Build your own antique finished coffee table for less than $75

April 13, 2016

Anyone that has purchased furniture lately knows you can spend a lot of money in a little amount of time.  A good-sized coffee table can run upwards of $1000, depending on where you shop.  We used to have a large ottoman in front of our couch.  Great for putting up your feet, not so great if you want to set down a drink or write something (or if you are kids; build legos).  I didn’t feel like spending a fortune, so I looked into building my own.  I found a GREAT post on Pinterest that led me to a blog by Trisha called Simplicity in the South.  She had a great Restoration Hardware knockoff that I really liked, but wanted to tweak a little.

I knew with my kids, I wanted this to be sturdy.  I originally put the table top together with 1 x 8 pieces of pine, and then quickly realized that even with some good coats of polyurethane, that table wasn’t going to hold up long with my kids.  I opted for some 1 x 6 pieces of hickory, that I found at my local Menards.  I went with 4′ long pieces to minimize waste, because hickory is NOT cheap, but it IS strong and solid.  Need to secure all boards together using pocket screws, which are an amazing investment.

For the legs, I got lucky and didn’t have to buy them.  I was driving to my father-in-laws one Sunday, which happened to be garbage day.  Like any normal thrifty person, when I drove by that oak table that was being thrown out, I stopped, loaded it up, and stripped off the legs for my coffee table.

For the bottom of the table, I used a bunch of different size and width pallet boards that we had been given, but hadn’t used yet.  I like the uniqueness of pallet wood, and with a decent sanding these turned out smooth enough to finish.  I left the nail holes in the pallet boards for a nice rustic effect as well.


From a finishing perspective, there were really a ton of options here.  That hickory top would have looked great stained, but again, I have to credit Trisha again here for turning me on to milk paint.  Like her, I used Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in Grain Sack.  As long as you follow the directions, this stuff is easy to use, and looks great when it’s done.

Before painting, you need to make sure everything is sanded down, and stained with something to seal up that wood (especially that pallet wood).  I used Minwax Special Walnut for this as it matched the already stained legs, which I had to use stripper to remove the polyurethane coating from.  Like I said, I could have slapped a couple coats of poly on this, and it would have looked great, but I really wanted to try out that milk paint.


I let this really soak in for 24 hours, and made sure when I wiped it with a cloth, that no stain was coming off.  Now it was time for the milk paint.  Mix as directed (I used an electric beater and a plastic 2 quart bucket).  I put this on with a thick brush (about 4″) and it went on great.  Covered everything nicely, except for those table legs, which must have had some finish still intact.  Once the 2nd coat of milk paint was completely dry, I took a spray bottle and misted the entire top and bottom flat surfaces to loosen up the milk paint a little.  Using a cloth and a 120 grit sanding block, I distressed the white milk paint to the point that the stain started coming through, especially on table edges and the table top.  Lots of elbow grease here, but the finish was great.


The issue with milk paint is that it dries, and cracks/flakes, which is the desired finish, but on vertical surfaces like table legs, it wasn’t ideal.  I kept touching them up to get the desired look, and then quickly put a coat of Minwax Polycrylic in a Semi-gloss sheen.  I used 3 coats of the Polycrylic to give it a nice shine, and a solid hard protective layer that I won’t have to reapply like furniture wax.  Best part of polycrylic is that it’s water based, so simple clean up.


After all that, moved it into the living room, and got rid of that big, bulky ottoman!  All in all, this cost me less than $75 in materials

Next blog post, I’ll show you how to build a simple dovetailed box that looks pretty cool underneath this table.


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