Category Archives: My Old Apartment

How-To: Build a mid-century style sofa table

Would you like to know how I built my mid-century modern style hall table from scratch, using no screws?  You’ve come to the right place.

Build a Mid-Century Modern Sofa Table (Tutorial)

I’m so sorry I took 6 months to write the tutorial.  That whole getting married business really distracted me from blog posts :)

For over a year Ryan and I wanted a tapered-leg wood table to fit under our vintage mirror in the “entryway” of our ranch house -but all the mid-century tables we found were way too expensive.   The solution?  Build a custom sized one from scratch!

Dilemma:  I knew I didn’t want to have metal screws showing on the outside of the box; I wanted a smooth, seamless, screw-free finish.

The Kreg Jig offers a way to join boards when building by creating pocket hole jigs hidden on the inside sides of the furniture.  However, you have to buy the $100 jig kit as well as the special screws that go with it.  That’s why I was especially excited to discover this Doweling Jig Kit (affiliate link) at the local hardware store.  For only $30. Sure, I’ll have to buy more wooden dowels in the future – but they’re much cheaper than the special Kreg-brand screws.

And if you join boards with both wooden dowels and wood glue, you create an incredibly strong bond (mainly because of the glue) and you really don’t need screws!

Doweling Jig Kit Build Furniture No Screws


Sourcing Supplies:

Lowe’s had gorgeous Red Oak boards, and they just happened to come in 4-foot lengths.  Perfect – because the mirror is also 4 feet wide.

I knew that the design I was going for would require a slender rectangular “box” of wood for the top of the table – like what you see in the photo above.  I didn’t have strong feelings about box size, so when I found a 6″ wide boards, I decided that the box could be 6″ tall.  I think that size worked out perfectly.

The 22″ tapered round wooden legs – a very mid-century modern style – were also at Lowe’s, but you can also find them online via

This project broke down into three main tasks:  Building the box, attaching the legs, and finishing (staining and sealing).

Note:  From here on out I will refer to the top of the table – aka the non-legs part – as the “box”.

How To Build the Box:

I set out all my supplies:

  • 2 red oak boards (4 ft long / 12″ wide / 3/4″ tall)
  • 2 poplar side boards (12″ long / 6″ wide / 3/4″ tall)
  • Drill
  • Doweling jig kit

Building Mid Century Sofa Table Supplies

1.    I held each side board against the top and bottom boards and labeled them, so that I’d know which sides of the boards were supposed to attach to each other.

For example:  I marked a “1” on each of these boards (see below) near the seam where they joined.  That way when I was assembling them, I knew to put the sides marked “1” together.

2.   I measured and marked lines where the dowel holes would go.  I chose to do three doweled joints for each seam.

Measure Wood Joints for Dowels

3.   The Doweling Jig Kit came with dowels, dowel drill bits, and dowel drilling guides – all in 3 different sizes.    I chose the largest size because the red oak boards were very heavy.

Doweling Jig Kit Parts

4.   I used my Doweling Jig Kit to drill three holes in the top and bottom of each side board.

Note:  Pay close attention to the instructions that come with the Doweling Jig Kit.  When you are drilling the side boards you have to make sure your jig is lined up with the OUTSIDE side of the board, not the inside side.  Otherwise you won’t get a flush external fit.

Just read the directions. :)

Drilling Holes with Doweling Jig
5.   Next, I used the Jig to drill three holes at the ends of the top and bottom boards.

Line Up Doweling Jig
6.   Next I tapped the corresponding dowels into the holes I’d created, then fit the box together to make sure it worked.  A few of the dowel holes weren’t deep enough for the dowels to go in all the way, which meant that the sides did not come together flush, so I had to tweak them by drilling just a bit more in the holes.

Join Wood with Dowels Hall Table

7.   Once I was sure my box was fitting together perfectly, I took it apart one last time, added a thin line of glue to the sides (as well as in the dowel holes) and re-assembled it a final time.

