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A Kitchen Table Makeover

Like our dining room style evolution from house to house, our kitchen table has also evolved over the years.

We’ve had this set for a long time – so long that a little baby in feety pajamas……

…..grew into a Cocoa Puff eating teenager!
(…who is half asleep at 11am and doesn’t even know his picture is being taken! And yes – Cocoa Puffs – it was a school vacation treat!)

That yummy little babe and the teenaged counterpart are both at the same table – it has seen lots of makeovers in it’s time.

Last week I estimated that, excluding vacations and school, we’ve eaten approximately 13,650 meals at this table. The little munchkin above and his brother and sister have jammed forks into the tabletop, knocked the chairs over, colored outside the lines and right off the paper with markers. I’ve scraped paint, syrup, and glittery nail polish from it countless times, cajoled little ones into eating their veggies here, helped with homework in this spot, and delivered many a lecture while my children were trapped around this table. It’s been the center of our food-loving, arts-and-crafts loving, family-loving motley crew for 13 years. And I need a few more years of meal, homework, and nail painting service from it, so the time had come for yet another extreme makeover.

The table and chairs started out with the natural wood/white combo. Those of you who have lived through toddlers know the grubbiness these chairs saw from chubby, sticky, precious little fingers. They were scrubbed on a daily basis in those days.

When we moved to a house with black countertops and natural maple cabinets, the white table stood out like a sore thumb, so out came the black paint. Isn’t it crazy how paint can totally change something???

Eventually the table and chairs ended up in this house, and here they’ll live in our casual dining room where we eat all of our meals. Even though I had repainted those chairs black at least five times they were looking pretty shabby, and not in a chic way. After some serious manual labor, here’s the set today:

It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the table top has a lot of rich wood tone peaking through.

This was a stripping/restaining nightmare project. For those of you thinking of tackling a makeover like this, I wanted to share with you my experience.

These are the products I used, along with Kilz water-based primer.

Stripping and Cleaning the Tabletop:
First I stripped the varnish off the tabletop with Citristrip. This is the magical product I used to strip my stair treads. You simply brush it on and let it sit for 30 minutes, then scrape off. In some areas I had to reapply and scrape again.
After scraping the varnish off, I cleaned the table with fine steel wool dipped in paint thinner.
Next up, I sanded the table top with a palm sander until it was raw. {Are you jealous of how sweet my house looks? How about the fact that it took me two weeks to finish this project, during which time all five of us ate all our meals standing up at the counter in the kitchen?? Good times, good times.}
Then I stained the tabletop.
Here’s the nightmarish part of this makeover:  the stain didn’t take in some spots. Turns out some woods don’t take stain well (we are not even sure what kind of wood this table is made of, but I’m 90% sure it’s something called Asian Hardwood.)  I resanded, cleaned and restained the tabletop, only to have the same splotchy issue happen again.
Plan B:  What To Do If Your Stain Job Looks Hideous
At this point I considered my options. Resand for a third time and then strip again? Paint the tabletop white along with the rest of the table? Jump off a bridge?
Enter Polyshades.
Polyshades is stain and polyurethane all in one. It allows you to change the color of a piece of furniture or stair rail without stripping or sanding off the existing varnish and color (which is extraordinarily time consuming.)  If you google Polyshades or talk to any professional, you will read that the Polyshades products are complete junk because of this major downside, which I have first hand experience with:  the finish can be scratched off just like paint.  The stain in the product doesn’t penetrate the wood; instead it sits on top of it. Because of this, I have found that even though it has poly in it, I still need to coat over the Polyshades with clear poly to protect and seal it, like you would with a painted piece of furniture. A refinishing purist would tell you to just stain and poly a raw piece of wood the old fashioned way instead of wasting your money and time.
However – a great use of Polyshades in my humble opinion:  when a stain job has gone horribly wrong. I wasn’t about to resand, restrip and restain this tabletop again, oh no nelly! I could have painted the table white, but I really wanted a wood-tone finish on the tabletop. So on top of the blotchy stain, I put two coats of Polyshades (1/4 Ebony to 3/4 Red Mahogany), then added 4 coats of clear satin polyurethane on top. For added durability I coated it with carnauba wax.
Despite a few hiccups, I am ecstatic with how it came out. Mark and I both love the rich color and with all the coats of poly and wax on it, the finish is hard as a rock.
For the chairs and the legs of the table, I sanded well, because there were SO many layers of paint on them already, then primed with Kilz. Then came 3-4 coats of latex semi-gloss mixed with Floetrol, which is a product that is added to paint to reduce the visibility of brush strokes. {I abhor oil-based paint clean up, but it is more durable than latex, so you may consider that route.}
To seal and protect the chairs and table legs, I wiped on Stays Clear Polyurethane, which doesn’t yellow over white paint like regular poly does.
Even after this extreme makeover, the table and chairs are far from perfect. They still have lots of dents and dings and marks, but I’m okay with that.

Real life gets lived in this house. On this table, school projects will be worked on. Meals will be served and vegetables will be rejected. Scrabble will be played, and mom will win. The paint will get chipped, the chairs will need a scrubbing. Discussions and laughs and admonishments and love will be poured out at this table.

Wishing you happy times and real life around your own table, my friend!

I’m linking up to these wonderful blogs:


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Wednesday 24th of April 2013

I love your table! I am using your as inspiration for mine. I just finished staining the table top and tomorrow I will be applying the satin poly. Wish me luck!

Jen Gilday

Monday 12th of March 2012

Just lovely! Found you at Simple Details blog. Looking forward to looking around your blog some more!!

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co.

Monday 12th of March 2012

Oh what a fresh and pretty look!


Thursday 8th of March 2012

That is an awesome change Lisa. Looks so sharp in your kitchen. You did a great job!

Carmel @ Our Fifth House

Thursday 8th of March 2012

ACK! I love it! The dark top with the white looks so pretty! Oh - and thanks for the tip on the stays clear poly - I hadn't heard of that before. I've always used polycrylic with descent results but I'm going to try the stays clear stuff next time for sure!