Before & After: Side Table Transformation

I’ll admit it: If I saw a refinishing project like this in front of me, with every inch covered in thick, glossy paint, I’d probably turn and run the other way. Refinishing furniture has never been my favorite thing to do, even though time and again I see Before & After projects where the patience required to strip down wood has unquestionably paid off, resulting in a beautiful piece. This side table makeover from Steph Chalmers is another great example of what can be achieved when you’re willing to take scraper and sander in hand, for many, many hours. However, it’s the intricate hand-painted illustrations that Steph adhered to the drawers that make this table really stand out for me; they add a beautiful and dramatic flourish to this newly streamlined piece. Nice work, Steph! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Time: 20 hours, spread over time (stripping and sanding: 6 hours; painting and attaching drawer fronts: 6 hours; ink drawing cut up for drawer fronts: 8 hours)

Cost: $20 for table (the rest was on hand)

Basic Steps:

1. Apply paint stripper to existing paintwork. (I used Citristrip, which is less toxic than other strippers and smells like oranges). Wait for paint to blister.

2. Carefully scrape off the paint with a tungsten carbide scraper blade.

3. Sand.

4. Undercoat with a primer. Sand.

5. Topcoat with a durable acrylic-based paint. Sand. Topcoat again.

6. Cut patterned paper to the basic shape of the drawer fronts; cut darted holes for the handles if they’re not removable like mine were.

7. Brush PVA glue onto the drawer front. Adhere paper to the drawer. Once glue is dry, trim the edge with a very sharp blade.

8. Varnish the paper drawer fronts. When dry, sand gently and then apply a final coat of varnish.

9. Use masking tape to mask the handles for detail painting. I wanted my attached handles to be black on the inside and white around the edge.

My basic advice is that a good scraper blade for stripping paint makes all the difference! Also, make sure your PVA glue is not too thick: A few drops of water might help to get the right consistency. If you’re using your own ink drawing, make sure you use an ink that won’t run or react with your varnish. I used India ink, and it bled when I varnished — thankfully I liked the effect. Be patient and wait until the glue is dry when trimming the paper around the edges of the drawer and always use a fresh blade. Lastly, for detailed masking jobs (like my handles), paint the masked edge with the existing color first. Then, once that’s dry, paint with the color you want — the tape line won’t bleed, and you will get a much crisper line. — Steph

Kristy Kelley

Wow, this is an amazing transformation! At a glance the drawers look like wicker. I hoping someday, I ‘ll have a before and after to send you. Maybe once my children reach an age where they are more self-sufficient …if there is such a thing. :)

— Kristy @ Wine Logic

Jennifer Salvaggio

My favorite part is the “happy accident” of the ink bleeding – I love how it looks. An elegant piece!

tracy a

those drawer fronts are amazing. before enlarging the photo i thought they were small stones and shells glued to the front! very nicely done


Wow, that is a tremendous transformation! I think you really have to have an eye for finding pieces with good bones/shapes, and of course loads of die-hard dedication.


I am in awe of your ability to see your vision and carry it out! Lovely!


Amazing transformation. Your vision was perfect & excellently executed.