• Lauren Vallario Designs

Dining Room Table Makeover

Have you ever had a piece of furniture that you loved but over time it lost its luster? For me, it was our dining room table and chairs. We purchased the set when we moved into our house 12 years ago from Crate & Barrel. The set had really nice traditional lines but wasn’t overly ornate. For the first few years, I kept a tablecloth on the table to protect it and keep it looking new. And it did that, but we never actually appreciated the table because it was always hidden under the tablecloth. So, about the time my daughter was starting to walk, I did away with the tablecloth. Partially because I wanted to see the table and also because she kept walking into the corners of the table lol. Once we uncovered it, the dings and scratches were inevitable. I let them go for a while but just before we decided to put our house on the market I decided to breathe some new life into the set.

Here is what the table looked like:

It was a rich mahogany finish which I loved when we first got it but with two kids it wasn’t realistic. It showed everything from dust, to all the love we gave it. I really wanted something lighter-toned and even a bit more rustic so that the scratches and dings looked more intentional than hurtful.

We’re not formal people so we wanted something that was more reflective of us. I decided to start by sanding the tabletop down. I had no idea how hard it would be to strip the table down to raw wood so I figured I would start with the tabletop and take it from there.

Before sanding the tabletop I gave it a good cleaning with Krud Kutter to get all of the build-up and oils off of the table. I only clean my wood furniture with a damp cloth but I know my cleaning person uses pledge every now and then. It can leave a serious build-up so before attempting to sand something you should always give it a good cleaning. I then used an electric palm sander with 160 grit sandpaper to start. The finish on the table was clearly a good polyurethane with multiple coats of stain. It took a while to get to the raw wood. I probably spent 2-3 hours over the course of 2 days working on getting it perfectly clean. After it took that long I decided that the tabletop would be the only part that I would re-stain because sanding it all down would just take too long.

For the table legs and apron as well as the 6 chairs, I decided painting them was the best option. So I selected my color, Benjamin Moore Steel Wool and then worked on developing a stain color for the tabletop.

As you can see from the pictures above the Mahagony has a lot of red in it. Red was not the look I was going for. My goal was something that looked similar to pieces that you would see in a Restoration Hardware catalog which are more weather grey. The challenge was figuring out how to stain the mahogany without it turning pink or purple. When you apply a grey stain to woods with red undertones, the color usually turns somewhat pink. So I went to the internet to find out what other DIYers were doing to hide the pink. Some said whitewash, some said bleaching. It wasn’t really conclusive so I went to my local Wallauers and asked what they suggested. They thought lightening the red by applying a white stain first would help.

So I bought this stain:

As its name suggests it is really for pickling wood but the salesperson felt that it would also work well as bleach. I figured it was worth a shot. Bleaching seemed time-consuming and difficult so anything that could save me time was worth a try. I applied it directly to the tabletop using an old t-shirt. I let it set in and did a second coat. Once that was done, I played with some stain colors. I tried straight Classic Grey by Minwax but I was still seeing the pinky/purple I was trying to avoid. Then I tried weathered oak. It was a little more brown-grey, which was the right direction. I then mixed the weathered oak with the pickling white, we were getting somewhere! Finally, I added just a tiny drop of classic grey to that mixture and we had a winner!

Check it out!

The lighting in my garage wasn’t the best so the pictures look a little pink but it’s definitely more grey in person. Once I finished the tabletop staining I decided to wax it instead of polyurethane it. I love chalk paint and Annie Sloan clear wax. The finish is strong and much easier to touch up. If the kids beat it up, I can apply a new coat of wax right in the house with no need to move the piece to the garage. The wax has no odor and clean-up is easy.

After the tabletop was complete, I moved onto the table apron, leg, and chairs. Check-in next week and I’ll take you step-by-step on how to refinish these pieces easy and once again, without sanding!

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