Looking for ways to refresh a living space? Try sprucing up furniture with some chalk paint to update a room.

Do you have a piece of furniture you love but don’t love the look?

Paint it with chalk paint!

It’s such an easy way to transform a piece. I love working with it and have had great success with a range of projects.

I painted my kitchen cabinets and answered common questions about using chalk paint on cabinets HERE.

This upcycled vintage framed art has a totally new look now.

And I even updated a few frames to create this beautiful vintage botanical art gallery wall.

Chalk paint can even be used to update the fabric on a piece. Check out this antique bench, this chair, and this Facebook marketplace find.

So sprucing up this coffee table with some furniture stripper and chalk paint was a no-brainer. I can’t wait to show you how much better it looks!

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Sprucing Up the Coffee Table with Chalk Paint

Why This Coffee Table Needed a Makeover

This coffee table was a garage sale find that my in-laws used at their shore house. I think they bought it for $10!

My mother-in-law gave it a quick makeover shellacking the top so the grandkids wouldn’t damage it with their juice boxes.

I don’t have photos of what it looked like back then, but the whole piece is made of wood and had a shellacked orange glow.

Sprucing Up the Coffee Table with Chalk Paint
It doesn’t look totally terrible in this photo, but the top of this piece was a high gloss orange without any photo editing. So it needed a good sprucing up!

When my in-laws sold their beach house, my husband and I took some of the furniture for our home.

At the time, the coffee table was perfect for our living room. It fit with our decorating style and there was no chance my young kids could damage it.

And even if they did, it was a $10 garage sale find so who cares!

So sprucing up the coffee table then wasn’t necessary.

Living room makeover
Here it is before the living room makeover.

But after having it a few years, I refinished the bottom of the piece so the whole piece didn’t look soorange. I left the top intact so my kids couldn’t wreck it with their drinks.

Yes – it was that well shellacked! I’m telling you – my mother-in-law wasn’t messing around!

When I refinished the bottom, I had very little experience working with furniture so this was a great opportunity to get my feet wet with a small DIY.

I spent an afternoon sprucing up the piece by sanding, painting, and distressing the bottom.

For a few years, it looked pretty good.

But as time went on, the shiny orange finish really bothered me.

So it was time for a makeover.

Coffee Table Makeover

Sprucing Up the Coffee Table with Chalk Paint

I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it, but knew that I wanted to strip the top of the piece to get rid of that orange shellac.

Because I have dark leather sofas in the living room, I wanted to lighten the piece overall and give the wood top a lighter, more natural look.

So here’s what I did…

Coffee Table Makeover

Supplies Needed

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Coffee Table Makeover

Directions for This Coffee Table Makeover

  • Since there is a thick shellac finish, the piece needed to be stripped.
  • Place the coffee table on a plastic or disposable drop cloth so clean-up is a breeze.
  • Using a disposable container, pour stripper in and follow the manufacturer’s directions for application.
  • Apply stripper to the piece using a disposable or inexpensive paintbrush. Allow the stripper to sit on the piece for at least thirty minutes. Because there were so many layers of shellac, I left it on for a few hours.
  • Test an area with a scraping tool to see how well the finish strips off the piece. If it’s coming off easily, scrape the rest off. (This part is very messy).
  • When the stripper is scraped off, wipe the piece down with mineral spirits to remove the stripping residue.
  • For my piece, there were still some spots with shellac. Instead of going through the stripping process again, I used my hand sander to sand the piece down and get the rest of the finish off.
  • Once the piece is sanded down, wipe off the sawdust with a cloth.
  • I wanted to paint the bottom of the coffee table white and distress it. So I flipped the piece over onto a folding table to lift it up off the ground. I lightly sanded the bottom to rough up the finish and applied two coats of chalk paint.
  • When the chalk paint was dry, I distressed the piece using sandpaper. I recommend starting with a light hand when distressing. It’s easier to distress more than it is to repaint it.
  • After distressing the piece, I flipped it back over to wax the entire piece.
  • I applied two coats of wax with a cloth and buffed it out while working.
Coffee Table Makeover
Coffee Table Makeover

After Sprucing Up the Coffee Table

While it doesn’t look dramatically different, it is lighter, brighter, and doesn’t look as orange. To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m sticking with the finish of the coffee table top yet.

But it works for now!

I love that it’s lighter and less orange, but it’s pulling a little too much yellow for me. I’m going to live with it for a little while and see how I like it.

Don’t be surprised if I decide to either bleach and lime wax it, stain with a walnut finish, or completely paint it all together. So stay tuned!

And that’s the beauty of painting a piece. If you don’t like how it turns out, you can do it again.

It’s just paint.

Coffee Table Makeover

Thoughts About Using Paint Stripper

As an aside, I want to address the stripping process because I’ve never done it before. I thought the process would be so much easier than it was.

In fact, removing that shellac took a lot more time and effort than I anticipated. It was no joke!

I mistakenly believed that the stripper would get the finish right off.

Nope – I had to apply the stripper, scrape it, then clean it off then sand it anyway and there were still spots of shellac left!

Certainly, I could have re-applied the stripper and done the process over, but I chose to move on to sanding instead.

Coffee Table Makeover

If I were to do it again, I’d apply the stripper with a heavier hand, cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight to really penetrate the finish.

Since it took so long to strip and sand that shellac finish, I’m OK with letting the piece be for now and living with the look for a little while.

I can always change it down the road.

Coffee Table Makeover

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Coffee Table Makeover
Coffee Table DIY Using Chalk Paint

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  1. I feel you! I’ve done a little furniture refinishing using the product you did. The plus is that it’s more environmentally friendly. The negative is that it takes longer than its more toxic counterparts! That being said, I’ll still use it going forward because I love my lungs! I am sure that mere photos don’t do it justice. And sometimes you have to live with a piece to see it through other people’s eyes because we are our harshest critics! I think it came out great. I love the distressing on it. And at the end of the day, it’s an awesome recycling project for a thrifted table!