Joining Wood Dowels and Glue Hall Table


8.   I set the box on my table and clamped all the seams to ensure a smooth, tight seal.

If there was excess glue seeping out of the seams, I wiped it off quickly with a damp rag. Glue does not take stain, so it’s important to get it all off of the outside surfaces ASAP.

Clamp and Glue Hall Table

9.   Then came the waiting game.  I waited a full 24 hours before attaching the legs, to ensure the glue had fully dried.   I may or may not have jumped up and down with glee at the sight of the perfectly-joined wood.  :)

Raw Wood Completed Box Hall Table


How To Attach the Legs:

For some reason I didn’t get any photos of this part of the process, but it’s really straight forward.

  1. The round tapered wooden legs come with a threaded metal screw – with a flat end, not a pointy one – sticking out of the top.
  2. I marked the bottom of the box where I wanted the legs to go:  about 1″ inside the outer corners.
  3. I found a drill bit that was the right size (Slightly smaller than the threaded screw) and drilled holes, being careful not to drill too far through the wood.  I didn’t want the drill bit to come out the other side, and mess up the beautiful finish on the table!
  4. I screwed the table legs into the holes after adding a little bit of glue for extra strength.

Mid-Century Modern Hall Table Empty


These tall and skinny mid-century style furniture legs are not the most sturdy design – I wouldn’t use them for a dining table.  But we love the look of them for this piece.  Our table sits against the wall, where it is stabilized simply because it’s against the wall.  But in reality it’s a heavy wooden box on skinny stilts, so if you were to lean on it it would wobble a little.

This doesn’t bother us.  It’s a table made for primarily decorative purposes, as well as to provide a small place to put keys and mail when we come in the house.  But when we have kids, we’ll probably attach the table to the wall with a stability brace, kind of like the ones that Ikea furniture comes with.

If you look at long, tall sofa tables you’ll see that most have braces between the table legs, lower down to the ground.  We may stain some more red oak and add a stability brace in the future. . . but it’s not a top priority. We’re happy with how things are now.  Oh – and it’s been 6 months (holy cow!) and it’s doing just fine.

I’m sharing all this because I believe in honesty about projects, but also because I’d hate for you to recreate this design and be unhappy with the stability of the table.

Next up – I’ll share the overview of the staining and finishing process.  It’s too much to cover in one post. :)

Mid Century Sofa Table

Supplies Used:

  • 2 Red Oak boards, 1″ x 12″ x 4 ft  – $50
  • 1 Poplar board, 1″ x 6″ x 2 ft -$5
  • 4 Round Tapered Wood legs, 26″  – $28
  • 1 Wooden Doweling Jig Kit – $29

Total Cost to build an un-stained table: $112

Total self satisfaction at building a gorgeous, perfectly-joined wooden box using NO SCREWS?  SO VERY EXCITING!  Seriously, I now feel like I can build anything!  Next week we’re starting construction on a stair-step style bookshelf for our basement.

Vintage Kitchen Additions

While we’re on the topic of kitchen-y updates, would you like to see our new-to-us dishes?

When my brother and his wife recently moved into their 100-yr-old home, they discovered this awesome vintage set of atomic dishes in a basement crawl space:

And when he asked if we wanted them, I jumped at it faster than a cat on a mouse!  Our only dishes are a pricey set of Denby stoneware.  Therefore I’d been glancing at thrift stores hoping to find a few inexpensive vintage plates for casual daily use.

These fit the bill almost perfectly.   And after a smidgen of online research, I now know we obtained Salem China’s North Star pattern, made in the 1960’s.   They seem pretty popular amongst mid-mod enthusiasts.  I’m just not sure about two things.

1) I don’t like to save things I don’t need.  And I certainly don’t need the teacups and saucers that came with the set.  For nightly mugs of tea I prefer a large mug.  For a morning coffee or post-dinner-party coffee I use my “good” stoneware teacups.   Should I split up this vintage set and give away / sell the teacups and saucers? Or should I store them in a box in the basement, so that the whole set can remain together?  As a vintage dish fan, I’m reluctant to split up a pristine set.

