Simplest Coffee Table (ever?)

About: Architect/designer based in SE Minnesota. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to peek in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to m...

For years I've made coffee tables for friends and family. It's easy if you take a resourceful approach to salvaged materials. I'll walk through how I made our current table. I'll also walk through a few substitutions you may have to make your base and table top.

Thoughts on coffee tables... coffee tables really are the centerpiece of a living room. Yes, we often think of a fireplace but in fact the fireplace was replaced years ago by the TV. As someone who streams all content the coffee table does the heavy lifting in our living room.

Step 1: Components

The drawing I put together is really overkill for this simple design. The important thing is to consider the Base + Top.

New vs. Used... I primarily walk through how to use salvaged materials. For this standard base you really only need two matching items that give you the required height . For the top a solid surface with the right amount of weight. You can always add screws to secure... for a solid core door I don't find it necessary.

Table Base

  • Wine Boxes... I went to a local bottle shop and sure enough they had a couple matching pine boxes in the back. Any good wine store should have a regular supply. Depending on the manager they may ask for a few dollars.
  • 5 Gallon Buckets... yes, I love a good bucket. If you're wild about honey one of these bulk honey buckets gets you halfway there!
  • Milk Crates... yes, we've found a simpler version. A couple milk crates would certainly serve but aesthetically may be lacking.
  • Electrical Spindles... this was always a favorite. As a former kayak guide we used spindles for years. The heavy duty kind can be uses outside. Electricians always have extra of the lesser grade version that could be used inside.
  • Chairs... abandoned chairs are everywhere. All that's necessary is to cut off the chair back and you have yourself a table base. Child size height chairs tend to be right for a coffee table.
  • Kitchen Containers... We burn through bulk olive oil. These bulk containers are a huge value in the kitchen and can easily be secured together with screws to support a top.

Table Top

  • Old Doors... as a regular volunteer and customer of my local Habitat Restore there are always an abundance of old doors. The markets for old doors vary here they typically cost between $5-$20. I recommend a solid core door. It's heavier, but the weight is valuable to have a solid table that doesn't move around on the base.
  • Old Desks... desks often have quality tops even when the bases are in poor condition. The same goes for most tables.
  • Old Windows... these are great if you like a glass top. Personally I don't. It always feels fragile.
  • Used Equipment... yes, an old surfboard is a bit cliche. Ski's could also work but would need a few fasteners. ---if you're looking for inspiration take a page from instructables office (not sure who had it...) and use an old airplane wing!!
  • Butcher Block... my favorite is a heavy butcher block. For me, there's no better surface (outside of teak) for use.
  • Stone Top... another great option but potentially too heavy. If you have a countertop manufacturer in the neighborhood you can often find from them 2-6" strips that are cut from counters. They are often broken going into the dumpster but worth an ask.

Step 2: Final + Features

A simple table. Yes, the top simply sits on top of the base. I prioritized a wide enough (2 foot) top that matched the length (6 foot) of the couch. From there the top simple needs to be aligned with the base. ---I find it helpful to also have a few books in the wine boxes but not necessary

Here are a few of the features:

  • Door Know Hole: Use this feature of the door to hide cords. The hole easily fits a small bowl. Shown in the cover is a charger and our radio (yes, a simple radio is far superior to any sonos setup!). --we are always tuned to #theCurrent out of MN. What's your favorite?
  • Storage: The wine box base hides our random piles of magazines.
  • Moving: The wine boxes will inevitably be useful when we one day move. Small feature but good to have.
  • Panels: The panels are easy to help sort mail... we each have our spot on the table. Nothing too intense but the simple structure is nice to have.

Thanks for reading! Jeff

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    jprussack

    Question 6 months ago

    Do any community managers know the profile name for the Instructables staff member who worked on an old airplane wing desk, circa 2011? --I'd like to follow

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