DIY Modern Coffee Table



I have had many coffee tables over the past few years. One has been turned into a sign, one is in the soon to be nursery and one is up in storage because it’s way too big for the narrow layout in this house. I looked online to find a new one for months and I just could not find one that I liked that was the right size and style that I was looking for. I’ve been trying to add a more modern look to this house design. My husband really gravitates towards modern and I love trying anything different and new so it’s been fun changing it up.

Anyway, back to the table. Since this is such a narrow living room I wanted something small that didn’t have a big bulky base. The best way to get what you want is to DIY, of course. So I enlisted my husband’s help and got to planning. My husband is a machinist and welder so he offered to build a base for me and I could just figure out the top.


For this tutorial, I won’t really go into the base because welding and machining isn’t typically a DIY project. For your own base, you can either build something similar out of wood or buy table legs from your local home improvement store. This tutorial will be about the top.

I used plywood to make this top. Birch plywood, that is. It’s more expensive than the other plywood you find at home improvement stores, but still not very expensive. I got a 2’X4′ piece at Home Depot for around $25.


Be sure you look over your plywood very well before you purchase it. Make sure there aren’t any cracks, bent corners, etc. All the birch plywood was pretty nice and flat, but lay it on the ground just to be sure. I also picked up some iron on birch veneer while I was at Home Depot. I’ll explain why in a bit.


My husband made the base precisely to fit out living room, but you can just build your to fit a 2’X4′ top to save yourself some time. Since I wanted mine a little smaller than that, my husband cut the top to fit with an 1″ overlay on the base.


He enlisted our littlest DIYers to help with the sanding. Make sure you sand with a fine grit sandpaper really well after cutting and before staining or painting.


Once they were finished, it was time for that veneer I told you about earlier. If you’ve ever seen plywood, you’ll notice the sides are not very attractive.


I didn’t want the top to ‘look’ like plywood. I wanted it to look like a solid piece of wood. I used the veneer to achieve that look. This stuff is super simple to use. Just follow the instructions on the packaging and iron it on. There will be some shrinkage after it cools so be sure to leave extra on the ends and you can cut it off once it cools.


Once you’ve got the veneer all the way around the top and it’s nice and cool you want to sand any high spots on top or bottom and on each corner. Doesn’t that look so much better?!

Now time for stain. I chose stain because I change my mind constantly with design so if I wanted to paint it later, I could. If I painted it first, I couldn’t easily change it to stain later because stripping the paint isn’t an easy process and since it’s plywood, I don’t think the table to could handle that. If you want to paint, make sure you use a primer first since this is bare wood. If you want to stain, pick out your favorite stain and a clean rag and get to work. I chose a red oak and used staining pads that I also picked up at Home Depot.



Add a little stain to your pad and apply it to wood in the direction of the grain. Wait a few minutes, then wipe down with a clean cloth. If you’re unsure of how dark you want it, use a little stain at first. Also, the longer you leave the stain before wiping, the darker it will be. Once you’re done, let it dry for at least 24 before applying a second coat.


Now it’s time to seal it. You can use polyurethane for a nice satin or gloss finish, but I didn’t want a glossy finish so I used wax. You can find it in the same section as the stains and polyurethanes in your home improvement stores.


Use a clean rag to apply it, wait 10-15 minutes for it to dry/harden, then buff it with another clean rage. I used socks because it was easy to apply it and they double as gloves 🙂


I had to apply it twice, because when I went back to buff it, I could see streaks in it. I just reapplied a light coat of wax, waited 15 minutes and buffed again. It turned out great!


I love the size, style, everything. It fits perfectly with the design and space and since it’s made of plywood, it’s light enough for me to rearrange any time I like. (we all know how much I love to rearrange)





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