Looking for a quick way to upgrade a boring coffee table? You’ve come to the right place. This easy and versatile beginner project can be completed in a single day without specialty tools or equipment. Read on to learn how to turn a basic Ikea coffee table into a stylish focal point.

Project Cost

Total – $43

  • Ikea LACK Coffee Table – $20
  • Varathane Paint + Poly – $10
  • 2 1x8 Common Boards – $10
  • Phosphate Coated Drywall Nails – $3

What You’ll Need

A Coffee Table

For this project, I used a 35″ x 21″ brown-black LACK coffee table from Ikea that we’d had for several years. Below you’ll find the cutting dimensions used to accommodate this familiar dorm-room centerpiece. A larger LACK coffee table or any similar style would also work. Target, Craigslist, and local thrift stores are great places to find inexpensive options. The same process can be used to update coordinating side tables.

Lumber

You’ll need about 15 feet of lumber to cover the top of the table. Depending on the size of your table and the width of your boards, the exact length will vary. I used 8-foot pine common boards purchased at Home Depot. I didn’t have any salvage lumber on hand and since I’d be staining the wood to match our cedar ceiling, buying new boards made sense. You could just as well complete this project with barn wood or other reclaimed building materials.

A Saw

I completed this project shortly after acquiring what every girl wants for her 25th birthday—a compound miter saw! You don’t actually need a miter saw for this project, any chop saw or circular saw will do, but I wanted an excuse to use my new toy. You could also have Home Depot or similar stores cut the boards for you at the time of purchase. They will usually make a few cuts for free and charge a nominal fee for additional cuts. Keep in mind, their cuts aren’t always exact, but if you’re hoping for a rustic aesthetic that shouldn’t be a problem.

Stain, Paint, or Other Finish

Technically this is optional, but if you’re going to be using your coffee table as an actual coffee table, you’ll probably want to apply at least a light coat of sealer to enhance the look and protect the surface. I am a big fan of Varathane Paint + Poly in one. It’s basically tinted polyurethane. Because it’s water based, it cleans up easily. My one complaint is that it only comes in a semi-gloss finish. Shiny finishes aren’t my first choice for creating a rustic, casual look. To get around that, I applied a few coats of satin polyurethane (leftovers from the cabinet project) over the colored coat to dull the sheen and add durability. If you’re using reclaimed wood, you may only need a light coat of matte or satin poly without any tint. Alternatively, you could paint your boards with a high-quality latex paint in any color imaginable or whitewash the wood for a farmhouse feel.

Nails

I used phosphate coated drywall nails to attach the boards to the table top. This decision was based purely on looks. The phosphate coating added a weathered touch that I liked when selecting from the sea of fasteners in the hardware aisle. You could use any similar-sized nails. Whatever option you choose, make sure the nails are long enough to pass through the top boards and into the table top without coming out the bottom side.

Additional Tools and Supplies

  • Sandpaper or sanding block (optional, but recommended)
  • Measuring tape
  • Paint brush
  • Paint/stain rags (if using stain)
  • Hammer

Measure Your Table

I decided to run the boards “the short way” across the width of the table rather than the length. This choice is up to you. If you’re using an Ikea LACK table and 1x6 common boards like I did, you’ll likely find this combination fits best. Other table and lumber combinations may fit better lengthwise. I wanted an overhang of about 1.5 inches around the top of the table. Since my table was 35.375 inches long and the boards were each 5.5 inches wide, using 7 pieces widthwise gave a nice overhang of just over 1.5 inches on each end. I then cut each board to 24 inches wide. The table is 21.625″ wide so this left a little more than an inch on either side and meant I could cut my 8-foot boards into even fourths with one peice for backup.

Cut, Prep, and Arrange Your Lumber

After you know what size you need to cut your boards, make the cuts or have your lumber yard make them for you. Sand any rough edges for the best finish. Lay the boards on a clean, flat surface and determine the order in which you’ll place them on your table. If you’re using knotty pine or other wood with notable grain marks, distribute these in a balanced manner, across the table surface

Attach the boards

Now it’s time to nail the boards into the table. You’ll want to begin attaching the center board and work your way out to ensure the final result is centered. If your table has an odd number of pieces like mine, simply center the first board in the middle. Otherwise, center the first two boards and choose one to attach first. Because this table has a rustic look, I didn’t bother measuring or marking the exact placement for each nail. I wanted it to have an organic, not-quite-lined-up quality. If you’re worried about even placement, mark the desired location of each nail on your boards with a pencil. Nail one corner of the board to the table followed by the opposite corner for best control over positioning. Finish pounding each nail using a nail set to avoid dings.  Continue outward attaching each board to the table surface.

Finish the Table

Now you’re ready to apply the finishing touch of paint, stain, or poly to your table. I started with a single coat of Varathane Stain + Poly in the color “American Walnut”. When using Varathane Stain + Poly products, the color can differ a lot based on the number of coats and whether you wipe the stain after a brushed application. I applied a generous coat with a brush and gently wiped off any excess for a “stained” rather than “painted” appearance. I then applied two coats of untinted satin poly with a clean brush to dull the gloss and increase durability.

Note: I stained my boards after attaching them to the table. This worked well for stain and poly, but if you’re painting the boards, I’d suggest painting them before attaching as the paint will hide the nails and may pool between the boards leaving a sloppy finish.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your questions or table-makeover stories. Leave me a comment below.