Refinishing a coffee table: Restoration Hardware wannabe

I love a lot of things at Restoration Hardware and dream of having such furniture, but it sure isn’t budget friendly even at the outlet.  (I used to live in walking distance of one which was really great!)  Since I enjoy refinishing, and buying or finding treasures to transform, I’ve tried my hand at Restoration Hardware style finishes a few times already.  One day I’ll post about the bed that I did a few years ago, which was the first such project, that was done with a very different technique.  Today I sanded down an old coffee table to use again after it was stored on my mother’s porch for several years, and the goal was to have people think it might be from Restoration Hardware.  I think I achieved my goal, but tell me what you think.


Before after years of exposer to elements

So, RH has a few round tables that have a similar build to my old coffee table, which I found about a decade ago at the Salvation Army on the upper west side in Manhattan.  I think it was around 40$?  In general I adore the “antiqued coffee” and “antiqued natural” finishes at RH, but the greyed woods and smoked oaks are lovely too.  I have a couple of dining chairs from the outlet in smoked oak and scored an amazing “Empire” armoire a year or two ago in “antiqued natural” for about a quarter of the retail price.  (It was damaged, but I could fix it.)  My idea had been to keep it a greyed and weathered look, because it was already sort of there, but it needs to tie in with other items in the living-dining room.  Thus I settled on a darker look sort of like “antiqued coffee,” but perhaps a bit more grey, because I love greys.  😉  Later I’ll be refinishing a dining set to match, and when I finally reupholster the sofa its woodwork will get the same treatment.

Sanding took a long time.  After sanding I vacuumed it, used a brass wire brush to open the grain, vacuumed again, and dusted with a tack cloth.  Here it is prepared, with sliders attached, all ready to stain:

all sanded

It looks pretty nice just like that, doesn’t it?  RH has many things finished like this, but my husband really prefers dark wood, and I didn’t think the light, unfinished style melds well with the flooring and other furniture.  😦

I’ve used other methods and finishing materials in the past, but this time the steps were as follows:

Wax with Briwax liming wax.

step one- wax 1 with liming

Step two- sand just a little, going with the grain of course.

step two- sand

Stain with ebony.

step three a-stain ebony step three b-stain ebony

Steps four, five, and six- keep waxing with the liming wax.

step four, five, and six- wax with liming

Buff and wax, buff and wax… Eventually it’ll look good enough to quit.  Here it is all finished:


detail finish 4

It wasn’t easy to photograph the finish, but I think it came out looking very Restoration Hardware.  🙂

finish 1 finish 3 finish 2

It’ll be “fun” sanding down the the dining set and matching this!  Maybe instead they’ll work with the light, unfinished style after all.  😉

I’m finally back! :D (and Part I of Transforming an Ugly ’80s Bathroom on a budget.)

I am shocked that today, the 20th of February, is a month to the day since we closed on our house… and that I have basically abandoned this poor blog for so long due to the move!  I just now set up my computer, and writing this post is the first thing to do online.  (Of course I’ve been browsing via phone and iPad meanwhile, but writing had to wait.)  Right after this I’m off to Amazon and to make some purchases wish lists  that have been on hold.

Moving is the worst thing I’ve ever gone through, but everything is improving slowly now.  The weather has been causing a lot of trouble on top of things (like having the move cancelled hours after they were to show up since they forgot to inform us the night before that the storm would indeed cause a problem…)  Now we have realised that most people don’t buy a home and move in the winter NOT due to holidays but probably in consideration of the crappy and unpredictable weather.  Makes sense.  Duh.

Thankfully the increasingly arctic temperatures have at least put a stop to the heavy snows, and I’m not killing myself shovelling instead of getting things done.  Everything finally been unpacked or repacked and stored carefully for dealing with later.  I’ve done some painting although no room has been entirely completed.  I’m jumping from project to project as energy, materials, and ideas permit (and my husband’s requests for certain things to be made ready.)  I am very happy, but I haven’t been this busy in a decade.  All the work has even burnt off ten of the extra fifteen or so pounds that I’d put on lately.  W00t!

So, today I’d like to begin by posting Part I of our master bathroom transformation:

While the house we moved into is mostly lovely and technically move-in ready, I can’t leave anything alone, and besides that the master suite was added on in the mid ’80s.  No one ever changed anything in the bathroom since then.  It’s… not our style or colour scheme at all.  I actually moved my showering to the main floor’s bath just to escape, but my husband doesn’t mind the setup for showering.  Neither of us is keen on the tile or much else and plan to make a dream bathroom some day.  Some day being far away toward the end of the two-thousand-teens I really wanted to make some “temporary” improvements.  Although new tile and perhaps a fancy change to the tub, toilet, vanity,and shower must wait some things can be done now or soonish:  paint, something to improve the vanity, a new faucet, and maybe even some details like the toilet handle, switches, towel bars, window treatment, and towel bars all can be changed to vastly improve and update the room this year.

Here is a before shot of the vanity area.  I’ll share others of the bath in later posts.  Right now many of my clothes are piled in the bathtub since the wardrobe boxes had to be emptied before the movers left, and I was out of space until I construct a new PAX closet… anyway…

Before vanity

Note the lovely, plastic and chrome faucet topping the gorgeous, off white formica and “distressed” golden oak vanity.  😉  We aren’t a fan of the tile colour either.  At least the cultured marble is a nice white.  I can work with that.

I opted to leave the cabinets to the side of the mirror on the wall.  I don’t love the idea or them, but I told myself to let them be and decide later.  My plan was to paint all of the oak trim since it was in poor condition and to paint the walls a shade to work better with the tile colour.  The white was alright, but some sort of a sage or something could make it look more intentional and hopefully more pleasing to us.  For the trim I wanted a darker colour, and I figured I’d make a mix with plaster for homemade chalk paint?

Choosing the colours was tough.  There were four strong contenders, and I preferred the darkest (“greycliffe”     ) best.  Eventually I talked myself into going light, because we tend too much to very dark around here, and it is a bathroom after all.  I still kind of regret it, but changes can be made in the future.


The greenish one was too green for my husband since he has a bizarre and deep hate for any and all green.  “Polished limestone” and “dusty miller” won.  Optimistically I thought that I’d have the whole room painted by evening yesterday.  Ha.  Ha.  Instead the priming seemed to take a lifetime, and I gave up on meticulously painting the oak only.  See here, the moment I said fuck-it.

giving up

All primed:


By the time I had to clean up and rush to the train station I’d just about finished.  To be fair there were touchups required, but I was *done,* yay!  Unfortunately it was dark and photos didn’t work out well.

After vanity last night, done

In the morning it looked much better.

After vanity in the morning lightAfter vanity

The plan had also included painting the mirror frame, but it turned out to be paper backed and a pain to take apart.  I stuck this one there for now and expect to just buy something better eventually.  If I take down those cabinets I could get a big frameless mirror then use nice moulding to trim it out, for example.  We’ll see.

Stay tuned for Part II and other house posts!