Weathered black coffee table

Coffee table header image

It’s the bleak midwinter, and most of my House Over Head budget is still going to doors. The upstairs bedrooms need new closet doors—boring but necessary. So I can’t make big, high-impact changes, but I’m feeling the need to make some kind of change. My tables have been the focus of this energy lately.  The most recent subject is our old oak coffee table.


Sure, it’s homely, but it’s also incredibly sturdy. We bought it at an unstained furniture store in our second year of marriage.

Old, tall table

I’ve grown tired of it, but my biggest beef with it is that it’s realy tall for a coffee table. This is the table in front of the television, so it’s basically a glorified footrest. And it doesn’t make sense to upgrade to a nicer coffee table right now. My kids jump off it onto the couch all the time. They dance on it, flip it over and pretend it’s a pirate ship, and flip it back over and play like it’s a diving board. So I was just looking to tweak it. I wanted to make it less tiresome-looking and adjust it to a more comfortable height.

So, a few weeks ago, I—very carefully—cut about a inch and a half off each leg with my mitre saw. Don’t try this at home. I turned it on its side and propped it up against the workbench in my garage. I built a stable base for the leg I wasn’t trimming and then did my best to make sure it would remain stable while I made my cut. I would yell at my husband if I saw him attempting this. But, even though it sounds risky, I’m pretty paranoid about safety, especially while using high-powered saws, so it was never actually risky.

It’s now about 16 and a half inches tall. Crazy that such a small amount makes much of a difference, but it does.

Pottery Barn Dawson Desk

After I addressed the function, I focused on form. I saw this desk while flipping through a Pottery Barn catalog. It’s part of their Dawson collection. The lines of the piece look a bit like my humble table, and I really like the weathered black finish. I wanted to pump up the contrast between the table and the couch. I had an almost-full can of black Rust-Oleum spray paint in semi-gloss in the garage. Normally, I wouldn’t want the shiny finish for a weathered look, but since I was going to give it a weathered look, I didn’t think it would matter much.

I sanded it before I painted it. I also hit it a few times with a hammer. Most of the distressing was done by my children naturally over time, but I added a few more dents for good measure.

As soon as I painted it, I was seriously questioning my decision. It looked like an extremely beat up LACK table from IKEA — not a good look for a table that projects a rustic vibe. Remember this post from last week on the creative process? This was stage 3.

table with paint

Here it is in the garage with one thin coat of black spray paint. I’d already begun to rough up the top and edges in this photo because I was in a hurry to see if its look would be improved with sanding. Thankfully, it was. I ended up just going with the one coat of paint, since I wanted the oak grain to show through.

It took much longer to sand it than to paint it. I used a really fine sanding paper, and just kept going over it and wiping it down. After I got it to a good place, I wiped it down with antiquing glaze. I did this more for a protective coat than for an extra antiqued look. It also helped even out the sheen from the roughed-up semi-gloss paint.

Those brown blocks in the picture below are what I cut off the legs. The new height feels and looks better.

after pic with old legs

Here is one more after picture.

after pic 3

In one afternoon, I was able to tweak this piece to make it work better for us, improve its look, and keep the winter blues away. Win-win-win.


One thought on “Weathered black coffee table

  1. Michaela,

    I’ve read this three times now.  Twice I have tried getting it over to my FB page so all my friends will see it.  Don’t know what I am doing wrong.  I had to trouble sharing your blog from January about the table you did from Goodwill. 


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