How to Refresh an Old and Over-Painted Coffee Table


A few years ago, when I had no interior style beyond "FREE FURNITURE," I saw someone putting this black, oval coffee table by the dumpster on campus, so I snatched it up and it stayed black and scuffed for at least two years after that, moving with me to the rental house senior year and then my parents' basement after graduation and then into another rental house with my brand new husband, and where it became one of my first refurbishing victims. That was a huge run-on sentence about a coffee table. So I primed it, painted the legs white and the top mint green, slathered on a few coats of polycrylic, and, to be honest, it wasn't too shabby. It certainly sparked this passion in me to convert things that aren't making me really happy to things that do!

However, it gradually got really grungy, especially after moving to our current house, and since it had so many layers of paint already, I felt that painting over it would just suffocate it to death and not look all that great anyway. This rule applies: the more layers, the easier it is to chip and deteriorate.

Old Photo

So, here's the thing: I did not have any vision for this when I started. I just knew I had to get all the paint off the top. I figured once the proverbial canvas was blank, I would suddenly get a brilliant idea download. This project took me about three days because my download speed is relatively low, apparently.


I used some paint and finish stripper and just followed the instructions on the can. You should know that the tiniest little minuscule dot of this stuff on your skin will BURN. Take note.


Once it had sat and marinated for the allotted time, I scraped that beast. This is the most satisfying feeling only surpassed by peeling up painters' tape (which is later!! Best project ever). I ended up having to do THREE coats of the stripper because:


I counted it up, and there was (starting from the bottom): a coat of stain, a layer of white paint with some floral design on it (you can actually see the remnants of it in the above picture), a layer of black paint, my layer of mint green paint, and several layers of polycrylic. LORDY. It's like earth's strata up in here. I probably scraped off a fossilized troglodyte at some point.


Then, SANDING. Use a power sander. Really. I'll spare you the details of my body aches, but this was not an easy project! When sanding, go with the grain and just keep moving (think of Dory singing encouragement to you as you struggle through this part). Use a hand sander for anything the power sander has trouble getting (such as the border on this table).


So. There it is. As I was working on the scraping part, my naive little self thought it might be cool to just leave it wood and stain the top in a cool design, but those dreams were dashed when I realized I just didn't love the wood color or quality. I stopped sanding to ponder it for a while.


I brought it inside and left it in that state for a couple days. Part of me was saying, "This is fine. We are now into shabby chic. This is our life now." But the more realistic part said, "This is just shabby and you should eat Ben and Jerry's and figure it out." I listened to the voice that mentioned ice cream and set to work finding inspiration.

You'd probably love for me to show what inspired me... but I can't. I was actually taking a break from Pinterest and Google searching every variation of "quirky oval wood coffee table painted" when the idea came to me. Hopefully this post and this post alone can be your inspiration instead! Ha!

So I wanted the wood to have some sort of say in this design since most of my furniture is painted and I needed some variety. I also felt kinda bad for it because it's been under oppression for who knows how long (yes, one can feel bad for furniture and still be totally normal), but it obviously looked break out the painter' tape!


Little runners of wood would a) look awesome, and b) make the mottled, splotchy pattern way less pronounced. I did some crude measurements and penciled two straight lines length-wise and width-wise to meet roughly in the middle (I am not precise. Life is short), then set to work taping. HINT: It's worth it (in my opinion) to use different tape widths in a design like this. I actually cut some strips up the center to make more narrow pieces.


I highly HIGHLY recommend using a roller for this. It's so much easier to evenly cover the surface and it also works better with painters' tape than a brush. Since it rolls paint on, there's less of a chance of it seeping underneath the tape. It's important to not load the roller too much; your first coat should look terrible.


Then apply one or two more equally light coats and pretty much immediately start peeling! As always, go slowly and pull in the direction of the pattern.




And THERE! I think this is my favorite refurb to date. It is totally my style and makes me super happy to look at! That unappealing wood is now gorgeous as an accent. Since the paint is only three light layers, it has a FAR less chance of getting scuffed and chipped than it did before, but I will probably apply some polycrylic or some other durable finish later. For now, I'll let the wood breathe some more. It deserves it. :)