Before & After: A Basic Mid-Century Side Table Gets Dressed Up

Mid-century furniture has come full circle, emerging as some of the most on-trend shapes in today's most stylish spaces. And yet, some of the classic details of mid-century design still fall into the "dated" category -- think Formica surfaces and faux brass. Luckily, a few inexpensive supplies are all you need to transform a retro piece into something that will last for another 50 years. We challenged ourselves to revitalize a $10 thrift-store side table using nothing but marble contact paper and spray paint, and even we were surprised by the results. Here's how to get the look on your own.

A mid-century side table gets a face-lift with budget supplies.
(Carrie Waller)

Things You'll Need

  • Mid-century side table
  • Screwdriver
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Microfiber towel
  • Drop cloth
  • White spray paint
  • Gold spray paint
  • Marble contact paper
  • Razor blade

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Step 1

First, you need to track down an authentic mid-century side table for your makeover. Try searching places like Craigslist, local thrift stores and estate sales. We found ours at a local Habitat for Humanity Restore for just $10. Before, the side table lacked everything but good bones. The shape was on point for today's trends, but the dated faux finish and dingy brass were begging for a makeover.

Before the makeover, this side table was just plain dated.
Carrie Waller
Step 2

Get started with your furniture makeover by dismantling all the pieces so you can address each surface independently. In this case, we used a screwdriver to remove all the hardware holding the two tabletops to the iron bases. Be sure to set aside the screws in a safe place for reuse during the final phase.

Dismantle the table before painting.
Carrie Waller
Step 3

With the table dismantled, wipe down each piece with rubbing alcohol using a clean, dry microfiber towel. Make sure you wipe down both the base and the tabletop pieces. Having clean surfaces ensures the paint and contact paper will adhere to each surface properly.

Rubbing alcohol helps cut through 50 years of dirt and grime.
Carrie Waller
Step 4

Next, place your furniture pieces on top of a drop cloth in a well-ventilated, preferably outdoor, area. Then, use spray paint to cover the different sections; in our case, we used white for the base and gold for the feet and tabletop edges. You'll want to use thin and even coats, and it likely will take two to three layers to cover the surfaces completely.

Spray-paint each piece of the furniture to give them new life.
Carrie Waller
Step 5

Our side table featured a nice brass detailing on the edges, but the finish left a bit to be desired. So, after wiping it down with rubbing alcohol, we used spray paint to bring back the bright gold look. Since we planned to add contact paper on the top of the table surface, we didn't have to worry about masking off the edge, as seen here.

Gold spray paint adds new metallic shine to the edges of the tabletop.
Carrie Waller
Step 6

Applying marble contact paper was the final step in refreshing this mid-century side table. To get the look on your own furniture, cut a piece to size, but make it a little bit larger than the surface to allow for trimming. Center the paper on the surface, sticky side down, then use a razor blade to carefully cut away the excess paper along the edges. Use a credit card or piece of cardboard to push out any bubbles from under the paper as you lay it down. Choosing contact paper that can be repositioned or removed later makes the job easier.

Marble contact paper can be cut to size in order to fit any surface.
Carrie Waller
Step 7

Finally, with the marble contact paper in place and the spray paint dry, use a screwdriver and the original hardware to reassemble the pieces.

After all of the pieces get their makeovers, reattach all the parts.
Carrie Waller
Step 8

Thanks to just a few inexpensive supplies and on-hand materials, you can completely refresh a mid-century side table and gain the envy of your style-savvy family and friends.

Style your refreshed mid-century table with books and more vintage accessories.
Carrie Waller

Tips & Warnings

  • Always wear a face mask when using spray paint.
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