I have been searching for a coffee table for our living room for the last three years. We’ve had a lot of place holders, but I was still looking for the one. My dream was a round table with storage. (I wanted a round one to offset the L-shape of our couch.) Seems easy enough, right? Wrong. I would find a few here and there, but they were either not the right size, didn’t have storage, or were too expensive. Our current coffee table place holder is a chest from Michael’s childhood.
We’ve had so many people tell us that they really like this chest. The kids love it, too. It holds their books, and they like to sit on it while watching television. (Although lately, Eleanor has been making me a nervous wreck, because she keeps climbing up and walking around on top of it.) It seemed just okay to me. There’s nothing fancy about it. It’s a simple box with simple hinges. It does have storage capabilities, but it’s not round, and it’s too low. It’s like the best friend who’s always been there for you, but you’ve never really thought of him/her as more than a friend. Until one day while you’re crying on his/her shoulder, complaining about how you can’t seem to find the right one, you realize it’s them. It’s always been them, and you’re not sure how you overlooked it for so many years. Yep. Welcome to my coffee table love story.
This whole realization started with furniture legs that I got from my friend Jacklyn. They were leftovers from a project. She was moving and didn’t want to take them with her, so I snatched them up. (She had already painted four of them white, but this is what they looked like when she bought them.)
The legs were hanging out in the garage. I would stare at them every time I went in there, wondering what I would do with them. Then one day I saw the legs while I was thinking about how I wished the chest in the living room was taller. Light bulb! On my way back in, I grabbed the legs and held them up next to the chest. I thought they might work, but they might also be too tall. Michael helped me hold the chest up while I shimmied the legs underneath it to get a visual on the height. The legs were too tall. Dreams dashed. I left them on the credenza for a few days. Every time I looked at them I thought, “I really wish those would have worked.” and “I really need to put those away.” Then one day, fed up with all the wishing, I told Michael to cut the bottom off one of the legs to see if it would help.” It worked! With the bottom portion gone, they were the perfect height. Yay!
Nonetheless, it wasn’t “happily ever after” just yet. I was worried that the screws used to attach the leg plates would go through the chest, so we used a piece of leftover plywood to beef up the bottom. Michael traced the bottom of the chest onto the plywood to use as a guide, and then he used the jigsaw to cut it out. He also sanded the edges with our orbital sander.
Once that was all said and done, I grabbed a can of white spray paint and sprayed the edges of the wood. I also sprayed the bottom; on the off chance that any of it showed once everything was assembled.
Once the paint dried, Michael used the brad nailer to secure the plywood to the bottom of the chest. I knew that the white of the wood would tie into the white of the legs, but it still looked like two separate pieces.
I wanted to maintain the wood finish of the chest, so I needed to find a way to add white to the chest without having to actually paint the whole thing white. I decided to use my Silhouette Cameo to make a stencil for the top. I didn’t want anything too busy, so I opted for something typographical. Michael and I started looking at quotes. It was so hard to choose one. It felt like we were choosing our epitaph. Whatever this quote was going to be, it had to speak to us and sum up our entire lives – on a coffee table. We did finally find one that we each liked, but we couldn’t agree on a choice. Michael liked:
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment
until it becomes a memory.” -Dr. Suess
“Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging
have the courage to be imperfect.” -Brene Brown
Michael wasn’t sold on mine, and I thought his was too sad. The search continued. Then I found the lyrics to A Wonderful World.
“I see clouds of blue and clouds of white
bright blessed days and dark sacred nights
and I think to myself
what a wonderful world.” -Louis Armstrong
I don’t know why, but it felt right. I showed it to Michael and he thought so, too. So I busted out the Silhouette Cameo and got to work. I typed the quote in the program on my computer and hit cut.
I cut the quote onto adhesive vinyl.
When it was finished cutting I used a small hook (came with the machine) to remove the vinyl letters.
I could have saved the letters to use the quote for something else, but I was in a hurry, so I just stuck them all together and threw them away.
After all of the letters were removed, I pressed transfer paper onto the top of the vinyl. It’s basically a sticker. If you are cutting something that has a lot of different parts, rather than taking off all the parts separately and then trying to reassemble them, you can use the transfer paper to pick up all the parts as one.
I took Emerson and Eleanor outside with me to put the stencil on the chest. This is where it all started going downhill. I should have just waited until Michael was finished with work. Trying to finish a project in a garage with two young children is just asking for trouble. It seemed to be going along fine at first. I lightly sanded the chest where I was going to put the stencil:
I stopped a few times to help Emerson and Eleanor with their toys. I pulled the backing off of the vinyl, and started to adhere it to the chest. Just then, Eleanor started crying because she couldn’t get out of her toy car. I put the stencil down and went help her. Then I went back to the stencil and started to put it on the chest. I had the top half done, then Eleanor started standing in her toy car. Distracted by her, I didn’t realize that I had lowered the stencil. It was stuck to the chest. And it was crooked. If I tried to pull it up, the whole thing would have ripped, so I just finished pressing it down. I pulled the transfer paper off of the front of the stencil. It was really crooked.
I decided to press on anyway. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad once it was finished? I covered the chest in old magazine sheets and frog tape to protect it from overspray. I used the same can of white spray paint to paint the words. Betty White seemed optimistic that this would all still work out.
I’d like to say I let it dry completely, but the truth is, I started pulling things off after two minutes. The letters looked great – if you looked at it from the side.
But looking straight on, it was so crooked! No, turning back, right? I gathered the leg plates and the legs and started attaching them to the chest.
Typically, we line the plates up with the edge of whatever we are using, but this made the silver plates quite obvious. I attached the first plate a little further back from the edge. I used my sewing tape measure (because it’s flexible) to evenly space the other legs. I used to drill to secure the plates to the chest and then screwed the legs into the plates.
I brought it inside and put it back in front of the couch. I really liked the overall look. I tried to ignore that the words weren’t straight. I had Michael take a look at it and he liked it, too. He said it was okay that it was crooked. But it wasn’t. I couldn’t even look at it. Every time I looked at I felt like I was reliving the “Find a happy place!” scene from Finding Nemo.
I had used Young Living’s lemon oil to remove spray paint from my hands once (it took it off without even ruining my nail polish). I figured it was worth a try. I put a few drops on a paper towel and rubbed it across the paint.
It took the paint off without damaging the poly on the rest of the chest. Hallelujah! After the paint was gone, I wiped the chest with a dry cloth and repeated all the steps again. Luckily, I had saved the stencil file, so I didn’t have to retype everything. Michael helped me line it up this time. The finished, straight result is glorious!
I love it so much! It looks like something you’d find at Urban Outfitters. It’s the perfect height for the couch. Plus, Eleanor can’t climb up there anymore, which she was pretty peeved about this morning. The quote makes me smile. The fact that this coffee table only cost $6.32 (the price for the leg plates) makes me smile even more. So maybe it’s a little less: “you realize how great your best friend is and fall for them”, and more “best friend gets a makeover, you realize they are totally hot, and you can’t stop staring at them”.