14 January 2014

How We Built Our Dining Room Table

I've already spent a considerable amount of time gushing about this table, so I'll just get right to the point of this post....as soon as I say one more time that I am literally living with the table of my dreams. I am madly in love with this thing. 

It all started over two years ago when I was reading a post on the blog 6th Street Design School. Kirsten had taken a bunch of photos at a Parade of Homes and shared them in this post. I came to this photo and it stopped me dead in my scrolling. 

I had never seen a table in this style and I loved it- the glass top with the wood frame, the nailhead trim...all of it. Love. I pinned it and told myself that someday this look would happen in our dining room.

Fast forward like a year and a half to when we'd recently moved into this house and I'd relocated our dining room table and chairs to the breakfast nook and declared to Rob that it was time for a new look in the dining room. I showed him this picture and told him this was the table style I wanted to buy for the room. Then when a search told me that not only could I not find anything like this to buy, but also that anything even remotely similar was going to cost thousands, (which didn't even make it an option anyway) I went back to Rob and told him we were going to build a table in this style ourselves. Or rather, he was going to build it and I was going to be his completely helpful and totally enthusiastic assistant. 

We talked out a rough idea of what we wanted and the changes we wanted to make to the design for our own table versus the table in the photo that had inspired me. We loved the look of the glass being inset in the wooden frame around the top of the table (it reminded me of a giant picture frame laying on it's back) but we worried that for us the design wouldn't be the most practical- we could picture that edge where the glass meets the wood turning into a food trap since we have small children and crumbs and spills are part of every meal. So we decided we'd get our glass cut to fit over the whole frame, that way we'd have only one type of surface to clean and there'd be no cracks for food to get wedged in. That decision eliminated the nail heads, which I was pretty bummed about at first because I loved them on the inspiration table. But we couldn't think of a way to incorporate them that made sense since we were covering the whole top of the table with glass so after much deliberating we decided to skip it.  
Another change we wanted to make was with the wooden part of the table top- I wanted ours to be quite a bit thicker than the one in the inspiration photo, and I knew I wanted our table to be wood. I'm not a big wood fan in general so we don't have much of it around our house. But I do like small amounts of it and I don't like the fake feel in a room where everything in sight is covered in paint. So I wanted this table to give us our needed dose of wood to keep things real. 

The closest Rob and I have ever come to making a piece of furniture is when we turned our coffee table into an ottoman; we've never actually built something completely from scratch before. The scariest part of the table seemed like it would be the legs and base- we had no idea how we could construct something like that without the proper tools and know-how and not have it come out looking cheap and totally obvious that it was a diy. 

But luckily, we didn't have to construct the legs or the base ourselves- we were able to buy both from a site called tablelegs.com. They have pre-made table leg kits that come with the legs and base, and they have leg sizes for every size table, from coffee tables to dining tables. 

We ended up ordering a custom kit (they do those too!) because the size of our table was bigger than any of their pre-made kits. They were super helpful and someone from their site (I'm pretty sure his name was Charlie) even talked to me on the phone multiple times to help me make a final decision on the leg and base style that I wanted. I explained my design idea for the table and he told me options that would be able to support it. It made it nice when I ordered because then I felt completely comfortable with my choices. 

The legs and base came ready to assemble and even though putting them together looked pretty straight forward, Rob watched a video from the Table Legs site to get some tips for putting them together. The assembly was really easy and they came with all the holes for the screws and everything so Rob didn't have to do any pre-drilling before he could put it together. 

The wood of the table base and legs comes unfinished so you add your own stain or paint. I sanded all the pieces before Rob assembled them and then once he put it all together we stained it. 

I already told the story of the first stain we did here but in a nutshell, when we stained the legs and base for the first time the color didn't go on very well (completely because of our lack of experience with stain). We roughed it up a little with the sander and actually thought it looked kind of cool so I thought we might leave it. {More on that further down...}

Meanwhile we ordered the wood for the top of the table from a lumber yard- I'd priced it up and we'd decided to go with poplar because that was the cheapest hardwood they had. I'd actually made sure to find out the pricing and type of wood we'd get for the top before we ordered the table legs and base kit from tablelegs.com, that way we could try to match the wood. TableLegs didn't have poplar but their closest option to it was soft maple so that's what we ordered the legs and base kit in. 

