.” It originally had decorative brass grates on the shelves, as well, but I ripped those out and threw them away immediately. And then I painted it. I think the first color was royal blue, with purple stars. In a later apartment, it would go bubblegum pink. Then hot pink. Then cream. Then multicolor polka dots. Then back to cream. And that’s where we start our story.

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and Bubbly

Andy and I had been talking about repainting the table for years. The cream/beige color wasn’t really doing much for our rumpus room. But then an unfortunate accident with one of those smelly plug-in things pushed the project forward (I had no idea that if one of those plug-ins tips over, it will seriously destroy paint! Be careful!). We decided to strip the whole table and repaint it basic white.

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and Bubbly

The Supplies

  • Citristrip paint stripper (it’s non-toxic, doesn’t hurt your skin and actually smells decent)
  • old paint brush
  • metal can or bucket for the paint stripper
  • various plastic scrapers
  • tarp
  • gloves

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and BubblySo many colors!

Apply a layer of the paint stripper with a brush, wait the recommended time and come back to scrape it. Repeat. It took at least 4 passes with the stripper to get all the way down to the bottom layer of paint, but it was so satisfying to watch all those layers of paint disappear.

And after a few days of scraping, we got to this:

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and Bubbly

So much better!

When we saw the original faux-wood veneer that had been hiding under all that paint, we actually really liked it. What was “so ugly” to me once, I think is pretty cool now and matches really well with our TV stand and the general midcentury vibe of our rumpus room. We decided maybe we shouldn’t repaint the whole thing white like we’d planned. However, there were two issues: 1) the top had been damaged in some places, and 2) the rubber-like edging was peeling off and sort of disintegrating with the paint stripper.

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and Bubbly

We decided we had to pull off the old edging because there was no way to reattach it, and getting it off was pretty easy. But the problem was we had NO IDEA what to do next. We couldn’t leave the edges bare. So we did nothing. That was in July. So the coffee table sat in the garage for months until we decided to just figure it out already. Turns out you can buy edge tape at your local hardware store, and it’s totally cheap and easy to apply. Wahoo! Problem solved!

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and Bubbly

Our Home Depot sells edge tape in white and light wood, so we chose white. To apply the edging, Andy held it up against the table, while I applied heat from an iron, just like making an iron-on t-shirt. Then while the tape was still warm from the iron, Andy would press on it with a spare piece of wood just to make sure it was good and set. It’s a good idea to wrap the iron in aluminum foil to prevent any glue from leaking onto it. We lucked out and the edge tape was the exact width we needed for our table, but you can buy a cheap little tool that removes excess if it’s too wide. This is a project for two sets of hands, but it was quite easy and looks really good when it’s done. The tape probably does need to be painted, since it’s that sort of grey-white primer color and the aluminum foil leaves marks on it.

Now that the hard part was over and we felt super accomplished and like master DIYers, we decided to get a little fancy and paint a design on the table top, to cover up just the damaged areas. We chose to do an arrow pattern and taped it out using a lot of math (Andy’s job) and then pressed down on the tape with a block of wood to prevent leaks. The math part made my head explode, but he did a great job.

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and BubblyAfter a coat of our favorite Zinsser 1-2-3 primer, we decided to use paint we already had, instead of buying anything new, because we’d been working on this project for soooo long and wanted it done soooo soon. We ended up using the same paint we used on the office floor (Benjamin Moor Floor & Patio) because it was white and we had a lot of it. Plus, we put our feet on the coffee table so it’s kind of like a floor, right? There’s a huge possibility that this paint won’t last super long on furniture (most experts recommend oil-based paint for furniture), but honestly, we will probably tire of this design and want a change soon enough anyway. I found that a brush worked better than a roller, and I put on about 4 coats of paint before calling the whole thing done. On the legs I just used gold craft paint.

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and Bubbly

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and BubblyOne of our friends said our table looks like a bowling alley but we don’t care. We think it’s fun, and mostly are just SO HAPPY to finally have a coffee table again! We are pretty proud of ourselves for learning how to strip paint and learning how to apply edge tape, which were both intimidating projects that turned out to be really simple. There’s no reason this project should have taken 4 months, but that’s just how it goes around here sometimes!

midcentury coffee table makeover | Burritos and Bubbly

What do you think of our coffee table makeover? Have you tried and conquered any projects lately that intimidated you?

— Kerry

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