How to upcycle a coffee table

Tired of the coffee table in your living room and looking to get a new one? Before you chuck it out and head online to buy a replacement, have you considered upcycling? If you can give your existing table a new lease of life with a couple of hours of your time and some elbow grease.

First of all, get your supplies. You’ll need a coffee table with four legs and some sort of surface area at the top (the underside of the tabletop works awesome for this), screws, wood glue or liquid nails, sandpaper, paint or stain/wood sealer/varnish, depending on what you want to use on the final product.

How to upcycle a coffee table, Zazzy Home

Before you start disassembling the table, note how it was put together in case you forget later. This is especially important if it has more than one layer that will need to be removed. I didn’t do this before starting on mine…oops! If you don’t know how it’s held together, either ask someone who knows or make an educated guess. You can usually tell by looking at one of the legs, and this will also give you a good idea of how to brace it later on.

Next, take out all the screws/nails holding the top on. Put them in a bowl or something, so they don’t get lost. If you’re reusing any of these parts, put them aside. If not, then throw all that old stuff away.

Now let’s start taking apart the table itself. Probably best to do this outside unless you love breathing sawdust! Just remove everything from the bottom layer except for one leg, which should be used as your main support pillar (unless it’s too warped/unstable).

Most tables with removable tops have either 2 or 4 legs. If it has 4, only remove the opposite legs from those you plan to use as your support pillar. Make sure they’re sturdy enough without the top on there!

Now that your table is disassembled and you have a plan of how to brace it, take a drill with a bit slightly smaller than the screws/nails you intend to use for this purpose. Mark where you want the support pillars and holes to go, then drill pilot holes so your screw won’t crack or split the wood when you put it in.

Screw/nail each one into place, making sure it’s level with each other. If using two legs, these should be diagonally opposite each other if possible. Now take apart any larger pieces of furniture that may be used in the project (optional).

How to upcycle a coffee table, Zazzy Home

Once you’ve removed everything you want to use, sand down any rough edges and wipe clean with a damp cloth, the next step is to use wood sealer/varnish or paint, depending on what your tabletop will look like. You can skip this step if your tabletop is already sealed or finished, but if not, it’s important to do before you continue for extra protection against water damage. If painting, you may need more than one coat of primer and let dry between each application

I wanted my coffee table to look like the tops of old barrels (à la Indiana Jones), so I stained mine using Minwax Dark Walnut. Stain is less work than paint since there’s no need for multiple coats, and it works better on wood that’s not perfectly smooth.

If you want your tabletop to be a different color than the rest of your piece, you need to paint it after the stain dries (I’d recommend waiting about 24 hours). 

For this, I used some old stuff lying around in my garage (rust-oleum painters touch spray paint silver and white with a little primer mixed in for good measure), but any kind of spraypaint will do. Make sure you’re outside when using spray paint! Spray light layers and keep moving, so it doesn’t look like a zebra stripe. It’ll take several coats to get full coverage, don’t forget to let dry between each application. If you’re using a brush and/or roller, your project is going to take a little longer.

How to upcycle a coffee table, Zazzy Home

After everything’s put back together, finish off with whatever suits your fancy. I recommend gluing felt pads on the bottom for tables like these (decent-sized surface area and only two legs) so they don’t scratch floors or leave indentations when you push stuff around it. This is an especially good idea if your tabletop isn’t completely flat.


Claire is a blogger, writer, and designer with a passion for making the most out of any space. She's worked in interior design and maintenance for over a decade, and has learned how to make the most of even the smallest room. Claire shares her expertise, where she offers tips and tricks for creating beautiful, functional spaces on any budget. When she's not blogging or designing, Claire enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

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