Home Renovations

Clever renovation ideas and tips for the home renovator

Hall Table Makeover

Author: Anna
Source: House of Ralph

“But I want it, pleeeeeaase….” is a phrase we hear a lot in our house, especially from our pre-schooler. I’m forever saying “Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you can have it”. It’s tough to hear, I get it. I’ve had to listen to that annoying inner voice many times. Our hallway entrance is a classic example.

If I had my way, the hallway entrance table would be a slimline black cubist steel console with a slim marble top. Classic, timeless, stunning. Exactly like the glorious number below, which is so fancy it doesn’t even have a price tag. Never a good sign…“If you have to ask, you can’t afford it” as the saying goes…


I searched for months online, but all the options that made me stop in my tracks came with ridiculous prices, and I knew Mr House of Ralph would have assumed I was making a joke and laughed his head off if I even suggested it. Even as a combined birthday – anniversary – Christmas – everything present. There was one incredible moment when I spied a perfectly suitable black steel cubist frame in the Salvation Army skip, but shop policy dictates you aren’t allowed to be sold “broken” goods, and anything in the skip is no-go. I was even willing to invest in a carerra top and re-powder coat and fix the frame. Nope. Not to be.

Long story short, sometimes when your ideal is a black steel slim line cubist console with marble top, you end up with a colonial style number with faux dings and fugly orange varnish. Obviously. Here’s one of the Trade Me listing photos:

328719951 (2)

I know how this happened. I’m quite sentimental, and this particular Trade Me bargain reminded me of the gorgeous table in mum and dad’s hallway. Theirs didn’t have the awful varnish or faux dings though: it was the real McCoy. This one did however happen to be a good price for a solid piece of furniture with dovetailed joinery and shapely legs ($110). So there you have it. Sentimental cheapskate = not ideal furniture grab. Lesson learned. I knew too. As soon as I loaded it into the back of our minivan (yes, we are that cool) my heart slumped.

So here’s how I turned this classic case of buyer’s remorse around:

Purchase coating remover. With kids in the house and lack of a garage, our DIY projects are inevitably completed in the laundry, or say the ensuite. Because that’s totally normal. Anyway, for that reason I try to minimise nasty chemicals in DIY. Just makes sense. I got our coating remover from Mitre10 Mega. It was quite pricey, but it’s environmentally friendly and so far it’s been used on this hallway table and 2 x sets of drawers so pretty good value really.

resized coating

Purchase a cheap paintbrush that you won’t mind throwing away and a metal scraper (I initially used a plastic one, metal worked way better).

Use paintbrush to apply coating remover in a fairly thick layer. Ideally, you’d be doing this outside in warm temperature so that the product works faster. You can actually see it working, the varnish melts into a bit of a gluggy mess.


Wearing gloves, use your metal scraper to scrape off the goo. Wipe on paper towels and throw paper towels in a plastic bag as you go. You definitely need to be a tidy kiwi with this DIY.

test 2

Any flat surfaces will be easy peasy with this product (and so damn satisfying, it’s like peeling off PVA glue as a kid). Tricky curves (like, say on beautiful turned legs x 4) are harder. I actually did the flat surfaces first then left it for a good 6 months (good things take time?) trying to convince myself I loved the contrast of raw wood against old varnish before deciding I definitely couldn’t live with the gross orange varnish a single day longer:

test 4

When it comes to tricky curves/corners, I’m sure a better tool exists, but I ended up using steel wool combined with the coating remover. It worked OK. Rinse down with a damp cloth to remove any remaining product

Let wood dry and see if you’re happy with the finish or not. I actually finished this job by using my trusty hand-sander to get the last few bits I wasn’t happy with (mainly in the corners and tricky bits on the legs).

test 5

If you are a real pro, you’d immediately apply multiple layers of beeswax finish. If you are like me, this last step will remain a good intention for about six months. You’ll finally do it when some-one spills something on the raw wood and stains it because it immediately sinks in without a protective barrier. Like half a drink bottle from a school bag. Just sayin’.

Ahhhhh. Much better. The faux dings aren’t so terrible with the raw wood finish. I love the contrast against the dark walls, and that drawer is super handy. Finishing touch was a new knob from Redcurrent for a very agreeable $6.50. Welcome home buyer’s remorse item, welcome home indeed.





House of Ralph

Published:  25 July 2017.

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