By simply changing the color scheme, adding a sideboard and replacing the furniture, your dining room can be fashionably functional in a flash. Here’s how one newlywed couple did it themselves while staying within their budget.
Tools & Materials (Dining Room)
- 6 unfinished chairs
- Darkwood glue
- Phillips screwdriver
- Nails and screws
- Latex gloves
- Oil-based red mahogany stain
- Cotton cloth
- Briwax in dark brown
The homeowners wanted an older, distressed look—something comfortable and not shiny new—and furniture that would grow with them. At the same time, they were working with a limited budget, so they decided to purchase unfinished chairs and build the sideboard and table.
Where to Start
Changing the color scheme was a must. The use of neutral colors provides a background for seasonal accessories. Because the room is small, the walls and even the chair rail are one color. This makes the space seem taller. For added effect, drapes were hung as high as possible, reinforcing the illusion of a larger room.
Aging the New
To go along with the aged look, new chairs were made to look old. The couple purchased unfinished chairs and distressed them. A seamstress made the chair skirts to soften the look of the wood.
Step 1: Assemble chairs according to manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to read all the instructions before gluing.
Step 2: Distress the chairs by banging them up with anything you can find in your garage—a hammer, screwdriver, nails, screws. The sides of the screws make great indentions too. Create tiny wormholes by using the tip of a small nail and tapping with a hammer 10 to 20 times in random groupings. The level of distress is up to you.
Step 3: Next, apply the stain. Remember to wear gloves. Be sure the stain is well mixed. Apply a thin coat with a brush or cotton cloth. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions; let dry thoroughly.
Step 4: Apply a good furniture wax with a cotton cloth. This gives a small amount of sheen to the piece of furniture and conditions the wood. It also gives the chairs a more antiqued look.
Tools & Materials (Sideboard)
- Table saw
- 2 (4 x 4) 3/4-inch birch plywood
- 1/4-inch rabbeting bit
- 3/4-inch rabbeting bit
- 2 (4 x 4) 1/4-inch birch plywood
- Finishing nails
- Titebond glue
- 1 (4-foot-long) 1 x 12 poplar board
- 1 (8-foot-long) 1 x 6
- Decorative edge router bit
- Miter saw
- 1 (10-foot-long) 1 x 6 pine board
- 2 (8-foot-long) 1 x 3 poplar boards
- 2 (11/4-inch) antique knobs
- 2 (2 x 4) 1/4-inch birch plywood
- 2 antique drawer pulls
- Brass broad hinges
- 1 (8-foot-long) 1 x 12 poplar board
- Biscuit joiner
- #20 biscuits
- Fine-grade sanding sponge
- Table edge bit
- 1 (10-foot-long) 1 x 2
- Drill and drill bits
- 3/8-inch hardwood dowel
- 2 magnetic catch plates
- Wood filler
- Latex enamel black paint
- 1 quart red mahogany oil-based stain
- Furniture paste wax
Finding a hutch-style cabinet exactly the right size and price proved difficult, so the homeowners decided to make one suited to their needs.
They wanted this piece to be heavily distressed. Staining it first and following with light coats of black paint and wax helped to achieve the look.
Step 1: Cut two pieces of 3/4-inch birch plywood to 46 x 20 inches for the sides with a router. Cut a 1/4-inch rabbet on the 46-inch length of the side to accept the back board (be careful to cut the rabbet on the interior side of the plywood, not the veneered side). Next, cut 3/4-inch rabbets on the bottoms of the 46- x 20-inch boards. This will hold the plywood that will form the bottom of the sideboard. Next, decide where the bottom of the drawer will go. For this project, the drawer is 6 inches deep. This depth determined the placement of the dado for the drawer slide. The dado for this board needed to be 8 1/2 inches from the top. This allows for the 6-inch drawer depth plus the top apron above the drawer. Cut a 3/4-inch dado across the 46- x 20-inch drawer sides.
