The project that has been 16 years in the making……

Today my dear friends I share a project that I truly hesitated to share. I felt it was just too mundane, too run-of-the-mill, too ordinary, too common.

And then I thought, I actually have some pretty good reasons to share it anyway……


how to paint mahogany wood white


Reasons like…….

    • It took my forever to finish it, now that I have, it deserves it moment of glory;
    • I made a bundle of blunders and mistakes with this one, you might profit from them and avoid them yourself;
    • We can’t have big room reveals or outrageously innovative projects every time, sometimes sharing the everyday is good enough;
    • It looks really good and I like how my pictures turned out. Glimlach
    So here I go. I painted a little table white!!!!
    Yeah, I bet you didn’t see that one coming, now did you?!

how to paint mahogany wood white
Ok here is the story.

I started this project 16 years ago!!! As in I started working on it in another decade, heck I started working on it in another millennium!

I got the table when I moved out of my parents house at 21. One of my sisters was moving in with her boyfriend then and she gave me some of her old furniture. The little table used to belong to my parents. I think it was part of their bedroom suite. Somewhere in its history the mahogany table had been painted white. By that time already a long time ago.

It stayed ‘white’ with me for some time too. And then I decided to strip it, because making it all shiny and lovely mahogany seemed like a good idea.

So I stripped, and scraped, and sanded…..


how to paint mahogany white


No DIY experience or knowledge to speak of back then. So I soon ran out of steam and stopped working on it.

It looked horrible, paint chips all over, roughed up, abused and ugly.

It stayed like that for 16 years…..

I even used it sometimes…..

At Christmas……

I just draped a big table cloth over it and used it……

Until a few weeks ago when I started working on it again. From the looks of it I knew that my original plan of a beautifully restored mahogany finish was not going to happen. So on the plan B.  I developed visions of clean, super smooth white. A polished look.

I had confidence I could pull it off……

So I started…….

And finished the scraping and the sanding and primed her……


how to paint mahogany white


She turned pink!

Should have known better. It isn’t as if Beth didn’t recently warn me about painting mahogany. I just choose to ignore it.

Stupid me! The pink was coming through three layers of primer!

Don’t believe me, that it was really pink?

Look here:


how to paint mahogany white


See! In contrast to the white you can really see how pink it was.

So what did I use to stop the pink bleeding?

A special varnish or  lacquer that I think is called shellac in English.

It smells like nail polish, it goes on like nail polish and you have to clean your brushes with acetone, so I guess it is a kind of a nail polish for wood. It covers everything up with one layer. (hmm two actually)

It was my first time using it and I didn’t really investigate or practice applying it…….

I was left with a very white, but very uneven bubbly finish.


how to paint mahogany white


I’m not sure you can see it very well here. But think three layers of nail polish applied by your four year old. Uneven, bubbly, rough and nothing like the smooth finish I had imagined.

Of course I thought painting over it with my finishing paint would fix it.

I never learn: of course it didn’t, things got only worse.

So realizing that my super smooth finish was not going to happen I went on to plan C.


Distress the heck out of it and go for the rustic, shabby chic look.


Ah, but that lacquer is so hard that even our belt sander did not remove it!!!


I sanded my butt of, but for some very small edges, the table stayed white and I could not get to the bare wood.

But she did get very smooth……


how to paint mahogany wood white


So I went to plan D (or back to plan B so to speak), and finished her of, with a smooth, silky white finish.

And all is right with the world again.


how to paint mahogany wood white


We haven’t had a real coffee table in front of the couch for years. In fact as long as my love and I have been together we have not had a coffee table in front of us.

Her size isn’t exactly right for the space. But she is a good testing ground, whether we like having a table again.

And of course I loved dressing her up….


how to paint mahogany wood white


She will come in handy on many occasions. One just needs an extra table now and then. And I’ll have to see where she ends up in the near future.

But for now…..


how to paint mahogany wood white

She is doing just fine holding up my feet…..

Thanks for listening!

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  1. says

    Hi Marianne!

    Your post is wonderful! Oh do I have things like this laying around my basement! Yes I do!

    Your table is lovely – just like everything you do! LOVE the aqua colored vase, too! And those boots! Sister! You’re rocking the world in those thangs!!!


  2. says

    marianne, what a great post…I was glued to every word. It’s great to hear about all the things that went wrong and how you overcame them. what a great story this old table has. Great job and even better perseverance.
    thanks for sharing.
    Bec x
    P.s can’t wait for my book to arrive.thanks again.

  3. says

    Your table is lovely, completely worthy of a post. All that hard work deserves some recognition! I’ve had a few of those projects in my life that get shoved to the back burner because things weren’t going well. You took it on, you perservered, you conquered!


  4. says

    Great story. The table ended up looking good…I probably would have given up (I think)..I have worked with shelac is hard to get on smoothly ( it can be thinned a little with the cleaner) . But you have to be very careful, about bubbles and things…. And unlike poly or arcylic it will yellow in time, and has to be stripped and redone. The table, though.looks great…(forgive my spelling spell check doesn’t seem to be working!

  5. says

    Oh wow. it turned out lovely.
    We don’t have a coffee table either.
    In fact…married almost 30 years here… and no table for us. Except once…we built it from BHG plans and it had a glass top. Gave it away…almost immediately.

    Guess we’re not coffee table people. But I like yours!
    Love the boots, too! :) Pat

  6. Shelley says

    Hi! Next time you have to paint over a stubborn colour, use a GREY tinted primer. It will cover anything, and the top coat goes on in a pure colour. It’s amazing! I was told this by my friendly home hardware staff, and it has saved me so much time and paint, I can’t begin to tell you!

    • Marianne@Songbird says

      Thanks Shelley, that is a great idea. Will think of it next time I start painting something difficult. Not sure though if it would hae helped on this project. Mahogany bleeds through, I think it would have come through the grey too.
      Thanks for thinking along with me.

  7. Luda says

    HI! Thank you for sharing your story! I am in the process of repainting an old mahogany desk white… and 6 layers later I am still seeing pink… so, like you, I am now looking for a solution. Did you put the shellack on after the paint and then do another layer of white? or did it end up white after the nail polish finish? or is it white nail polish? :) Sorry if I sound dumb, I really have never done this before… not sure why I thought I could now…