DIY Grey Wash Coffee Table

About two years ago I splurged and purchased the Box Frame Coffee Table from West Elm in the whitewashed mango finish. It looked absolutely perfect with my Hamilton sofa and Concord chair. It blended the modern and rustic elements in a way I so desperately desired.

Then life happened. The problem with this table was the porous finish, which was easily stained by anything and everything that came in contact with it. Even a drop of water would  leave a mark. This may be a good table for some people, but my husband and I often find ourselves eating in the living room so we needed something more forgiving. I recently decided enough was enough and gave my table the attention it rightfully deserved.  

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This project can be done with any unfinished wood piece you would like!  Just follow the same steps and you can make your own custom piece!

Removing the Old Finish

The first order of business was to remove the table top. This was easily done with the Allen wrench generously provided by West Elm when I bought the table.


I began by removing the whitewash finish with a fine grain sand paper. It came off effortlessly, though some of the deeper stains required a little bit of extra work to remove completely. Fortunately, the wood itself was only minimally stained and I was left with a relatively clean surface.


Depending on the piece you are working with, you may need to take additional steps to remove old stains or paint. If you are working with a new unfinished piece, I recommend a lightly sanding with the wood grain so the wood will more readily accept the finish.

The Refinishing Process

Grey wash is extremely easy to make and a nice alternative to whitewash. I didn’t want the result to be too dark but wanted something that would hide marks and stains better than the white. I selected Valspar’s Smoked Oyster, which is a warm beigey-grey (this choice was inspired by “How to Choose the Perfect Greige Paint” by Tiny Sidekick).

The recipe is simple! Measure one part paint to four parts water, mix well, done. I found it was helpful to mix mine in a Mason jar: there are already volumetric measurements on the side so you can measure, mix, and store all in one container.

It doesn’t have to be grey! This can be done with any – yes, any! – color you would like! Be creative! I’d love to see what you can come up with.

1 part paint + 4 parts water = easy and awesome grey wash!

Because I wanted the wood grain to be visible, I applied the grey wash in similar way to a stain – I painted on, let it sit for a minute, then wiped it off. This can be done using a clean cloth or towel. I like to use shop towels for things like this, as they are very smooth and have a cloth-like feel but are inexpensive and disposable. Less clean up is better, wouldn’t you agree?

One coat of wash
One coat of wash

I applied two coats of wash. This ensured that any remaining stains were covered and gave enough color saturation to bring out the wood grain.

Two coats of wash
Two coats of wash

Then I used two coats of SC Johnson Paste Wax to seal and protect the table. I liked this product a lot, and while it does have sort of an off-putting smell, it is made without many common toxic/carcinogenic ingredients. Better for the environment and my family’s health!

At this point, the sky was getting cloudier and cloudier and my pictures worse and worse. So I brought this project inside and turned on the fan to air out the smell.

Here’s a reminder of what it looked like before:

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Check It Out!

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I love this even more than the original whitewash. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Looking forward,


More to come! Here is a preview of my next project in the works. Be sure to check back and see what I’ve been up to!



3 thoughts on “DIY Grey Wash Coffee Table

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