How to Upcycle a Dining Room Table into a Coffee Table

Repurpose an old oak table with this step-by-step guide showing how to upcycle a dining room table into a coffee table.

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Our long-time customer asked if we could give this old table a new life. She had already seen our work on some of her own wood furniture pieces like this dresser, her sister’s hope chest, and several furniture items that her mom hired us to makeover including this sweet washstand and this beautiful gentlemen’s dresser.

this old dining room table needs help!

Let’s take a look at this old dining table that has seen better days. By the way, I should mention this isn’t just a great find on Facebook Marketplace (although Marketplace has lots of pieces like this!)

This piece has special meaning to our client. Her dad has a warehouse full of furniture from family members that he has collected. That’s my kind of dad!

It’s a solid oak dining room table that has a missing leaf. The table is round and could probably seat up to six people.

The whole thing was in really good shape considering this old dining table is close to 100 years old. Plus it’s been sitting in a warehouse that had a water leak problem!

That’s ok, we’re in the business of upcycled dining tables around here! The older and more damaged the better in my opinion!

old oak dining room table with orange wood tones

step one: take the table apart

The dining table is a center pedestal style so it does not have table legs. It has one-center support that branches off into four ‘legs’  as the table base.

The table top was in great condition except for one spot where someone forgot about setting down a hot iron. The shape of the burn mark clearly shows it was an iron that left the mark.

You’ll see in the reveal at the bottom of this post that our client decided to keep the burn mark. That’s what we call character!

The casters were missing and damaged so hubby searched online to find reproductions. I love a dining table with casters! Isn’t that the smartest thing you have ever heard of??

Orange is not my client’s first choice of color when it comes to any wood furniture so we knew it would have to change. It’s one thing our client was adamant about!

First things first, let’s take this dining room table apart so we can cut it down to coffee table height. Hubby is in charge of this kind of upcycle and all he needed was the final height measurement.

supplies list:

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step two: measure and cut the table base

Standard coffee table heights are between 12” and -24” so we settled on 18”. We also had to keep in mind the space the casters would take. So we ordered the casters before making the final cut.

Handy tip: Measure twice!

Test out the height measurement that suits your living space the best. This height can change depending on the seat height of your sofa where the upcycled coffee table will be. Use a stack of books or a couple of boxes to see what works best for sofa!

If you decide to turn a dining set into a coffee table, it’s a good idea to test the height that you think would work best for your living space. Stack up some books near your sofa and envision the coffee table in its place.

Once the casters were on (they just popped in the same holes the previous casters made), we measured from the floor to the top of the table then we subtracted 18” from the height of the table. This is the easiest way to get the final measurement.

man cutting wood furniture apart to breath new life into an old dining table

The difference will be the measurement we used to cut off of the table base. Hubby likes to do this kind of work so he removed the top by removing the screws that held it onto the base. The top itself was secured to a piece of wood, then that piece of wood was attached to the base. 

Ultimately, we decided to replace that piece of wood because it was pretty damaged and he couldn’t remove all of the bolts and hardware.

We like to keep our furniture makeovers as close to the original but sometimes it’s best to replace sections. This piece of wood is not visible so the decision to change it came pretty easily. He did use it as a template for the replacement piece he made from heavy plywood.

Remember the math we did a little earlier? We used that measurement on the table base and measured and marked the spot to remove the excess. It just so happened to fall within the design of the pedestal! He used his Sawzall to cut through the base. He also sanded the rough edges that the Sawzall created.

step three: strip the finish

While he worked on reconfiguring the table base, I worked on getting rid of the orange color of this upcycled coffee table.

lady using paint and varnish stipper for a diy dining table makeover

The first thing I did was start stripping the furniture using Safer Paint Remover by Ready-Strip. I applied a thick coat with a chip brush and let it sit. The product will turn a whitish/chalky finish when it is ready to remove which is usually about an hour.

Fortunately, the finish on this dining room table was old and the Ready Strip started working within 30 minutes. Patience is not my strong quality so I started scraping it off as soon as I saw it bubbling up. I do suggest you wait for the proper time according to the directions on the bottle.

As a side note about this product, I have also used it on old paint with success.

Also, I don’t suggest you use the spray version of this paint stripper. It is thick and doesn’t spray well. Purchase the small bucket instead and save yourself some aggravation! Using a varnish and paint stripper will help to reduce the sanding dust of this DIY project.

Once I scraped off all of the old varnish on the entire piece, it was time to give this round table a good scrubbing. I made a solution of GreenEZ Strip and Clean in a bucket and an old microfiber cloth to clean the entire piece. I scrubbed with the very damp cloth over the entire piece then rinsed it thoroughly with the garden hose.

step four: cleaning and bleaching

Once I knew it was completely spotless and rinsed well, I allowed it to dry in the sun for the whole day.

This cleaner is really amazing! In the past, I have used regular Dawn dish soap to clean the grime off of projects like this upcycled kitchen table. This product worked so well that I think I have a new favorite cleaner for furniture pieces that have been stripped of old paint and varnish!

