Before and After: A $100 Table Redo Inspired by a $5,000 Designer Find

updated Jul 13, 2023
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Before: Plain wood coffee table

Small decorating budgets inspire some of the most creative solutions. Take Michaell Johnson, of The Vanilla Plum, who fell totally in love with a designer coffee table that topped $5,000 featuring beautiful, bold black-and-white marble stripes. But dropping five grand on a coffee table just wasn’t going to happen for Michaell! Instead, she turned to an old table she’d gotten from the curb.

“I couldn’t stand this table,” Michaell says. “But, as newlyweds, we couldn’t afford to put our money into all new living room furniture when we moved. So we decided that we’d try something gutsy with this table since it was already destined for the trash bin.”

Thankfully, the table had some bonuses: It was made of wood, with a wide, flat top—the perfect place to showcase something creative. Michaell bought $100 worth of materials, including both paint and epoxy, to give it a high-end look.

Credit: James Hickey

After sanding down the table and priming the surface, Michaell painted on her white marble. She used white paint, then created three shades of gray “veins” using a small feather while the white paint was still wet. She also used a sea sponge to create movement in the white paint.

After that was dry, Micheaell used tape to section off stripes on the coffee table. Then, she painted the table black; when that was dry, she splattered white paint over the black. After letting the paint dry and pulling up the tape, she had two sets of marbled stripes on her table top. Michaell painted the legs on the table black.

Then, Michaell coated the table in epoxy, which she says was key to making it look like real marble. “No one believes it’s not real marble when they see it, even when I tell them,” Michaell says. “Once I coated the paint in epoxy it really looked like a slab of striped marble.”

Applying epoxy is tricky and Michaell got her husband’s help for this part, since they needed to work fast before the epoxy had time to dry. A hairdryer helped them get bubbles out. For beginners, Michaell advises a test project using epoxy before taking on the real thing. “Epoxy is very durable aside from high heat,” Michaell notes. “Don’t put a cup of hot tea on your table. It seems to weaken the epoxy and you’ll get rings. But the cool thing about marble is marble tends to get rings too, so they almost make the table look more authentic!”

The end result is beautiful — and on budget. “I love that I achieved the look of the designer table I loved, but I was able to put my own spin on it since it was my own artwork,” Michaell says.

Inspired? Submit your own project here.