How to Make a Shabby Chic Coffee Table

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The popular shabby chic design trend goes by many names and permutations. Cottage style is exemplified by smaller pieces with less adorned frames and finishes. Wabi-sabi, a Japanese-inspired look, shares this preference for the simple but has a more washed-out palette, typically centering on antique whites, stone, faded earth tones and stained wood. French country brings in more color and adornment, sometimes with skinny carved legs and hues of cornflower blue and saffron yellow. Rustic decor centers around more solid pieces with wider legs. Finally, the traditional shabby chic style features rehabbed and repurposed junkyard gems, flea market finds and attic treasures done in distressed finishes and pale colors. Use these design guidelines as a starting point for making your own shabby chic coffee table.

Things You'll Need

  • Table base
  • Table top
  • Paint
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Determine the style of coffee table you prefer. A pedestal style table works well in tight spaces but takes away the option of hidden storage underneath the table. A low, simple table keeps the emphasis on the surrounding furniture and natural light. A round table evokes country farmhouse style.

  • Visit yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets and the garages and attics of friends and family to find inspiration and locate materials for table bases and table tops. Your coffee table will evoke the shabby chic style more if you recycle or rehabilitate old pieces rather than use new pieces. However, if you find your ideal table new, you can still add faux finishes, distressing and accessories to make it shabby chic. Some possibilities for coffee table materials include old windows, small wooden doors, glass tops, large stools, benches, shipping pallets or simple tables that you customize in shabby chic style.

  • Attach the supporting table base to the tabletop. A pedestal base with a circular top may require drilling holes and nailing the pieces together, or you can use a liquid nails product. If you have a heavy glass tabletop, you do not need to adhere it but should be sure the base covers enough area to support it well You also can use wooden brackets. For a traditional rectangular coffee table, attach four legs by drilling holes and screwing or nailing them at each corner, checking that the legs are even and the table is stable.

  • Create dimension by adding architectural elements to your shabby chic coffee table. You might nail lightweight wooden trim with a raised or engraved design along the edges of the table. Ornate wooden brackets between the legs and the underside of the table give it a fanciful look.

  • Paint the wooden sections in a shabby chic style. Nothing says shabby chic more than a distressed finish in antique white or an icy pastel. You can create this look quickly by painting the wooden sections a dark color, such as cobalt blue, espresso brown, poppy seed black or bottle green. Allow the paint to dry and then cover it with a single coat of translucent antique whitewash. The underlying darker color should show through. Use fine grain sandpaper to gently wear away the finish along corners, drawer pulls and edges.

Tips & Warnings

  • Accessorize your DIY shabby chic coffee table with chipped teacups, vintage textiles or a simple glass vase filled with wildflowers.
  • Take care in removing old layers of paint on vintage pieces that may have lead paint finishes. Do your work outside, wear gloves and dispose of all old paint properly.

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