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 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 round wooden legs – a very mid-century modern style – were also at Lowe’s, but you can also find them online via in several sizes.

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.

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.

Rental Remedy: Ditch the plastic blinds

One of the easiest ways to spiff up a rental apartment is to ditch the plastic blinds and replace them with something – anything – prettier. Here’s how I instantly upgraded my windows, taking them from trashy to classy in one afternoon on a tight budget.

Check out how bare and ugly my windows looked before I brought in the bamboo.  Of course, we don’t need to discuss how the ugliness of the windows was only accentuated by my poorly-chosen “neutral” paint. . . among other decorating disasters:

As soon as I installed those budget bamboo shades, it was like a different room.  Of course, changing the paint helped, as did the addition of my custom-built furniture around the ugly wall heater.

And in the dining room-turned-office before:

And after:

Roman shades can be installed inside the window frame (aka “inside mount”) or outside the frame (“outside mount”) to suit your style.  They come in fabric, wood, bamboo, and a number of other options.  I’ve got to say that I’d choose shades with outside mount any day, because it covers the possibly ugly window frame and gives the illusion of extra height if hung correctly.  That being said, here’s the step-by-step on how to spiff up your rental windows with roman shades:

Choosing and installing Roman shades in your rental home:

  1. Measure each window.  If you’re choosing an outside-mount, make sure you allow for the shade to extend a few inches beyond the window frame on either side to ensure the shade covers it well.  Also measure the length of your window from the spot above the frame where you’d install them to the base of the window ledge.
  2. Shop around to find the best deal going.  I looked on Amazon, Overstock, Walmart, Target, Ikea, and then some before finally snagging my shades at Bed Bath and Beyond on clearance.  Be prepared to pay $20 -$40 bucks per shade.
  3. Remove the existing window treatments, saving and storing all parts and hardware for when you move out.  Don’t worry, mini blinds don’t take up much room in a closet.
  4. Install your new, gorgeous, fabulous roman shades.  All you need is a drill, a level, a screw driver, and a tape measure.  Mark the holes and level carefully.  You don’t want crooked shades!

Tips and tricks:

  • Remember, if you want to create the appearance of taller windows, plan to install the shades  a few inches above the top of the window frame.
  • If you have a large window, or several windows side-by-side, shop around to see which is cheaper:  one large shade or a combination of smaller shades.
  • If you’re looking for wooden or bamboo shades, match their color to that of the wood furniture in the room for a warmer and more cohesive look.
  • Save a little dough: choose unlined shades for a better bargain.  There’s a DIY remedy for the privacy liner, which I’ll share Friday.

Installing custom shades may sound tricky, but trust me:  It’s really simple.  I had 5 shades installed in about 3 hours.  It cost me about $175 in all – and it was worth every penny.

Live a little

With the plant-attacking foster kittens finally adopted out to a permanent home, my living room was ready to live a little.  I couldn’t wait bring the outdoors in with a small grouping of houseplants.  They’re fresh, they’re cheerful, and you can’t beat having a real live air filter.

DIY Air Filters

This little grouping only set me back 20 bucks, pots and all, during my last trip to Ikea.  And let me tell you, they seem to really be enjoying the little bit of sunlight they get in that window.  I wanted an interesting grouping of textures, so I paired the spiky leaves of the aloe with a small bushy plant and the taller braided tree.  I really like how it turned out.

DIy Air filters

Ahhh, that bright dose of green really does keep things cheerful.  I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for gardening season.  These guys will tide me over until then.