Tutorial Tuesday – Furniture Facelift!

I know that this is straying a bit from my typical DIY projects, but I was so floored by the result that I wanted to post about it.  I’m not one of those people who scrounge around estate sales for super cool furniture that looks like crap and is priced at $2 only to refurbish it and make it the coolest thing ever.  I wish.  I have neither the patience nor the storage space to accomplish that kind of thing.

What I do have is an antique dining room set that’s been passed down through my family.  Kinda.  Since I come from a family of 5 robust kids, my grandma decide to purchase us a very sturdy dining room set.  She was a fantastic garage sale shopper (read: hoarder) and I believe she purchased it at a garage sale for a song (not a literal song).  Anyway, this set sat in our dining room my entire life and I never thought anything about it.  Then one day an electrician came to the house and asked if it was an original [I cannot remember what he said now – it was like a million years ago].  I was all “huh?”  I’m sure he thought I was an idiot.  What I later found out is that there was an artist community just outside of Buffalo called the Roycroft and it seems as though this dining room set could have come from there.  You can read all about the Roycroft here.

Fast-forward several years.  Since I’m the youngest (aka the best), I was the last kid living at home when my dad made the decision to sell the house.  So when I was moving out, he said to just take whatever furniture I could use because he’d have to sell/donate a lot of stuff anyway.  I chose (among other things) the dining room set.  To this day I rub that in my sisters’ faces.  I had to live with my evil stepmother for more years than they did COMBINED!  I earned that dining room set. In blood.

Fast-forward another couple of years and I get a phone call from one of my sisters telling me that she saw our exact dining room set in an antique store for…$10,000.  WHA??????????  I mean, parts of the set had been peed on by dogs.  More than once.  The fact that it had the potential to be worth that much money was…weird.  And scary.  The buffet and side board were in great condition since they didn’t require any real use.  They just sat there displaying things.  The dining room table, though…it has seen its share of family dinners.  Dinners where sweaty milk glasses left rings and people painted their nails, accidentally dropping polish.  It had battle scars.  But now I was worried to do anything to it.  What if I ruined it?  It didn’t help that my sisters were always dropping hints that they’d gladly take it off my hands at any time if I didn’t want it.  I’d almost turn into this guy.

But in my daily tumble down the Pinterest hole, I found a few tutorials that talked about “refreshing” an old piece of furniture and not completely “refinishing.”   Maybe that’s just semantics.  But when things like sandpaper come out, I start to sweat.  Even parts of the process I ended up doing made me sweat a bit, but by that time I was far too emotionally vested in this project.

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.  Here’s what you’ll need:

Refurbish supplies

1.  Danish Oil 2.  Murphy’s Oil  Soap 3.  fine steel wool 4. Howard’s Feed -N- Wax (weird name, I know) and 5. elbow grease.  HA!  GET IT?  It’s an elbow and grease.  GOD I’m clever….

OK.  First let me start by saying that Ryan didn’t want me to write any of the background information I wrote above.  He pretty much wanted me to say “So, we found this table at a thrift store and…”  Why?  Because after seeing the after picture, we’re both amazed that we lived with a table that looked as TRASHED as this table looked initially.  But we did.  And I swear we’re not dirty people.  So here goes nothing…this is the before:

Table before 1

Table before

WHAT WAS I THINKING??  I guess I just thought the finish was gone or something?  I never thought that dirt and grime were baked into the table itself.  I mean, I wipe the table!  It’s clean on the surface.  Good grief!!  I just figured those glass rings were burned down into the wood.

OK.  So here are the steps I took to rectify this sad situation:

Step 1:  I mixed a little Murphy’s Oil Soap with warm water.  I used about 3 tablespoons with a gallon(ish) of water.  I say “ish” because I didn’t measure it or anything.

Step 2:  I took the steel wool, dipped it in the oily water and start scrubbing that table.  Of course, only with the grain.  I wasn’t all “wax on wax off.”  Also, make sure you have some rags handy so that you can mop up the water as you go along.  You don’t want puddles of water sitting on the wood.  Obvs.  This is after about one minute of scrubbing (for serious):
Table first cleaning 1

And here’s the water:
Dirty water

BARF-A-DOODLE-DO!!!  You’d think this thing was from the city dump!  It’s DIS-GUST-ING!!  Constantly having to change that dirty water gave me the energy to continue scrubbing my face off until it eventually looked liked this:
Table stripped 1

It was at this point that I started crapping my pants.  I mean, the little scrubbing I had done had completely taken off whatever finish was there (probably very little since it’s over a hundred years old) and I thought my sisters would all fly out and kill me.  I mean, I’m sure they really couldn’t care less, but that was the first thing that came to mind.  I’m dead meat.  But I decided to hold off on my panic attack until after I saw what it looked like with the Danish oil.

Step 3:  Apply Danish oil.  I just followed the directions on the can.  Here it is all oiled up:

Table with oil 1

Amazing, right?  Oh, and notice that all those rings are gone.  GONE!  But it’s still covered in the oil, so who knows what it’ll look like when I wipe that all off, right?  It could go back to looking like a sad and dry mess.

Step 4:  Wipe off excess Danish oil (per the directions on the can).  Check this out:

Table after 2

AMAZING, right?!  One more step!

Step 5:  Apply Howard’s Feed-N-Wax (I get the wax part, but what’s with the feed part, you guys?).  Again, I just followed the directions on the bottle.

table after wax

 Here’s a close-up of the wood.

