Refurbishing a Beat-Up Coffee Table

First of all, I took a decent amount of before pictures of this coffee table, and then several pictures afterwards and several (hundred) before that. And then, the other day, for no apparent reason, my pictures were gone. I mean, my whole entire camera folder. Every picture I hadn’t edited or uploaded somewhere had disappeared from my phone completely. It was a tragic and shocking realization akin to that moment I noticed that my phone wasn’t in my back pocket anymore…because it was in the toilet.  I’m sure the two incidents are totally unrelated.

The point here is that I lost my “before” and process pictures, but the coffee table looked a little something like this:


It was part of the same set; it had good bones but lots of wear and tear.

We call our living room “The Museum” because we have pictures and a few artifacts from our travels around the world. And it sounds so fancy. And like a museum, the kids aren’t allowed to touch anything or mess it up. In theory. See the tall wall where I couldn’t help but paint trees here in the mural section. This is when I realized that for a tall person I sure am afraid of heights!

I love maps and globes and travel, and decided I wanted to paint a world map on my coffee table to go in The Museum. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Wipe down the table, ’cause it’s got grubby kid prints and dust on it. We’ll pretend that’s all.
  2. Paint the table whichever color you’d like it. At least the top of it where the map will go, and use paint+primer or chalk paint, because who wants to do more steps than are absolutely necessary? Not me.
  3. Draw a map of the world. Easy enough? Maybe for a cartographer, which I am not. So I traced. I found a great outline of the world, and then downloaded a program called Posterazor to slice the image into several standard-sized sheets so that I could print them out on my regular printer and tape them together to form a coffee-table-sized poster. Pretend you see here an image of a poorly taped up poster of the world. =) So then how do you get the image of the world onto your tabletop? Graphite Paper!  I use whatever is on sale at Michael’s/HobbyLobby, because I’ve used many brands of graphite paper and they’re all the same to me.graphite paper
    How to use graphite paper:

    • Place the graphite paper dark-side-down on the surface where you’d like your image to appear.
    • Place the image you would like to transfer face up on top of the graphite paper. tape this in place so it doesn’t move while you’re tracing.20160516_180748
    • Trace the image with medium pressure. You may want to carefully lift the image and the graphite paper to make sure your image is transferring correctly. If you don’t see anything, make sure you’re using enough pressure (you’ll have to push harder if you are using card stock or thick paper) and that your graphite paper is facing the right direction. The pressure will transfer a line of graphite from the paper to your surface wherever you trace. I like to use a red or colored pen so that I can see where I’ve traced. Don’t throw it away when you’re done, you can use graphite paper many times before it’s all used up.20160516_180820 20160516_180841_20160519162234500 20160509_125217
  4. Fill in your countries. You can technically color in all of the countries with only 4 colors, and have none of the countries share a border with another country of the same color. But that requires way too much planning, so I used 6 colors that I found leftover from other projects. 20160519_152214If you do want to make a four-color map, google “four-color map of the world” and assign a color of your choice to each of the colors in the map you found.20160418_141715
  5. Spray on a clear protective coat. Use the clear acrylic of your choice, and follow the directions on the can. I used a Glossy finish spray, because I added gold accents with a gold leafing pen and I wanted them to be so shiny and fancy.. But you can also use Matte clear acrylic spray for a chalk-painted look, even if you used glossy paint (or just use chalk paint and the appropriate wax).20160519_152913 20160418_141819-1I’m not normally a lover of gold but I thought it looked amazing with these colors and I couldn’t resist. I used two gold pens- one ‘gold leafing pen’ and one gold paint pen. They worked about the same, the gold leafing pen was more expensive but I can’t tell a difference in the finished product. Any imperfections are due to the help of my 3-year-old and my own person. That’s really all. You can try, once it’s totally dry, and before you add the clear coat, to erase some of the graphite lines, but I find it easier to simply paint over them while I’m filling in countries. If you haven’t painted the rest of the table, do that before the clear coat as well.

I just love the way this table turned out, and I ended up buying another small table at a garage sale for $5 (which was also  a little more beat-up than it looks in the picture) and painting it to match. I know they’re pretty much opposite styles, but the paint job will tie them together. What do you think? Oh, and that is not a giant stain on my couch, it’s a spot on my phone’s camera. Grr.

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And for much, much smaller paintings, see me miniature wearable paintings and portraits here:


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