Reimagining the Simple Ikea Table

Ikea, you either love them or hate them. Personally, I find a lot to love about their simple designs and their affordability.

My son and his wife purchased this dining table seven or eight years ago when they were setting up their first home together. Recently, they upgraded to a lovely dining set that complemented their current home better and asked if I wanted the table.

I did. I liked everything about the table except the color of the wood.  Since my kitchen doesn’t have room for a table my living room serves as both dining and lounging.  We eat at this table, craft here and play games so it gets a lot of use.

To protect the table my daughter-in-law had put a protective coat of polycrylic on it which first needed to be sanded off.

My vision for this table was to make it look as if it had been a part of my home for many years.  To do this I distressed the table after sanding it.

I used these tools to distress the table. The hammer I used both the claw and the head to make “dings” on the surface. Using the phillips-head screw driver to add indentations and the flat-head to add irregular scratches. You can use just about anything. For this table the wood is very soft so a soft touch was needed. I have a friend who beats wood furniture with chains, drops cans on them and more. This is the fun part where you can just use your imagination.

I knew I wanted a dark stain to give this table weight. I chose Dark Walnut by Minwax.

This was taken while the first coat of stain was still damp. You can see the scratches and the different sized dings added to the surface.

The original plan was to stain the entire table (top and bottom) with the walnut, but once the top was done I realized I didn’t like the way the table would blend in with the cherry flooring.

I briefly, very briefly, considered leaving the bottom of the table the original pine color, but I still disliked that shade in my living room.  Not having any other colors of stain on hand I knew I would have to use paint. I ran through the various colors I had on hand and only one felt right.

Black. I had to consider the possibility that one day I may need to move again. If that happens it is likely that the furniture I have would be combined together in rooms where they are in different rooms today.

The only black paint I had was chalkboard paint, not to be confused with chalk paint.  I loved the distressed look of the table top and wanted to continue that look of age on the rest of the table. To accomplish this I used a dry brush effect on some areas.  To dry brush you dip your brush in the paint then wipe off as much as you can before touching brush to furniture.

I applied only one coat of paint to the table as a second coat would have given it better coverage and robbed me of that illusion of age and lots of hard use I was after.

My daughter-in-law was the first to see the table completed. She loved it so much I thought for a while she was going to ask for it back.

I purchased two new chairs for the table a few weeks ago. It was deciding on chairs that held me off from touching the table sooner. I went with a metal and wood chair that is extremely sturdy and tip resistant because of the children and my limited mobility. The rubber under the legs keeps the chair firmly in place which works for me as a chair slipping on bare floors is dangerous when I am trying to transfer from one seat to another.

Together the chairs look like they were made for this table.

The total cost of the table redo was $4.98 the cost of an 8 ounce can of stain.

Do you love or hate Ikea furniture?

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25 thoughts on “Reimagining the Simple Ikea Table

    1. I have been hard at work. I had a weekend alone to get this done, start to finish. The final sealer coat went on at midnight Sunday and company arrived Monday morning. 🙂

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  1. The table looks great and those are really interesting chairs. I’ve never seen any even similar.
    I don’t have any experience with IKEA furniture so I can’t really say anything, except that I did eat in their cafeteria on my one and only visit and loved the Swedish meatballs!

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    1. Thank you, Cynthia. This style of chair can be found in many places. They first started popping up (I’m told) at Pottery Barn. Now you can buy them at many online and retail outlets. After comparing prices I broke down and bought mine from Amazon. They have several styles to choose from.

      Swedish meatballs….I miss them since giving up meat.

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  2. I think the black on the bottom was just right. While much of Ikea furniture is not made to last, it does serve a purpose. Recently we bought two chairs there for our living room. Having vowed to not buy any new upholstered chairs while we still have cats, we needed something for our living room. The room was already full of wood, so we got upholstered chairs from Ikea. They look decent and are comfortable to sit in. And even more importantly, the covers can come off and go into the washer. And if the covers get too shredded by the cats, we can buy new ones. Each chair including covers was only $169 which was a low enough price that I went against my vow to not buy any more upholstered furniture. I’m hoping they will last a long time, and they may because they shouldn’t get heavy use. So far, the cats are just sleeping in them and not scratching them. Yea!

