Friday, October 1, 2010

Mid-century Coffee Table Re-do

When my great uncle Jon died my senior year in college, he left behind lots of laughing memories, a cross and a coffee table. Truly his possessions were few. The cross hung on my bedroom wall, and the coffee table went into storage not to be rediscovered until I was preparing to marry. It's a mid-century (20th) piece. The legs remind me a bit of the Mission style or Arts and Crafts style. When I saw it again, the table reminded me of many good times in the living room that my uncle and grandmother shared. It also spoke practicality and fit the combined eclectic style of two twenty somethings trying to merge lives.

For six years it held the traditional role of a coffee table - a place to sort mail, stack magazines, display coffee table books, and yes, place a coffee mug. When my son came along and began to crawl, the coffee table was laid off. It was not home to mail, magazines, books . . . definitely not ceramic mugs with hot liquids. The table sat barren, its sharp corners now rounded by the latest baby proofing technique. Its lone drawer was empty. Had the coffee table become useless?

Right after my son's birthday, we moved. New surroundings and a new layout changed my view of our household furniture. At Christmas the table displayed a toy nativity scene making it easy for my fifteen month old to play. After the holidays the table began to collect toys as it once had mail and magazines. It now had a use again! It was also a mess. My mother-in-law gave me some small canvas bins, and I began to envision a play table that could appeal to a mom's need for order and a tot's need to play.

Our play center, puts the drawer handle to the wall in order to protect the drawer and curious hands. Canvas bins can be purchased for $1 - $10 each and up. If you are creative, make your own bins or use found items that are safe for children. If you are using the table in a play room or child's room, you could also use the bins to teach organization by adding pictures of what goes in each bin.

Other ideas for Coffee Table Re-dos:

  1. Create an entertainment center - create a remote drawer, never lose a remote again
  2. Cover with a fitted table cloth - use the shelf for hidden storage, top with coffee table books
  3. Create a game table for older kids - store games below, add risers for height & pillows as seating
  4. Add a fitted glass top and display travel memorabilia or a postcard collection
  5. Refinish the table and enjoy as a traditional coffee table


  1. Also, if its solid, you can glue foam to the top and cover in fabric to make an ottoman.

  2. Thanks for adding your idea and for reading the blog, Kate. I have the feeling my coffee table will be going through several changes as my son grows up. Part of me thinks I will refinish it one day, but that will wash away all the dings that are a part of the table's story. I'll keep you posted.