Dining Room

Dining Table Makeover Fail

Last Updated on December 24, 2015 by Kristi Linauer

I spent all last week working on things I didn’t want to work on, but felt obligated to work on (i.e., the condo), so I thought I’d give myself a break this weekend and take a day to just work on a fun project that I’ve been really anxious to start.  So I got out my paint stripper, scrapers, paper towels, gloves, and sander, and got to work on my dining table.

Remember last week when I told you that I had stripped a small section and uncovered some wood that was way too pretty to paint?  This is what I was looking at…

dining table 6

That looks like it has tons of potential, right?

Well, I certainly thought it did.  So after stripping the leaf completely, and knowing that I wanted a light finish on it, I tried out several things, including a white color wash, liming wax, a couple of light stains finished with liming wax.  Nothing I tried worked out.  It all looked terrible.  (I took no pictures, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

So I decided to just strip the whole thing, and just use plain polyurethane to keep the table top light and natural.  And then I debated over water-based vs. oil-based.  I absolutely hate using water-based polyurethane on a table top because it doesn’t wear as well as oil-based, so I decided to take a chance on the oil-based poly.  That was such a bad choice.

dining table 7

Ugh.  Not only did it turn the table a glowing orange color, but it actually made the wood grain look three-dimensional.  But for some strange reason, I didn’t stop.  I had one of those moments of pure insanity where I thought that maybe doing the whole table top would make things better.  So I did the other half of this table section.

dining table 8

It still wasn’t better, but for some inexplicable reason, that didn’t stop me from doing the entire table.  I really have no idea what I was thinking.  In what universe is a little bit of something hideous, but a whole lot more of that hideous thing absolutely beautiful?  *Sigh*

So then I decided to try to salvage it.  I sanded down one side of the table lightly by hand with 150-grit sandpaper.  Initially I was excited to see that sanding it down by hand removed a great deal of the orange color, and even made it kind of pretty.  But then I realized that as soon as I put on a second (and third, and fourth) coat of poly, it would be right back to the bright orange color.

So I tried to dull it down by rubbing some dark walnut stain over the top, and rubbing off as much of the excess as I could.  That just turned it splotchy.

dining table 9

I’ve already stripped, finished, and re-stripped the leaf three times with no successful results, so I think at this point, I’m fighting a losing battle.  The whole thing’s getting painted one solid color.

Quite honestly, I’m glad I tried, because now I feel absolutely no guilt at all about painting this table.  The only real, solid wood on this table is the veneer on the table top, but that veneer has been applied over some sort of composite that looks like MDF, but is much stronger and durable than MDF.  And that MDF-type material is what shows on the routed decorative edge on the table top, so it soaks up stain and poly much more than the veneer and turns a completely different color.  The apron isn’t wood either.  It ‘s some sort of really hard molded material (plastic?  more MDF type stuff?) that has been adhered to what looks like bent plywood.  And as I’ve already shared, the bases are metal.

So paint, it is!

And now I’m rethinking the black.  That seemed like a perfectly good color choice when it was just going to go on the apron and bases of the table, but now that the whole thing will be painted, it just seems like a bit too much black.  I think I want something a little more unexpected, but I’ll have to order a swatch of my fabric before making a decision.  I just might have a dark raspberry colored dining table in my future.  🙂

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sheila F.
    May 11, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I am glad you tried and failed. Now you can do what is really in your heart with no remorse. I can’t wait to see what you come up with! How much more time do you estimate the condo work will take?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 8:56 am

    I agree now you know that it wouldn’t have worked if you had stained it. I would LOVE to see a raspberry table! Are you thinking of just doing the base in a fun bright color or the whole table??

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 9:14 am

    What is it that they say,,,”It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all”? Ah,,,it’s something like that! 🙂 Keep a smile on your pretty face, and it will all work out one way or another – in your world of decorating, these things tend to take strange directions, and then,,,BAM,,,,picture perfect, and way better than you expected it to be from the start!
    Don’t loose faith – we surely won’t!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 9:14 am

    I love that you always try and when you fail, you don’t just say “good enough”, but try again!! It’s nice to hear about other people’s fails so we know we’re not alone 🙂 And you’ve said not good enough on some BIG projects – like kitchen floor stripes. It’s amazing and impressive that you have the strength and energy to undo all your hard work and start over. But do you ever get upset when a project doesn’t work out? Do you ever yell and scream and curse the stupid table or orange poly or whatever it is that went wrong? Or am I along throwing tantrums in my garage?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Len Williams Carver
    May 11, 2015 at 9:18 am

    as much as I wanted to see apainted bottom and stained top, I can definitely say I am so glad you tried and now have a definite direction on what to do with that table. Think of the green of your kitchen or some shade a bit lighter maybe….yet I like the idea of raspberry as well.LOL I am just as indecisive as you are at this point but I know whatever you decide it will be gorgeous as in everything you do 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I agree that none if your table options said ‘wow’!
    With that said..I am thinking about your buffet. I LOVE your idea of it being a bright and fun color..but can not imagine 2 big pieces being painted bright colors?! I am thinking subtle neutral (?)table, bright patterned chairs, and bright buffet would be a great combo. I agree that a white table will not look right in front of the white fireplace..so that only leaves black or dark wood?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 9:30 am

    I like the thought of a raspberry table. I’m looking forward to that!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Black base, sponged faux granite top? or is that too old school?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Why not do a two-tone painted table, especially if one color is black. You could do a black base with a bright colored top, or vice-versa. That way you would have color without too much!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 9:49 am

