a grain bin turned coffee table

Marian ParsonsAntiques, Before and Afters, Family Room, Favorite Finds, Furniture Makeovers, Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint, My House81 Comments

When I shared the industrial-style coffee table a few months ago, some of you called it.  It just didn’t work with my style.  While I like the table a lot and it was very functional, it was too large for the space and the longer I lived with it, the more it felt off with everything else in the room.  Great piece, wrong space.

Since I realized that, I’ve been looking around at antique stores and craigslist for something to replace it, but pieces were either the wrong size, wrong style, etc.

I finally came across an old grain bin on craigslist.  It was a little longer than what I was looking for, but otherwise the dimensions were perfect.  It wasn’t blue, either, but it was really old, had a lot of character, and, at $105, the price was right.

After thinking if over for a few days (and seeing that the listing was still active), I asked my dad if he could pick it up for me.  He acquired it from an elderly man who has dismantled dozens of barns in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and this was a grain bin out of one of those barns.  I was so excited about the old wood and the story of the piece and I eagerly slid it out of the truck to see how it fit in the family room.


Within two minutes, Jeff said, “So, we’re going to have a coffin for a coffee table, now?”

And then he dubbed it, “the coffin-table”.

Oh man!  It does look like a coffin!!

Well, maybe not exactly like one, but it had a coffin-ish look to it.  I lived with it for a day or two and knew that it had to be painted.  Not only did the raw pine reinforce the coffin-ness, but the wood was very rough and it was just a splinter waiting to happen.

Jeff can be so irrational when it comes to his insistence that my pretty things don’t inflict bodily harm.  Men!

In painting it, though, I wanted to retain everything that makes this piece charming – the texture of the grain, the handmade dovetail joints, the dents and dings.


Fortunately, I know just the paint that is perfect for raw wood and for looking authentically old.  Insert wink and nudge.

  I mixed up a custom color of French Enamel, Shutter Gray, and Schloss in the MMS Milk Paint line.  I couldn’t tell you the exact ratio, because I just added a bit here and there until I mixed a color I thought would suit the piece and compliment the rug in the room.  While I was working on other things, Kriste applied a wash of the paint.  I didn’t want a full, opaque coat…more like a stain.


Sebastian tried to help, but didn’t understand the concept.

After one coat, we took it outside and I heavily sanded the entire piece with 120 grit paper and an orbital sander.  I sanded aggressively in order to smooth out the roughness and to wear away a lot of the paint.  And I finished it with a coat of Hemp Oil to bring out the color and hydrate the exposed wood.


And it’s perfect.  It looks like it was always painted.



Now it is safe to use in our family room (thanks to the sanding) and it doesn’t look like a coffin, which is always a plus in my book.

I took lots of pictures of it in the family room, so you can see how it suits everything else that’s happening in the space…

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While it’s a little longer than I wanted, I like that it’s the full length of the sofa, so we can all put our feet up.


And there is our family room Christmas tree!  After the disappointment of last year’s tree (it was the wonkiest tree ever), I took my time picking one this year and it gorgeous.  It’s fluffy and full and tall and fills the room perfectly.  I put lights on it, strung the garland, and hung a few ornaments, but we still need to finish decorating it.  (Hopefully that will happen this weekend!)

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Aren’t the roses beautiful?  One of my sponsors, QuickStep Flooring, sent them to me!  And they were ordered from another sponsor, The Bouqs.  And the pitcher, a French ironstone pitcher, was a gift from one of my very sweet readers.


That’s just a whole bunch of warm and fuzzies right there.

a grain bin turned coffee table

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81 Comments on “a grain bin turned coffee table”

  1. Your coffin table is fabulous! I love the name. I don’t know how easy it is to slide around or if you plan to add casters, but I’ve used self adhesive furniture sliders under furniture and the pieces glide easily on carpet or rugs. Just a thought!

    I am a regular reader of your blog and seldom leave a comment, but I just wanted to say that you’ve influenced the decisions I’ve made in our own home more than any magazine or decorating book I’ve ever bought. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful blog and ideas with us!

  2. Beautiful! Our coffee table of 35 years is almost a perfect replica, we always termed it a primitive blanket chest but it may have been for the same purpose originally. It was unfinished when we bought it and we just varnished which left it darker. Those wide pine boards are heavy! Love your blues!!!

  3. It’s amazing to me the workmanship that people used to put in even the simplest things I love the tongue and groove joints! I think your grain bin needs a little decorative painting on it (But you’ll have to excuse me because I do LOVE your artistic painting!). Have a great day!

  4. I just love it! A lot of your pieces remind me of my mom’s primitive treasures which I think make a home have such a warm and cozy feeling year round. You have such a creative hand in making everything light and bright along with the warmth. Can’t wait to see all the Christmas decorations! Have a Merry weekend!