The next step to lighten the color of this very orange old oak was to break out the bleach. It’s a great way to lighten old oak. I have used this method several times on old oak with success.

If you decide to use bleach to lighten dark furniture, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • be in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside
  • use a respirator mask to protect your lungs
  • wear safety goggles on your eyes
  • protect your hands with gloves
  • purchase the gel form of a high-quality bleach
  • test an inconspicuous area if you are concerned with the final look
  • use disposable chip brushes
  • do not let any young children help with this DIY project!!

The first step to lighten this dark and orange-toned oak wood was to apply several coats of bleach. I would apply the first coat over the entire piece and allow it to dry overnight. The next day, I applied a second coat of bleach. I did this three times allowing the wood to dry overnight each time.

After applying the third coat of bleach and allowing it to dry completely, I gave the piece another good scrubbing and rinsing with the garden hose. Fortunately for me, I had a week of good weather! The piece dried completely in the sun and then was wheeled into my workshop.

This DIY dining table makeover project took several days to get the correct color for the lighter look our client wanted. Some of that time was taken up with measuring and cutting the piece to the correct height. But most of the time was spent while allowing plenty of drying time between bleaching and cleaning the wood.

step five: sand and seal the wood

With all of that water, the wood grain was rough to the touch. Using a fine sandpaper on my sanding block, I went over the whole piece. This gave the top of the table, the base, and the ‘legs’ a smoother finish. I also removed the sanding dust with a dry microfiber cloth.

lady using white wax on old dark furniture to create an upcycled dining room table

The table base won’t get a lot of wear and tear so I decided to white wax it. Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Wax in White is so easy to use. I brushed it on and then quickly wiped it back with a blue shop towel. This is an easy wax to use and it creates a beautiful white-washed-looking finish. It also took away any remnants of orange tones in the wood.

The top of this upcycled coffee table will be getting more use so I wanted extra protection. I mixed up Miss Mustard Seeds Milk Paint in Ironstone with a 2:1 ratio. Usually, milk paint is mixed in a 1:1 ratio. This white-washed finish didn’t need to be that concentrated so two parts water to one part paint would be perfect.

I brushed it on the tabletop with a chip brush then immediately wiped off the excess. The last step was three coats of a matte clear coat.

step six: reassemble and enjoy your upcycled coffee table!

Hubby was ready to reassemble this upcycled furniture project. It was pretty simple, he just reattached the top using the new piece of wood he cut in the same way he had removed it. 

If you do an upcycled dining room table like this, take pictures of the process as you take it apart so you can put it back together quickly and easily!

First he attached the new piece of wood to replace the old piece that was damaged on the pedestal base. Then he turned the tabletop upside down and attached the base to the tabletop.

Wasn’t that easy?? Look at it now! Our client loved it! Her family will get years of use from this upcyled coffee table. Can’t you see kids playing board games on this coffee table?

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I will help you the best I can!

upcycled kitchen table repurposed into a coffee table
old dining table repurposed into a coffee table with decor
graphic with dining table upcycle showing before and after

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14 Comments

  1. The Slipcover Maker says:

    Oh my gosh, Cindy, it looks beautiful as a coffee table! What a wonderful re-design for that type of old kitchen table. It has the perfect height and surface space for so many uses. Playing board games and doing puzzles for sure. I also envision it gorgeously styled with coffee table art books, flowers, and candles. I love the light wash of color and the finish you applied. You and Steve do such top-notch work.

    1. I love your idea of styling this coffee table with art books and candles and a floral arrangement Karen! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Do Dodson says:

    L O V E this upcycle! What a great idea to lower the table and the finish is to die for. Thanks for sharing.
    xo 😘 pinned

    1. And this upcycle was sooooo easy! Thanks for pinning my friend!

  3. Your coffee table looks gorgeous! I love it. Happy holidays, my friend.

  4. Cindy, I would have never thought to make a dining table into a coffee table! It looks fabulous, and I love the bleached look of the wood! Such a great transformation! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Janet Lorusso says:

    Such a perfect upcycle and spectacular result, Cindy! I love that it has wheels too!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the tutorial Janet!

  6. I had a table that I wanted to do this too and recently got rid of it…uggggh. This turned out AMAZING! What a great team you made.🤗

    1. Oh no!! That happens to me too! I’m sure you would do an amazing job on this kind of project the next time you find a table!

  7. Decorative Inspirations says:

    Cindy, I love how you transformed this old dining table into a coffee table! I always enjoy reading your posts because I always learn something. This came out beautiful! Thanks for joining us at the Home Imagined party.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the tutorial and that you are able to learn from my blog! That just makes my day!

  8. This is one of my FAVORITE of all your furniture transformations. It is just stunning. Plus I am a sucker for anything with small wheels. Your table turned out beautiful! Thank you for submitting this to the Home Imagined Link Party.

    1. It’s one of my faves too Anna! Such a good use of an old dining table!