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new life for my duncan phyfe

When we bought our house last year we got a new room we hadn’t had before, a formal dining. I immediately started to consider all of my options when it came to the perfect dining room table. I searched all of the furniture stores for different styles, and types, and costs. None of them had the right “feel.”

It wasn’t until I was cleaning out old furniture from my Dad’s farm, that the perfect table suddenly appeared. And when I say perfect, I don’t mean looks. It was my childhood table. The one I grew up eating at with my family. And it was in BAD shape.

Once we made the five hour journey home with the old beaten up table, I almost threw it away. Who am I to redo a whole table? I have never even attempted to refinish furniture before in my life!

Eventually I thought, at least I could try, and if it doesn’t work out, I will go straight to Star furniture and buy the new shiny table I had my eye on.

When trying to decide on how best to style the table, I started with some research Online to get some ideas. It turns out, the table is called a Duncan Phyfe, probably from the early 1960’s, and people refinish these tables all of the time.

So this is where I started. Like I said, the table was in BAD shape.

Chairs with the 1990’s maroon flowered coverings.

Table top. Please note **we immediately moved the table outside after two minutes of sanding. I would not recommend sanding in your house! ** (like I said, first timer!)

Claw-foot pedestal

I decided to make the chairs and pedestals white, using an easy coverage white Chalk Paint. This greatly reduced the amount of sanding I would need to do on the chairs and pedestals. I used Valspar Chalky Finish Paint from Lowes. It worked great!

While at Home Depot my husband had the great idea of buying me a Paint Sprayer. Thank goodness! It made the three coats of paint go on so much easier. I would highly recommend buying a decorators paint sprayer for your projects. This is the link to the one I bought. 

I sprayed three-four coats of the chalk paint until I was finally happy with the results.

Now to stain the table top. I used Minwax PolyShades Stain and Polyurethane in One Step. Link Here.


Using a brush, I gently and evenly applied the first coat of stain on my bare table.

Stained table top 1

Once finished, the table looked like this. RED and awful and I completely freaked out. Yikes! A few days later I got the courage to try one more coat of stain. It worked beautifully!

table top stained 2

Now for the chair coverings. I decided on a burlap texture dark gray color, and found the perfect fabric at Hobby Lobby. I used one yard for each chair (and had extra).

The fun part was tearing off the OLD fabric. Once underneath, we discovered THREE more generations of fabric.

chairs four

We are guessing the fabric is from the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s. Such a fun discovery and my children really enjoyed seeing the different generations.

Using a staple gun, I was able to add the gray fabric fairly easily.

After some finishing touches with removing tape, adding some touch up paint, and some decor, the table FINALLY came together.

The whole project took me about two months, while working on and off with our busy schedule. I almost gave up about five times, but something kept pushing me forward, telling me it was worth all of the hard work. I am so glad I finished! The table is perfect in our new house. While the refinishing was not perfect, there are a lot of boo boos if you look close enough, the history of the table and the time spent making it our own was well worth it.

So if you are considering buying something new, maybe take a look out in your garage, or even your parents garage. You may find a hidden treasure right before your eyes! Hey, if I can do it, so can you!

finished 2

Have you refinished any old furniture? How did it go? I would love to hear about your experience and any helpful tips you may have.

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  1. Tiffany it’s gorgeous and I LOVE that the kids helped!! The entire look of the dining room is SO you and absolutely gorgeous. Congrats on a job well done.

  2. This is SO helpful, thank you! I’m getting ready to pick up my own duncan phyfe style table and chairs today to try to refinish… fingers crossed! Thanks for the recommendation with the paint sprayer, looks like I’ll be investing in one of those for sure. I’m curious how your stain and poly combo has held up over the years with wear and tear?

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