Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tabling a Decision

Blogland is a lot like a spider web--everything connects to everything else, and you can really get caught up in it.

A couple of days ago, I stumbled on a blog called This Sorta Old Life, co-written by a couple named Cane and Rita who live in a 1970s split-level house.

They share a lot of their DIY projects, liberally sprinkled with their life philosophy, which is to live authentically and to honor the house you live in rather than wishing you had something else.  They spend a lot of time scouring thrift stores and junk shops to find light fixtures, artwork, blankets, furniture, dishes, and other items that fit the era of their home.

Living in a 1939 cottage, we have tried to do much the same thing, and we've learned one of the same lessons that Cane and Rita have--a house evolves as you live in it, and you have to keep making adjustments so that it not only looks like it belongs in the era in which it was built, but also functions for the people living in it now--us....

Although we (well, mostly me) are always tweaking our house, for the most part, we've gotten the big things, like furniture, right.

Except for the kitchen table....

We're now on our fifth kitchen table, and I'm pretty sure we finally got it right, but it took four false starts to get there...

I'll apologize in advance for the lack of legitimate pictures in this post--this is going back five years in our history, long before I thought about blogging.

When we bought the house, the previous owner was downsizing and moving to San Francisco, so she was selling a lot of things.  She had an antique dark oak round table in the kitchen that she was using with some vintage office chairs.  It looked kind of like this:

We liked the look and bought the table from her, but she didn't want to sell the chairs. We quickly discovered that the table really didn't work for us and we couldn't find chairs we liked that looked good with it.  So we got rid of that table and while we searched for something else, we used a blonde one from Ikea that I had bought for my daughter to use as a desk in the townhouse we lived in when she was in high school.  It was similar to this:
Then one day shortly after we moved into the house, we were shopping at the now-closed Linens N Things when we found a square, stone-tile-topped table on clearance on the sidewalk.  With our 20% coupon, it came to $79.99.  We loved the color of the wood, as it matched the wood trim in our kitchen, and the stone tile top was very similar to the top of a hutch we had recently bought for the kitchen.

We then bought four chairs at Target that matched the wood (they will show up again later in this post).

I really liked the stone table not only for how it looked but also because the tile top was really practical--no worries about rings from wet glasses or burns from hot pots.

But the square shape wasn't great--the table was tight width-wise and not long enough, especially when we had a larger group of people like at Thanksgiving. So we gave that table to Christine to use in the house that she rents with three other girls.  They could use some chairs--they have one wood chair and filled in the rest with blue "bag chairs":

Our next table was from Target--it actually was a set with the chairs we had already bought there but could be purchased separately:

This worked, and we were able to lengthen the table even further by adding a small folding table for our big holiday meal:

But unlike the stone-topped table, this wood table was not practical. The finish on it was thin, and we like to cook and bake a lot. I was always worried about covering it up so that we wouldn't damage it. I love distressed things, but new tables don't look so good distressed--they just look banged up.

Plus, and this was the real issue, I hated having a matched set from Target in our house--it just didn't feel right.  I knew that we would eventually change it, but we weren't actively looking for anything else.

Then, about two months ago, we stopped at one of our favorite antique shops, Brandywine View in Chadds Ford, PA, just to browse.  As soon as we got out of the car, we spotted a small pine farmhouse style table.  It spoke to me.  I could envision it covered with racks of cooling cookies.

We bought it and gave the Target table to Alex and Ashleigh.  We kept the chairs because they're sturdy and we like the shape and style.  But I hated the way the wood of the chairs looked with the pine table, so that's when Annie Sloan chalk paint came into the picture.  Here is what we have now, and I absolutely love it:

The pine table is even narrower than the Target table (which was narrower than the square one), giving us some much-needed space between the hutch on one side and the butcher block on the other. Our solution to the holiday dilemma this year will be to get a piece of plywood 8 feet long, with the width cut to 3 feet, and just place the whole thing over this table with a tablecloth on it when everyone comes to our post-Thanksgiving dinner.

This probably all sounds crazy, but we're really trying to strike a balance between what works for us from day to day while also allowing us to accommodate our friends and family in a very small space on special occasions.  And we want to do all of that while honoring the spirit of our house.

Did we waste some money?  Well, that depends on how you look at it.  We traded the round oak table for a brand-new door, which we then donated to the ReStore--nothing bad about that.  We gave a table to each of my kids, so that feels good and fair, too. I sold the Ikea table to a young woman who was getting her first apartment--she was thrilled to get it for $50.

There is one more table in our life--the Craigslist leftover that we bought because we wanted the chairs for another project.  We stained it to look like a Union Jack after seeing a similar one done by Ashley at Domestic Imperfection.  

I absolutely love it, but so far it has resisted fitting in anywhere.  It didn't work at all in our kitchen here, and it was too big for the dining room at our beach cottage.

But I'm confident it will find a home somewhere....


  1. Thanks for such kind words about our blog. I had to smile reading this post--it sounds so much like the kinds of experiences we have. I was especially interested because we've been talking about our kitchen table for quite a while now. We know it's not what we really want, but we're not sure what we do want. We've got some chairs that came to us free, but they need paint--and we've been talking about painting them different colors, just as you have here. Love your table and the chairs--and would like to know more about using ASCP.

    1. Rita, the ASCP was fun to work with, but it's pricey if you want to go the multiple colors route! (I have a link in the post above that goes to a post I wrote about the paint.) I did a similar multi-color approach for chairs at our beach shack using spray paint, which was much more economical. My cottage makeover post ( has pix of that set of chairs (in the dining room section). I used pastels there, and they came out nice too. I finished them off with several coats of water-based urethane that I had left over from a floor project, so those chairs cost me $60 for all four plus a total of about $20 to paint them. I do like the effect. Thanks for stopping by--I am continuing to explore your wonderful blog!