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DIY Pallet Top Coffee Table

Do you ever shop your own house? If you don’t, you should. It’s a great way to spruce up your home’s design without buying more things or spending more money. Sometimes items simply need to be moved to breathe new life into them, sometimes they need tweaking. With a little house shopping and some salvaged pallet wood I was able to transform an old table into a rustic-inspired DIY pallet coffee table in our living room.


This little wooden coffee table has had a home in my basement for two years. Most recently it was styling itself as a turquoise number. It’s vintage, I think, and has been painted a dozen times. I often wonder what kind of wood would be revealed underneath if I had the patience to strip and sand it down. This table was about to solve all my living room woes as the main character in a makeover and swap.

Meet our living room table. She’s just not right post-reno. She’s too red, too traditional, too… big. This table is just no longer working for me, mostly because it is weighing down the room.


The plan I hatched was to paint the little turquoise table matte black. I used Annie Sloan Graphite mixed with a bit of matte black chalkboard paint to darken the hue (I had both of which on hand, bringing the grand total spent on this project to $0.00). The living room already had some black accents, and I thought a matte black table would kick things up a notch. I was so wrong; it was an epic lacklustre fail. In the end I was saved/inspired by Jen O’Brien at City Farmhouse, who has a pretty sweet coffee table with a planked top in her living room. And, suddenly I knew what to do: I would plank the top, turning it into a DIY pallet coffee table, adding infinite levels of texture and tone.

Now, knowing what to do and actually doing… not the same thing. I’ve never taken on a pallet project before because a) I didn’t know where to get one b) I didn’t feel the need and c) I’d read some gross stories about dirty gross pallets and chemicals and dirt. But, I said WTF and sped over to our local lumber yard, where I proceeded to berate a slightly alarmed employee until she pointed out a pile of old pallets that I was welcome to scavenge from. My luck ended there, because as I was about to find out, prying angry rusted nails out of wood is not so much fun as impossible hell.






1. Acquire a circular saw and learn how to use it.

Unfortunately, for my 17-year-old inner self, I had to get over my long-standing fear of powered saws for this project. Prying apart the pallet was just not going to happen. The more force I applied, the more moody my pallet became. It would rather have splintered into pieces than be disassembled. A circular saw was the simplest answer, and within 5 minutes I had sliced all the wood of that pallet. Jenn 1: Pallet 0.

2. Use A Brad Nailer

I quickly attached all of the planks with a brad nailer, four nails to each pallet.

3. Paint Washes Are Your Friend

It turns out this pallet, which seemed so old, forlorn and perfect in the lumber yard, was hiding behind the smoke and mirrors of a rainy day. By the time it dried off in my garage I was forced to face the undeniable truth: this pallet was not nearly as old as it pretended to be with its rusty nails in that sodden lumber yard. I was most displeased. But, I have an old friend named Annie Sloan, and she had my back. A little left over Old White, a little left over CoCo, a wash cloth and a small cup of water and we were on our way to a washed, drift-wood, aged look. As you can see below, the top image is BEFORE and the bottom is AFTER the washes and wax. The colour is more much more neutral and the wood more distressed. I obviously cleaned the horizontal grease marks off.


4. Go Wild With Dark Wax

Strictly speaking this is not a painted top. There is some paint washing on it, but generally it is a lot of bare wood. You can definitely use dark wax on bare wood, but it’s not something people generally do. Judiciously applying dark wax helped me to magnify the texture of the wood and highlight the knots and tonal irregularities. It is definitely an important step in creating a most distressed aged wood finish.

5. Seal The Table

I used clear wax to create a seal on the table top. It transformed the rough surface, giving it a smooth water repellent feel, without changing the sheen. I obviously didn’t want to give this table top a glossy sheen, as I was going for the look of bare naked wood. I didn’t buff the wax, and let if cure before moving it upstairs.

The main reason I took on this weekend project was that there’s nothing specifically wrong with our old living room table, and I couldn’t bare to get rid of it, or spend money to replace a piece of quality furniture. It’s a great table. In fact, its a solid wood and Canadian made. It’s super functional and pairs great with the piano (which I wish I could do something about). It has a matching end table that didn’t fit in our new space. This table, and its matching side table cousin now look great in my basement with our grey couches. It was the perfect makeover and swap! Do you see those greige toss pillows with the oversized button? I swapped them downstairs too, onto the grey couches, sweetening the deal.

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  • Reply maryann0718

    Wow, love this table! And love the idea of makeover and swap!!

    February 26, 2016 at 3:43 pm
  • Reply justbluedutch

    That table was a killer! So simple and yet fits perfectly.You did a wonderful job Jenn.

    February 26, 2016 at 4:15 pm
    • Reply Jenn Schleich

      thanks! I’m really glad that other people like it, because sometimes I question my aesthetic.

      February 28, 2016 at 3:43 pm
      • Reply justbluedutch

        I always see creativity & style as a prejudice to one’s own logic. But with other’s opinion, there you find reasoning. Thank you for the inspiration.

        February 29, 2016 at 6:26 am
  • Reply mylifeasishan


    February 26, 2016 at 8:03 pm
    • Reply Jenn Schleich

      Thanks! I’m glad to have some up votes, because some of the men in my life have been less than generous with their praise on this particular project lol.

      February 28, 2016 at 3:42 pm
  • Reply Theresa

    Your table came out beautifully! Love it. Thank you for all the great tips. I may need a brad nailer…

    February 29, 2016 at 12:47 pm
    • Reply Jenn Schleich

      Thanks Theresa. The nailer made all the difference, I nailed all the wood down in like 2 minutes flat and the nail holes are barely visible, compared to say a screw which would have marred the surface IMO.

      February 29, 2016 at 2:40 pm
  • Reply goodenufmommy

    I absolutely love it! I never would have thought to do this but I LOVE the effect!!

    February 29, 2016 at 7:23 pm
    • Reply Jenn Schleich

      Neither had I, but once I saw that planked table it just came to me in a wave of inspiration. Thanks for reading.

      February 29, 2016 at 8:13 pm
  • Reply Jenny

    Love a DIY that isn’t ridiculous to actually complete! looking for something to try this on 🙂

    February 29, 2016 at 8:11 pm
    • Reply Jenn Schleich

      I’ve seen all these complex projects for building a pallet table, which I just don’t have patience for as I would rather do like 6 other fun projects in the same span of time. All you really need for this project is confidence with power tools and 20 minutes.

      February 29, 2016 at 8:14 pm
  • Reply Mommy A to Z

    Wow! I’m so impressed! The table looks amazing 🙂 So creative!

    February 29, 2016 at 9:47 pm
  • Reply Urbane Jane

    Hi Jenn! I love what you did to this table; it really adds character to it! And I’ve gotta say, I love the look of your site… it’s so clean & fresh looking. lol 🙂
    I hope you have a wonderful week!

    February 29, 2016 at 10:30 pm
  • Reply themonarchmommy

    This is so cool and it looks great!

    March 1, 2016 at 1:38 am
  • Reply kimberlycox2014

    This looks so simple, and amazing 🙂 Now, if I just had room for a coffee table 😉

    March 1, 2016 at 7:56 am
    • Reply Jenn Schleich

      Thanks Kimberly! The major reason I did this is because our former coffee table was too big. Maybe you could do it to an end table, or find a really slender coffee table.

      March 1, 2016 at 9:22 am
  • Reply Shann Eva

    That table looks amazing! I love it! I’m not sure if I could get over my fear of power saws, but I bet I could convince my husband to do it. Plus, he loves to go to the lumber yard and projects.

    March 1, 2016 at 5:19 pm
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