An antique coffee table redo

A couple months ago I bought this coffee table from a resale store. It was looking pretty rough…I think it’d probably been there for a long time collecting dust (While in this store, we actually saw a live mouse in a dresser! I will never go to that store without my husband cause I’m afraid to touch everything!)

It took a lot of work to get the glass out, especially since we couldn’t really get much pressure underneath to push it out cause of the lattice. Once we finally got it out, we saw that the stain on the lattice work in the middle was flaking, so we got a really soft brush to clean it up. The left side in this picture is the part we’d already done, while the right still needed to be cleaned.

After we’d cleaned up the whole thing and sanded it lightly (it’s so old there was no protective coat left if there ever was one), I started to prime it. I had primed one leg with a Kilz oil-based primer a few days before because I had some leftover in my paint gun. It covered completely, but it’s such a pain to use and clean out of the gun that I decided to start using a latex primer instead. After one coat of the latex primer (Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 is my latex primer of choice), I was left with really bad tannin bleed.

What is tannin bleed? Well, most woods contain water-soluble extracts called tannins or tannic acid, though woods that are of a quality to stain are generally the ones to be concerned about. Often when you paint over a bare wood that has no sealant over it, the moisture in the paint will pull the tannins to the surface, resulting in brown or yellow discoloration. That was what was happening to the table. Latex primers don’t have as strong of stain-blocking properties as oil, so it bled through the latex but not the oil. I was really worried after the first coat, but after a second coat of primer the yellow was completely gone. Always do as many coats as it takes to lock in the tannins or it could bleed through the paint!

After I’d done two coats of primer, I sprayed 1 coat of flat white paint. Since it was basically the same color as the primer, I didn’t bother with another coat. Then for the fun part: the glazing! This table has some really beautiful, intricate detailing so I wanted to glaze it to make them stand out. I used a grey paint for the glazing. Since I only wanted it on such specific areas, I used a craft brush to apply the glaze. (There are more detailed instructions about my glazing process here.)

And when I wiped it off, here was the result.

Pretty, isn’t it?

I did the medallion in the center of the table, too, so it didn’t fade into the background of the white around it.

I basically just painted the entire medallion with the glaze and then wrapped a clean rag around my index finger and wiped up whatever would come off.

After the glaze was dry, I applied a coat of Minwax Polycrylic. I chose to use a satin clear coat this time because the look of the table doesn’t really warrant a glossy finish.

After that was all said and done, I cleaned the glass and tried to pop it back into place. And it would not go! Andrew tried to help me push it into the table, but there was no way it was going to fit. As a last resort, he got the rubber mallet and starting at one end he tried to force the glass into the table. He was able to get one end in, but as he got closer to the middle it got tighter and tighter. And then, as you might have guessed, it broke. 🙁 We’re pretty sure the glass used to be a perfect fit for this table, but over time the wood expanded around the glass, making it difficult to remove and impossible to replace. It’s the only explanation for how they could have gotten the glass in the table in the first place.

So today I picked up a new piece from a local glass and mirror company. Luckily, when I got it home and tried it out, it fit perfectly with just enough wiggle room that it’s easy to remove.

Aren’t these details gorgeous?

I think this is Andrew’s favorite piece that I’ve redone. He just loves anything old! But I think my favorite would probably have to be the coat rack.

Though it may not be my favorite transformation yet, I do think it has been the most dramatic. Most of the other pieces I’ve worked on were at least tolerable before. I think a lot of people would have struggled to see the potential in this one. In fact, I struggled a little and had to be convinced by Andrew, and I’m glad I was. 🙂 What do you think of this transformation?

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