Four Dollar Side Tables

By Kate Riley February 23, 2012

Hello all, it’s almost Friday but I wanted to share one more DIY project I wrapped up this week with all of you.  A few weeks ago I scored some solid wood side tables at (where else?) a thrift shop and they were four dollars each.  Four dollars?  Sold!  The wood tops needed some work but I also loved the idea of redoing the bases a crisp white gloss paint.  Here they are:

side table before and after


Can you believe this price tag?  Hello, you’re definitely coming home with me!

four dollar price tag


The tops were in bad shape, but that’s nothing a little sanding and new stain won’t fix.

side table scratches


Here’s the cast of characters: spray primer, gloss white spray paint, wood conditioner and Minwax stain and polyurethane combo, also fine steel wool (not shown)

spray paint stain


Here’s the quick play by play, first I smoothed down the tops to remove any leftover varnish and get rid of the scratches with my orbital sander and medium grit pads.

orbital sander


Next I wiped down the tops and then covered them up with good ol’ fashioned plastic Saran Wrap and painter’s tape, then gave the legs a coat of spray primer and then two light coats of gloss white spray paint – I love RustOleum’s version.

plastic wrap and spray primer


Once the bases were fully dry I removed the plastic wrap, conditioned the tops with wood conditioner, then applied two coats of this Polyshades in Antique Walnut – allowing to dry between coats and using steel wool in between coats to smooth out the surface.

antique walnut stain plus poly


As great as it is to combine stain and polyurethane together, the tables needed another coat of polyurethane, so for that I used Minwax Wipe On Poly by itself (not shown).

stained and painted side table cg


For an even more detailed how to on staining, be sure to see this post on restaining a wood table top.


tables before staining


stained repainted side table cg


Four dollars each, not bad!

restained and repainted side table label


These tables have a crisp modern look to them, I love the clean lines, they would work well in so many different style rooms.  And they remind me of these frame side tables at Crate + Barrel for $349.

Pretty nice savings right?




  1. Huge fan of your blog. I gotta say, I ventured into a Thrift Store this past weekend…b/c I was inspired by your blog and I saw nothing that I felt could be transformed. I guess I don’t have the eye yet for the refurbished furniture. Am hoping after a few more months of reading your posts I too will be able to tackle my first furniture overhaul.

    I am actually thinking of trying to paint my husband’s dark bedroom furniture white to better match our shabby cottage style home….but I am more than a little afraid of tackling that job. Every time I read your blog and look at your project gallery, I am sure it could be done but I’m not sure I can do it! Will you be in San Diego any time soon? Would love to meet you and get some hands-on education as to painting furniture! The invite has been extended. = )

    • How kind Megan, thank you! Why I do have family in San Diego and might just make a trip there this summer!

  2. Those are gorgeous, Kate! I’ve been thinking of doing my tv stand the same way, dark top with white bottom. Anyway, great score! Your friend must love them. You should share her place with us once it’s all decorated. : )

    Have a great weekend!

    ~ Catie

  3. They look great! Very modern looking with the 2-toned colours. I imagine they would be really fun in a bright colour as well, like if they were used in a kids space. For $4 how can you go wrong??

  4. I love the stain color with the white! Gorgeous!

  5. Ok, now, what time of the day & week do you go to thrift stores? Why don’t I ever come across such great deals!!!!???
    And yes, pretty darn good savings, I say!

  6. Kate You are really opening my eyes. I was in a thrift store yesterday and passed on a couple of pieces similar because the were so contemporary. Great job!! I love them!

    Art by Karena

  7. Kate, those look amazing. One question for you, do you think the order in which you did the painting and staining was important? Was the order based on the colors, or the products, or completely random? I guess I had more than one ;-) Thanks a lot!

  8. Love love love this!!! Kate, how do you find such great deals… I mean, how do you know that you’ve found a great piece with potential. Are there certain things that you know to look for or to stay away from? Keep up all that you do! It’s all fabulous!

  9. I love these tables! Old tables go fresh and modern, for $4! And I love the dark wood/fresh white combo, they remind me of your stairs. :)

  10. Kate, HAHAHA, so funny to open up my email and see this post! I literally *JUST* completed my first refinish-and-staining project last night on a $12.00 dining room table (I kid you not) that I found at the thrift store (see pics of the table on my blog, although the finished look isn’t posted yet).

    What started out as a blotchy DIS-AS-TER because I hadn’t removed enough of the old varnish, soon turned into a beautiful table after I went over it again with the Polyshades in the same Antique Mahogony that you used. What once looked “blotchy” on the legs now looks distressed. Love it! Although, I have to say, your stained top and pure white legs is a combo I hadn’t considered for my table, but I see that if I ever want to “change it up,” I can always paint the legs white! LOVELY!

