A Sustainable Table Transformation: Preserving the Planet for Tomorrow’s Artists

It’s finished! 

The table I rescued from the trash has become the art that anchors our living room. 

Being someone who believes the ultimate in creativity means morphing junk into joy, I took the table through the following transformation.  Hope you enjoy the journey.

The first step involved some serious sanding:

Next I applied a white, oil-based primer:

Once that surface dried, I measured, penciled, and inked the image below:

Then I added color—in this case paint—some oil-based enamel, some a latex-based enamel, and some acrylic.  I simply used what I had on hand:

Next I applied paper to give the image depth and texture.

The center of the flower was made from three layers of paper, a green background and a black and white second layer, to which I applied tiny red spirals:

In the green part of the flower petal, I applied tiny green flowers of a slightly different shade.  The flowers punched from craft paper, deepen the image, giving it variety and reminding me that this is, indeed, a green product I’m producing:

To the pink tips of the flower, I applied florescent pink rings, that are, in fact, those meant to reinforce the holes in paper put in three ring binders:

Next, from wrapping paper purchased in Vietnam, I cut out black and white, Chinese symbols for Hanoi and applied them to the eight red circles that rim the table top:

To the purple circles, I added tiny purple, paper dots to texturize the surface, and to the smallest green circles, I applied green spirals to remind me of the recycling process that rebirths any object, bringing it full circle:

To the large, blue circles that rim the table, I applied maps of the places my partner and I have recently traveled to—New Delhi, India, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Hanoi, Vietnam, and Port-au-Prince Haiti—locations that reinforce my belief that cities, too, can be transformed from the trash of war, disaster, and famine into a planet that rebirths itself, sustains itself—and thrives:

Now, after receiving six coats of polyurethane to preserve its surface, the table reigns redemptive in our living room—a testament to, not only the process of recycling, but to the process of making art, as well.

May art bloom beautiful in your life.  And may the planet be preserved for tomorrow’s artists, as well.

Happy creating, my friends.

74 thoughts on “A Sustainable Table Transformation: Preserving the Planet for Tomorrow’s Artists

  1. It was fun to know the thought process that went on behind the creation of this piece of art…makes it that much more meaningful 🙂
    And the cushions on the couch go beautifully with it!!
    Looks fab Kathy!


    • Hooray, Munira, you like the finsihed product! I’m so pleased. And you are right; the table goes well with the pillows on the couch. I’m pleased with how it all turned out. Hope you had a great weekend, my friend. How’s the flooding situation there? We get nothing on CNN about it here. Pakistan stories are always about terrorism, unfortunately. Damn media.


  2. The table is awesome! The living room though…..waaaaayyyy too tidy….. You really need the use of 14yr old boy to give that room a good “lived in” look…… When can I send him up to you? 🙂


    • Glad you like the table, Mark!

      But about the living room– I have to admit I have a 12 year old nephew who is capable of playing that role, but I’m sure he’d enjoy a partner in crime. Let me see when he’s coming, and I’ll get back to on when I need your mess-maker. You are toooooooo kind to share!


  3. I think that table is freaking amazing and I especially love how you described what you did and your closing words. I would have walked by that table and thought “Wow, it’s a shame someone doesn’t refinish it” and kept walking. Thank goodness there are people like you out there.


    • Isn’t it fun, Charlie? I don’t know why I love doing stuff like this. Maybe it reminds me of what I’ve done with my life–sort of. Saved it from the garbage heap that is bipolar disorder and given it new meaning. Thanks so much!


    • I’m so glad you got to see the table, Sunshine. It’s been a fun project to work on. It’s taken a while to finish, but I’m excited to see what I envisioned finally realized. Thanks for taking a look. Hope you have a great week.


  4. I am so impressed with how you transformed someone’s trash into your living room’s focal point. Real artists like you are in a league of their own. Recently I saw a leather and wood chair waiting for the trash collector sitting across the street from where I live here in Manhattan. I liked that chair but it needed work. I thought, “I can do this!” As I approached the chair, voices in my head that sounded a lot like my friends, Milton and Coco, screamed, “Bed bugs!” Bed bugs have been a problem here in NYC in recent years. So … I walked up to that chair and then just kept walking. I’m glad you stopped. You created quite an object of beauty out of that table. I, on the other hand, probably would have brought an infestation into my hovel.