I wanted a fairly thick top so we went with 2 inches. I didn't want mitered corners; I wanted it a little more relaxed looking so Rob cut the wood so that the two end pieces were about 3 1/2 feet long (41 inches to be exact) and spanned the whole width of the table and then the two pieces for the long side were each a little over 5 feet long (62 1/2 inches) and were flanked by the shorter pieces at either end. 

Basically they'd be put together just like they are arranged here on the floor:

(Only, you know, without kids running across them.)

One of the things that the guy from the table legs site had helped me with was figuring out the measurements for the top so that we'd have a consistent-sized overhang all the way around the table between the edge of the tabletop and the base. I decided to go with a two inch overhang so it was super helpful to have him on the other end of the phone doing the math and letting me know exactly what the measurements should be for the table top size to make that happen. 

By the way, Tablelegs.com also has a chart for figuring out what your tabletop measurements should be based on how many people you are wanting to seat. We didn't know about it at the time but I wanted to include it in my post because it can be really helpful to anyone planning a table build. They also have this article about space planning your dining room and figuring out the table sizing. 

Rob put the pieces of wood together for the top by drilling pocket holes for screws and by making slots at the edges where the wood would meet up so that he could use biscuits held with wood glue. 

First he would attach two pieces using the biscuits and wood glue:

Then he'd go back and put screws in the pocket holes.

While Rob was putting the top together I took care of staining the inside of the table base. We hadn't bothered staining it when we'd first stained the legs and outside of the base but with so much of the table top being open and just covered in glass, the stuff you don't normally see on a table (like the inside of the base) had to look good too since from certain angles when you're sitting at the table you'll get peeks of it. So I stained the inside and that's when I figured out that the stain goes on so much better when you don't follow the directions on the can that tell you to wait a minute or three before wiping it off- I wiped it off right away after applying it and it came out really nice and consistent. 

I put stain on the insides of all the pocket holes too so they wouldn't be totally obvious- I just used a small foam brush to squish the stain into the opening and then wiped away the drips. 

Attaching the table top to the base was easy thanks to all the pocket holes that came predrilled in the base from the Table Legs place- we just set the top on the base and then after making sure it was lined up evenly all the way around, Rob put screws in each of the pocket holes and the top was completely secure. {btw I sanded the table top out in the garage once it was all put together before we brought it in here and put it on the table.}

At this point we put the drop cloths back under the table and I stained the top- and with my new-found staining skills that I'd picked up from doing the inside of the base, the color came out looking amazing. Super consistent and just the shade of brown I was wanting. (In some of the finished photos the color of the stain looks kind of reddish but it's not at all red in real life. I was super careful to choose a stain that didn't have any of my hated undertones for wood- red, orange, or yellow.)

So with the top looking fab and the base and legs suddenly looking- well, not- we lugged the table out to the garage so I could sand it down to bare wood again and start over from scratch. 

I re-stained the base and legs using the same quick technique I'd used on the top- apply to one area and then wipe it off right away. I ended up doing I think about 3 coats to get the color to match the shade on top. 

After the staining was all done I gave it one last light sanding and a coat of poly-crylic to protect the wood. 

Then we ordered our piece of glass. I can't even remember where we ordered it from but it was from a glass place Rob has worked with before (he's in construction). We had it cut to fit over the whole table top. We got a fairly thick piece for two reasons: one because I didn't want to worry about it getting broken if something got thrown at it since you never know what can happen in a house with two 3 year olds; and two, I didn't want to have to use those little rubber bumpers under it to keep it from sliding. I was hoping that if the glass was thick enough it would be heavy enough to stay in place on the table without needing those bumpers. Luckily that was the case- the glass is insanely heavy. It took Rob, my brother, and my brother-in-law to put it on the table and then it didn't move. So I have absolutely no fears of it sliding off the table. 

This was definitely the longest project we've ever done- it took months. Mostly because we didn't order all our supplies at once. Since everything we needed to build this table was fairly pricey, we didn't want to risk getting every thing at once and then having measurements be off and something not work with something else and then have wasted hundreds of dollars. So we started with the base and legs and then once that was put together we ordered the wood for the top, then lastly we order the glass. I'm really glad we did it that way because it gave us room to make any needed adjustments with the sizing of things and just gave us a lot more peace of mind and confidence when we'd put in an order for something. 

