It’s tough realizing when the time has come to part with furniture you’ve had for a long time. The coffee table at my parent’s house lost its appeal as my family’s tastes have changed. Most of the parts are intact, so it was a little painful thinking about this piece of furniture ending up in a landfill. One of my courses this term at the University of Waterloo is about Hands-on Sustainability (INTEG 375) and over a few weeks we were taught skills in rescuing objects from the waste stream. It was serendipity.
The table has an elliptical shape, resembled beans in colour, and shined with a gloss top coat. A decorative chrome ribbon ran along the circumference. This modern design clashed sharply against the bumps and scratches accumulated over the years as well as the chew marks contributed by our late dog. Though the design didn’t age well, the table was also kept in our living room for far longer than it served its purpose: it wiggled and wobbled and shimmied when moved, another issue to address if the table was to have a second life.
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Step 1: Inspect
This table’s wobble involved both minor and major fixes. It was helpful to take the table apart—screws, nuts, washers, and all—and see what may be causing the problem. Mostly, the fasteners only need to be tightened.
Step 2: Repair Any Broken Parts and Restore Functionality
In one area, however, the connection between the table leg and the bottom shelf severed along with the chunk of wood containing the screw hole. I fixed the issue by gluing the wood chunk back to the leg with white glue and clamping the pieces together overnight for a flush fit!
Step 3: Simulate Age
Feel free to exercise your creative muscles. Sanding was especially appropriate with this project because the gloss top coat had to be removed to dull and make an impression of age. Focus on areas of the table that are high use and would have experienced more fading over time, such as edges.
Antiquing furniture can help justify scuffs which can be a lot of work to cover up; instead of approaching scratches as flaws to mask, consider how they add character and story to a piece!
Step 4: Remember to Wipe Down Intermittently and Review How It Looks Without Dust!
Step 5: Create a Uniform Aesthetic
My coffee table had the added challenge of paint chipping in some areas which betrayed the youth of the wood. While sanding lets the dark bean-paint transition into this colour, chipping created a hard edge. These features seemed to beget “damaged” rather than “well-loved” so I smoothed them out and darkened the area with diluted black paint.
Step 6: Reassemble and Add Some Finishing Touches!
Step 7: Finding a New Home and Picking Your Next Project
Hilariously, while the original plan was to return the updated table to my family, my mother had acquired a new table by the time I finished this project! Thankfully, perhaps because I kept universal appeal in mind (“objectively attractive”!) a classmate in INTEG 375 asked to take it home. The rustic style can be an acquired taste even when done well, so I can imagine I may have otherwise encountered apprehension from charitable organizations with accepting a project like this for donation. I'd like to think the table would have done well in a silent auction at a fundraiser, though!
I didn't expect to feel so empowered after this taking this course; repair is now an option I have when belongings are no longer working. Cradle-to-cradle design is a systematic issue, but there is a civilian perspective to sustainability. Something totally actionable is to challenge the notion of "it's broken so I have tothrow it away."