  5. I was not a fan of your industrial cart and this is a big improvement. I like to color a lot. Would it be too tall if you added some small casters?

    1. It really is the perfect height now, so casters would make it a bit higher than I would like. Also, while I love casters, I don’t think they are suited for this old piece. Traditionally, grain bins sit flat on the floor, I’m assuming because of their weight when full.

  6. i love everything about this room!!
    Will you share the “blue” paint color on the wall?
    I looked around on Pinterest first before I asked here … I couldn’t find it?
    I really appreciate your time!!

  7. Perfection! It seems to bring the whole room together in a way the other coffee table didn’t. Love the color too!

  8. This is an amazing piece and you made the paint look like it’s always been there. Love those handcut dovetails!

  9. Love the table. How do you hang your ironstone plates on the wall. I don’t see hangers. I have been wanting to hang some but not sure how to. Thanks

  10. What is the name and maker of the living room wall paint that appears to be a very light blue–
    very serene!

    (I’m sure it’s somewhere on your website, but I have terrible trouble using the site with all of its many, many wonderful but crashing postings, so I’ll just ask and hope that you’ll see my query and answer.

    Happy holidays, and enjoy your gorgeous tree!

  11. WOW!!! LOVE THE TABLE and I’m jealous!!! I want it!! Your room is gorgeous…. I want to live with you… Lol!! And.. You’re Christmas tree is lovely!!
    You’re work is so inspirational.. It makes me want to refinish a piece of furniture, but I don’t have the space.
    Merry Christmas to you, your family, and to ALL of your readers!!!

  12. I bet Sebastian never anticipated he would become so famous. He is so perfect for the shots that feature or at least include him. I know he has captured your heart as he has mine and presumably most, if not all, of your followers.

  13. That looks amazing! I have an old dining table turned coffee table that I use in my family room. I love the look of the old wood:)

  14. I just found an old Country Living that had your family room in it… what a difference now! It just gets better and better.

  15. I read your blog…such an inspiration. I want to toss everything I have in one huge storage area and start with my decorating….and paint a bunch of my furniture. Two years ago we moved off the farm and into a condo that has not been touched since it was built in 1986. ..but it is on a lake in the middle of Fargo and the view cannot be beat! It has taken me so long to feel that this is home..not quite there but getting closer. 2017 watch out…You should be so proud of yourself! Merry Christmas!

  16. Great find finished to perfection. Love the length and love how it fits perfectly in the room. Well done!

  17. Marian, that “coffin-table” is the PERFECT footprint now . . . I just LOVE it! And the look on Sebastian’s face in that picture! Too much . . . Gorgeous tree too! Have fun …. xo

  18. Great job de-coffining your new acquisition. You maintained the grain and other details of the piece nicely and indeed created the impression that the paint is as old as the bin.

    The Cmas decorations are lovely.

    I’ve been thinking about another recent change in that room, the carpeting. I know the sisal was too rough to lie on comfortably. But visually, the straw color helped warm up the room. The sisal rug also provided a contrast that helped show off your beautiful furniture and accessories.The new rug, on the other hand, blends in a little too well.

    I know you were happy to find the rug . But I hope you’ll rethink it.

  19. However, I like the rug just fine. The room looks serene and lovely and just like you.
    You knew we’d be fans of the ‘coffin’ didn’t you?!

  20. That new coffin table is exactly what you needed in your space!!! The piece is so beautiful & I love the way the wood grain still shows through the paint treatment. It’s perfect!

  21. About a year and a half ago my husband and I traveled to Michigan for one final visit to his grandparent’s farm which was being sold. We came home with a grain box that belonged to his grandfather. Mine has large rusty hardware on the outside. I dry brushed it with Ironstone, added DIY rusted castors and added rope handles to the side since we wanted to be able to move it easily around the room. Would love to sent you a pic if you are interested.

  22. I have a friend who does use an actual coffin as a coffee table. He bought it from monks who make simple wood coffins. He said seeing it daily is a good reminder that this world is not our final home. He also gets a kick out of telling people they have their feet on his coffin.

  23. It’s perfect. I have an old bench in front of my couch. It’s unpainted except for a checkers board painted on the top. Yuk! Not too appealing. I’ve always planned to paint it but haven’t been able to decide what color. Now I know that I would like it to look just like your coffee table in color. Or nearly that color one direction or the other. I don’t think I’d have to put in the sanding time you did on the coffee table, although I would want to get rid of the checkers board. So I guess I better get some MMM Milk Paint!

  24. Marian, your antique grain bin is beautiful! What a lovely job you did of refinishing it. Everything looks so nice in your room — and I love your carpet! Great job!

    Have a great weekend! Blessings!

