One thing that I’ve learned in the past four years of marriage is that tastes change. When my wife and I were first married we thought (as 20 year olds) that the absolute coolest kitchen would be one decked out in vintage Coke products. Even thinking about it today makes me want to vomit. Gross.
Today we are inspired by simple. Scandinavian architecture, midcentury modern design, and industrial elements. Everything in life should be black, white, gray, and hints of green… from plants of course.
Our tastes in interiors has certainly evolved, matured, and become more timeless for sure. But as is often the case, money can prohibit people who want to update. And that is certainly the case for us. But rather than letting money hold us back, we’ve decided to attack our home one room at a time and try to update.
And we decided that for us, the best place to start, was the dining room.
For us, the dining room may be the most important room in the house. It is where strangers become friends, where eating becomes an artistic endeavor, where laughter and tears are shared in the most intimate of moments. And so, it was important for us to have a room that reflected who we are as a family. And this was our inspiration.
So without further ado, this is our dining room update– starting with the most important element, the centerpiece, our new concrete dining room table.
The first thing that needed to be updated was our table. For two years we enjoyed our barn door table on saw horses, but it was time for this to go. Jaimee put it on Craigslist and within an hour, it was gone. The door we spent $70 to make ended up costing us nothing, in fact I think we even made some money on it. But now we were left with nothing but a little card table to eat at– much too small for the dinners we enjoy having in our dining room. So I set out to find the perfect table. And what I found was something out of the ordinary made with a material that has for the most part been relegated to foundations and highways…
Concrete. I started to research and draw my plans and finally decided I thought we could pull it off.
So, I went to Home Depot where I collected the supplies: Melamine wood for the mold, Quikrete countertop mix concrete, a mixing bucket, sealer, portland cement, caulk, remesh screen, sanding pads, 4×4’s, american walnut stain/polyurethane, and gorilla polyurethane glue… oh yeah, and a plant or two of course for the wife.
Building the Mold
The first step was to build the mold. Melamine wood is used for concrete molds because it is easily removed without adhering to the concrete. Be prepared, sheets of this stuff are kind of pricey, but don’t try a short cut with this part. You want to use this stuff to get the smoothest finish possible and save yourself the headache when you need to remove the piece of concrete.
Some of you are probably wondering what the square is for in the mold. You will see eventually that what I decided to do was run with a design I found an image of on Google. I couldn’t find really any information about the design or designer, only a small picture that looked similar to what I wanted.
In this design the two large legs would be exposed through the top of the table. This would do three things. First, it gives the table a unique modern look. Second, it actually safeguards any of the 4x4s from coming apart if, while unlikely, the glue were to ever give way. and they would try to come apart. Third, it allows the table to be easily disassembled so that it’s not (as) hard to move when that day comes.
After finishing the mold I decided to get the remesh support ready. I used my grinder to cut holes where the legs would be. I then remembered that before the concrete could be poured I needed to caulk the mold to be sure I got a nice beveled edge on the concrete.
Error 1: Here is where I made the first mistake that I will fix next time. I got a silicone caulk and then didn’t quite wait long enough for it to fully dry. What happened as a result was some of the silicone actually soaked into the wet concrete. With many caulks this wouldn’t be a problem. Mineral spirits could remove it and then you could fill in the pits with your cement slurry later on. But nothing dissolves silicone. Therefore I was left with some “character marks at the end. I did what I could to blend the white with some cement later but it wasn’t as perfect as I wished it could have been.
Pouring the Concrete
The hardest part of this whole project was pouring the concrete for an 8 foot table. This bad boy is pretty heavy to say the least, and so setting the mold up so that it is very level and could also be vibrated was very difficult. I ended up using some old 6×6 timbers that I had and then shimmed them to make sure the mold and concrete would be perfectly level when I took it out of the mold.
I then mixed the concrete and poured it into the mold. I tried make the concrete a little thinner that a dough. Peanut butter thickness maybe? This allowed me to press it into the corners and eliminate as much air as possible. I did roughly 3/4″ then set the remesh, pressed it lightly, and then covered the mesh with another 3/4″ of concrete.
