Upcycled Farmhouse-style Kitchen Table and Chairs

Our farmhouse-style kitchen table and chairs are by far one of my favourite upcycled projects that I have done. It took hours of work and lots of patience (that darn red paint!) but man was it ever worth it in the end.

Upcycled farmhouse-style kitchen table
The red chairs around our kitchen table provide a fun and bright pop of colour.

I get compliments on it all the time, and every time I look into our dining room it makes me all happy inside because I just love it! It’s definitely got the farmhouse style I love, but the red chairs just add a pop of colour and fun. And in our house, with three crazy boys on the move, having our house feel fun (but still stylish!) is a bonus!

So one morning as I sat in my bright red chair at my beautifully coloured stain tabletop, I thought, “hey, why shouldn’t other people be just as satisfied whenever they look at their dining room?” And so here I am today, helping you get the dining room table and chairs of your dreams! Disclosure: this isn’t a quick project. It is simple enough to do, even for beginner DIYers, but you have to be willing to put in a few hours, and some elbow grease!

Farmhouse-style kitchen table: what you will need

  • a kitchen table and chairs (this is important)
  • an orbital/palm/hand sander
  • block sander
  • sandpaper (course, medium, and fine grit)
  • polyurethane
  • wood stain of your choice and colour
  • paint for the table legs and the chairs (depending on your current chair colour, you may want some primer or, at the very least, a paint and primer 2-1)
  • top coat protective spray
  • paintbrushes
  • foam brushes
  • roll of paper towel

Prepping your table

To start this project you need a kitchen table and chairs, old or new! I had some family friends give us their old dining room set for free. It was a well-used set made of solid wood in great condition (they just don’t make them like they used to!), that was calling out for a little bit of love.

Stock Photo of Table
I forgot to take a before picture, so here is a pretty close representation of what our table used to look like! Stock Photo taken from dituttiicolori.net/

Once you’ve got your furniture, you’re going to want to sand it all down. The best way to do this is by using an orbital sander on the top of the table. You’ll get some nice arm muscles doing this, trust me. For the table legs and the chairs I found the orbital sander a little tough to use, given all those corners and edges, so I opted for a sanding block. Try to get as much of the old poly/top coat off as you can. When you re-paint or stain it, the paint has a better chance to stick to the chairs/legs.

When you are sanding with the orbital sander on the tabletop start out with a course-grit sandpaper (something around 100 grit), then wipe the table down. You don’t want any bits of sanding dust sticking around when you stain. Go nice and smoothly, making multiple passes, rather than one or two deep, hard passes. You want to keep the surface of your table nice and flat! Next use the medium-grit sandpaper and then wipe the table down again. Finally, end off with a fine-grit sandpaper (something in the range of 200-220), and afterwards give your table one final wipe down. The fine-grit paper will give your tabletop a nice smooth, clean finish. For all the sanding, make sure you are doing it in the direction of the grain!

Staining your table

Now you’re ready for the staining! I would recommend staining the tabletop before painting the legs just because the stain can drip down. It’s no fun repainting what you’ve just finished.

Varathane Wood Stain
Varathane Ultimate Wood Stain Dark Walnut

I used the Varathane Ultimate Wood Stain Dark Walnut colour, but feel free to experiment with lighter or darker (or coloured) stains. You only need one of these cans (only $11.50!) as you actually don’t use very much. I just keep using the stain for all my other projects around the house – I love the colour!

Before you start, make sure that you’ve stirred the stain well, as the colouring sits near the bottom. With a paint brush, brush on the stain in the direction of the grain. You need to wipe off the excess stain after a minute or so (also in the direction of the grain – go with the grain people, go with the grain). Remember that the longer the stain sits on the tabletop, the darker the final product will be. Make sure to cover the entire surface of the table, trying to be consistent with the length of time you let the stain sit for. I worked in sections of the table to ensure an even finish.

After you are done staining, let it sit to dry, according to however long the stain you choose to use says for. Next comes the polyurethane (which I got from Canadian Tire)!

Poly coating your table

Minwax Polyurethane
Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane Clear Semi-Gloss

The poly brings out the warmth in the wood and stain colour you use, and provides durable protection for your farmhouse-style kitchen table. So, however many coats you want to do just depends on your personal preference, but try to do a minimum of three for a kitchen tabletop (after all, your tabletop will endure a lot of wear and tear). I did three coats and I find it is the perfect amount of warmth for my tabletop, without taking away from the farmhouse/rustic vibe I was looking for.

For this step I used a foam brush (cheap, which is perfect because you can’t reuse the same brush for each coat as it dries out after one use!). You don’t want to be overly generous with this, because it doesn’t take much to get the coverage and you are doing several coats.

You will have to read the container of the poly you choose to check for drying and re-coat times.

Painting your table base and chairs

After the tabletop was finished I moved on to the table legs. For these I just painted them white, but you could do whatever colour you wanted! I found the white legs really popped and contrasted really nicely with that rich, dark, wood tabletop.

After a couple of coats of paint the table legs were done (yay!).

Now, onto the chairs. To be perfectly frank with you, this was definitely the hardest, most tedious, frustrating part of the whole project. My mistake was going into it thinking that it was going to be one coat of primer, mayybeee two coats of red paint, and voila. Done. Beautiful. I also thought I could do this project in a couple of hours over the weekend. That joke was on me, for sure.

See, I don’t want you to go into this thinking it’s a quick project. Because if you go into it thinking that, then you will end up just as frustrated as I was. Between the sanding and painting the chairs (plus drying times), let alone staining and poly coating (including drying times) the tabletop, the time really adds up.

Farmhouse-style kitchen table
The farmouse-style kitchen table is the centrepiece of my kitchen/dining area.

First of all, I didn’t realize chairs with spindles are not easy, or fun, to paint. Secondly, red paint is the hardest colour to get full coverage with. Therefore, you can imagine the difficulty trying to cover up the green paint that was on my old chairs. It took me one coat of primer and four coats of red paint – and I probably could have done three or more, but I just pulled the “oh, I want a bit of a rustic, weathered look…and my kids will probably ruin them anyways,” and left it at that. And yes, they do look weathered, and yes, my kids have sunk their teeth, and forks, and toys into them, chipping them nicely.

Now you might not choose to do red paint, or have to cover up a dark green paint colour, so it may turn out easier and less work than it did for me! But consider yourself forewarned, haha!

The final step is just to finish off those chairs with a nice topcoat protective spray (I did a matte finish) to help keep the paint from chipping really easily and to give them a finished look. I noticed a big difference with the matte finish! I’m not typically one for glossy things anyway.

Farmhouse-style kitchen table
Upcycling is an inexpensive way to give new life to an old kitchen table.

Hopefully you’re in love with your new table and chairs as I am in love with my farmhouse-style kitchen table! I’d love to see how they turned out, so send me an email or post a picture in the comments.