How To: Paint a Wooden Coffee Table

Once upon a time, my husband bought a boring wooden coffee table on Craigslist for $30.  Said coffee table lived a boring life, holding our boring remotes, and being a fat cat’s boring hangout place while we watch TV. BUT THEN THINGS GOT WAY LESS BORING. I was recently inspired by a photo I saw on Door Sixteen, about Barb Blair’s Furniture Makeovers book. (This book is on my reading wishlist! Gotta get it.) I literally ran to the other room and yelled “HUSBAND, is it ok with you if I paint our coffee table 8 different colors?! And luckily, he said yes. Buh-bye boring coffee table. Hellooooo new and exciting favorite piece of furniture!

Here’s what we were working with before:

table before with cat

See what I mean about the cat?

And now with it’s brand new paint job:

how to paint a wooden coffee table

Our living room is so much cheerier now.

Here’s how I did it:

1) Go to your favorite hardware store and pick out 8 colors that you like.  Grab an 8oz sample pot of each, which are about $3 apiece.

coffee table colors

These are all Behr Premium Plus – paint and primer in one. I still have a bunch left over, too! I also used a random white paint that I already had on hand.

2) Sand the surface of your table. The goal is to smooth any rough areas and get it ready for the paint. Paint adheres better to a freshly sanded surface. Use a damp rag to clean the surface of any sanding dust.

sanding the table

I took this picture and realized the mistake I was making – sand WITH THE GRAIN of the wood! I finished the rest of the table correctly and it turned out fine.

3) Use a tape measure to find the middle points of all 4 sides. Mark with a pencil, then use painter’s tape to tape off the first triangle you will paint. I painted each section with 2 coats, let it dry (it didn’t take too long, maybe 20 minutes?), then taped off the next section. The part you have to be most careful with is your tape placement. You want it to be exactly lined up when you do each section, so they all meet in a clean point in the middle.

taping the table

4) Once all the triangles were painted, it was time for a clear coat to seal it all in. First, I tried the spray sealant I used on this table I painted. Uhhh, that was a mistake. You can see in the picture below the lines the spray makes.

See those spray lines? Not good!

See those spray lines? Not good!

5) I took to the internet and found this post by All Things Thrifty. Thanks, Brooke! So I went back to the hardware store, and grabbed some Minwax Water-Based Polycrilic. I got it in Satin, but I think Semi-Gloss would look great too. 3 coats later, the lines are gone, and the coffee table is all finished!

table with clear coat

Happy new table. Happy old dog.

painted coffee table

This was seriously so fun and easy (and cheap!). I can’t stop thinking about all the other stuff I want to paint – I’m looking at you, kitchen table.

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6 thoughts on “How To: Paint a Wooden Coffee Table

  1. Hi there! Great table!
    Question- after your sprayed the sealant that left lines, did you sand it off and re-seal with the polycrylic? or did you just go right over it? I’m in a similar situation and would love some feedback. Thanks!

    • Hey Tiffany! Great question – I went right over the spray lines without sanding anything. Didn’t want to mess up my fancy paint job! After applying the poly I couldn’t see the lines at all. Hope that helps, good luck with your project!

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