Most concrete experts will tell you to pour it at least 1.5″ thick. At this point I was left with a dilemma. I had 1.5″ of concrete in my mold, but liked the look of a much thicker piece of concrete… but I also have a floor that needs to hold this table and so adding another 1/2″ to the concrete would bring the total weight of the table up another 150 pounds. That couldn’t happen. I didn’t want the total weight of the table to exceed 500 pounds.
My solution was to buy a 1/2″ piece of foam board, cut it about 2 inches short on all four sides, and then pour the rest of the concrete around it. This foam core helped me get the thicker appearance I wanted without the weight. If I were to do it again I have what I think could be an even better idea to cut weight. But I’m going to keep that to myself until I try it sometime. I then went around the whole mold with a rubber mallet and my orbital sander (without a sanding pad of course) to try and vibrate as much air as possible. This will reduce the bug holes that appear on the top of the table.
Now it was time for the table to sit a week. I probably could have worked with it after 3 days but I wanted to be sure this thing was solid so I let it cure for 7 days before I moved it an inch.
Removing the Mold
Overall I was happy with the look and texture of the concrete when it came out of the mold. I finished up the block by sanding the entire thing with a 150 grit paper on my orbital and then finished it off with a 220 grit. Be sure to only lightly sand. You don’t want to expose any aggregate.
Don’t be alarmed when some loose pieces of concrete come flying off on the initial sand. Take some portland cement (no aggregate) and acrylic fortifier and mix up a thick slurry paste. Use this paste to fill in any bug holes that are showing and any edges that need to be cleaned up. Repeat this step as many times as you need until you can put a finishing sand on your tabletop.
I think my favorite part of our new table is the legs and the contrast they add. They are assembled using 16 4×4’s. Be sure not to get pressure treated! I cut the legs to size, and then glued them together. I used 4 ratchet straps to hold them together. I waited an entire day before moving on. Again, not having much experience making furniture, I wanted to be sure these were going to stay together. Using polyurethane glue allowed the seams between each piece to be pulled together tightly and sealed. It turned out very well.
After the glue was set I brought the legs inside to finish them up. I sanded the sides, shaved the edges of the tops (to make sure the tabletop fit over them nicely), and leveled. Now we’re ready for the ledge that would hold the tabletop.
I bought two 5″ lags and attached a ledge on two sides of each leg. This would hold the table up just fine.
Other Dining Room Elements
Time to put the table on hold for a minute and bring in the other elements that we brought into our new dining room. First up, the light fixture. We started by getting black steel pipe fittings and creating an industrial fixture holder.
Of course Lana is always close by to offer a helping paw.
This was the hole in the ceiling left behind from the track lighting. I tested the lights to make sure I knew how to wire them without burning the house down. I think I succeeded. It’s been a few days and no fire.
Next up, we picked up a couple pendants from Ikea. Copper is a big trend right now and I love it. I picked up some metallic copper spray paint and then added a high gloss lacquer to get as much of a metal look as possible. I like how they turned out. To me, it provides a good transition between the walnut legs, the dark gray concrete, and the black steel.
Pulling it all together
Before this whole update started, the dining room was a nice, but busy green color. We covered it with an ultra white Behr paint which really brought our love of Iceland and Scandinavian design into the house. We love it!
The most brutal part of this job was moving the table. I was lucky enough to have a he man bro come over and help me get the beast into the house. Once in, we centered, and were ready to put the finishing touches up.
Found some Edisons for the pendants…
Drilled a whole in the cap so the floor flange could act as a housing for the wires…
Hung the rail and lights…
Wired them in…
And added a plant of course. No room is complete without greenery.
And here it is. The finished product. What do you think? What would you do differently? Would you love to try this DIY? If so, go for it! If I can do it, anyone can! If you have any questions at all, just comment below. I would love to see any spinoffs of my table and dining room so make sure you post pictures if you try this project. Was it hard? Yeah, definitely. But was it worth it?
Well, seeing as though the next evening we hosted a dinner party and a good friend described our new dining room as a “hip, New York restaurant,” I’d say, yeah, it was well worth the effort.
Goodbye farmhouse look, hello industrial/Scandinavian/with a touch of rustic timber. Definitely a dining room we can love for years.