Thursday, January 6, 2011

What I did over Christmas vacation...

So while most people spent their Christmas holidays eating, getting some much needed R&R, or catching those after-Christmas sales, I spent every spare minute (read: Heidi's nap times and the hours after her bedtime) refinishing and re-purposing an old sewing table I snagged at a thrift store for $10.  Here's a pic of the table before I got to work:

Maybe it would help if I first explained what possessed me in the first place to buy a sewing table for our house.  You see, our house was built in the 1940s, well before the concept of a ""foyer" or "entryway" had even entered the vocabularies of home builders.  As such, our front door, and the door we use every day, opens directly into our living room.  This makes for a messy and cluttered area right by the base of our stairs, as this is where we tend to drop all of our bags, packages, etc. upon entering the house:

Due to the layout of the area when you first walk into our house, we didn't have the luxury of adding a storage bench like this, although I do love the concept:

image courtesy of Pottery Barn

I was looking more for a piece of furniture that could double as a side table while providing some sort of solution for our work bags - in my head I was visualizing a sort of console table cut down to side table height, width and depth, since this is the space I was trying to fill:

When I stumbled across the sewing table, I knew that the majority of the dimensions would work, and I figured that it wouldn't be too difficult to cut the legs down to make it the appropriate height for my space.  So, armed with the tutorial provided by John and Sherry from YoungHouseLove here, I got to work.

I started by taking the drawers out, the legs off, and the folding table top off.  Then I got to work sanding everything to within an inch of its life.  I was nervous at first that I would sand all the way through the veneer, since this is definitely not a solid wood table, but the veneer was luckily thick enough to withstand a LOT of sanding.  After I'd made my first sanding pass, I knew there would have to be a second one, since everything looked pretty streaky/dark still:

So I broke out the power sander and some 60-grit sandpaper, and got to work.  The second pass was much more even and smooth:

My first piece of advice, SAND OUTSIDE!  I was in the basement, since it was super cold/dark outside, and it resulted in everything in the basement being coated in a THICK layer of dust.  I've learned my lesson.

Then, I got to work staining everything.  I chose "Ebony" by Minwax, after deliberating for like a half hour in Home Depot:

I followed the directions on the can to a T, waiting the requisite number of hours between coats to allow the stain to full soak in, and then lightly running over the stained surface after about 20 minutes with a rag. It took 2 coats on the majority of the surfaces to get the color I wanted, but a couple of surfaces took 3 coats (I'm not entirely convinced that this table was assembled with all of the same types of wood....).  Here's a couple of pieces after the first coat:

And here's after I was finished - and after my husband (or, rather, my neighbor) cut the legs down to the 23" height I needed:

I ended up painting the detailing around the drawer fronts the same color as our walls in the living room, mostly because we already had that color on hand - sort of a mocha brown/khaki color.  Then I applied 2 coats of polyurethane (Minwax again), following the directions on the can, switched up the hardware for something more modern, and here's the finished product:

Much more contemporary for my tastes.  The open area under the table is where we will store our work bags, as evidenced here:

I also lined the drawers with a fun fabric I found at Joann's Fabric 40% off - the pattern is sort of reminiscent of the time period I envision this sewing table having actually been used (50's/60's I'm guessing) - they will soon serve as storage for our mail prior to us going through it - I envision a drawer for me and a drawer for Robb - and one for magazines and catalogs:

This project, while certainly quite the undertaking, has given me the confidence I need to refinish my grandmother's oak bedroom set from the 1940's which I used growing up, and which I plan for Heidi to use as well - but I'm going to wait for the weather to get a little nicer before I start that project so I can SAND OUTSIDE!


  1. Erin! She looks amazing! So the poly didn't get the best of you after all. Really... I love it! The hardware works well and the color you chose for the detail is great! We're about to embark on our own refinishing project (finally found a dresser!) so I might be over to get some tips on the poly step... streaks weren't my friend in my last poly attempt.

  2. Thanks Kara! I just tried to go SUPER thin with the poly - there are definitely some imperfections, but overall I think it turned out pretty good! I'll have to come by and check out your dresser - so glad you found one!

  3. Erin - amazing! I didn't think the table looked bad to begin with but it looked awesome when you were done with it! Very creative! :)
    -Carolyn (posted as anonymous b/c I was having trouble getting my comment to post) :)

  4. nice job on the staining! i like the idea of lining the drawers with fabric - is it attached in any way? are the edges finished?

    love the hardware, tho it is usually attached the other way around - with the opening on the bottom. whatever works for you!