Help me paint or stain this table.
October 1, 2012 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to purchase a cheap dining room set at IKEA that is unstained solid pine that I am planning on either staining or painting. What colors might fit, and what kind of stain or paint should I use? I confess, I don't know what I'm doing.

My apartment was built in 1971 and looks like it's fresh out of... 1971. The walls are all white or cream. The trim, doors and cabinets are all mostly dark brown/walnut color. Most of my furniture is a shade of brown between tan and black. The carpets are brown. I'm trying like hell to break up the brown color and get some contrast going. So far I've added some non-brown artwork, and the ugly orange lamp.

Pictures of my place to give an idea of the colors I'm working with: 1 2 3 4

Currently, I'm considering a dining room table and chairs. It's the last big piece of furniture I plan on adding. I am probably going to purchase the INGO/IVAR set for my apartment due to its relative low price, and because it looks to be something I can adjust to fit my apartment. What color(s) should I go with without clashing too much? I'd really like something to help break up the brown colors everywhere. Also, what do I need to do something like this besides stain and a brush? Do I need to put some sort of varnish or lacquer on this over the top to protect it? Do I stain first then assemble, or assemble first then stain? I have little experience in painting or staining or any of this for that matter. Thank you!
posted by Mister Fabulous to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Where are the table and chairs going to be? It looks like those photos may show different rooms, and color-matching advice should be based on what you can see around the table (rather than everything in your apartment).
posted by cranberry_nut at 1:10 PM on October 1, 2012

I'd paint it off-white gloss. It's easy to clean gloss. You will need trivets.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:15 PM on October 1, 2012

Response by poster: The table and chairs will be next to the living room and kitchen. The floorplan for that part of the place is somewhat open, with the same carpet throughout.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:18 PM on October 1, 2012

I bought an Ikea raw pine piece and I've been meaning to paint it white gloss and to put some cute glass knobs on it. All I need for this is primer and high-gloss white paint. Use latex paint, not oil. TRUST me on this! It all washes up with water.

That kitchen is an eyesore, you need some cute art. I've always been fond of this piece and I think it will snazz up your kitchen.

Not much you can do about the harvest gold appliances, at least it's all clean.

I actually like your digs. Looks comfy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:21 PM on October 1, 2012

I would say go with a colored stain, rather than white/black/brown. Maybe a nice translucent green or blue that shows off the woodgrain, but doesn't match necessarily with the woods you're working with in the apartment. White may just be too jarring with all the browns you've got going throughout.
posted by xingcat at 1:23 PM on October 1, 2012

You need some blue. Not the bright blue you already have, but as you say a dusty, pale stain, followed up by a layer of transparent laquer. You should also buy some blue pillows and mayby blue carpets and fleece blankets. Thr orange is great, use it for contrast everrywhere. Dots in a carpet or new cups or mats.
Think about lighting; could you work with lamps to make some areas brighter and others quieter?
posted by mumimor at 1:25 PM on October 1, 2012

WARNING! Pine does not take stain well. It will get blotchy. You need to apply a wood sealer before staining. The sealer will even out the stain.
posted by Gungho at 1:28 PM on October 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

If you decide to paint the pine an opaque colour, use knotting solution first to seal all knots in the wood. Otherwise the resin in the knots will distort the surface of the paint as it seeps out. Then prime the wood with a good undercoat and sand that down with a fine abrasive before applying the top coat.
posted by pipeski at 1:41 PM on October 1, 2012

I've got that set. It's not unfinished - there's already a sealer on it that may cause issues with a stain. Paint might be the only option.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:42 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll echo Gungho. Staining will be a PITA to get even, unless it's super dark and you go for multiple coats. I would go for a pale color (somewhere between beige and white) or a muted blue. For a dining table, durability is key, so don't cheap out.
posted by supercres at 2:02 PM on October 1, 2012

Funny you ask--I'm staining a bookcase that I made based on some plans a kind MeFite linked when I asked a question about fixing up my studio.

I'd stain it, especially since there are tons of awesome stain colors these days. I'd stain after assembly just because there's a chance that you'll muck up your nice finish during assembly. Since I assume you'll be doing this in your apartment, use the water based products so you don't fume yourself to death.

Stuff you'll need:

1. Several clean whiteish rags.
2. A nice, high quality brush. I like Purdy brushes.
3. The stain pre-treater and the color you like.
4. Water based polyurethane.
5. A sandblock, 120 grit.
6. Mild detergent for cleaning your brush. Clean your brush thoroughly after each coat of whichever product you use. My parents still have Purdy brushes that are in perfect shape that they bought in the early 90s because they were careful about cleaning them.
7. Some kind of floor protection object. You can get cheap plastic floor coverings in the paint section of the hardware store.
8. A wide plastic container to load your brush from--those stain cans have smallish mouths.

Here are the steps I've followed and it has worked out perfectly so far:

1. Use 120 grain sandpaper on the entire piece to rough of up the surface in preparation for it to take the pre-treatment. Go with the wood grain. Wipe down the piece with a moist rag to remove sanding dust.

2. You must, and I mean must, use the water-based stain pre-treater from MinWax before staining pine. Read the directions carefully--you want to make sure to wipe off extraneous product before it dries. Once you've treated the entire surface and it has dried, the grain will be slightly raised, so you'll need to another quick pass with the sanding block. Wipe the piece again with a damp rag to remove dust.

