How to Make a Table Look Rustic


The rustic style in home decor goes by many monikers, including shabby chic, cottage style and classic country. These trends favor vintage tables and flea market finds in natural earth tones or pale pastels. The Mexican and Tuscan rustic style tends to utilize chunky wooden furniture with light or medium stains, while the French-country look leans toward weathered pieces with artisan details such as hand-painted trim. The wabi-sabi trend, influenced by the Japanese aesthetic of preferring the modest and unadorned over the high-end ornamental, features natural materials in simple whites, antique whites or natural finishes. Regardless of which rustic decor style you choose, the dining table can serve as a focal point for the entire room.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint or stain
  • Paintbrush
  • Sandpaper
  • Textiles
  • Accessories

Setting a Rustic Table

  • Clear the table. The rustic look tends to be more sparse than cluttered, so create a nearby storage space for objects that tend to pile up on the table, including bills, knick-knacks and ornamental objects.

  • Choose appropriate textiles. While the shabby chic look may feature a tablecloth in a faded floral or an icy pastel, most rustic dining rooms contain more exposed wood than covered surfaces. Use a table runner made of bamboo or rattan to add texture without covering the wooden surface. Woven placemats in muted or earth tones, organic cloth napkins or simple handwoven cloth bowls are other options.

  • Select a centerpiece that evokes rustic style. For a rustic table, accessories made of natural materials work best. Display a battered tin tray lined with river stones or shells, or a simple wooden plate or bowl filled with nuts or bread. For a splash of color, fill a glass bowl with lemons and limes or a tin bucket with wildflowers and sprigs of herbs from your garden.

  • Extend the look with lighting. Simple tea lights in glass votive holders or white pillar candles in wrought iron holders have a rustic charm. A row of Mexican saint candles gives a rustic table a bit more color. A vintage chandelier in wrought iron, holding candles or small flame-shaped lights, casts a moody glow over a rustic table.

Refinishing Options

  • Determine the table finish you want for a rustic look. If you have a dark wooden table, a simple antique whitewash applied in a single coat so that the darker colors show through creates a classic rustic appearance. If your table is made of unfinished wood, resist the temptation to give it a glossy finish, opting instead for a matte sealant over the bare wood.

  • Use a fine-grain sandpaper to create a distressed appearance, especially with tables that have been painted. Gently sand the paint around corners and at table joints, distressing the surface and giving it a time-worn look. Test out the effects of using an electric sander in some sections, or making small dents and chips with chains or hammers. Weathered gray wood such as cypress provides a natural material for the rustic style.

  • If creating a table from scratch or replacing the top of an existing table, choose a natural, unfinished wood that ages with a weathered appearance. Cypress is a classic choice for tables in the rustic style due to its durability and silvery-gray tones.

Tips & Warnings

  • Functional accessories such as food, wine and flowers provide suitable accents to a rustic table.
  • Avoid crowding the table with too much tableware, centerpieces and accessories. The rustic look is more sparse.
  • When refinishing a table, always work in a well-ventilated area. Wear a face mask and protective gloves if working with solvents or other chemicals.

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  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images
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