A Stylish DIY Project

Many people think of furnishing their home as a single expedition to a big-name supplier where they can buy a “set” of furniture to fill their rooms. They plop down their credit card and call their room “done.”

As for me, I prefer furniture that isn’t “matchy matchy.” I like to explore when I furnish rooms, and I enjoy the adventure of the hunt for pieces that fit how I live in my homes. The pieces tell a story about my living space and my personality.

When I lived in an old carriage house with beadboard ceilings and walls, I had fun and colorful painted furniture from the 1800s. I have stories for each caned chair and the trip to Maine I was on when I bought them.

Now, I live in a 1950s rancher. We keep it wide open and airy. The place is furnished with objects we collect and select as we enjoy the adventure of living in this house.

I have many of the major pieces for my living room already. There is a bone-white leather sectional sofa, a Cassina coffee table with Calacatta marble top and chrome legs purchased at a vintage shop, two secondhand cushy armchairs I rescued and had reupholstered … but I still needed an end table. So I scoured the local shops and my favorite online haunts. After a few weeks, this fun, 1960s walnut table showed up on Craigslist. The seller and I came to an agreement, and I drove out on a Sunday to meet her and collect my table. She was a lovely stay-at-home mom who shops for designers and sells items online, and she chatted with me about herself, her family, and their upcoming move to Atlanta.

When I got the table home, it was clear to me that the piece had a shellac finish because it had some water spots which had turned very dull.

A simple scrub with medium steel wool and denatured alcohol took off the old finish — no sanding required. Once dry, I gave the piece a stain coat of Minwax Walnut. And after that was dry, two coats of spray polyurethane finished the project. The polyurethane will not water stain like the old shellac finish did.