I’ve had the same kitchen table and chairs for eight years now, bought all together for $130 from IKEA in Washington. They’ve moved multiple times with me with little complaints but the past couple of moves have left the chair bottoms mostly screw-less and wobbly and require constant tightening. Plus, they’re pine which is pretty but soft, and jean rivets and cat and dog paws have scratched them. I wanted a new table set and I wanted something pretty, durable, and that I could fit more people at than my tiny IKEA table. In short, what I wanted was not going to cost me $130, more like $1,300 at least. I couldn’t pay that much when my table and chairs were still functional so I just kept looking. I really loved the look of farm tables with the white aprons and wood tops, but I also wanted something that I could expand for special occasions.
A couple of months ago, someone advertised a dining room table with a leaf and EIGHT chairs all for the princely sum of $300. I jumped on that the way my cat jumps on wet food. They were moving to Germany and needed to cut weight and wanted a new table anyway. The table had been a gift from their parents as it was a table they’d grown up with as kids, but they just didn’t have the room, weight allowance, or need eight chairs. I don’t need eight chairs, either, but I’m not passing up free stuff. We packed it all up in the back of our pickup truck and drove it home.
The original color of the chairs and table
The first project I took on was the chairs. I liked the look of chalk paint so I used Dixie Belle in Buttercream and for the chairs and Haint Blue for the captains chairs. I (foolishly) assumed they were pine and not oak and was slightly horrified when the tannins bled through the paint.
I bought some spray primer from Rustoleum and gave the chairs a quick spray with a little extra attention to areas where the tannins were still struggling to come through. I liked the chalk paint a lot. I tend to be heavy-handed in painting so I did have to temper it down a bit, but I found the paint to be VERY forgiving. I topped the chairs with Dixie Belle Clear Coat in a satin finish.
The table was a huge pain. I had this vision of a stained top with a white apron and P gallantly took this on almost entirely but that table top would.not.stain. We used Minwax in Jacobean for the stain and every time he’d put it on, it would wipe right off, like a dry erase marker. We tried letting it dry. We tried conditioning the wood. As it turns out, Minwax, despite being available at nearly every store, also has a bit of a reputation for being absolute garbage to work with. He wanted to paint it but I really wanted the stained top finish. I found something that talked about staining over paint and he agreed to try that. I kept researching other options.
In searching for stain over paint, I saw some images of tables and other furniture that had been dry brushed with multiple colors of chalk paint. I already knew I liked chalk paint, and also that stain was an enormous pain. I watched some video guides and decided to try it out.
My local Ace Hardware had started selling Dixie Belle so I bought containers of Driftwood and Hurricane Gray and in a wistful fit, also a container of Voodoo Gel Stain in Up In Smoke. I tried out the gel stain…nope.It was a pretty color, but the table took the stain unevenly. I think the top was just made of too many different woods to take an even stain. Next, I tried just painting it in Driftwood and it felt pretty blah, so I tried dry brushing and water washing the Hurricane Gray and liked the look of the dry brush.
Top left – Driftwood. Top right – color of raw table. Bottom – gel stain
I did a solid coat of Driftwood over the entire table, let it dry, and then dry brushed Hurricane Gray over it. Some areas were still a little too dark or concentrated for me, so I dry brushed a second light coat of Driftwood over top of it and then sealed the table with several layers of Gator Hide.
Left is a first coat of dry brushing over the Driftwood, center is attempting wet wash and right is a little bit of the gel stain left
I like the look of it. So much so I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner and making P go through a stain, wipe, stain, sanding purgatory. I’m so happy with how these turned out overall and I learned a lot in the process, namely, that furniture refinishing is a huge pain and that I’m in no hurry to experience it again.
The mostly-finished look. The side chairs are Buttercream and the captain’s chairs on the ends are Haint Blue.
A better look at the dry brush technique on top of the table.