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

  1. paodepouf says:

    wow. i love it! well done :)

  2. Christy says:

    What?! I cannot express how much I love this. Brilliant.

  3. Patricia says:

    Gorgeous! Such a great personal touch to the piece too!

  4. 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

  5. hyzen says:


  6. Em says:

    Very well executed and gorgeous final product :)

  7. jess says:

    wow! love the paper design

  8. Nicole says:

    Cool! Well done.

  9. Jennifer Salvaggio says:

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

  10. tracy a says:

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

  11. Nancy D says:

    exquisitely inspiring

  12. Sarah says:

    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.

  13. This is inspiring! I dont ever want to skimp on a refinishing project again

  14. Claire says:

    wow I really love this! thankyou!

  15. caroline says:

    Great makeover! I love the personal touch!

  16. Asha says:

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

  17. sydney says:

    insane and awesome!

  18. Marge says:

    Gah!!! Amazing! The ink’s reaction to the varnish makes the look even more impressive.

  19. What a visionary eye to spot the potential in that original piece! Gorgeous make-over & hugely inspiring!

  20. WOW. Love it. I don’t think I’d have the heart to cut up such a pretty ink drawing. Maybe a scan or photocopy tho. Great work!

  21. Sue says:

    I really like this table. Great job.

  22. A Day in May says:

    Beautiful job! This table is so cute, you’d never know it wasn’t originally made that way.

  23. Erica says:

    Beautiful, beautiful job!!! I would love to have this piece in my home.

  24. May says:

    Amazing transformation. Your vision was perfect & excellently executed.


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.