…and It All Went Terribly, Terribly Wrong.

Although I’ve got plenty of examples of refinishing and refurbishing projects that turned out great, there are other times when everything goes wrong. Everything. A part breaks, glass cracks, veneer chips, paint globs up and you really just want to drag whatever it is out into the driveway and set it on fire.

Claire from Six Fee Under may have had the right idea. From HBO.com

Claire from Six Feet Under may have had the right idea. From HBO.com

Over the years, I’ve learned that when things start going wrong serially, it’s best to just walk away for a couple days and cool down. When something isn’t going as planned, it’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to try and remedy the problem. This usually incurs a rash of poor decision making that makes the problem worse and worse until there is no recourse. Today I have an example of everything going wrong, but the result looking really nice.


When I bought this table, the top matched the legs. I wish I had taken before photos of this, but I never planned for it to look much different than it originally did. There was a blemish in the finish and I decided to strip it and refinish the top in its original warm maple color. The stripping went fine, the sanding went fine, the staining—that didn’t go so well. I rubbed on some gel stain that I thought would match without spot testing. Too dark. Too red. Too late.

I thought of re-stripping it. I thought of re-sanding it. But the reality is, when you’ve changed the color of wood too much, there’s not much you can do to get back to square one. It’s soaked and it’s not going anywhere. Visions of driveway fires began entering my mind, so I calmly stepped away for a few days. I decided to use a darker stain and shift the color dramatically to espresso brown, creating a nice contrast with the original wood.


Mistakes add up. It took five additional coats of stain to darken the wood.

Mistakes add up. It took five additional coats of stain to darken the wood.

You may be wondering why I didn’t just refinish the legs to match. Here’s why:

Chair_BeforeThese chairs are the whole reason I bought the set. Their shape is so sexy and they’re incredibly well made. But I wasn’t about to strip and refinish each of them. Chairs are my least favorite things to refinish with all their crevices and dowels and whatnot. No, thanks. But now that the table was resolved and, in my opinion, looking pretty great, how would I reconcile the chairs with the two-tone table?


Fabric, that’s how. I knew the chairs had to be recovered—the foam seats had turned to powder—so I searched for brown fabrics that would coordinate with the new dark top. I was extremely lucky to find this great champagne and brown striped fabric in the flat folds at a local fabric store. Flat folds are drapery and upholstery remnants that are usually heavily discounted because they’re short yardages. This fabric normally retails for around $30 per yard, I got it for just $5 per yard.


The fabric is perfect. It fits the traditional style of the furniture, yet really helps integrate the look of the newly refinished table. I love that it has all of the colors of the table in it and even has a slight sheen that gives it an expensive look.


Sometimes a mistake can actually lead to a better solution. I think this set has a richer, more contemporary look that gives it broader appeal than anything I initially had planned for it. And the best part is, there are no ashes or charred screws to sweep out of my driveway.

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One Comment

  1. Debra
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    The table looks fabulous. I love the fabric on the chairs too. Well done.

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