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    1. I love the look of many of Ikea’s upholstered furniture but they are so small that they are too hard for me to use and uncomfortable for my six plus foot boys to sit in. I’ve been looking for a sofa and have decided I must purchase new because of the concern of bed bugs and such that could be in used upholstered pieces but I won’t be able to purchase one from Ikea sadly. I too like the slipcovers they offer.

      I have a few small things from Ikea that are well made but yes, you do have to be choosy and avoid the cheaper made items.

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  3. Holy Mackerals. WOW.

    Perfect and beautiful.

    You are correct. The table and chairs do look like they were made for each other, and it all looks amazing.

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    1. Thank you, Anon! I wanted to refinish that table for months but didn’t want to feel locked in to a style of chair that would match. The chairs had to be found first.

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      1. You’re welcome, Lois.

        I think of your art and work with refinishing furniture so often. You are part art/part magic.

        There is a VERY expensive furniture store close to where I live.
        they sent out a small catalogue..OMG, I kept it for a long time (the catalogue) just to get a good laugh.
        so many, maybe all of the items in the catalogue were hideously expensive…
        and they had this “crafty” theme. in reality, I think it was drawer fronts, and bits leftover from something (GRIN)..
        ex..a six drawer dresser, (three side by each), and I think it had a mirror on top. (cnt recall now).
        each drawer front had a different sort of raised edge design/different color and different knob. Three thousand dollars. and it did not even say it was solid wood (most likely some junky type of mixed board etc).
        as I say, I could not get over it.

        Your creations are mostly “recycled”/re designed, and SMASHING good artistry and design.

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        1. I think I may have seen the same piece you are describing. Not sure where it was but your description brings that piece to mind. It was extremely expensive and not at all to my liking. Don’t remember a mirror on it but could have been.

          If I were to put a name to my style it would be hard. I like many styles and let the home dictate how I decorate. In the studio apartment I went with more of a loft feeling where here I am finding myself drawn to a country look with the restored windows and such.

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  4. It looks wonderful, and I’m totally laughing at the idea of purposefully “distressing” a piece of furniture. Everything in my home got “distressed” the old fashioned way!

    And I have no opinion on Ikea since I’ve never actually purchased a piece of new furniture. Oh wait, that’s not true, I did buy an entertainment center at Target 20 years ago. There were plenty of used ones just like it in the thrift store, but they were already assembled, so they were too big to fit into my car!

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    1. I guess it is funny to think about purposely distressing a newer piece of furniture. 🙂 I had two reasons for doing so. First I wanted that look of years of use but on the other hand, when people see a newly finished table they worry about leaving marks on them. I don’t want anyone to be that uncomfortable when visiting.

      I am laughing and shaking my head in agreement on buying a new piece of furniture because it would fit in the car. I’ve had similar situations over the years when I’ve had to walk away from used furniture I really wanted because I didn’t have a truck to bring it home.

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  5. Hi Lois! Well, this could be a long response… :o! Firstly, I like the results you achieved with your little Ikea table 🙂

