How to Refinish a Table Farmhouse Style

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Our family has a long history with this coffee table. Today I am excited to share how to refinish a table while maintaining its character.

This table has been through a lot in our family. It’s been the resting place for five pairs of feet that have grown from tiny baby feet to, in one case, a men’s size 13. It’s been the dining table for thousands of meals as well as a game table, a coffee table, a pub table, and a work table. But there was one thing wrong with this table. I didn’t like that it was so dark and I had wanted to change it for a very long time. I finally decided to change it a few years ago and I can’t wait to share how easy it was to refinish this table farmhouse style.

How to Refinish a Coffee Table
A white couch and assorted pillows and a vintage hanging chandelier are also in the family room. There are peach blossoms in a vase and various neutral decor items on the coffee table.

Refinish a Table Farmhouse Style

Fast forward a few years and here is the table. It’s aged a bit and lost some of its paint but I love that.

It has even more character.

Painting this table was something I was very nervous about. I didn’t want to lose the chips and scratches that represent our boys’ childhood. Milk paint would allow the chips to stay chippy.

And years later it’s even better.

How to Refinish a Table

In case you didn’t remember what the coffee table looked like before, here it is. It’s a very dark brown and kind of didn’t look great in our family room.

Family Room White Sectional

But this was the problem. The table has a history in our family. The coffee table legs have chew marks from when our dogs Speffy and Sport were puppies. The top edge of the table, closest to the couch, has years of scuff marks from the kid’s soccer and baseball cleats.

I didn’t want to refinish our table if it meant I would lose the character of our table. So I decided to sand the table lightly and paint it with milk paint. I was pretty sure I could maintain the scuff and bite marks.

And the result would be a white farmhouse coffee table in our home.

When I finished, I sent my son Michael a text about the project. “I promise I kept all of the character and memories of this table. It also looks so much better and your mom is super happy. I hope you will forgive me for refinishing the table”.

You can guess who didn’t want me to refinish the table. Fortunately, he liked the new look.

If you look at how our coffee table used to look like below, you can see the puppy chew marks on the legs of the table!

Home Decor Ideas with Pink Custom Fabric

How to Refinish a Table DIY

What You Need to Paint a Table with Milk Paint

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Prepare the Table

How to Refinish a Table Before Photo

A light sanding was all it took to get this table ready for some milk paint. You must sand every surface. Pay special attention to areas covered with lots of paint or any type of varnish. You need to sand these areas well. (A smooth surface does not like milk paint and it might peel off in huge chunks if it isn’t sanded.)

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How to Refinish a Table DIY

Once the piece is sanded, wipe it off with a slightly damp cloth to remove all of the dust.

Next, mix the Milk Paint, per the instructions, and begin painting every surface.

How to Refinish a Table with Milk Paint

Continue to paint all of the surfaces. it is likely your piece of furniture will take more than one coat. I painted three layers of paint on this table because it just wouldn’t cover the dark wood!

This is how my coffee table looked after two layers.

I love that you can still see all of the cleat marks on the top edge of the table.

How to Refinish a Table DIY

There were a few places on the table where I sanded too much. To fix it, I painted more milk paint in the chippy areas and then sanded it very lightly again.

On the flip side, if the furniture doesn’t look chippy enough you can sand the areas where natural wear and tear may have occurred.

The last step is to cover the table with a polyacrylic finish.

Here is how the finished table turned out. The polyacrylic finish coat also sealed the chippy surfaces so the chips wouldn’t fall off!

How to Refinish a Table Farmhouse Style

Here is a closer look at the table. I love it!

Family room with white section, hanging chandelier, vintage white coffee table, and decor items in sage green and taupe.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is a good time to use milk paint? 

Milk paint automatically produces a bubbly paint texture, which is a perfect “chippy” distressed look. It creates the perfect vintage look for DIY furniture and wood projects.

Is milk paint and chalk paint the same thing?

No. Milk paint comes in powder form and will bubble and create a chippy look when it dries. You also need to sand your wood piece to remove any varnish when using milk paint. Chalk Paint has a heavy smooth finish and you will have to sand it if you want a chippy look.

I love the top of the table and it’s the perfect amount of paint and the dark wood showing through. Plus, you can still see the soccer and baseball cleat marks on the top left side!

It’s been a couple of years since I did this DIY.

What should I do next?

I have an idea but I am not sure. Any thoughts?

How to Refinish a Table

Decor Ideas

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Our beloved coffee table refinished with milk paint in a farmhouse style look.

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  1. Your table is gorgeous! You mentioned in your instructions that you completed your table with a poly acrylic finish. Is that finish a spray or painted on? Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Teresa! I used paint! I linked it in the what you need list if you want to use the same one!

  2. Wow, I love the way this piece of furniture turned out. It looks fabulous. I agree, there is nothing like holding onto special memories. You sounds like a sweet mom to. Thanks for sharing

  3. my opinion, doesn’t go with room, too ‘shabby chic’, never was a fan of that .
    I would have more ‘refined’, whatever that is, lol, in that room. if you are happy with it, that’s what matters, you can’t please everyone all the time 😊.

  4. How many packages of paint did you use for this project?
    Do you think it would work on a vbrick fireplace surround?

  5. I have a three seasons porch and everything in there is gifted from the roadside :~). Painted up white and any accent is with fun knobs I get at a local shop and pop of color pillow coverings. Have to try the milk pain. I like your explanation of the process and you still have the lovely piece and now the guys can make new “distress” marks for you.

  6. You’re happy with it, and that’s what matters. It’s a little too “chippy” for me. 😊 Personally, I would have used a chalk paint with light distressing, or restained it close to the original color with a matte varnish. I think the darker color anchors the room. Your room and house are lovely, however, and I enjoy your site as I’m crazy about old homes and their charm!

  7. Good Morning Leslie
    I finally bought the milk paint and I’m ready to go. I’m a little afraid that I may mess it up. My table is about 7-8 years old I bought it at pottery barn. I feel its too dark now for my living room. The table is as dark as yours. What I understood from the instructions I need to sand it just a bit and then start painting it. I can get the poly acrylic polish at ACE. I’m new to this so I want to make sure I don’t mess it up. Do you have a video I can watch? I enjoy getting your emails to see what you have created.

    Thank you

  8. I actually remember when you did this. I thought it was an awesome change! Thank you for explaining the difference in milk paint and chalk paint. I thought they were the same.

  9. Love the coffee table and so glad that you ‘kept it’ (along with all the memories). It looks fabulous. My husband a few years ago refinished my first purchase ‘solid oak’ coffee table and 2 end tables that I had before we got married (we have been married 40 years) and they have stood the test of time. I have always liked them and I still like them and now they look brand new and will last another 40 years.

  10. I just finished refinishing my grandmother’s old table using your tutorial and it turned out amazing! The before and after pics are truly impressive. I especially loved the tip about using a mixture of stain and wax for the finish – it gave the wood a great patina. Thank you for sharing your expertise and inspiring me to tackle this project!

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