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Friday, April 17, 2015

I love tablecloths

They are a cheap and super easy way to transform something that looks a bit

like this

to this

Our kitchen table is now 28 years old. It was a kit when we bought it. And has never been refinished. The kids did homework, painted, played with playdough, and colored at this table. The table top edges show years of wear.

Every summer, I vow to tackle refinishing this table. Maybe this summer will be the lucky one. But for now, a nice tablecloth conceals the rough edges and transforms the dining end of the kitchen to something civilized.

This tablecloth, by the way, is one that gets double duty. It goes on the table for the month of December, and then again in early spring. I made it, and the coordinating napkins, several years ago, from a piece of heavyweight fabric, the kind you would use for drapery.

It survives washing in the washing machine. And because of it's heavy weight, it comes out neat enough for family use, to not need the iron. (Okay, some might say a little ironing would be beneficial. But this is nice enough for us.)

Anyway, call me old fashioned. I just love the look of a tablecloth. It doesn't have the visual clutter of placemats/table top.



Kris said...

I like the look of a tablecloth, too, but my kids complain about the fabric hanging over the sides of the table, so I don't use them very often.

Linda said...

I just picked up a tablecloth, still in its original package at a yard sale this morning for $2, pure white and brand new! And I picked up another one yesterday for $1 but it had a number of stains on it. I think it's linen or a combo of cotton and linen and I plan to use it as the backing for bibs. I have a new grandchild due in July!

We found our dining room table on the side of the road with a cardboard sign that said "FREE" about 12 years ago, complete with 1 leaf. My husband made 2 additional ones from old table leaves we had and it can sit 10 when fully extended.

This table has a number of imperfections as you might expect but I mostly just overlook them. As my dad would say, "It has character" and so does your table!

Lili said...

Hi Kris,
For the kitchen table, I make the drops shorter, so only about 5 inches falls down the sides. I find that as we get up and down more from a kitchen table, that the cloth gets dragged about, if the drops are longer.

Our dining room tablecloths, which are hand-me-downs from my great grandparents', have these very long drops, which are a bit annoying, as the cloth practically sits in your lap. I have thought of altering those cloths, but hate to change something so special to me (and it would alter the placement of some of the hand embroidery and monograms).

Teresa said...

I have a table that I use that was my parents. The varnish had worn off. It kind of has a unique design to the legs. I also have covered it with a tablecloth.
Now I am wondering if I sanded the table and painted (off white or yellow:)it would be lovely.
Till then table cloths are the way to go:)

Lili said...

Hi Linda,
I like that -- my table just has character!

How very wonderful that your husband could make more leaves! I would love another leaf for my dining room table. I'm not sure the extension bars under the table would be long enough. I'll have to check on that to see if it would even be possible. Maybe? And then my table could seat 2 more. I'd never thought of more leaves before. Brilliant. Now to find someone handy with tools who could make another leaf for me.

Lili said...

Hi Teresa,
Painting is what I'm considering, too. A barely off-white is what I'm considering, as it would go well with my kitchen and dishes. I'd have to do the chairs, to match. But maybe this summer. . .

What's your color scheme for the room with the table? You must have some yellow, right? It could be that the varnish is so worn that sanding it would not be much of a chore. Good luck with it.

Until then, for me, just like you, table cloths are the way to go. And I think they add style and elegance. A definite bonus.

Anne in the kitchen said...

Is this the "finish is coming off the table club", because if it is I need to apply for membership. I use tablecloths each time we use the dining room table, but I only use them in the kitchen if we have guests over. Mine is showing some wear and I need to refinish the top this summer, hopefully before the end of May. Now if it will just quit raining so I can get it done

Anonymous said...

Hi Teresa,
Just a suggestion: if your table is finished in varnish, NOT shellac, then it would be easy to refinish without sanding using a product called "Polyshade" by Miniwax. You can find it in almost every paint department at Home Depot and many other home improvement stores. We have used this product countless times. You don't have to sand off the old varnish, just be sure to remove any dust or grease from the surface, dry completely, then apply the stain/polyurethane mixture (polyshade). If there are rough spots or thick peeling/cracked varnish, it would be advisable to remove the thickened areas by scraping and sanding off (at least so the surface is smooth). Between coats, use steel wool to prep. When the first coat is applied, it looks doubtful whether the missing varnish areas will cover, but when the coat dries it looks remarkably better, and even better after the second coat dries. Don't panic and keep brushing to cover the weak areas (this will cause the polyshade to muck up). Just apply the coats as quickly as you can and let dry. Polyshade however will not work on old shellac. Choose a shade that is closest or darker than the original. HTH :)


Teresa said...

YHF, thank-you for the information.
Lili if I decide to paint , it would only be the table I would do, I might redo the seat material on the chairs to match and yellow/ white paint. My mother recovered them at some point , probably about 20 years after she had them.They were the original dining room table, chairs and buffet in my childhood home. A light varnish , wood colour. Mid-century modern I think we call it now .They were married in 1953 so vintage I suppose.

Teresa said...

The reason I lean towards yellow is it is my "happy colour:)
My mother agreed to paint my bedroom when I was little this colour. The room faced North but was always so cheerful even with diffuse light.

Lili said...

Hi Anne,
LOL! Yes, definitely!
Good luck with your refinish project. I've got to wait until actual summer, for a long stretch of clear weather, if I want to do this outdoors. Keep us posted.

Lili said...

So it sounds like this would be a good product when just refinishing in the same wood tones. Any idea how to tell if something is shellac vs. varnish? My parents' dining room set is beginning to show some wear, and would like to keep the same finish. Just improve the look.
Thanks for your input!

