90s Oak Table Makeover

I’ve been searching for a new table and chairs for a really long time.  Our set was second hand when we got it and we’ve beat on it really well.  I’d have kept it to make over but it wasn’t the right style or shape.  I finally found the perfect set and it was only $50!  This classic 90s oak pedestal table was exactly right. I really didn’t want to shell out a bunch of money for a table that my kids would eat at every day – they’re still in the dropping dishes and spilling milk phase of life.  The finish was flaking off this poor table and the grain of the wood had popped a little. Nothing was structurally wrong with it so I grabbed it and ran.  It was just what I’d been looking for and for that price I couldn’t lose.  Here’s the before – not bad.

$50 kijiji table makeover - Before

Step 1

Sanding.  I used a little palm sander and gave the entire table a good once over.  It’s not important to remove all the finish.  It’s not even that important to rough it up. What is important is that you go over damaged areas and make sure it’s all smooth.  If there’s old finish flaking off you want to smooth that out.  If there are dings and scuffs – smooth it out.  Don’t be shy – run your fingertips over it and feel for bumps and lumps.  Then sand them out.

Step 2

Primer. The paint I choose is a “paint and primer in one” and while I would have been fine with it alone if I was working on walls or with furniture that was already covered in a similar finish (latex paint,) with this table I just felt more comfortable using a stand alone primer.  I chose a “stain blocker” and followed the directions on the can.  Always remember to read the directions! If it says to do two coats then guess what you’re gonna do?  You’ll do two coats.  And check the can for drying times too.  If you do a good job on your primer then you’ll have a more durable finish in the end.  I used brush/roll on primer and then I used the same in a spray can to get the spindle chair legs and to fill in the cracks I didn’t reach well with the roller.

sand and prime

Step 3

Paint.  The paint you choose will determine how durable the finished item will be.  Flat paint is great for wall coverage but it’s not what you want for furniture because every nick and bump will show a mark.  For this table I used CIL Melamine finish paint.  I had great success with this but I have a few points of note.

  • This paint self levels which means, after you roll it on, it moves.  This is a good thing because it helps to minimize brush lines and roller streaks.  It means you’ll end up with a nice, smooth finish.  But it also means you need to be vigilant and only do light coats.  Because the paint moves a little after you apply it, you could end up finding a drip later when there wasn’t a drip at the time of application.  I did really light coats and made sure to circle around the project and touch up drips as soon as they formed so I didn’t end up with dried on drips in the finish.  This paint goes far and you do not want to be heavy handed – especially if you have grooves and detail in your piece like I did with the spindle legs.
  • Sand in between coats. Put on the first coat of paint and then let it dry for a couple of hours (to the specs on the can) then, take a fine sanding sponge and really gently, sand it down and smooth out any bumps.  I had stuck on fibres from my primer roller that I removed during this stage.  Remember to be GENTLE.  This is uncured, fresh paint and if you rub it too hard it will roll up and come off.  I used a foam roller for the paint coats so I didn’t have the fibre issue to contend with again.
  • Melamine paint needs time to cure.  This curing process is what gives you a really strong finish but you need to let the product do it’s job.  If you don’t let it cure, and you set a heavy dish on the top of the table it will sink into the finish and make a mark.  You don’t want that!  I let my table cure for three days before I brought it in the house.

I did two coats of paint on the chairs and pedestal of the table and three coats on the table top to give it just a little extra durability.  Then, I left it to cure as per the instructions on the can.  Then I left it for another two days because I just didn’t have time to deal with it and by the time I brought it into the house I was sure it was cured and safe to begin using.

sanding detail

repainted pedestal table

Here’s the final result!  Oh yes, please be a dear and tell my husband that this light fixture no longer works and we need a new one asap.  He rolled his eyes when I told him (I think he’s ready to be done with re-decorating chaos) but it absolutely doesn’t go anymore!  Maybe I’ll sell it and make up the cash for a new one.  Or maybe I’ll diy something!  Oh, it’s a slippery slope isn’t it?  I was so pleased that my other make over project – the $25 craigslist chairs – work so well with this table!  The whole set just makes me happy.

melamine paint dining table

It’s a bit tough to see here because it was so bright in my home today – but there are two colours.  I used White Whisper on the table top and chair seats / backs and Jefferson House on the table skirt and the chair legs.  I love White Whisper!  It has lovely natural tones and in the evening, when the light isn’t so harsh, the entire set feels soft and sweet in the space.  It looks great in bright light too – just more white and the subtle tones don’t come out as well.

painted oak kitchen table

I waited until later in the day to get a photo in the evening light.  This better shows the colour difference with the legs on the chair.  This just goes to show that you should consider the light in your home when you pick out paint colours – natural light makes a big difference.  In my case, in either light (day or night) I’m extreamly happy with the finish on these pieces.  We have had them in our home for about three weeks now.  Yesterday my daughter dragged her leg over a chair seat and the little metal beads on her pants made grey marks on the finish.  They wiped right off!  I couldn’t believe it.  This paint is tough!

chair repaint

Get more info on flipping furniture here.

* I’m on the CIL Decor Experts on the road panel and as such, receive compensation for in store appearances.  They didn’t ask me to do this post and they didn’t ask me to use their paint.  But I did, and I love it.  All opinions remain my own.



  1. You should check out Signature Lighting. They mailed out a coupon and with the sale that was already on I got a ceiling fan regular $340 for just over $100

  2. We have almost this exact same set. The top needs to be refinished, but I was thinking maybe painting would be better. But I’m not sure I can handle something so white. Do you have other suggestions for what I could do with it?

  3. Looks great! I would love to do this to my vintage 50’s maple dining room table and chairs because I loathe the color, but it’s daunting. Also it’s my husbands grandmother’s table so I’m not sure that would go over well with him or my MIL 😉

  4. I love this! I want to paint our set (and the hutch that goes with it) but Murray’s been hesitant. Showing him how well yours turned out might convince him….

  5. Love the end result ! I have been wanting to do so many diy furniture makeover projects [my daughters room and the living room] that 1) I dont even know where to begin and 2) I have no one to do them with ! Not that I couldnt do them alone, but it’s just so much more fun with someone else !

  6. Is this paint only available in Canada? I live in Indiana and there were no search results in my area. I wonder if there is another brand that is similar. This would work great for several applications that I have in mind. One being my oak dining table and another is an antique bed that I once put a crackle finish on and I’m having a hard time getting it off.

    • I believe it’s sold under the Glidden brand in the USA. It should be sold at Home Depot stores so I would inquire there if you have one in your area. Good luck!

    • Hi Ronda. You could use exactly the same product on a laminated table top as long as it was in good condition (not chipping and cracking.)

  7. Thank you! We have since wallpapered that wall and I think I might do a drum shade with some matching paper on the inside? Still isn’t done….. #keepingitreal


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