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Refinishing our kitchen table: Introduction

We have been very fortunate to have inherited a lot of great furniture from Chad’s mother over the years, including a solid oak table and chairs that Chad claims was “the only table I ever ate at [growing up]!” The table itself is well made but I once felt its style ran too far toward “country” with its spindly arrow back chairs. I saw great potential in the table itself, however, since its style matched the style of 70% of the tables being sold at Pottery Barn at the time with the unfortunate exception of a natural oak finish. The aforementioned on-trend tables were all painted some variation of distressed black, and I became obsessed with the idea of refinishing my farmhouse table and chairs.

Because of Chad’s attachment, I thought it best to wait until he was out of town for a conference to tackle this project. I still remember standing in the checkout line at Home Depot, beaming from ear to ear with a basket full of supplies. An older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder to ask me what kind of project I was undertaking, no doubt taking in the can of paint stripper and assorted refinishing supplies. I explained that I was refinishing my kitchen table, and he very kindly told me that he would recommend against the can of paint I’d picked out: a gloss black enamel. I thanked him for his advice and paid for my purchases, hoping he wouldn’t notice I wasn’t heeding his advice.

I spent the next five autumn evenings out on our apartment balcony, stripping, sanding, and priming the table. I diligently followed every step to the letter, pouring elbow grease and excitement into my project. I couldn’t wait to show the final result to my husband who, so awed by its beauty and my frugalness (ignoring the $100+ I spent on supplies), would finally agreed to get rid of any number of items he’d been thus far unwilling to part with. But when it finally came time to paint the primed table, I knew I was in trouble. The paint was gloppy, uneven, and … shiny. I had seriously underestimated the gloss level of gloss paint. I was so dismayed by the way the paint looked on the table top that I didn’t even bother to paint the primed table leaves or the table skirt. So for the past eight years, I’ve suffered a self-inflicted panda table whose presence could only be tolerated thanks to a series of tablecloths.

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I’ve never felt right about replacing the table since it was structurally sound. But I was too discouraged by the failure that resulted from my over-exuberance (and an unwillingness to listen to the guy who tried to warn me about my paint choice) to try again. It was once we moved into our new home with a highly visible breakfast area that I decided I wasn’t going to let fifty pounds of solid oak (and at least five pounds of drippy black enamel) defeat me.

After seeing a slew of Annie Sloan chalk paint posts on Pinterest, I bought a copy of her Quick and Easy Paint Transformations book, thinking to employ one of her painting techniques to make for a fast redo. One of the strengths of ASCP is that you don’t typically need to strip, sand, or prime your piece before you can start painting. That is, of course, unless you previously coated it with gloppy black enamel paint, in which case, stripping is probably a good idea. I figured I would still get to use the paint’s space-age property of sticking to unprepared wood if I decided to paint the chairs.

Of course, once I’d made the decision to made the realization that I had no other choice than to strip the table, I immediately fell in love with this photo:

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I decided to try re-staining the tabletop and using ASCP paint and dark wax on the pedestal to try to achieve a similar result. As the table I’m trying to emulate costs $2,500, I figure I can spend up to $250 on supplies and, as long as it’s 1/10 as awesome, we’ll come out ahead. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about the design that’s been painted on the back of these Queen Anne-style chairs. (And honestly, I think the guy in line at Home Depot would probably tell me that my arrow back chairs won’t stylistically support a French treatment, but since when have I listened to him?) Besides, I needed to prove to myself that I can successfully refinish the table itself before even thinking of tackling the chairs.

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