Tabletop Swap

I’d be willing to swear on your mother’s life that I’m at least passably sane and, in this moment, completely sober, but it seems a little impossible that it’s been TWO MONTHS since I posted about my dining table. Where did the time go? I’m blaming all the weird New York weather, which moved directly from winter into summer with nothing pleasant to speak of in the interim. We’ve been cheated.

To jog your memory, since you’re probably not as obsessed with me as I am, here’s what we were working with:

The demographic breakdown of my favorite local Upper East Side thrift store is as follows: 89% women, 97% of whom are over the age of 75. A staggering 100% of these lasses are Jewish. Naturally, it’s a crowd that I fit right into. My ladies and I can be found wandering around the store, evaluating the same pieces of furniture and bric-a-brac, glancing over at each other to knowingly shake our heads in disgust over the absurd prices. The allegiance between these broads and I has nothing to do with phony smiles or contrived pleasantries—it ain’t a country club, for Christ’s sake—but a presumed shared love of chopped liver and an unwavering commitment to the art of kvetching.

Shopping in these stores usually amounts to little more than a fool’s errand, so finally buying something becomes an event worth discussing while waiting in line. Because neither positivity nor gloating are valued in this subculture, I find it’s usually best to immediately diminish any impending purchase by bypassing the attractive aspects and really delving into what’s wrong with it. “Oh that’s a lovely piece of art,” Evelyn might tell you, with the full expectation that you’ll then discuss swapping out the damaged frame or changing the putrid color of the matte. Even her Pekingese sits in silent judgment. Of course, you oblige.

This is why I was thrown when one such thrifty lady—let’s call her Barbara, since, statistically, her name is probably Barbara—wouldn’t let me have my moment of shining negativity.

“What a nice table!” she exclaimed.
“Well, it will be after I clean up the filthy base, I think.”
“Oh please, the brass looks great—really, don’t worry about it. In such good shape”
“Yeah, I actually really love the base. I think I’ll change out the top though. It’s sort of a weird pairing.”
“Oh, I’d think twice about that,” Barbara warned. “They don’t make them like that anymore. With that…whatchamacallit edge. The kind that’s rounded.”
“Bullnose?”
“Something like that. Oh, is it ever a hip-saver. All these hard edges on stuff these days’ll really get you.”
“Well, maybe I’ll just refinish it then.”
“Oh, but the wood is so gorgeous! A solid wood tabletop like that is rare these days.”

I couldn’t win with this woman. Clearly, life hadn’t slapped her in the face with quite the same ferocity as it had her other elderly counterparts. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even just pandering to my audience that so reliably expected such critical commentary—I really did have my heart set on a nice round top for my shiny brassy tulip-y base. Marble, preferably.

I went to a marble shop. $300. Well, that’s not happening. I searched Craigslist for a few weeks for appropriately-sized and cheap marble slabs that could be relieved of their less-worthy existing bases. No luck. Windows upon windows of restaurant supply websites were opened on my computer screen, then closed. Finally I faced the music and my dreams of natural stone morphed into an ostensibly more attainable plastic laminate reality. If it could somehow resemble this, I’d be pleased:

George Nelson Pedestal Coffee Table. Ahhhhh

Only problem? My local custom cabinet store apparently couldn’t fabricate a simple table top. But they could recommend somebody who would! Had I heard of Gothic Cabinet Craft?

Now, if you live in New York and you’re anything like me, this store confuses the shit out of you. You don’t like their merchandise. You don’t understand how they’ve been able to stay in business, who is buying their wares, or how they’re also somehow able to open new fancy branches in the middle of a recession. Something smells fishy with this place, and I’m guessing it’s the stench of a city-wide chain of drug fronts or a heavy involvement in the sex-trade industry. Whatever it is, I’d like to get to the bottom of it.

Certainly, the tabletop pricing didn’t quell my suspicions about this joint. $250. For a 36″ round white p-lam tabletop. For fuck’s sake. This was harder than I realized it possibly could be.

After leaving Gothic Cocaine Craft, I was overtaken by an urge to maneuver my defeat into decisive, empowering action. Who needed fancy-cut marble or fancy-crafted laminate or Barbara’s stupid bullnose edging? Not me. Fuck the man! Know what I needed? A fucking jigsaw and a can of paint, that’s what. Straight to the hardware store I went, to rent and buy these things, respectively.

I looked up online how to cut a circle with a jigsaw, which involved drawing a circle (I’m not a meth addict, that part was just surprisingly difficult and I was in a hurry for no good reason unless you count impatience), then cutting a lot of straight lines at increasingly smaller angles. Something about jigsaws working better with straight lines than curves. This is not an approach I’d really recommend, since mine came out looking significantly less than stellar. So don’t ask me how to do this properly, I still don’t know.

And wouldn’t you know it. That tabletop was a particleboard piece of crap anyway. Up yours, Barbara.

I painted the newly round tabletop with some oil-based white paint, when added an iron-on melamine edging to really top off this DIY shitshow. The final results were less than spectacular. In fact, they were pretty damn janky. The tabletop was almost laughably tiny and the intended round shape was never fully realized by my idiotic cutting technique.  This, I decided, would be my stopgap measure until I came up with something better. I mean, at least it was white. And roundish. Better than vaguely wood-colored and vaguely rectangular, I still say.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m actually the Make a Wish kid of scavenging, because no more than a week and a half later I was walking to the subway when I came upon a tabletop. It was white. It was round. It had a beveled edge. It was in the trash. I measured it with a dollar bill (fun fact! a dollar bill is exactly 6 inches long! put that in your pipe and smoke it.). It was the perfect size. I’m not a religious person, but it’s things like this that make me feel convinced of the existence of God. Or fairies. Maybe gnomes, but they seem slightly less plausible.

Here’s a crappy Instagram (see my feed here!) of it crammed into a cab because I was late and needed to hightail it home and then get right back to the subway. My life be busy, yo.

If you followed me on Twitter, you’d already be privy to exciting events like these.

Apparently it’s from CB2, and I’m guessing it came off of their Odyssey table. Fun facts!

Lil’ swaperoo:

And would ya look at that? Like it’s always been there. The finish is pretty scratched up and chipped along the edges and whatnot, but for free, I can handle that amount of “character.” I’ll probably end up repainting it at some point, but for now, I’m not going to jinx things with any more of my “handiwork” (see above).


45 Comments

  1. Posts like these are what make this my favorite blog ’round town (a hypothetical town of course, you’re clearly on the east coast, we’re on the west coast). My point is, congrats on the awesome table.

  2. How did I miss that moment on Twitter?! Must’ve happened during the 3 seconds I closed my browser window that one time. What a score! You have a ridiculous amount of luck. It’s kind of sick.

    I too have long wondered how Gothic Cocaine Craft has stayed in business for so long. Their stuff isn’t even particularly good quality. I don’t think I know a single person who’s bought anything there since the advent of IKEA.

  3. OMG, Daniel, you had me on the floor laughing. