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We recently found this 1930s kitchen table in terrible shape! We knew this piece was full of charm and just needed a little love. Keep scrolling to see our kitchen table update!
I love old kitchens.
By old, I mean like a hundred years old.
I’m fascinated with how people live their daily lives
When I study history, I always want to see pictures of how they cooked. I love to see hearths, old stoves, and worn wooden tabletops. I don’t know why that’s my thing, but THAT IS MY THING.
Like, I’m still into canning and love old glass jars. I drool over every old crock I find and I LOVE antique stoneware bowls. I visit historical houses or living history museums just to see the kitchens and gardens. There’s something about how these spaces reflect our values, cultures, and society that gets me.
Our relationship with food is one of the most primal things about us! It unites us across race, class, religion, and gender, except what we eat and how we prepare it is shaped by the massive forces of geography, history, economics, and culture. We all eat, but even now, there is so much variance in what we eat, where it is from, how we prepare it, etc.
Old dents and stains
There’s also so much of this history that’s gone: no cookbooks, no pictures, no memories. We can only have a glimpse in based on how the furniture and bowls were placed and worn. Think about all the work it would have taken without electricity or running water to feed your family. All of that labor and love and history…completely invisible except stains on an old table. It’s POWERFUL stuff.
Anyway, you get it now. Rachael loves kitchens, especially old kitchens. We won’t talk about it again, or at least for a little while.
Where we found this 1930s kitchen table
So when I saw this old kitchen table for $50 on Facebook Marketplace from a local antique store, I was intrigued. The price was really good as comparable tables sell for hundreds of dollars! These tables are called a bunch of different names: doughboys, possum belly tables, bread tables, etc.
The bottom round drawers were for holding flour, sugar, and other kitchen essentials. Historically, these tables were the bases for hoosier cabinets. Renovated ones are GORGEOUS (and so expensive)! But, it was clear the piece needed some love.
Decades of damage
Twice, perhaps at the same time, someone did bad things to this table.
First, they removed the original tabletop at some point. Although we think the wood top is about the same age, it’s thinner than most of the wood holding the drawers together and was held on by modern nails. We can see a round hole on each corner where something else was once in place.
That makes sense because historically, tables like this were the bottom of kitchen hutches. Still, most of the tables I’ve seen like this online have large, thick, smooth tabletops. This one does not.
Whenever someone changed the top, they also decided to cut the edges probably freehand as there are OBVIOUS errors in cutting. The lines are not straight at all. Look at how bad this is! Awful!
We don’t mind that the wood is warped and aged, but this is just bad work.
Then, someone decoupaged the pages of a novel all over the top and even inside the drawers! I think that’s why the seller struggled to move it for a while and that was part of why I wasn’t sure about it for a while. I just didn’t like it and it wasn’t done well. After we removed the paper, you could see that they didn’t even sand or clean the table; there was dirt under the pages. Some came off with my fingernail and some needed a putty knife. Not a great job.
There was some damage to one leg, but that’s not surprising with the age of this thing. The other two issues never had to happen!
The good news
Fortunately, the body of the piece was pretty solid, minus the small leg issue, and the flat and round drawers were great! I was surprised that on a table probably from the 1930s, the rounded drawers were not split or broken. They looked really nice. Oh, and it clearly had original bin pull handles, which I love!
Our 1930s Farmhouse Kitchen Table Update
As soon as we got the piece home, the very first thing we did was remove ALL of the paper from the top of the table and sand off any remaining paper and paint. Honestly, I didn’t even take any pictures before this. I was so focused on getting the paper off that I forgot! It had also been spray-painted blue at some point. This process took about 2 hours.
My husband said that he wanted to remove the entire top.
Our kitchen table update plan
- Glue the worn pieces back together and clamp them
- Cut clean edges to replace the messed up edges
- Flatten the table top to get rid of a slight warp
- Reattach the top
The table top just barely covered the entire table with a slight overhang, so we were hopeful we could do this without cutting off too much!