This was definitely not a cheap diy either. In all we spent around $1,000.00 including all the little misc things like stain, brushes, screws, etc. But that was our budget if we'd bought a table, and before we got started with building this one I'd shopped around a bunch of stores to check prices on similarly sized tables (room for 8), and a plain wooden table of that size would cost us right around a thousand dollars. Tables with glass tops were quite a bit more. So even though we could have saved ourselves all the trouble and just bought a regular wooden table for the same price, we couldn't have gotten something in this style (glass) for even close to that. So the cost of building this was definitely worth it to us to have the exact table that I was wanting. 

Anyone who was paying close attention to the photos in this post may have noticed that the dining room chairs changed about halfway through this project. I explained the reason for that here

This is definitely, hands down, my favorite thing that Rob and I have ever made. I want our grandkids to be eating dinner with us at this table someday. 
And after months of working on it, it sure feels good to have it finished! 


  1. WOW! All your hard work definitely paid off. It is truly a beauty, something to pass down for generations!

    1. Thank you Tiffany!! That's what I'm picturing; I really hope this thing is around for a long long time! :)

  2. Great Post !!!
    Very impressive idea, Thanks for sharing such a nice post..
    We have best collections of traditional dining table designs.

  3. Such a beauty though, and even with all the transitions :) Definitely something to be proud of Brooke!

  4. What a beautiful job on the table! We enjoy seeing how our components are used to create our customer's design vision. Perfect choice of leg for your design and able to hold the weight of the table top. Your table top is beautifully constructed and unique. Having a dining table built yourself is a priceless home addition. The family's heart and soul is feed from the home's table with memories lasting generations. Thank you for letting us be a part of your table project and now a part of your family.

  5. You and Rob should really be proud! Although I won't be making any tables soon, the tablelegs.com is a great resource! Yes, gush about this fab table all you want because it is truly a labor of love and just plain gorgeous!

    1. Thanks so much Vel!! Yes I'm sooo happy with it! and the tablelegs place was a great find; it's what made this project doable for us!

  6. Wow! You guys did a beautiful job on your table. I love your whole design in the dining room.

  7. Really fun dining table! Glad I I found your blog on SImple Details!

  8. It is truly awesome, and even better since you built it together!

    The cost doesn't surprise me. I do a lot of furniture repurposing and people wouldn't believe what wood and kreg screws cost! :)

    1. Yes! I was shocked!! My husband knew from the start that it would be a pretty pricey project but I was pretty surprised. Definitely worth it though!

  9. Your table is beautiful! How great you can say you have a custom piece that you built!

  10. What an incredible project! All your hard work has paid off as the table looks absolutely beautiful. You've done a fantastic job.

    Best wishes, Alex

  11. love this table! so hard to find a dining table with the right mix of wood and glass. my husband and i are going to try to replicate this. can you tell me the dimensions of your table base, wood on top, glass thickness? thanks!

    1. Thank you! I'm glad it will be helpful for you guys! Shoot, I can't remember all of the dimensions, and I'd measure for you but we just moved and the table is temporarily being stored. I'm sorry! Here's all the dimension info I could find: Wood top thickness: 2 inches. Wood top width (made with the two shorter pieces of wood): 3 1/2 feet long (41 inches)- those spanned the whole width of the table. The two pieces for the long sides were each a little over 5 feet long (62 1/2 inches) and were flanked by the shorter pieces at either end. If you go with tablelegs.com for the base and legs, they are really helpful with helping you figure out what dimensions you'll want to go with on the base and legs based on your design plans for the top. They were super patient with me because I called without a clue as to exactly how big I should make things, so they sat on the phone with me and let me brainstorm and they did all the math. It was really nice! They also have that seating chart that I put in the post- that would be really helpful to plan out the size of your table top based on how much seating you want. I wish I could remember the exact glass thickness but I can't....it's either a quarter inch thick or 1/2 inch thick...I'm sorry I don't remember which. Best of luck with your table! I wish I could be more help!