How to Refinish a Table With Modern Farmhouse Style

This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase by clicking on one of these links, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support.

More and more of us are looking to create a modern farmhouse interior in our own homes, as that décor design trend continues to grow. However, if you are like me, you may not have the financial means to purchase all new furniture and décor to create the home design of your dreams. In fact, most of your furniture may fall more into the categories of “well it was on sale” or “my parents gave it to me years ago”. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, there hidden in your hand-me-down end table is a mountain of untapped potential, just screaming to be released! Refinishing a table does not have to be scary. You can have those farmhouse style end tables that you’ve been dying to get.

At this point you may think, yeah it can be redone but I don’t know how, or I don’t have the space, or I just don’t have the time. I too shared these same concerns, but I am here to reassure you that they can all be overcome, every single one.

Ok, so let’s get down to the nitty gritty…. here’s how to transform your outdated traditional end tables into the dreamy modern farmhouse end table that you’ve always wanted!


  • Old, outdated or just plain ugly end table

  • Electric Hand Sander

  • 80, 150, and 220 grit sanding sheets

  • Respirator mask

  • White interior paint

  • Clear, water-based acrylic polyurethane (oil-based will produce a slightly yellow tint on a white table)

  • 2 small-medium sized paintbrushes

To get started, find an outdoor or well-ventilated place that you don’t mind getting dirty because there will be dust from sanding. At the time, I was staying with relatives and used a patio as my workspace and then stored the tables in a basement between steps. I should also mention that because I was fighting weather and time constraints I completed this project in stages over the course of several weekends, but it could easily be completed in one weekend.

STEP 1 for Refinishing a Table

The table at the start of the project

The table at the start of the project

Sand the entire table, going with the grain, starting with 80 grit. The large surfaces with go quickly with the electric sander, but for small detail, edges and corners you will have to sand by hand. *Note: If your table has a very thick clear coat finish or paint, you may need to begin by using either denatured alcohol (for lacquer or shellac) or a chemical stripper (for paint, varnish, or polyurethane) along with a scraper and steel wool to prepare it for more successful sanding.


STEP 2 for Refinishing a Table

The table after sanding was complete

The table after sanding was complete

Proceed to sanding with 150 grit and finally 220 grit, working to achieve a smooth finish before proceeding to the final sanding grit. After sanding the entire table with 80 grit, it should be rough but all of the stain, paint and sealer should be removed. You will notice that the bottom shelf on my table looks like it is different colors. That is because I discovered that my table while mostly made of solid wood, had a shelf that was composed of particle board with a wood grain overlay. So, the sanding removed the woodgrain overlay in some places creating the discoloration.




STEP 3 for Refinishing a Table

Mix your whitewash mixture. This may take some experimenting, I used equal parts water and white paint for all of the table except the shelf, which required a 1-part water to 3-parts paint consistency to cover the discoloration and match the rest of the table. 

The table after the first coat of whitewash

The table after the first coat of whitewash


STEP 4 for Refinishing a Table

Paint on the whitewash mixture. Please note that it may soak in differently in different areas and will take several coats depending on how much woodgrain you want to show through. The goal is for the table overall to look approximately the same color or have the same amount of woodgrain showing through, for a uniform appearance.



STEP 5 for Refinishing a Table

Notice how the wood grain is coming through the whitewash in an uneven pattern--this is what you want to lend authenticity to the style

Notice how the wood grain is coming through the whitewash in an uneven pattern--this is what you want to lend authenticity to the style

Sand the table lightly by hand using 220 grit sand paper. You DO NOT want to sand evenly, at this point being uneven and asymmetrical is going to give you the desired aged- farmhouse look you are going after. This step may mix with step 3 as achieving the perfect finish is subject to your personal tastes. It may take a few tries to get it just right but remember…you can’t mess it up. If you sand too much, just repaint. If you get the wash on too thick, just sand a little more. There is no wrong way to do it.


STEP 6 for Refinishing a Table

The polyurethane was still a bit wet as evidenced by the very shiny appearance

The polyurethane was still a bit wet as evidenced by the very shiny appearance

Begin applying the clear polyurethane to seal and protect it when you find your self delighted with the appearance of your table. This process will also require multiple coats and light sanding between coats with 220 grit may be need to keep the smooth finish (if desired, I actually like my table with a little bit of a rough texture).








After your final coat of polyurethane has dried, congratulations!! You have completed your DIY end table project and now have the farmhouse end table of your dreams. Love it, enjoy it and show it off to all your friends! Get ready for those “OMG, you made that?! It looks amazing, like you bought it from a store!” comments…they’re coming!


Refinished modern farmhouse side table

Refinished modern farmhouse side table

pinnable DIY farm tables.png