The Repairs We Made (2 weeks)
My husband put wood glue between the parts of the table top that were the most fractured. He then used a series of clamps to remove the warp and press the glued parts together. He let these dry for a couple of days.
Then, he trimmed the narrow sides as little as possible to create a straight edge.
Remember that glaringly obvious miscut on the one side? He cut off the worst part of it. However, it became increasingly clear that we would end up with a too-short table top.
We already started talking about this potential issue earlier on in the process. Essentially, the top would almost totally cover the left and right sides with an overhang in the front and the back. Is that a table mullet?
The more we looked at the table with the flush sides, the more we realized it would look weird and mess with our eyes.
You know that feeling? When you know that NO ONE ELSE would notice or care but you know that the overhang would be uneven and would look at it all day long?
So our ideas were:
- Add a rounded trim across all sides of the table top to buy us a little extra space (we just want maybe 1/2 inch overhang on either side at least)
- Completely replace the top with really nice new wood and distress it for a vintage look (we did this with our bedroom corner shelves and LOVED it)
- Frame in the top with new wood of the same width. We’d paint the new wood white and simply wax the antique wood to keep the age and wear
How we decided to fix up this too-short table top
Ultimately, we wanted to preserve the original top as much as possible. Although adding brand new wood would make the table really sturdy, we would lose the character of the aged wood.
The trim idea didn’t seem like it would be too effective and it would be weird to paint just the narrow trim and not the rest of the wood. This would also make it hard to match the new wood with the old.
If we framed in the top with new wood, we could maintain as much of the original top as possible. This would also make the table more useful and aesthetically pleasing. As we talked about this option, we realize it would look odd to have a wide frame on just the narrow sides and a thinner frame on the longer sides. It would make more sense and look more balanced to trim the top to fit new, consistent measurements.
However, this would mean that unlike the other options, we would actually be cutting into nearly century-old wood! We needed to be sure about this plan before we cut into the top! There is no good way to replace 90-year old wood…
How to extend a table top with a frame
For consistency, we decided that all edges of the frame needed to be the same width. This meant we would remove some good wood to make the piece balance. We planned for a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
We decided to use 4-inch wide boards for our frame. My husband cut them at 45 degree angles and nailed them together.
He then measured the antique wood top and cut it down to size. Since the table frame itself is not entirely even, he felt this would ensure a good end product even if he had to make multiple little cuts to get it just right.
He used wood glue and nails to adhere the old top to the new frame.
We really liked that this approach allowed us to cut away from the most damaged sections of wood.
Prepping the frame for paint
I sanded down the frame using an electrical sander and I curved the corners and edges. To do this, I simply rock the sander back and forth over any sharp edges to smooth them out. Once the edges were smooth, I painted them with a little leftover cream wall paint from our bedroom update! My husband then glossed them with this product.
TIP: Use a water-based gloss spray, NOT oil-based, so it doesn’t leave a tint!
To fix the damaged leg, my husband added wood glue to the cracks, wrapped the whole area in painter’s tape, and pressed everything together with a clamp. Easy!
Decorating our antique kitchen table
Now, we LOVE this table. It has so much charm and character. It’s truly my favorite spot in the house!
We’ve styled it with some of my favorites: crocks and milk glass. We love this little harvest basket and the succulent in an old cheese crock!
Overall, this project took us about 3 weeks from start to finish. We took some time off, for sure!
Kitchen Table Update Expenses
The only items we bought for this project were the pieces of wood for the frame and a new bottle of the gloss spray. We got 2 8-ft boards at Lowe’s and I think they came out to about $5 in total! We had everything else on hand: paint, wood glue, nails, etc.
- Table $50
- Wood $5
- Gloss spray $12 (plenty leftover for the next project!)
Total price: $67
That is a STEAL! I’ve seen tables like this selling easily for $200 at vintage stores near me. I’m so glad we took a chance on this piece! It truly adds so much charm to our house and is my favorite piece of furniture.
What do you think of our kitchen table update? Have you ever tried building a frame for a smaller table top? Tell us in the comments!