  11. I wanted to ask you, Kate, do you have a preference for one over the other–stain or paint? As I mentioned above, my table was my first staining project ever, and at first, I cursed it like a sailor and how I would “never stain again!!!” But after sort of figuring it out as I went along, I’m in LOVE with stain! The color and poly (I’m definitely partial to Antique Walnut) creates such a rich color, and it makes wood look expensive. And you can pair it with anything! So what are your thoughts on which you prefer, and any thoughts on when you would prefer to stain something versus paint it? Thanks! :)

  12. Wow! Huge difference and you make me feel like I could actually do this…thanks for the inspiration.

  13. Just wanted to thank you for publishing such an inspiring blog. I have gotten tons of ideas for furnishing our new home which will not only save us money but also keep some things from going into a landfill. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  14. Wow! You must have terrific thrift stores in Petaluma….down in So. Calif (Temecula) we don’t have such great ones. You seem to find so many great deals. Any tips on the best day/time to check these places out? Are they thrift shops such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.?

  15. Whoa! These are the kinds of projects that make my heart beat faster. And get my feet moving in the direction of the nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army. Inspiring.

    Glad that you talk about wood conditioner. It can make the difference between a beautiful staining job and a poor one. It seems to seal the pores of wood so the stain takes evenly. Great advice.

  16. I love these! Big redos are great, but the simplicity of rescuing these little finds and dressing them up, I love that. Small projects like this seem attainable to me, even with four little ones at home. I think I want a sander for Mother’s Day to try out sanding and staining for the first time. Do you always use wood conditioner?

  17. So glad you posted this. My husband is making me an endtable and he wasn’t convinced that a stained top with painted legs would look good. I knew it would look fabulous. Along with ending up with a couple of beautiful tables for your friend, you have proved me right and him wrong :-D! So it is a double win!

  18. I am so glad that I found this blog – such great ideas, and so inspiring.
    However, I have a practical question to ask. (I hope it hasn’t been answered elsewhere on your blog). I often see great furniture in thrift stores, etc. but I am always afraid of buying them, not because I don’t think I can fix up the pieces but, because I’ve heard so many warnings about bedbugs and second-hand furniture. I’m curious – have you ever encountered a store with that problem? How do you ensure that you aren’t inadvertantly bringing home these unwanted “pets”? I am so terrified of getting these things because I’ve heard horror stories about how difficult they are to get rid of. Any tips or suggestions?

  19. Wow! They look amazing and I agree with the previous commenter, your tables are soo much better than the Crate and barrel ones

  20. Amazing! You are a wizard. These tables look so high end. Your friend is so fortunate to have you as a talented friend. Her home will be so unique and tastefull when the work is done.

  21. OMG Kate..What a change..Definitely nicer than C & B..You are such a sweetheart to help your friend like this..I am going to request a Mouse sander for my birthday in May and give it a try on a few old pieces of furniture that I have..Looking at the old stuff that you have re-done makes my want to try..I will be looking back to your posts for advise!!

  22. I am looking forward to redoing my kitchen table with a stained top and white bottom. The tables look great and what a great deal!

  23. This is so inspiring. I have been looking for a coffee table but anytime I see one that is the size I feel the top has too many imperfections. I love the final results!

  24. Kate… all of your projects are soooo inspiring. I really need to finish organizing my garage so I can get started on some projects that you have inspired. I just have no space….. thanks as always for such an awesome post!

  25. Love the finished product! I have a couple of end tables about that size that I’m thinking about using this idea on.
    Have to tell you that my husband was able to get them for a quarter a piece over 25 years ago. He actually bought 4 (4 for a dollar!) and we’ve given one to his sister and one to our oldest son. Those little tables have been from Germany to New York to Indiana. They are by far the best bargain we’ve ever purchased.

  26. Thank you so much for your helpful painting tips. I am venturing into furniture refinishing and these tutorials are very much appreciated!

  27. Fantastic. Love the before and after photos! Also, didn’t know about the plastic wrap trick, I’ll have to try that.

  28. Absolutely love these tables! They would look so perfect in my apartment, I’m now going to be searching all of the stores near me for a similar find!

  29. I want to do something similar to my kitchen table and chairs. The legs are stained a green and I want them a white or black. Do you think they need to be sanded before being primed?

  30. Holy smokes those are gorgeous! I can’t count how many times I visit your blog for painting directions. I am in the process of painting and old farmhouse table that I use in my sewing room. It has a dark wood top and dark green base. I never knew about Zinser until I read it here. Thanks so much!! I use it for everything now. :o) Personally, I like the clean up and flexibility of using the water based, since our weather is finicky, here. I am from Petaluma and now live in S. MS. :o)
    Have a super week.
    hugs, Trish

  31. Kate. If in fact you do visit San Diego this summer, please let me know. I would love the opportunity to meet you….and show you the “ugly” dark furniture in question to see if painting it really is an option. We’re located relatively close to the airport — directly across the Bay.

    Also, what kind of circular sander do you use? Is it Black & Decker? I’m shopping around for one and would love a recommendation. Thanks!


  32. Beautiful job! I love it and plan on doing a project of my own using your example! I do have a question though, what is the attachment you have on the top of the spray can primer? What are the benfits of having that attachment and where do you buy it? Keep up the good work!


    • Hi Julia, that’s a spray paint “gun” and you can find them in the spray paint department, I find they help reduce finger cramping and increases even coating.

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