Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Interiors | Pine table makeover

Anyone else find themselves drawn to happy, zoning-out activities like painting, crochet and jigsaw puzzles right now? With lockdown in full force, my favourite thing to do these past couple of weeks has been working on an old, nineties, orange pine table. Read on for some before and after shots, detailing how this chalk paint makeover happened and exactly how quick and easy it was to achieve.

I spotted this huge pine table over on Facebook Marketplace (now there's a place I can lose HOURS of my life, scrolling through like it's a digital car boot sale). It's 220cm by 100cm so pretty much exactly the size of our current dining table - a plain, white, Ikea rental home special that I've been desperate to get rid of (here if you want a reminder).

At £68, this felt like the bargain of the century and I knew exactly what we could do to turn it into one of the bashed up, Victorian, scrubbed pine kitchen tables I love, like the ones pictured here.

We got to work. The whole of the top needed sanding to remove layers of thick, orange varnish. We did this by hand, using increasingly fine sheets of sandpaper wrapped around blocks. It required elbow grease, cold lager and pop music. The edge was trickiest with its bevelled finish, but we wrapped the sandpaper around our fingers and went for it.

(True story: later that day, I tried to open my phone using my fingerprint and it wouldn't work! I'd sanded my thumbprint into unrecognisable oblivion.)

Once we'd got the varnish off and the top was smooth, I had a wee Google to find out how to achieve the Victorian scrubbed top look I've always loved. Well, that was a can of worms. There are plenty of sites out there suggesting a range of chemicals you can apply to get the look, but eventually I found a cabinetmakers' forum with the information I needed.

Apparently, to create a scrubbed pine kitchen table, you have to do exactly what the description implies. That is, not finish the wood with anything whatsoever! This seemed such an unlikely solution, but I'm a sucker for anything that instructs you to 'hold your nerve'. Much like a new wooden chopping board, you have to sort of 'season' it. From the forum:

"When I was a child we had a scrubbed pine kitchen table, as did my grandmother. It was scrubbed every day with plain cold water and a scrubbing brush. There never was any substance used on, the table top was scrubbed white over the years"

So that's what we're going to try. The look takes around six months to achieve, during which it's a bit of a mess, but then you get that pale, aged look I love so much (less so when I look in the mirror!).

Onto the legs and the apron.

We didn't take off any of the varnish here. Instead, we bought a tin of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Athenian Black from Dovetails Vintage who sent it to arrive the very next day. The paint is quite expensive at £21.95 for a litre, but we only got through about a third of a tin for this project (will keep the rest for touch ups or other projects).

The paint goes straight over the existing finish, which saves a huge amount of time and effort (and thumbs). We did two coats, leaving 24 hours between each one - thank goodness for the glorious weather we've been enjoying.

The next stage is to apply Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Wax to the dry paintwork (I already had this in the utility room, so no need to buy - result). Just a small amount is required. Annie recommends apply this as though it were hand cream, so we basically gave the table legs a massage. Then you rub off the excess with an old pair of boxers cloth and you're done.

We reassembled the table in situ yesterday and it fits perfectly in the dining room. I hadn't quite realised how much I hated the old table until this one was in - it's beautiful and I'm so happy with the result. And all for less than £100!

And the best part? I've been reminded of the pleasure you get from seeing a project through from beginning to end, and doing it all yourself. The house reno feels endless right now, which is another reason this quick table makeover was so satisfying. If you're in need of a soothing, self-isolation project, I can really recommend doing something like this.

Let me know if you have any questions about the makeover by leaving a comment below or over on Instagram.
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