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DIY Coffee Table Makeover: How to add a Shadowbox

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This Coffee Table Makeover Tutorial was written by Marie Webster of Chic and Shabulous (a member of our business directory).


As an upcycler I am always happiest when I can give new life to something that would otherwise be completely discarded. Those pieces can be turned into anything.

This little coffee table was one of those pieces – just ripe for a fun coffee table makeover!

It’s not solid wood but it is very heavy and sturdy. I’m not a fan of the mesh so that was definitely going.

coffee table makeover

I’ve seen tables with open centres being filled with wood and I love them but I wanted to try something different, a shadowbox top – a top that you can fill with little treasures to display.

This idea is suited for tables that already have a glass top, preferably with the glass intact. The glass was broken on mine (it sat above the mesh previously) so I had to order glass to fit. For my table it was 550mm x 1065mm.

My brother in law works in a glass factory so I was able to get the glass through him but there are lots of companies that will cut glass to order if you need to add it in for yours.

Materials Needed:

  • Old Coffee Table (preferably with a glass top already but not necessary)
  • 3 lengths of 4″ x 1″ wood. (Bear in mind the length on  the side of the table so your box will be level or above this and not visible).
  • 10 corner brackets and screws
  • 6mm plywood cut to fit the frame you will build with the lengths of wood mentioned above.
  • Wood Glue
  • Tacks
  • Saw
  • Paints of choice (I used Fusion Mineral Paint and other products including stencil paste and stain and finishing oil – see the steps for the exact colours & products).
  • Stencil (optional) (Mine was ‘Distressed Lace’ by Redesigned by Prima)
  • Tempered glass if it’s not already on your table.

Links above and in the text are provided for international sources of some of these products to order online. If you live in Ireland or the UK you can also order online from Revamped Furniture & Home which is where I bought all my products.

Step 1: Prep Work

The first step in my coffee table makeover was to cut out the mesh with a craft knife. I then tidied up the edges with the knife and a bit of sanding.

At this stage I gave the whole piece a good scrub, sand and prime. I still wasn’t entirely sure what look I was going for but this was going to have to be done anyway.

I also removed the legs at this point.

Step 2: Build your shadow box frame

coffee table makeover adding a shadowbox

Next was to measure the sides of what would become the shadowbox.

As they say measure twice cut once, trust me this is very solid advice.

I placed my lengths around first to see how they fit. (see pic) 

What I did was cut two long pieces to run along the long sides of the table and one short piece to brace between the two as my coffee table was quite large. If yours is smaller you may not need the central piece of wood.

You want to cut the wood so it sits nicely under the top of your table without being visible so you don’t want to take the measurements from the top of the table but from below.

building a shadow box on a coffee table

Step 3: Add Corner Brackets

When your happy with how the frame fits, add your corner brackets to your lengths of wood.

You are attaching these to the underside of the table.

You need to use screws small enough that they won’t come through the other side of the wood (don’t ask how I know to include that little bit of advice!).

I used a second piece of wood to make sure I had it positioned properly. (see pic) 

coffee table makeover adding a shadowbox

Place each length in position and screw into place with the bracket. This table was very uneven and nothing lined up properly no matter what I did so that’s what made me decide to give it the rustic look in the end.

coffee table makeover adding a shadow box

Once your have it screwed in as you want it, unscrew and add some glue along the edge of the wood that meets the table and screw back in.

If you are confident on positioning you can add the glue the first time, I just didn’t want to be cleaning up glue if I messed up! 

Step 4: Cut & Paint your plywood

coffee table makeover adding a shadowbox

Next, cut your plywood to fit your frame. It should come to the outer edges of your box so it will look neater.

When your plywood is cut you can paint it to your design. I did a rustic wood look with a raised stencil here and white washed the final look. 

I used Fushion Mineral Paint in Ash and Goddess Ashwagandha then used Redesign by Prima stencil Distressed Lace with Fusion Pearl Paste with a little Curiously Pink mixed in.

The whitewash was Raw Silk mixed with water about 50/50 and brushed over lightly.

coffee table makeover adding a shadowbox

Step 5: Paint the Table

I then painted the table. I gave it a nice light base colour. I used Little Lamb and dry brushed with Goddess Ashwagandha. 

I painted the interior sides of the box and added stain to give a nice old aged finish.

The wooden top was painted in an Ash base with Goddess Ashwagandha painted on when it was dry and because it wasn’t a real wood top, I used a woodgrain tool to create a faux finish.

I used Cappuccino Stain and Finishing Oil to enhance the wood look.

coffee table makeover after

Step 6: Re-Assemble Your Coffee Table

DIY coffee table makeover with shadowbox

When all the painting was done and dry I added my plywood base under my frame using wood glue.

I then tacked all the edges so it definitely won’t be going anywhere.

The final step was to add the glass, I didn’t glue it down so that it can be removed to add in little decor items as you wish. 

coffee table makeover - adding a shadowbox

There are lots of little glass topped tables out there that would be perfect for this type of coffee table makeover project. Such a sweet way to display precious bits and bobs! 

If you like’d this project and you want to save it for future reference don’t forget to Pin it!

diy coffee table shadowbox
DIY coffee table makeover with shadowbox

DIY Coffee Table Makeover: How to add a Shadowbox

Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Time: 2 hours
Additional Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 3 hours
Difficulty: Medium
Estimated Cost: 20

How to upcycle an old coffee table and add a shadowbox with a glass top. Step by step furniture makeover.

Materials

  • Old coffee table
  • 3 lengths of 4" x 1" wood (Bear in mind the length on the side of the table so your box will be level or above this and not visible)
  • 6mm plywood cut to fit the frame you will build with the lengths of wood mentioned above
  • Wood glue
  • Paints of choice
  • Stencil (optional)
  • Tempered glass if it's not on your table

Tools

  • 10 corner brackets and screws
  • Tacks
  • Saw
  • Paint Brush
  • Sander

Instructions

  1. Strip off old paint, sand and fill in any damage with wood filler.
  2. Build your shadow box frame using the lengths of 4" x 1" wood
  3. Add corner brackets
  4. Cut & paint your plywood to fit the frame - this will be the base of the shadowbox
  5. Paint the table (use stencils if desired)
  6. Re-assemble your coffee table
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Marie Webster owns and operates Chic & Shabulous out of Thurles, Ireland.

Marie is a furniture and home decor restylist.

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