Our first major purchase for the house was a dining room table. We had a nice big formal dining room and a dinky four-person table that, though adorable, is pretty old and has seen better days. We shopped around for a high-quality table that was also affordable and didn't find much. Since we knew it'd take some abuse from future children, we wanted something that would last, something solid and made of real wood, not particle board and veneer. We decided to buy an unfinished hardwood table from the Mill Stores, a New England furniture chain that sells lots of unfinished furniture.
We picked out the biggest table they had, with two leaves and a full extended length of 96 inches, plenty of room to seat 10 adults. A 20% off coupon saved us a cool $100, and within a few days the table was in and ready for us to pick up (and as we watched three dudes wheel it out with a dolly, we realized we were totally unprepared to get it out of the car ourselves. Thank goodness for good, strong friends just a phone call away!).
Mill Stores will finish furniture for you, but we opted to save the money and DIY. When I say we, I mean the hubby. This was 100% his project -- the only thing I did was help pick out the stain and get the drop cloth underneath the table. It took a lot more work than we anticipated, with the two leaves and the legs, and multiple coats that needed time to dry. But the end result was totally worth it.
Since we bought the table before this blog, and since it came in pieces that we didn't assemble until they were all finished, I don't have a before shot. This photo from the Mill Stores' website will have to suffice.
The table comes with turned legs, but we opted for chunkier farmhouse-style legs, which you can see below
The hubs sanded everything by hand using 320-grit sandpaper, using a power sander only in a couple spots. Then he applied a pre-stain.
We picked a dark mahogany stain -- a nice mid-range tone that we felt would outlast trends and be timeless. It also ended up matching the hand-me-down dining room chairs we already had -- score!
He applied the stain with a rag, putting on excess stain, let it sit for a couple minutes and then wiped off the excess. He let each coat dry for more than a day, and once everything was stained, he applied three coats of Minwax clear semi-gloss poly for a durable finish. He sanded lightly between all coats to ensure everything was smooth.
Here he is, hard at work. You can see that one half is stained and the other is still naked.
(Please excuse the crummy phone and nighttime photos!)
Ready to see the after? Here it is, in all its extended glory:
Isn't she a beauty? I love the look of the grain.
And the hearty farmhouse-style legs that the store wanted to charge us $100 extra for, but I managed to talk them out of it. They call them Shaker legs.
The hubs busted his butt to get the table done for Christmastime, so we could have our families over for brunch.
And here's what it looks like without the two leaves. (More on that centerpiece another day!)
Didn't he do a fabulous job?
The hubs was nice enough to share his tips for finishing wood furniture:
- Use a pre-stain, no matter what kind of wood you're working with. It helps the stain apply more evenly and avoids blotchiness.
- Even if a piece says it's ready to finish, it's still a good idea to hit it with some sandpaper and ensure it's smooth and nothing has been dinged while moving the piece.
- Use a foam brush for smooth application, and work in slow, even strokes to avoid bubbles.
- Sand between every coat, and avoid using steel wool, as sandpaper is more effective.
- Don't be afraid to use lots of poly at the end, but make sure to wait at least 24 hours in between coats. If you want a satin finish, it's best to apply a coat or two of semi-gloss or glossy poly and then finish with one coat of satin. Satin poly tends to be hazy, so a few coats of it will likely obscure the look of the wood grain and appear cloudy.
We're super excited to have a table big enough to host our families and friends, and it has so much more value to us because of all the hard work we (okay, he!) put into it. We still need to invest in some chairs, but we're a little nervous about how long it would take to do all that detail work. We'll see when we decide to tackle that!
Once again, the before:
And the after:
And here's what the dining room looked like with our dinky old table. You can see the leaves of the new table in the background.
I'm linking up to Thrifty Decor Chick's Before and After party. Stop by and see all the amazing transformations!
I'm also linking up to the DIY Showoff Project Parade, so stop by there too and check out the great DIY projects!