How to make an old dining table modern?

Dining Table

Bringing a dated or vintage dining table up to date with some modern styling updates can completely transform the piece. Whether it’s a hand-me-down heirloom or secondhand find, old tables deserve new life. With creative DIY techniques, stylish accents and smart uses of texture and color, you can give an old dining table a fresh modern look.

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Evaluate the Existing Table

First, carefully assess what you’re working with to determine the best updates:

  • Note the main wood tone – is it a warm honey oak, medium walnut or cool ash? The undertone will impact the colors that complement it best.
  • Check the dimensions and scale including the height, length, width and shape. Measure to envision how it fits the space and meets your seating needs. An oversized traditional style may need downsizing.
  • Identify the architectural style like traditional, transitional, farmhouse or contemporary. The current leg shape, base, edges and details will inform the type of modern updates.
  • Consider the craftsmanship and condition of the wood, joints, finishes and hardware. High quality handiwork may be worth preserving with a more respectful redesign vs. a total transformation.
  • Decide if you’ll refinish, repaint, reupholster or simply use a tablecloth to update the top and base. Assess time, budget and skills.

Modernizing Techniques

Use these techniques to adapt an old table to your current modern aesthetic:

  • Sand and refinish the existing wood top and base in a sleek matte, satin, or glossy stain in a contemporary hue like ebony, gray or deep blue.
  • Apply a high-gloss lacquer paint in black, navy or white for a slick, contemporary vibe. Add a decorative color stripe down the center for pop.
  • Use a concrete overlay product like counters or paint to entirely resurface the top and base with an industrial chic material.
  • Stencil, decoupage or stencil a graphic honeycomb, herringbone or geometric pattern onto the tabletop to introduce modern flair.
  • Swap traditional carved legs for sleek hairpin legs in brass or black metal for an airy, minimalist look.
  • Incorporate a glass, acrylic or lucite tabletop to create transparency and modern simplicity.

Play with Shape and Silhouette

Update the traditional table’s shape and lines with these tips to modernize the overall silhouette:

  • Round off sharp 90-degree corners and angles for softer, organic lines. Use a router for a smooth edge.
  • Cut an existing rectangular or oval top into a circle shape to remove formal edges.
  • Trim and taper thick, chunky legs into a thinner diameter for an overall slimmer profile.
  • Use a light-looking skinny open base like a square metal frame, crisscross base or ‘X’ shaped legs to elevate the top for an airy feel.
  • Remove ornate carved details, inlays, wraps or skirts for a clean, minimalist simplicity. Let the wood and lines speak for themselves.

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Complement with Modern Dining Chairs

New modern dining chairs will also instantly help reinvent an old table’s style:

  • Choose chairs with sleek upholstered seats in leather, faux leather, vinyl or quilted fabrics for texture.
  • Pick chair frames with a tapered slim leg design for lightness. Think spindle legs or flared metal legs.
  • Molded plastic chairs in glossy finishes, acrylic or transparent polycarbonate add contemporary edge.
  • Opt for minimalist chairs with armless profiles, low or midcentury style backs. Avoid heavy ornate styles.
  • Use bold, asymmetric color blocking on chair frames and upholstery. Pair black seats with white frames.
  • Add a deep button tufted pattern to the seat cushions and chair backs for modern style.

Style with Textiles

Textiles like tablecloths, placemats and runners present another opportunity to weave in modern flair:

  • Toss a bold graphic table runner made of fabric or leather down the center for contrast.
  • Choose tablecloth fabrics with interesting modern textures like velvet for sheen, linen for casual wrinkles or metallic ikatpatterns.
  • Layer in a macrame table skirt or crocheted overlay for an organic, earthy accent.
  • Use placemats or napkins in sleek vinyl, faux leather or silicone for sheen.
  • Add a few modern throw blankets in complementary colors and graphic prints across the table ends.

Modern Decor Accents

Finally, use accessories to style and finish the space with a contemporary edge:

  • Display branching organic sculptural centerpieces for an artistic statement.
  • Use colorful modern ceramic vases and geometric vessels as centerpieces.
  • Choose simple floral arrangements like a few single stem blooms in a rectangular glass vase. Avoid traditional arrangements.
  • Attach hairpin legs to the underside of a new glass tabletop for a floating effect.
  • Illuminate the dining space with globe pendant lighting fixtures hanging above the table.
  • Scatter small green succulent plants along the table in unique modern planters and pots.

Have fun dreaming up ways to give new life and a fresh modern style to a well-loved dining table! The opportunities are endless.


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