Dining Table Makeover | How to Achieve an Old World Look with Paint & Stain



The weather has turned cool here in Wisconsin, and there has been plenty of rain.  Somehow rain and dark skies make my house feel cozy and give me permission to snuggle in a blanket and drink lots of coffee.  I do that anyhow, but the rain makes it feel cozier. 

My client, Allison, has been a customer of mine for several years.  Originally, she bought a desk that I had painted linen white.  She saw my sale post and came and picked it up within an hour.  My husband had to hurry up and finish installing the new nickel cup pulls before she arrived.  I love a quick sale! 

More recently, she asked me to paint a TV console for her.  It was black and fairly plain, but she had a vision for some rounded cut-outs on the ends, so my husband handled that part and I painted it white.  It turned out pretty cute, no?

TV console after

Dining Table Before

This time, she came to me for an update to  her dining table and six chairs.  They have a really cute shape, but she didn’t like the orange tones. 

dining table before

She chose Gravel Road, a brown-based gray, for the legs.  I gave it two coats, and distressed around the edges.  That was the easy part! 

Refinishing the Top

The top was the real challenge.  I began by stripping it, using Citristrip and my favorite method of covering  with plastic wrap overnight, so it’s easier to scrape off the old stain.  It was a little extra work to get in all the little curves and crevices around the edge, but at this point I was still feeling pretty good. 

I started the process of staining the top with Gel Stain in a color called Tobacco Road.  This stain is water-based, and it was my first time using it.  I loved the color and the application.  Here’s what I was working with at that point.

progress on table with stain

The plan was to use a whitewash over that.  But that step turned out to be the trickiest.  The two sides of the table absorbed the white stain completely differently.  It was patchy and blotchy and sort of a nightmare compared to the result I had been shooting for.  I asked Allison for a little direction at this point.  Was it getting too white?  Did she want some brown or gray? 

progress on table too white

She seemed open to layering in brown and gray, so I watered down some light gray paint I had on hand, and watered down the tobacco road stain.  I brushed them on with a chip brush, randomly in areas that had gotten too white.  Then I blended and blurred them with a rag.  Still blotchy.

progress on table choppy blending

At this point, I took some staged photos, hoping the shortcomings were all in my head.  But they weren’t.  I was still seeing a big difference between the two ends of the table.

dining table original staging

It was coming down to the wire now, with Allison wanting to pick up the table and I hadn’t achieved the final look.  So in desperation, I layered on the same gray and brown watered down colors again, and also used some Cotton White this time. 

Sealing the Top

And then I needed to seal it.  For that, Allison had a brilliant idea.  She suggested tinting the sealer with brown.  I used Gator Hide and mixed in the Tobacco Road stain.  Using my blue sponge to achieve an even smooth surface, I added three coats.  Ahhh, finally the blending and tinting paid off.  I staged it again, this time in the grass for more contrast.  I love the final old world French country look, and more importantly, Allison loved it too.

old world dining table top
old world table before & after

Resource List:

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If you want to see a vintage dining set brought back to life, click here.  Come back soon and see how these chairs turn out!

before chairs
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