Step 2: To assemble the frame, cut the back panel, the bottom board, and the drawer slide. For the back panel, cut 1/4-inch plywood to 46 x 35 1/2 inches. For the bottom board and drawer slide, cut a piece of 3/4-inch plywood to 20 x 35 1/2 inches.
Step 3: Assemble the sides with the bottom, drawer slide, and the back panel. Secure with glue and finishing nails. Be sure frame is square; allow glue to dry overnight.
Step 4: Apply the face trim to the frame. Cut two 3/4-inch boards to 2 1/2 x 46 inches for the stiles on the frame. Apply these with glue and finishing nails. Next, cut two 3/4-inch boards to 2 1/2 x approximately 29 inches for the top aprons. Apply these to the frame with glue and finishing nails above and below the drawer.
Step 5: Cut one 3/4-inch board to 4 x 36 inches to form the bottom apron. If desired, route a decorative edge along the top edge. On the other, cut out whatever decorative style of leg you want. Miter the ends of this board, and secure on the bottom of the frame with glue and finishing nails. Next, cut two 3/4-inch boards to 4 x 21 inches. Route the edges of these boards to match the front apron. Apply to the bottom of the sides of the frame with glue and finishing nails.
Step 6: Cut two 1 x 6 pine boards to 19 inches to form the sides of the drawer. Cut two more to 33 inches to form the front and back. Cut a 1/4-inch dado in each board to accept the plywood bottom. Cut a piece of 1/2-inch plywood to 19 x 32 inches for the bottom of the drawer. Attach the two sides to the back with glue and finishing nails. Slide the plywood panel into the dado; attach the front to the sides with glue and finishing nails. Install the knobs.
Step 7: Simple lap joints were used for the door frames. For the stiles, cut two 3/4-inch boards to 2 1/2 x 30 inches. For the rails, cut two 3/4-inch boards to 2 1/2 x 12 inches. Cut lap joints on all four of these boards, and assemble with clamps and glue. Allow to dry overnight. Once the glue is dry, route a rabbet on the frame on the back side to accept the plywood panel. For the panels, cut a piece of 1/4-inch plywood to 26 x 8 inches. Install the panel on the back of the frames with glue and finishing nails; affix the handles. Repeat for the other door. Mount the doors with 3/4- x 1 1/2-inch brass hinges. Install knobs.
Step 8: Create the top panel by joining two 12- x 38- x 3/4-inch boards with biscuits and glue; allow to dry overnight. Once the glue is dry, cut the 20 x 36 inches. Sand the joint smooth. Route the front and two sides of the top edge with a table edge bit. Attach the top to the frame using glue and finish nails. If desired, apply small decorative molding underneath the top on the face trim.
Step 9: Cut two pieces of 3/4-inch birch plywood to 45 x 20 inches for the shelves. Apply edge trim to the front of each shelf. This will conceal the layers of the plywood. Next, cut four 1 x 2s to 30 inches. These will create the strips for the adjustable shelves. Drill 3/8-inch holes every 4 inches in each of these strips. Apply these strips to the inside of the sides. Next, cut a 3/8-inch hardwood dowel into eight (2-inch) pieces. Insert these in the holes in the strips. Place the shelves on these dowels. Install magnetic catch plates. Basic construction is complete.
Step 10: First, fill all nail holes with wood filler. Once filler is dry, sand smooth. Apply two coats of mahogany stain to the entire piece. Allow to dry overnight. Then apply one coat of flat black latex paint to the exterior of the piece. Allow to dry overnight. After the paint is dry, take sandpaper or a sanding sponge and lightly distress the piece until the desired result is achieved. Remove all dust with a tack cloth. Apply several coats of furniture paste wax, and polish until a deep sheen is achieved.
Lighting Is Everything
The black iron chandelier was a perfect accent. The black shades that came with it looked fine, but didn’t provide much light. By using natural linen-colored shades wrapped with rope, and installing a dimmer switch, the lighting can be controlled.