2) I have no idea if this stuff is microwave safe.  Anyone have any idea?

Check out the sweet platter that was included.  And from what I found on Atomic Inspired, there’s even more fun to be had with the matching teapot, cream and sugar set, and casserole dish.  If Ryan approves, I may have to hunt those pieces down on Etsy and eBay.

But that’s not all the vintage goodness we received!

Also in the crawl space was this set of white stoneware, made in and shipped by Ceramano in West Germany (circa 19-??).  Even better, most of the dishes were still in their crumbling original packaging.  Never opened or used. Would I love to know the story behind that.

All in all, our set is comprised of 8 dinner plates, salad plates, pasta bowls, mugs, and 1 cream and sugar set.

How much fun is the recessed circular pattern?  The only thing I can’t figure out is why there is a mismatched black stoneware lid for the sugar bowl.   Information on this exact pattern seems to be lacking, though a similar pattern, Ceramano Omega, exists.    If you know anything more about these dishes, or can point me in the right direction, I’d love to know!!

So now we have not two, but THREE sets of dishes.  Oh dear.  I’m absolutely keeping the Ceramano cream and sugar set, because I can’t wait to make some small flower arrangements in them.   And the Ceramano pasta bowls are awesome – a cross between large bowls and small plates.

So back to my anti-hoarding tendencies.  There’s NO REASON we need three sets of dishes.  But I can’t decide if I want to break up the Ceramano set either.  So I told Ryan that for now we’ll store the white plates and mugs, and the atomic teacups, in a box in the yet-unused attic.  And I promise to make up my mind in a few months.  Decisions about mint-condition sets of vintage dishware are not to be made lightly!

In case you haven’t yet noticed, I have a thing for vintage dinnerware, Pyrex, and barwareWhat’s your weakness when it comes to collecting?

Small Space Solution: Beautification Station

If you rent and/or call a small space home, it’s possible your life isn’t overflowing with bathroom storage options.  Here’s how I tackled that design dilemma in my condo.

As the last two homes I rented  had small bathrooms with pedestal sinks, I had to improvise a decorative and utilitarian  storage space for all the girly stuff I primp with daily.   A beautification station.  In each situation, I created a space in the guest room for a small vanity area, usable by both me and my guests.

Thanks to a bookshelf I had on hand, and a mirror that I snagged on a serious budget, I put the space together for almost nothing.  At Pier 1,  nestled amongst the mirrors, was this gorgeous wooden one – with a bright little clearance sale price tag announcing the price of only $19.  Marked down from about $100!  Hello, bargain.

Old Condo Vanity in Guest Room |

It was on clearance because there was a crack running through the glass.  It was still awesome.  Heck, that crack made it more awesome.   The manager wanted to get me a new one.  For full price.  He reached out for the mirror, and I held tightly to my bargain, as he tried to tell me he couldn’t sell it to me. I argued that it was tagged with a price, displayed on the floor, and he wouldn’t get my money for a full-price one.  Then I literally tugged it out of his hand. My stubbornness paid off.  I got the mirror!

And you know what?  To this day the crack shines proudly, like a battle scar.  From the battle of the broken bargain.  But I digress. . .

The top of the bookshelf became the landing pad for my makeup, hair product, etc.

I grouped like items in brown wooden storage containers for a more cohesive look.  I collected the containers over a month or two.

Old Condo Vanity |

The white wicker bins, which I already owned, fit almost perfectly on the shelves – providing storage for hair accessories, travel toiletry bags, hair dryers, purses, hats, and other girly stuff.

I think I enjoy this cheerful little vanity more than I would have enjoyed a built-in cabinet in my tiny bathroom.   And now my guests have a convenient place to primp, without tying up the only bathroom in the joint.

At the end of the day, the key to making your small rented home personal and functional comes down to one thing:  creative thinking.  If the apartment doesn’t have a functional space that you need, just create it.   There’s always a way.

And now I’m curious. Do you have a vanity area in your home, or do you just use the bathroom area?

*New to this blog?  Check out another small-space storage solution I whipped up in my guest room.