The Story Behind the Farmhouse Coffee Table Project

Stripping + Staining + Sanding + Repeat!

Stripping + Staining + Sanding + Repeat!

When DIY Goes Wrong :  It All Started With the Soot

After finishing one of my first furniture flip projects, an old dresser turned TV stand, I found that I really enjoyed upcycling old, used, busted-up furniture!
Old, Ugly Coffee Table

So, I went on a search for a piece of furniture in desperate need of some fixin’ up! The piece of furniture featured in this DIY Project has always been a coffee table and has miraculously managed to function as one in a townhome, a condo, a house, and 3 different apartments, spread across three different cities in my great state of North Carolina!

This monster of a traveling brown square has finally found it’s forever home and is looking quite good in it! 🙂 See how I refurbished the “hideous brown square” and created a clean, rustic, and beautiful Farmhouse Coffee Table!

Inspiration : After a major chimney blockage in the form of 2 dead birds resulted in a terrible odor that permeated the house over Father’s Day weekend, a major do-it-yourself repair project began. A basic breakdown of the factors leading to this unplanned furniture flip include:

  • an old brick chimney with NO cap and a broken flu
  • a lot of homeless chimney swifts who, for reasons unknown, love to nest in our chimney every spring
  • no one with the skills or desire to climb into a nasty, smelly, dangerous chimney
  • MY FATHER — stubborn, destructive and HUGE! Mr. G is 6’4, 220 pounds. My dad is good at many things, home repair & maintenance not being among them…..but don’t tell him that!
What the coffee table looked like at the time of the soot incident!

What the coffee table looked like at the time of the soot incident!

In the days leading up to the “incident” there’s no doubt that the smell was awful. Visiting family members even noticed and politely asked what it was. The poodles in residence were constantly approaching the fireplace and sniffing for the source of this horrible odor. Mr. G, however, could smell nothing! My first solution was to duct tape my mom’s design board in front of the fireplace opening which helped a little with the aid of a fan, but in the heat of a North Carolina summer, proved futile.

SO, we attempted multiple DIY odor-killing fixes. We plugged our noses. pulled back the board slightly,  gagged a few times, and added the following to the stinking black hole: crumpled newspapers, handfuls of charcoal briquettes, a box of baking soda, Fe-breeze spray,  and mom’s homemade lavender herbal sachets. But it was apparent to everyone that a chimney professional would have to be called.

However, Mr. G was NOT convinced. Despite the desperate pleadings of all those around him, he decided to attempt a DIY chimney repair project on the sly. He sneaked into the living room at six in the morning to avoid being caught. He crept through the kitchen, with his trusty Shop-Vac, which is quite difficult for a man whose average footsteps sound like an approaching grizzly bear. No one knows for sure what happened next but mom was awakened by the sound of the SHOP-VAC and followed the noise, with a growing realization of what was probably happening, to the living room.


What she discovered was Mr. G, head-first, up to his waist in the disgusting chimney, with the nozzle of Shop-Vac up the open flu. When she tapped him on the shoulder, he scrambled from the chimney hole, his soot-covered face expressing shock, guilt, and denial all at once. Bird nest materials covered his shirt, hair, and the fireplace hearth. The main problem, however, was when he turned to face the wrath of my mom, the Shop-Vac nozzle turned with him and blew fine, black chimney soot  EVERYWHERE!!

I walked into all the screaming and yelling, to find soot covering…. no, blanketing….the furniture, couches, bookshelves, rugs, curtains, walls, and picture frames in a fine, black film of soot. I hadn’t had my morning coke yet and my mind was still waking up, but the image of Mr. G sitting on the fireplace with his trusty Shop-Vac, looking totally guilty, and my mom furiously making coffee in the kitchen, told me everything I needed to know:)

After a mind-boggling description of the morning’s events, a few minutes of frantic phone calls, and a few “I’m sorry’s” from Mr. G… we came to the haunting realization that no professional would be coming over to clean the chimney blow-out on a Sunday afternoon during Father’s Day Weekend. So we rolled up our sleeves…Mr. G included….to clean up the disaster zone. The destruction was minimized by the efforts of myself and my mom….Mr. G disappeared about halfway through the clean-up.

We saved most of the living room (Stanley Steamer is helping with the rugs). After an 18 hour day—my mom and I stood exhausted & fuming in a mostly bare living room….Mr. G had retired to bed hours earlier. In the middle of the empty room sat the old, brown, square coffee table which was in such horrible shape before the “soot incident” that it was constantly being covered with tablecloths, patterned fabrics, etc., and NOW looked soooo bad we thought it was bound for the dump.

But INSPIRATION STRUCK & a new DIY project was born 🙂 ….  Read what happened to the soot-covered coffee table and what it looks like AFTER the project!!