    • Too funny! I think I would probably have thought twice about bringing it in, if I lived in New York. I have a bug phobia–probably one I picked up in Vietnam and Haiti, where the bugs are the size of small dogs. Yikes! Glad you like the table!


  5. Wow. This is incredible! I esp. Love the update you did to the base of the table, completely transforming its shape and made it absolutely modern. Wow. I have the utmost respect and admiration for people who can make things with their hands. Wow!


  6. Holy cow! I really couldn’t fathom what else you could possibly do to make this table any better in the last update…but now I see that the paper additions were absolutely necessary. You’re so right. They really do add an element of texture and depth to the table that was otherwise flat with just the paint (which, of course, I didn’t even notice before). My god, Kathy, you truly are a remarkable artist. Seriously. I am so impressed! Thanks for taking us with you on that journey. 🙂


  7. This is fantastic! I LOVE IT! – What a great idea, but don’t worry – even if I had the time to create something like this, I certainly wouldn’t have the artistic talent 😉


    • Oh, Minh, I’m so happy to hear from you! I’m pleased you like my table, but more importantly, I’m wondering how you are. Belated happy birthday, by the way. Sara and I were talking about you just the other day, and she said you had bought a house. That is such great news. Finally, all the saving is paying off.

      We miss you, my friend. (And Lucy is doing her “dance” for you.) Hugs to you and everyone at Habitat Vietnam!


  8. Thanks for a great blog post leading us through your process. The detail in the choice of paper images added to create depth and texture makes this a real work of art. Though I’m curious, what did you stand it on? Not the original legs, I presume.


    • Yes, that’s correct. We put the top on another base we already had. It seemed to work better that way.

      Glad to know you enjoyed the table and your journey through the process. I appreciate you reading/looking and taking the time to comment. Hope you’ll come back again soon!


  9. Thank you so much, Kathy. Yeap, we are happy to live in our own home after some 5 years of marriage. We also miss you, Sara, Ralph and Lucy so much. Those were the unforgetable moments in 2009 when we were all together living in the same house. It was just like yesterday. I missed your thoughtful caring….


  10. I love, love, LOVE it Kathy! I am interested to know how you made the black lines between the petals – are they painted by hand? I have problems in painting straight lines like that unless I use masking?



    • I actually used a thick, black magic marker and a yard stick. Probably that’s cheating, but I can’t do it any other way. For the curves, I used the edge of large, round tray.

      I’m so pleased you like the table. Thank you!


  11. Gorgeous process and end result, as I was reading I found myself wondering if its possible to make your own paint? My brother is also an artist and when I asked him he says the process is pretty difficult. Do you know if this is possible?


    • Thanks so much for taking a look. It was a fun project, for sure. I don’t know the exact process for making paint, but I’ve always had the impression it wasn’t easy. My short answer is that I don’t really know. Sorry. Great idea though! Hope you’ll come back again sometime soon!


  12. I actually looked into it a little bit and it seems there are some DIY recipes that im going to try out and see how they work, i.e. make my brother use them for his painting. I’ll be sure to stop back when the experiment is done to let you know the findings!


  13. I love artist’s ability to see color, and more color. So many of those stages I would have thought…..”prettttty” and done! But you saw more. And it is beautiful. Happy weekend to you too! 🙂


  14. I am stunned and humbled by your great talent and artistic flair. I had no idea. I mean, I knew you could write, but this work of art, from a discarded table, well. If you ask me, it belongs in an art museum. What treasure! What beauty! You are simply amazing! How long did this take you, btw?


    • I don’t remember exactly how long it took, but I’m gonna guess a couple of weeks–given the size and time it took for paint to dry between stages. So happy you like it, Monica. I’m humbled by your praise. Thank you! You have made my day!


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