    I had similar problems on our dining table. I tried gel stain and it worked perfectly to achieve a pretty stained look and cover blotchy wood problems.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Raspberry bottom and creamy top in one of the more neutral tones of the chair cover fabric seems great – but it might be too much in the room with the painted buffet?! Then you might want to go for a darker colour for the table legs? I’m quite sure you’ll come up with the perfect solution but at the moment I don’t envy you the decision process!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 9:54 am

    The absolute best designs come from failures. Deep Raspberry sounds yummy.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lesley Ann
    May 11, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Hi Kristi. Yeah that was a fail. But at least you know now and will have no regrets. Raspberry sound great. Can’t wait to see that. Cheers

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 10:51 am

    So great that you showed everyone that not everything works the first time and that is it always a learning process. We live in such an ‘instant’ world that we don’t often realize the great amount of effort (and trial and error) that is so much a part of the creative process. Kudos to you.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 10:54 am

    Before you paint…. please listen to Lynn and try the gel stain. It works where others don’t, and will give you the look you really want. Somehow the painted table with the painted buffet and bright pattern on the chairs…way too much paint. Follow your first instinct.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Kristy, my friend and I were refinishing her kitchen cabinets when she moved into her new house, she wanted them dark. We could not get any of the dark stains to take after we stripped the cabinets. We went back to home depot and told a guy in the paint department. Me specially mixed a paint and stain together for us to help it take. Her cabinets turned out beautiful dark brown. Doing this she could not see a whole lot of the grain anymore, but she was okay with that.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      May 11, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Mixing paint with stain? adding painting tint to stain, we do it all the time. Try a different stain or a different polyurethane. Oil with darken with age and does have more yellow. We have used water based polyurethane used on floors for table tops.with success and stays clear.

      good luck Kristi, looking forward to your creative solution.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Kristi — are you SURE this table is the one??? I know you got it for free (I think)…and it’s in your nature to take a bargain and make it into something spectacular!!! But maybe there is a table out there that IS perfect for you. Just the way it is or with very little fixin up. Or one that would be more cooperative, easier to make into exactly what you want. This table — or ANY table — you have sitting in that room is going to be a huge focal point, the first thing anyone sees the second they step into your house. I’d hate for that focal point to be something you are just “okay” with but not in love with.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Oh I would love to see that table top in raspberry! The wood itself looks almost like plywood. Have fun with our paint on that one.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing your trials as well as triumphs, Kristi. Looking forward to seeing what direction you ultimately take with the table and the rest of the room. Cheers, Ardith

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    You always learn so much from your failures and share what you’ve learned!
    I could see a different shade of green for the base and maybe a metallic paint finish top.
    I’m still fixated on copper, so perhaps a copper top which coordinated with a shade of green you love?giggling.

    Otherwise, here are some other wood finish options for you to ogle:
    faux inlaid table with stencils
    Faux Zinc Finish
    Weathered Driftwood Finish
    Barnwood Finish, not convinced this one would work for you, but you could twist it into something you like.
    Another Faux Zinc Finish
    I’ve also seen some fantastic gloss paint stencilling over matte paint in the same colors.

    Can you believe this insane Texas weather?????

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Next time you have a similar situation, you might want to try a water-based poly for the first coat (to keep the original color) and then an oi-based poly over that for a better wear layer. I’ve done this and it worked well.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Elizabeth Miller
    May 11, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I like the idea of an all black table. Maybe you could do wood chairs instead? Black is just so classic and it would look nice with your fancy peacock doors!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    After you buy your material and decide what color to paint the table, are you planning on painting the top a color and the base black? I think that sounds pretty.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    I don’t think you would have been pleased even if the stain had turned out a good color. Doesn’t the grain look like plywood, or is it just the way it seems in the photo?

    You know you’ll get there, and it’ll be just what makes your eyes happy!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    Hey Girl….we have ALL been there…sit tough though….big time.
    It will be beautiful painted…..;o)
    I really messed up a table one time and took a gel stain and put about 5 to 6 on coats on it….right over the other finish and it turned out great….( I used a very dark gel stain)….still have the table….still love it…..painted on the bottom….gel stained the crap out of the top…..hang in there doll….it will be fabulous!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Totally on board with the gel stain idea! General Finishes Java is great if you don’t want much grain to show. If you do, try Brown Mahogany. It will take at least 2 coats and possibly 3 to get a good finish color.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    What about continuing with the idea of staining the top and painting the edge and base the same color? Here’s what I mean.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 11, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    Have you thought of colored lacquer? Here’s a post from Southern Living about colored lacquer on wood furniture. http://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/decorating/painted-furniture. Not that much different than paint, but a different . Blogger willowinteriors is going to lacquer a dining room buffet and that’s what made me think of you. Just a thought.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 12, 2015 at 11:17 am

    You gave it a shot! I’ll look forward to having it painted and deep raspberry sounds interesting.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    JoLene Currie
    May 12, 2015 at 11:42 am

    FYI, there is a product that we have used that conditions the wood. If You want to try again, perhaps that would bring out the beauty that you first saw, otherwise I’m with the raspberry top!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Gilmer Gal
    May 12, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Ah, Kristi, welcome to my world. It seems like everything I try these days demands a re-do. But it all turns out good at the end. I’m sure the black table will be striking!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 13, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Have you tried shabby paints yet? They are amazing and all nontoxic!