An Intentional Home + Wood Side Table Tutorial

Photo by Gary Barnes

This podcast is primarily about figuring out education and career paths— but I think it’s also about the paths we take alongside those primary paths. I think it’s about learning to be more mindful about our choices. It’s about being responsible consumers and creators. And it’s about creating a life—including a home—that we love.

In a few weeks I’ll be moving into a new place, and for the first time I get to really dive into designing the interior of my home. For years, out of practicality and necessity, I’ve lived with roommates in pretty cheap apartments. In short, it wasn’t great. I’m so excited to, for the first time in 11 years, truly create a home.

This is the first post of hopefully many about this process.

Today I want to talk about being intentional.

Most of the statement pieces I’m bringing into my home are ones I’ve inherited or ones I’ve built:

  • My first woodworking project: A table I made in 2018
  • The desk my great-grandpa made in the 1950’s, that I restored in 2019
  • Beautiful mid-century lamps that belonged to my great-grandma
  • A side table I made to match the one I made for my dad last year

I’ve spent days scouring Apartment Therapy (favorite, favorite) and other design websites (article: “How Not To Design A Boring Neutral Room” from Emily Henderson). I’ve been making notes about things I have and things I need to buy, and things I need to buy sooner than later. I have at least one Pinterest board for each room in the house.

Late one night as I was getting into bed, I finally realized—so many of the design elements I am hoping to incorporate in my future home are things I saw in my great grandma’s home.

From the cream colored pillows and dark wood accents, to the lush green hills outside her living room window; from the soothing blue tones throughout the house (reminiscent of her sailing days), to the bold pink kitchen and metallic green guest bathroom. I could walk into her home and feel safety, comfort, and familiarity. I want to walk into my home and feel the same.

Fresh wood cookies, sawdust still on them!

Earlier this year, I made a side table for my dad out of a wood cookie from Utah (silver maple, if that means anything to anyone). This winter I decided to make myself a matching side table. I brought it home to my parent’s house for the Christmas holiday and finished it up. While I have other furniture I’ve made for the home, this is the first piece I’ve made specifically for this space.

Drying out a wood cookie in the oven (see tips below!)

Want to make a similar wood side table? Here are some tips:

  • I bought the wood from a local lumberjack who was selling wood on Facebook Marketplace.
  • If the wood is freshly cut (within the last few weeks) you’ll want to let it sit out to dry out. Make sure air can circulate on either side of the wood. I just had it propped up against a wall, but if you have a lot of wood to dry out, you can put spacers between them to save space and still get that air flow.
  • If you’re really in a hurry and your wood cookie is small enough, you can dry it out a bit in your kitchen oven. I would set the temperature to about 175-200 degrees Fahrenheit and check on it every 20-30 minutes (or longer when I realized this likely wouldn’t burn my house down; but don’t forget to set an alarm to again decrease your chances of burning your house down). (I still set a fire extinguisher within reach just in case.) I think drying it out in the oven also helped the bark to fall off of the first table I made earlier this year.
  • If you’re unsure as to whether there is still moisture in your wood or not, you can always buy a moisture meter to test the moisture level. I did this for the first table but forgot to use it for the second. In retrospect, I don’t think it’s necessary. If your wood has started cracking and if the bark is falling off, you should be good.
  • Ideally, the wood will be dried out and the bark will be off before you start constructing your table. If they aren’t, your table could crack or the bark could fall off later, and while the bark falling off isn’t a big deal, a cracked table could ruin the entire thing.
  • After the wood was dry, I sanded it smooth with an electric sander. Start with more coarse sandpaper then work down to finer sandpaper.
  • I stained it with a wood stain. Read the directions on the container!
  • I then sealed it with a clear gloss water based polyurethane. Again, read the directions on the container! Let it sit for at least 48 hours (or whatever the label on your sealer says) before putting anything on it.

    *P.S. I’ve used both fast drying polyurethane and regular, and I think I prefer regular. The fast drying one I used for this project is thicker, and I feel like it’s less forgiving than regular polyurethane.
  • And lastly, legs are from! This is by far the most expensive part of the whole project, so if you aren’t tied to that particular style, you could probably buy or craft table legs for far cheaper. You can look around online for some ideas (like here).
Staining and sealing the wood cookie.

I’m grateful for the blessing of having family heirlooms and the opportunity to create new ones. If you don’t have items that have been passed down to you, I encourage you to learn a new skill to create your own! What a blessing that will then be to future generations, or whoever you choose to share them with when you’re done with them.

Over the next few months, I plan to keep creating and purchasing items for my home, both new and used. Come back soon for more updates. Have any articles about amazing neutral color rooms? Send them my way on Instagram (@lookslikewandering)! I love this stuff.

Photo by Gary Barnes!