Dining Nook Furniture Refinish

HOLY MOLY! Refinishing this dining nook was my Everest of DIYs. I’m not sure why I thought tackling this WHOLE set as my first furniture refinishing project was a good idea. Maybe it was the euphoria of scoring the whole set for only $40 on Craigslist? Perhaps it was naiveté? Either way, I’m just thrilled at how great this turned out, but wouldn’t be psyched to ever do it again. On the other hand, whenever I come across a beat-up, has-seen-better-days, hand-crafted antique piece of wood furniture, my heart flutters thinking of its potential.

The thing is, when it comes to refinishing furniture, there are no secrets or shortcuts. You strip, sand, stain and seal it – no matter what size or shape it is. This set was being kept in a middle-aged couple’s basement, and I suspect, primarily used by their grandchildren for arts and crafts. The surface of the table was scarred with wounds from magic-markers-run-astray, nicks, and scratches. And the chairs, with their worn-away-in-spots varnish, were not easy on the eyes.


To strip the existing varnish, I used Citristrip. This stuff is great! No dangerous fumes so you can use it indoors, and it WORKS. I just painted in on and within a few minutes, I was able to scrape away the gooey citristrip/varnish mixture. I used steel wool pads for any hard to reach areas, like the spindles of the chairs.

Then, wash everything with soapy water to make sure you’ve removed any remaining residue.

05 Strip
Stripping away the layer of varnish and Citristrip goo

Note: this post is not sponsored… I just really love this product!


Sanding! The step that literally everyone dreads! We have a small balcony as our only private outdoor area. So I had to carry each piece out one at a time to get the sanding done. It actually took forever.

Start with a course sand paper, and finish everything off with a fine-grit sandpaper. I used my electric sander for the large flat surfaces, but had to hand-sand the nooks and crannies. Wipe everything with a damp cloth to remove any remaining sawdust.

07 Sand
Whenever possible, enlist the help of your dog to sweep up sawdust with her plentiful fur…

06 Sand

09 Before Chair Stripped
The chair on the left has been stripped and sanded, and the one on the right is the condition in which I recieved it.


Now, the fun part begins. I prepped all my pieces with a prestain treatment, by brushing it on with a foam brush. This helps to make sure the stain is absorbed evenly. Let that dry for the recommended time on the container. And I selected a mahogany stain for the table top and bench lids, and an ebony stain for everything else. Apply the stain with a brush or a cloth, and wipe away any extra with a cloth. Let it dry for the recommended time on the container.

13 Stain
Applying the second coat of mahogany stain to the table top
10 Chair one coat stained
After the first coat of ebony stain was applied to the chair
12 Chair Stained
After 3 coats of ebony stain to the chair

Note: if you want to know the specific brands I used, feel free to send me a message. Because this post isn’t sponsored, I have not included the brand information. 


The last step is to apply a varnish. I used a satin polyurethane and sanded with a fine-grit sandpaper between coats.

I applied 4 coats to the bench lids and the table top, and 2 coats on everything else.

16 Stain
After one coat of polyurethane

Finally, I enlisted Freya’s help to line the insides of the benches (yes, there’s hidden storage!) with marble contact paper.

19 Freya Help Contact Paper
The best helper

Congratulate Yourself

I think for at least a month after I completed this project, every time I would walk by this room, I would just stop, stand and stare at it for a while and let my heart swell with pride. It’s still hard to not blurt out “I REFINISHED THIS ALL BY MYSELF” anytime anyone compliments the room…

28 After

Now, I just need to keep my housemates from scratching it… I think the dog sometimes ventures onto the table when we’re gone and it’s a convenient drop-spot for my mountaineer and his spiky gear. Wish me luck!

27 After

What do you think? Do you want to see more industrious DIYs like this? Let me know in the comments.

And be sure to follow this blog to be the first to know when I post my next DIY.


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