How to Stain a Coffee Table a Dark Color

Ever since we purchased our couch, we’ve wanted to find a new coffee table.

Well…we bought the couch 2 years ago. So, I think it’s finally time to get on the coffee table hunt!

It’s not that I don’t like our current coffee table. It was a fine Ikea purchase from my college days, and it has stood the test of time…(a.k.a. many college house parties)

I still love the table’s white color, the sliding drawer, and the two levels that provide maximum storage.

But, it just did not work with our L-shaped, natural colored couch.

white couch with big coffee table
Our poor guests have to suck it all in to try and sit on our couch. No bueno.
For the past few months, I’ve been on the hunt for a new table that would fit well in the space.
Here’s my list of must haves:
-Round shape (to offset the rectangular shape of the couch)
-2 levels (for maximum storage)
-Smaller & shorter than our current table
-Made of high quality, sturdy wood (for our heavy legs that rest on the table every night)
I’m happy to say that I found a table that hit everything on my checklist!
Especially the round requirement.  I joyfully sang Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round as I loaded the table into my car. The song is still stuck in my head.
Antique wood coffee table
This bad boy was scored over a fabulous girls’ weekend with my mom, aunt, and cousin. My mom actually spotted it and quickly snatched it up at my favorite antique store for only $80. A pretty great price considering the quality. Score!
I knew right away that I wanted to stain the table to match the dark espresso of our bookshelves. That way there was some contrast going on in our family room between the white media console…the dark bookshelves…the natural couch…and the dark coffee table.
Here’s what I used to get my stain on…
Staining supplies palm sander minwax stain paint brush
Paint brush
Palm Sander
120 grit sandpaper
A few cloths
Minwax Wood Finish in Ebony
The table was showing its age, with some nicks and marks on the surface.
Antique wooden coffee table before
So my first step was to sand down the wood and create a nice even surface before staining.
I used 120 grit sandpaper (a medium grit) to smooth out the surface, sides, and second level of the table.    (Tip: Be sure to sand with the grain of the wood.)
Then, I wiped down the table with soapy water to get rid of any dust and dirt.
Sanded coffee table
Once the table was dry it was time to stain. I put on some rubber gloves and got to work!
Minwax stain ebony
I went with the color “ebony” because I really wanted a dark, almost black, color for the table.
I used my paint brush to paint a nice thin coat of stain onto the table, going with the grain of the wood. You could tell the dry wood was thirsty, because it happily soaked up that first coat of stain!
Stained coffee table in ebony
After about 10 minutes, I used a dry cloth to wipe up any excess stain. Make sure you don’t press down too hard when you wipe, but definitely wipe up any extra stain that is on the surface.
I then waited 24 hours and checked on my table again. The color wasn’t quite dark enough for me, so I decided to go for another coat of stain. I repeated the staining process…this time letting the stain soak in about 20 minutes before wiping it up.
48 hours later I trudged back down to the basement (side note: my legs should look way better due to all of the stairs I climb for these projects!) ready to finish up my coffee table.
Minwax Wipe-on Poly Sealing Stained furniture

To seal and protect the stained wood, I used a wipe-on poly. I literally just poured it right out onto the table and wiped an even coat on with a soft cloth. After it dried (about 3-4 hours) I used steel wool to lightly buff out the wood. I repeated this process 2 more times, for a total of 3 coats of wipe-on poly.

Stained Coffee Table
I’m in love with my little round table. It’s everything my white table wasn’t…
The tray on top is from Home Goods ($9.99!) and it is filled with cute & functional goodies.
Here’s a coffee table book about St. Louis, so our guests can learn about our new city.
On top is an old horse shoe, just to add some fun and maybe even luck to our family room!
Scrabble Tile Coasters
Some scrabble tile coasters (tutorial here) help us avoid the dreaded water ring on the wood (the horror!)
Home Goods Candle
This candle is another Home Goods purchase. Comfy couch, tivo, glass of red wine, and this candle…that says RELAXATION to me.
I’m really happy with the color of the table. It has a distressed look to it, with darker spots and roughed up edges.
Stained Coffee Table
I like the contrast between the dark table and light couch.
Wood Stain Coffee Table After
It provides good balance to the white media console and espresso bookcases across from it.
Even though the table is quite a bit smaller than our other one…there’s still plenty of room to stretch out my legs, sit back, and unwind.

  • i love it! love the dark stain!

  • Thanks Lindsay! I’m loving the dark stain too. Definitely a good contrast with the white couch.

  • Jackie B

    Like the dark stain. Did you ever consider using wood conditioner first? I stained a table last year (with lots of help) and learned the hard way to always use a wood conditioner. I read Centsational Girl too late on that one.

  • Jackie, I did look into it. Wood conditioner can definitely help give an even uniform look (less blotchy), so I maybe should have gone with that! But, I am kinda liking the distressed, rustic look of the piece…darker in some areas, lighter in others.

    Would love to see your stained table!

  • Angela Conley

    What a lovely find and makeover! I like painted furniture, but preserving wood in its natural beauty is great too. Looks fab!

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