    While I definitely appreciate the quality of older, well-made and traditional furniture (and there is plenty of that in the extended family), we found that Ikea covered our needs very well over the years. I have also found that many items are of decent quality, contrary to what one may hear. Ikea first opened where I was living when I was 12 and as my mom was interested in modern and Scandinavian furniture I was allowed a couple of pieces for my bedroom. The small coffee table I chose for all my sit-on-the-floor homework, letterwriting and crafting stayed with me for 30 years as a coffee-table (perfect for my children’s tea-parties and crafting, too), was re-sanded and re-varnished once and eventually passed on to a charity shop when we downsized – it was so sturdy my children and even my husband occasionally sat on it (and he is a large man!) with no adverse effect. That is, in my opinion, an example of excellent quality!
    My visitors are often surprised to hear that any or most of the pieces in my home are Ikea. The bureau with matching bookcase atop it is now nearly 25 years old, looking good and completely intact with key. The extralong family dining table is unvarnished solid oak with tapering legs (needs re-oiling once a year, looks great) and now 11 years old – it won’t be going anywhere for a long time, as it can always be refinished. Most don’t recognise the sideboard (oak veneer) as an Ikea item, nor the solid oak-framed dining chairs (they will be getting new wood seats soon to replace the microfibre inset that is stained, now, though not frayed or shabby after 11 years). All my bookcases are Ikea, mostly the regular Billy, some with glass shelves and both filled and glass doors – do the job perfectly. I have rather a lot of books! One bookcase was from a children’s range to match the bureau, small and again, sturdy, another taller and graceful in my husband’s study along with another Ikea unit (second-hand) and fold-down table (spent years as a kitchen table – still smart). Two narrow Billy CD-bookcases stand in my kitchen and hold my cookbooks – they are a pleasant green, a limited edition about 10 years ago, I just took out most of the little shelves to make room for taller books and recipe files. A solid little wood bench holds the towels and sundry items in my bathroom. Since we don’t have built-in closets, a 2 metre wardrobe holds all our clothing and bedding, while we have slept on Ikea beds for 30 years – first a solid wood-frame one and now a metal-framed one we inherited from my daughter (the first was still in perfect condition but we downsized to a narrower bed in this house with smaller rooms). Our experiences with Ikea bed slats and mattresses have been good, too – a number of years ago we “invested” in an expensive mattress from an upmarket store which was a huge mistake so are looking forward to getting another Ikea one one day! Our wider metal-frame bed went to our holiday home with new, quite thin mattresses from Ikea and we sleep so well on it – guests (including Americans!) have enthused about what a good night’s sleep they got on it…

    Anyway, just to show that Ikea doesn’t have to be cheap and nasty! We have various other items in our home (console tables, chests of drawers, our daughters’ furniture etc. etc. ) and also in our holiday home, alongside inherited or other furniture and it is more than serviceable with a long life if correctly constructed, cared-for and dismantled if necessary. I also have very good kitchenware from Ikea – avoid the gimmicks to get quality. One can argue the ethics of a company of this size and domination, but isn’t that difficult anywhere, now?! They do a good job on recycling, anyway.

    As it happens, I am presently at my late grandmother’s house sorting all kinds of things – she lived here for 78 years, since the house was built. A few items will go to a museum, some have had very long and productive lives and have reached the end of their usefulness, others can and will be passed on. However, a number of 1930s pieces of furniture and household goods she always took care of will be making their way to our holiday home in France for a new life, and we’re looking forward to enjoying them there in my grandmother’s memory!

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    1. Ikea opened in my state about 20 years ago, but I didn’t visit the store myself until seven years ago. They do have some really nice pieces that hold up well. I’ve mostly inherited the Ikea pieces I have in my home (three pieces). I love their CD boxes which stack nicely and hold up surprisingly well for being cardboard. I keep DVD, CDs in one, sewing supplies in another, and even my fabric gift bags in one. They are very versatile.

      I have been looking for a sofa for my living room and ruled out Ikea because they are so low to the ground. My kids are over six feet tall so they aren’t comfortable in the smaller sized furniture.

      I haven’t considered the Billy bookcases after seeing how the shelves are sagging on the one my son has. Could be they have too many heavy books on them. 😉

      I too love the old, antique furniture that has such amazing craftsmanship but few pieces are within my budget so I love that I can finish Ikea pieces to give a similar look.

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  6. Table looks great! I like the simplicity of Ikea furniture. Shopping at Ikea, not so much – but when I go, I always enjoy looking at the teeny living spaces.

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    1. I too love looking at the rooms set up at Ikea but rarely go because I can’t stand the feeling of being herded through the store.

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  7. I LOVE what you did with that table. I hate the pine look. We have an IKEA here too and was always uncomfortable there with my claustrophobia. Did go when I bought my house so I could get several bookcases in white so they blend into the walls. Small rooms need light color. You are doing a great job with that place. I’m sure there will be lots of crafts done on that table. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Marlene. Yes, there will be lots of crafts done on that table and the dark stain will hide many accidents. 🙂 I too dislike the light pine, I guess it has its place but not here.

      I think I would do better in Ikea if I didn’t feel herded through by their arrows and singular walkway. Lots of great ideas there though.

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