Wood close

It’s freaking amazing.  It’s gorgeous!  It was at this point that  Ryan and I looked at the before and after pictures and were a little freaked.  We were hoping that nobody left our place saying “You guys.  Did you see that GROSS table?  DO THEY EAT OFF THAT THING????”  I mean, look at this again:

Before and after

[Microphone drop]

Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing another part of the “collection,” you can see the buffet in the Penny Wall post and  here’s an even better picture.  You’ll be able to see that I didn’t let ALL the furniture sit and rot.  I swear.

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  1. Posted February 5, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    It looks amazing, nice work! I’ll be trying some of that fancy Danish oil, the finish looks brilliant.

  2. Posted February 5, 2013 at 11:46 AM | Permalink

    That might have been the funniest hgtv show I ever read. Table does look amazing.

  3. Posted February 5, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    Oh emm gee, this thing looks amazing. I need to go find some crusty crust piece of wood furniture to do this to. Unbelievable!


  4. Posted May 21, 2014 at 8:09 AM | Permalink

    You are so funny! Thanks for sharing all those details! You’re table looks amazing! I’m looking for a new table and will keep these tips in mind when searching through thrift shops!

    • Lizzie
      Posted May 21, 2014 at 8:57 AM | Permalink


  5. Posted May 21, 2014 at 8:10 AM | Permalink

    * your :)

    • Lizzie
      Posted May 21, 2014 at 8:57 AM | Permalink

      LOL. Don’t you hate when that happens?

  6. Alice
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 12:28 PM | Permalink

    Gorgeous! You’re inspiring me to consider doing some work on an old dresser I inherited. I KNOW there is some gorgeous wood under all that dull blah and cranky non-sliding drawers.
    Congrats on your successful refinish! :-)

    • Lizzie
      Posted May 21, 2014 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

      Thanks! And I think you should totally give that dresser a go!

  7. Jenn
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 5:08 PM | Permalink

    That is just amazing! So I’m wondering about the rest of the table? Did you have to steel wool the entire table, legs and all, or just the top? Our dining room table is an old family piece from my husband’s side of the family and it needs help. But the base of the table is still in pretty good shape.

    • Lizzie
      Posted May 21, 2014 at 5:35 PM | Permalink

      I only did the table top. The legs weren’t that bad. Thankfully.

  8. pom
    Posted May 23, 2014 at 11:00 PM | Permalink

    Will you please stop caring so much what other people think.

  9. Rebecca
    Posted May 31, 2014 at 10:13 PM | Permalink

    Beautiful! I’m sorry you felt the need to slam your stepmother…

    • Lizzie
      Posted June 1, 2014 at 10:28 AM | Permalink

      You haven’t met her. I’m not sorry. LOL.

  10. Jayne M
    Posted August 9, 2014 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    Holy crapola. I have almost that same table ( in almost same condition LOL) very funny post. I just put the chairs that were wobbly and needed major revamp kerbside – they were gone in a flash. I said to myself ” self, they have gone to a better place” and now I know why. Guess that means I’m going to makeover hell. PS: Don’t let my brother know!

    • Lizzie
      Posted August 9, 2014 at 5:30 PM | Permalink

      Oh, I hear you. I would have never thought it would turn out like this. Oh, and one of my sisters is coming to visit in a week, so she’ll see the re-do live and in-person. Watch, she’ll try to steal it. NEVAH!!!!!! LOL.

  11. Katzies
    Posted August 12, 2014 at 2:27 PM | Permalink

    One of very, very, very, very few seriously out-of-this-world before and after!

    You so deserving of rubbing it in your sisters’ faces. Enjoy it for the rest of your life. What wonderful story! Just make sure your will state explicitly where the set will go when you’re gone. It will seriously cause a family bloodbath!

    • Lizzie
      Posted August 12, 2014 at 4:49 PM | Permalink

      Thanks! And one of my sisters is flying in this weekend and I’m sure she’ll be scoping it out. Everyone better start being VERY NICE to me!

  12. Kim
    Posted August 24, 2014 at 7:35 AM | Permalink

    Your table is gorgeous. I too just have fits when I think about refurbishing/refinishing a piece of furniture. I am trying to get up the nerve to finish a couple of jobs. I actually had to sand down my pieces ( a tea table and a dining table) to get rid of scratched, dents, water marks and so on. I guess I should just go for it and see what happens, my pieces cannot look any worse than they did at the start. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Mileah
    Posted October 2, 2014 at 2:32 PM | Permalink

    I have a wonderful MCM table in similar condition that I can’t bear to part with: thinking I’ll give this a try! Just wondering, however, how the new “finish” has since held up? We, too, are very hard on our furniture (toddler, cats, greasy, garage-loving husband…) Did it last or was it too good to be true?

    • Lizzie
      Posted October 2, 2014 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

      It still looks great! I haven’t put another coat of anything on since I did it. Granted, I make sure everyone uses a coaster when they’ve got a cold glass of whatever, but it looks the same. Granted, I don’t have toddlers, but I have cats and a construction-worker husband. I sincerely think you should give it a go!

  14. LOUIS
    Posted August 8, 2015 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

    I would like to thank you for your inspiration and help. I’ve had the same table for much too long and it looked very much like yours. So it was either buy a new one or fix it! Took me my whole Saturday and I’m still not finished. Seems I’ll have to use sandpaper to get rid of those awful stains! Anyway, I think I made the right choice. Hope my end result is as spectacular as yours.
    Thanks again!

    • Lizzie
      Posted September 30, 2015 at 11:12 AM | Permalink

      I’m so sorry I didn’t see this earlier! I hope your project went fantastically!!

  15. Harry
    Posted May 23, 2016 at 9:59 AM | Permalink

    Lizzie, this is an incredible before and after. Thank you for the easy-to-follow instructions and helpful photos. Defin. doable… I’m thinking about some trashy pieces in our basement. Glad you had fun with this transformation :-)