3. Apply one coat of stain, wipe off extra product, and allow it to dry. Do not sand.

4. Apply a second coat, wipe, and dry. Some minor sanding may be required before the poly is applied, but don't go nuts--you don't want to remove your stain, just smooth surfaces that have been raised due to the water base in the product.

5. Apply water based polyurethane to protect the surface. (You must use water based--the other kind will yellow over time.) There are a number of finishes--I might be tempted to use glossy for the top and satin for the rest, but ymmv. Let it cure for at least 48 hours before you put anything on it.

As for color--you seem to like orange as an accent color, so the fruit punch stain, china red, or spice stains might be fun. You'd want to test it on some scrap wood before you go hog wild. You can get cheap wood pieces from any craft store for about $1-2. This is how I test my stupid ideas before I go crazy on a piece of furniture.
posted by xyzzy at 2:11 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would say go with a colored stain, rather than white/black/brown. Maybe a nice translucent green or blue that shows off the woodgrain, but doesn't match necessarily with the woods you're working with in the apartment.

I agree with this. Green or blue would be my choice. It looks like Ikea recommends glazing paint for that particular table, which they actually sell. It's an oil-based stain product that's really easy to use. Not fond of their green- I would look for a similar product in more of an apple green, which would also happen to look good in your kitchen. You might find some inspiration from these photos of a guy's house which nicely combine white, brown, warm golds and oranges with touches of green in a sort of updated 70's vibe. Here's a photo from the 70's with the same balance of colors. I think you've got a lot of these going on, you just need more white in your space, and a contrasting bright (but please not a white painted table! They stain, and then you scrub, and then you see the scrubbed spot).

And there's nothing wrong with Harvest Gold, IMO, it just looks extra washed out and assy under cold fluorescents- but you weren't asking for kitchen advice.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:38 PM on October 1, 2012

I've become interested in Caromal Colours and Ce Ce Caldwell chalk-paints through this blog. These products don't require priming and the possibilities seem endless. Each time I think I've decided on my selection the blogger posts another great idea.

She has many examples of each color with differing finishes, so you can get an idea of a number of looks.
posted by cat_link at 2:51 PM on October 1, 2012

I like "the ugly orange lamp". It might not provide reading-quality light, but it would look great in an entry or somewhere a warm glow is needed.
posted by Cranberry at 3:04 PM on October 1, 2012

I have the INGO table, which I stained a sort of bluish gray. Heed the warnings upthread--it will not take the stain evenly. If I did it over again (and I might get around to redoing it one of these days), I would just paint it.
posted by donajo at 5:36 PM on October 1, 2012

Blue. Blue is the answer. Think shades like robin's egg and cornflower. I wouldn't go with green; avocado plus harvest gold is way too much like a 70s theme house for my taste, and any other shade of green might make the golds and browns look sickly. Blue, on the other hand, will perk the whole place up. You might want to look into milk paint over a coat of primer if you want a nice translucency - imagine something like this but without the final sanding that makes it all chippy and distressed.
posted by ourobouros at 6:30 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will add a vote for blue.

In your situation, I would likely sand the table, then stain. I don't think an completely even stain is necessary.

But I also appreciate the impulse to just paint. Be sure to seal the paint job well so you don't end up with latex I your toast.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 7:43 PM on October 1, 2012

I’d go red. Or orange. But I hate blue.

Something I do instead of colored stain is a tinted polyurethane. I put a little latex paint (say red, for instance) in a clear water based polyurethane. BOTH PAINT AND POLY MUST BE WATER BASED. If you use paint instead of just a color tint it will add a little opaqueness, which works well. You only need a little paint in the mix. You can adjust how much color intensity and opaqueness there is by how many coats you put on, or add more paint to the mix in subsequent coats if it’s coming out too transparent for you.

The more coats you use the better it looks, and it’s sort or exponential; one coat is going to look pretty "eh", five or six is going to look amazing. It builds a very jewel like 3D effect that’s hard to describe (sort of like transparent color guitar finishes). Sand lightly between coats if you want, use thin coats. Don’t worry about evenness, don’t overwork it, as you put on multiple coats it will even out and that unevenness will become depth. This is a very easy technique that requires little skill, but can look pretty impressive. You have to commit to the multiple coats though to get a great effect.

Minwax makes similar thing premade called Polyshades, except it’s stain in polyurethane. It’s not quite the same because they only expect you to use one or two coats, and it just has more of a "country" look.
posted by bongo_x at 10:23 PM on October 1, 2012

From the pictures on the Ikea site, it doesn't look like bare wood. It has some sort of finish which probably would not take stain as well as an unfinished surface.
posted by JJ86 at 6:11 AM on October 2, 2012

What lots of people above said—if it has some sort of finish, just rough up the surface a bit with sandpaper and then paint it. Finish with a water-based polycrylic. Several thing coats > one thick coat (trust me!), and let them dry enough in between. Poke around on Apartment Therapy a bit for color inspiration.

A great resource (for tips and inspiration) is Young House Love. You can see all of their furniture-related projects here, and their how-to guide on painting furniture here. I recently painted and stained some [unfinished] IKEA furniture, and their advice was really helpful.

FWIW, the staining was fun and looked really cool, but I only did it because the furniture was completely unfinished. Stripping furniture is a little intense for my weekend projects right now...
posted by joJeppson at 9:13 AM on October 2, 2012

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