Make a Believable Faux Stone Table Top
The Finished Table Top
About the Table Tops
Honestly, the two small coffee tables that I created following this process will fool ANYONE who hasn’t touched them. The last time I moved, one mover groaned when he saw the “granite” coffee tables, followed by a sense of wonderment when he tried to lift the “stone” and felt the texture of the piece.
I made these two coffee table tops back around 1998, and despite the red wine that spilled and sat there overnight, cheesy popcorn, greasy and hot pizza boxes, booted feet on the table top, etc.--they look as good today as the day I made them. I used Formula 409 to remove the wine stains, and a mildly scrubby 3M sponge to remove all kinds of other nastiness. And they came perfectly clean, time after time.
You’re Dying to Know the Secret Behind these Beautiful Table Tops...
(The Secret: It's Faux-Stone WALLPAPER!)
Well, the bottom line was about $35 in materials (plenty of which I still had left over) and an hour of patience to complete each table top. I already had two sets of two “Grecian”-like pottery plinths (short pillars) that I wanted to use as bases. I originally wanted to use glass tops, but that wasn’t practical at the time, so off I went to the lumberyard and got two 4’ X 6’ X 1.5” thick boards–just random, rough particle board, the cheapest board that they had in the size I was looking for. After locating the boards, off I went to the wallpaper store where I poured over samples of faux stone “scrub-able” vinyl pre-pasted wallpaper. I also located a very sharp knife in my toolbox at home (X-Acto knives would be good, as would box cutters with a fresh blade).
Instructions for this Rewarding, Practical DIY Project
Now, all ingredients in hand, I’ll go through this step by step so that you don’t get lost in paragraphs of text.
Please read all of these instructions directions before you begin, however, to ensure a successful outcome and to make the process easy and stress-free. You will be glad you did, especially when working with wet wallpaper!
Let's get started!
Set one board on top of two bases, making sure that the bases are plenty far away from the edges of the board. 5-gallon buckets would work, too, if you haven’t decided on the base yet. This is so that you have room to wrap the wallpaper from the top to the bottom/back side.
Read all directions on the wallpaper, if it is pre-pasted, or else the wallpaper paste itself. Be sure to follow all safety precautions and ensure that anyone else in the area is, also. (Safety glasses, mask, whatever.) Since you don’t want pet fur in the works, it’s best to ensure that this project is done in a well-vacuumed area closed-off from furry pets.
Did you read ALL of the directions on the packaging and this whole procedure, start to finish? :-) There won’t be time later if you’ve got wet wallpaper and a question.
This is Your Goal
Cut the wallpaper roughly to the size of the board plus 4-6 inches on all sides (to allow the wallpaper to be wrapped over to the back of the board, covering the sides). This may require two pieces of wallpaper, and you will need to decide if you want to match the pattern at the seam or if it is busy enough that no one will notice. If you want to match patterns, I recommend laying them out, dry, matching the patterns on top of the board, and marking using a crayon or china marker (oil pencil) several places to help with alignment once the paper is all wet and ready to be applied.
Go! Begin Applying the Wallpaper
- Following the wallpaper’s directions carefully, wet the wallpaper if it’s pre-pasted or apply the paste as directed.
- Many varieties of wallpaper require you to “book” the paper for a certain period of time. If yours does, then put the sticky sides together and wait for the specified amount of time.
- When it is time, put the first piece of wallpaper on the board, leaving 4-6 inches sticking out on all sides. Start at the middle of the board and carefully press the paper down and outward to remove wrinkles and bubbles. If a second piece of wallpaper is needed, follow the same procedure. Now you should have a board with applied wallpaper whose edges are sticking out wildly from each side.
- To tame the edges, go slowly and carefully, making sure that you don’t pull apart a center seam if your piece has one: start from the center of the board’s edge again, making sure to firmly fold the wallpaper over the edge and use your hands to brush out any wrinkles or bubbles as you go. Stop when you are within about 4-6 inches of each corner on each side.
- Now, do the same thing with the extra material on the bottom. Yes, apply the excess to the bottom of the board, as much of it as you’ve got, staying away from the corners for now.
Close-Up View of the Seam
A Well-Worn Corner?
The Corners are Tricky. Be Patient and Work Slowly!
- Finish the corners the way you would when wrapping a present: carefully inch the sticky wallpaper closer and closer to each vertical side of the corner then fold it onto the back of the board.