Lili said...

Teresa, yellow sounds so cheerful! My kitchen cabinets are a pale yellow. I chose that color as it looks so cheery on our drab NW days.

Teresa said...

One of my friends had a piece of plywood cut to fit on top of her table but bigger so she could seat more guests.
We have 6 in our family and when our extended regular guests come over we have a table we place besides the main table. I have an arch so it fits narrower in this. We have a leaf for the main table to extend it to sit 8.
When we have really big dinners we have this amazing Ikea table we bought when we were first married. Smallest size is a circle then we add up to an additional 3 leaves. We fit another 10+ around this one.
When we had every one at Christmas Eve this year instead of placing the tables next to each other we had them apart. Still allowed for conversations to flow but especially allowed movement between tables and the buffet in the kitchen and children to move away / return easily.
I have some banquet table cloths that are too large for certain tables so we have the long part folded over at one end , generally abutting another table. The overflow table cloth is held with a (hair) elastic. Or both ends are folded under the tablecloth. My husband and I generally sit at the ends.

Lili said...

Teresa, I have thought of doing something like what your friend has done, for extending the size of her table. It could work for me, as well. What I've done in the past is pull a second table up to the first. But it doesn't quite look how I'd like it to.

I do like how you arranged multiple tables apart from each other, instead of trying to make one large table. That could work for us, as well. And folding the tablecloth under could work for me, as well, without sacrificing the cloth itself.

Thanks you for all of your input! It's very helpful!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lili,
I first have to apologize for saying "varnish" is OK...what I should have said was polyurethane is OK. NOT varnish, lacquer or shellac. My husband and I do handyman work for a living (yup..not college degree self employment worthy of our degrees...and how we fell into this is also quite a story)...and we have refinished countless interior surfaces using this product, but unfortunately not called the finishes by their correct names. Usually we can just eyeball whether polyshade will work on a surface (although sometimes we have been wrong!!) But go to, and scroll to "Take the Cotton Ball Test to find out. Touch the finish in an inconspicuous place with a cotton ball dampened with acetone nail polish remover. If the cotton ball sticks or the finish softens, it's varnish, lacquer or shellac. If there is no effect, it is paint or polyurethane." We've been incorrectly calling polyurethane "varnish" and that is totally wrong. Most older furnitures are varnish, lacquer or shellac. Also I didn't mention earlier, but some light sanding with the grain before the first coat will help give it some legs for better adhesion. At least with polyshade you don't have to completely strip the old finish, apply stain, and a couple coats of polyurethane.

Anonymous said...

Hi Teresa,
Sorry I gave some incorrect information earlier. Polyshade will not work on varnish, lacquer and shellac, only polyurethane which is a more recent product applied in the late fifties. Your mom's furniture finish may well be a varnish. My husband and I have been loosely calling the good finish varnish and the bad finish shellac. If the surface looks highly polished, it's what we've called shellac, when the correct term should have been lacquer. confusing and now I'm making it worse...if you need to read more about this product please read my reply to Lili above. I know you've indicated you would like to paint. Just a little side note to that...we've polyshaded over paint too.


Lili said...

Thanks for clearing that up, YHF. Our kitchen table is polyurethane, but I doubt our dining room table is. My husband and I put the kitchen table together from a kit and applied the stain and poly ourselves, so I can be certain of what's on it. Thanks so much for coming back and updating your info. I really appreciate that!

EcoCatLady said...

It looks beautiful! Maybe if I put a tablecloth on my table it would keep the random clutter from accumulating there. This, and other pipe dreams... :-)

Lili said...

Hi Cat,
I do foresee one slight problem with a tablecloth in your home, a feline problem. Not only would it be covered with cat hair in a day, but it would never stay straight.

When my cat was a kitten she liked to play a game in the night while I was asleep. She would race around the room, then leap onto the table, taking placemats with her, as she slid across the table. I would get up every morning and come downstairs and wonder what in the world she'd been doing, because all of the placemats would be in a heap on the floor at the far end of the table. Every single night she did this. I can only imagine what a tablecloth would have inspired her to do in those midnight games of hers.

But in truth, about clutter and stuff, I do find that I am more inclined to keep my own clutter to a minimum with a tablecloth on the table, as opposed to placemats. I can only guess as to why I am neater with a tablecloth.

EcoCatLady said...

Ha! Now that you mention it... I'm picturing Smoky pulling the whole tablecloth off of the table along with everything on top of it!

It must have been adorable to watch your kitten playing with the place mats. I have some cheap vinyl place mats that I use for feeding the cats - but I can't leave them out because Jasper thinks they were designed just for him to get underneath. It's hilarious, but if he pulls his antics while there's a bowl full of food on top of the place mat - well... it sorta defeats the purpose of keeping the cat food off of the floor! :-)

Lili said...

How funny -- Jasper's tiny paws prying the edge of the placemat up to crawl under. I can totally picture it!

Live and Learn said...

I want to join the "I need to refinish my table club". I have a very solid oak table and would like to change the color, but don't want to refinish the turned legs underneath. Too much work. Not sure what I'm going to do.

Lili said...

Hi live and learn,
We have another member! Hmmm, sounds like you have a bit of a dilemma. Unless you're willing to go a two-toned look, leaving the legs and apron as is, but changing the top only. Although, I'm guessing that your table is currently a stain finish, which would mean leaving the legs and apron in a stain, but pant the top. The two-toned looks I have seen in tables is the other way around (stained top, painted legs/apron).
Good luck with your decision.

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