  25. Wow, the new industrial cart coffee table has already rolled away to the island of misfit furniture! I do think the new-old grain bin coffee table is better suited for your space and style. I am not a fan of reproduction furniture so I never really cared for the industrial cart.

  26. This coffin table looks like it’s always been there! …loving the long and narrow shape. Great pick!

  27. This is the only piece you’ve EVER done that I don’t like ?
    maybe if it was against the wall or the bottom of a bed I’d like it but in the middle of the room it reminds me of a child’s coffin.

    1. Why comment with that? If you don’t like it then don’t comment, especially regarding a piece a person has chosen for their personal home.

    2. Well, that’s okay. 🙂 The scale might be hard to see in the picture, but it really doesn’t look at all like a child’s coffin. I could fit in it! Trust me, as a mom of two young boys, I wouldn’t want anything in my house that looked like it could be their coffin.

  28. It’s beautiful and I love your tree! I do have a question for you because my husband has the same issue…making sure nothing I put in the house could inflict bodily harm…sheesh ?! I have a few things that could cause lots of splinters buuuut I love the color of them. How can I preserve the color and smooth the wood at the same time? Is it possible?

    1. I know! They are so high maintenance. 🙂 Yes, there are things you can do. First of all, you can gently sand with a very fine sand paper, like 220-320 grit. This won’t wear away the paint, but will knock down any rough edges. You can also oil or seal the piece. Sometimes those feathery splinters off of wood can be helped a lot by being hydrated (sort of like frizzy hair). It won’t get rid of them altogether, but it’ll help them lay flatter. Applying a non-yellowing matte poly is also a good option. It’ll seal the piece, but retain the color and patina. With any finish, though, test it out in a small, inconspicuous area to make sure you like the look. Every piece is a little different.

      1. Thanks so much for your suggestions! I will test these out and see how they work out! I hope you’re enjoying your weekend!

  29. I love old boxes to use for coffee tables. Our home has an old wood trunk for a coffee table and it is great storage, too.

    Yours is the perfect scale for the room. And I don’t think it looks like a coffin at all. Love your entire room!

  30. Love this as a coffee table. I think it’s great to have something that you just can’t damage or ding. Put your feet up, bang it. and it only looks better. Love the blue color you ended up with. And you can store stuff inside.

  31. I think it is simply divine!!! Congratulations!!! The color, the size, the height! Way to go, dad, and you girls for painting it up!

  32. This is my favorite set up you have had so far in this room. The coffee table is so happy but also calming. Also loving the checker pattern pillows on couch and the all white plates on the wall. Very pretty room!

  33. I LOVE the coffee table The blue color with the warm brown ties in the rug & the tv stand! Where did you get your rug? It’s beautiful!

  34. First of all, I’m surprised that some people criticized your industrial table. I just thought that you were up scaling to a newer look. Because it had wheels, it was also practical because you could move it around so the boys could spread out and play. Now who’s to say that you couldn’t ” mustardize” a new table? Call me superstitious, but even though it was made in joking, the negative comments made would make me reconsider the newest choice, and you may realize that the new table takes up too much weight in the room and feels like a block in your path, not to mention difficult to move. You being an intuitive designer will know what “feels” best for you and your family. Btw, I love those old dovetail joints and the way you brought out the texture in the wood.

  35. Love the washed, painted look of the new table! Milk paint is awesome like that 🙂 And the color works well on your room. We have a similar chest as a coffee table and it works great to store blankets, etc. We added wheels so we can move it easily.

  36. I love seeing Sebastian in your photos! He looks like a full fledged family member and it makes me happy to see a dog have such a good home!

  37. Oh my gosh, it’s perfect for the space. I actually love how long it is. So funny that your husband labeled it coffinesk . I wouldn’t have thought about that until he said it. I think the blue totally takes that look away, and the color is scrumptious with all the other natural colors in the room.

  38. Oh My Marian, that is just gorgeous, it is perfect in the space, and I love the color you mixed up! We painted a small block of wood during the class and it is currently adorning a tiny ledge in the bathroom I just renovated and says brusha brusha, it looks so cute! I attended your class at haven in August, and we talked briefly afterwards. You told me that you felt like you had met me before or I looked familiar. Have a very Merry Christmas!

  39. Love your blog and this post! I love the blue accent colors, and I am branching out with a similar look and a blue. Where did you get your rug? It ties all the colors in so nicely!

  40. I just stumbled upon your site because of Pinterest, I’m actually going to be using Glass Slipper for a transitional room in a house I’m building, but I’m unsure of what color to do the trim and the doors. Do you feel more of a off-white or creamy/ more yellow white color looks better, or more of a white with grey undertones. I really want to go for a beach/cottage tranquil space (no starfish or shells or anything). Im pulling my hair out with paint swatches!

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