- The closer you get to a perfect meeting at the corners, the more wallpaper you can cut away (making sure to leave wallpaper to fold over to the back side with at least 1-2 inches to spare). Continue folding down and under, down and under, cutting away as you work any material that is hampering your efforts at achieving a smart corner. Complete steps 1 and 2 for all four corners.
Now that you’re done with the tricky part, it’s time to remove any alignment marks you made. Usually gentle scrubbing with a dry paper towel or white eraser will work to remove these marks; otherwise, wait until your project is dry for a few days and try Formula 409, water and vinegar spray, or a similar all-purpose "green" cleaner.
Before the wallpaper dries, it’s also time to check for any wrinkles or air bubbles and gently press them out before the glue dries. And, of course, use a damp sponge to remove any glue residue from the surface of your table, the surrounding area, and yourself.
Now, leave the project sit as-is until tomorrow in a pet- and kid-free area of your house. (I know, I hate waiting, too.)
Wallpaper the Bottom Side of the Table Top, Too
The Final Touches
- This step is optional, but recommended (especially now that I know how rugged and versatile these things are): flip the board over and wallpaper the remaining back side, too. The back side will NOT look as good as the front side, but it will help to conceal the board from the casual wandering eye and maintain the charade of this wallpaper faux finish.
- Cut the random bits of wallpaper that you wrapped around from the front into a neat edge (not AT the edge of the board, just even things up a bit leaving a border of an inch or more).
- Now, tidy up the bottom side of the board by cutting a piece of wallpaper big enough to cover the area that currently has no wallpaper on it. You may need a second sheet, depending on the size of your board, but you already know how to piece together two sheets of wallpaper seamlessly. NOTE: For best results, and to avoid getting paste on the remainder of the back/bottom which is already finished, cut the fill-in pieces of wallpaper to size before you attach them. Simply flip the board over, dry-fit the wallpaper, then follow the directions above to complete the project: a fully wallpapered table top or shelf that is scrub-able and washable and about as kid-proof and teenager-proof as they come.
Readers: Did you try this process?
Did you make a table-top or other surface using this technique?
One Last Comment…
If you find that you have air bubbles that just can’t be brushed out of the table-top, be sure to use the smallest needle you can find to poke a tiny hole in the middle of the bubble and let the air out. Then, gently try to flatten the wallpaper toward the pinhole. All the usual wallpapering tricks should work with this project, so if you are an experienced wallpaperer or have a book or magazine on hand with wallpapering tricks, I recommend using it.
About the Table Bases
These bases are column heads/feet, and the set for the other table are called "plinths" (not shown), which are a little bigger and heavier to hold more weight. Note that these are made of ceramic, are for indoor use only, and ARE somewhat heavy (30-40 pounds each, I'd guess).
Where can you find table bases like these?
- I found the bases for these tables at a local store that is now out of business (Elements).
- Another local (Minneapolis/Eden Prairie, MN, USA) store called "The Find" may carry them from time-to-time.
- DesignToscano.com (they have a showroom in a Western suburb of Chicago) sometimes carries bases similar to these for indoor or outdoor use, depending on which kind you buy (outdoor is more expensive).
Any table base will do depending on your décor, however.
- Renaissance festivals are a good place to look for table bases of all sorts, or
- you may find artisans willing to make them for you at Renaissance festivals.
- High-end furniture design studios are another good place to look.
- Don't forget architectural salvage shops, found in most cities, which often carry items that would make good table bases.
If So, How Did It Turn Out?
If you tried this process to make a table top or other item, how did it turn out?
Flexibility and Modularity
These tabletops are extremely modular, and I originally stacked two of them to house A/V--my own home theatre system center (2 bases, 1 tabletop and CD/DVD player; 2 bases directly on top of the others to support the weight, 1 tabletop and TV--the heavy old-fashioned CRT kind!). Usually, however, I leave them as separate, small coffee tables to create little conversation areas or gaming areas.
Other Applications for This Technique
I’ve also used this method to get a few more months of life out of a large, fold-up conference room table that was badly marred and heavily grooved. This project was much less successful, but it served its purpose. I think the difference was that I didn’t “book” the pieces for a long enough period of time before applying them to the table.
I think my next project using this faux finish method will be to create narrow “white marble” shelves to get some extra storage space in my kitchen.
About the Author
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