A few months ago, I realized that I was continually drawn to a particular style of modern coffee table – a long table with shiny chrome legs that connected flat against the floor on the short end of the table, and a thick block of brown wood on top.

I found a good representation of the style I wanted at AllModern.com (the one on the right is currently $145) but really, the style can be found in many modern home furniture stores. I wanted to try to get the look myself inexpensively and also find a good project for learning how to restore old furniture.

What I found:

Rusty metal base and scuffed ugly laminate top.

As usual, Craigslist came to the rescue. I found a wood laminate table for $30 that was the perfect shape. It had been sitting in a garage for years, and the metal legs were rusty and the laminate was scuffed and stained. I’m not sure it even was originally meant to be a coffee table, because it’s very low to the ground.

What I did:

I unscrewed the table top from the base. I started with the metal base and used steel wool to remove all the rust from the legs. Then I used progressively finer grades of sandpaper to smooth out the scratches from the steel wool as well as the years of wear and tear. Then I finished by applying metal polish with a microfiber cloth. The end result isn’t a mirror finish, but it’s close.

For the table top, I sanded the smoothness away with rough sandpaper, wiped away the dust with microfiber cloth, and applied a plastic primer, because that’s what my research said would be best to apply to wood laminate first. Then I applied two coats of chocolate brown all-surface paint, sanding with fine sandpaper in between coats.

Finally, I sprayed Rustoleum clear gloss spray over the entire table and screwed the table top back on.

The end result:

Base is now totally rust-free, mostly scratch-free, top is painted a semi-gloss chocolate brown.

The picture above was taken with flash on, but in normal indoor lighting there is no glare on the top, and the metal base looks almost entirely smooth. (Stupid harsh lighting bringing out all the flaws…)

I’m pretty happy with the project, though if I had to do it again I’d want to try spray painting the top instead of using a paint roller. On large, flat surfaces, it’s too easy to make the coats too thick, so the paint on the table is thicker than it had to be.

Otherwise, I like the finished table, and it looks great in my living room!

My cost:

  • $5 for steel wool to remove the rust (used 1 in the pack of 4 = $1.25)
  • $30 for the tables on Craigslist
  • $15 for rough, fine and superfine sandpaper (used 1/2 = $7.50)
  • $10 to buy a bottle of metal polish (used 1/4 bottle = $2.50)
  • $8 for a small can of brown paint
  • $5 for the can of plastic primer
  • $5 for Rustoleum clear gloss spray for the finished product (used 1/2 of can = $2.50)

Actual total = $78, Adjusted total = $57

Other tools used:

  • Sanding Block
  • Paint Tray
  • Paint Roller
  • Microfiber cloth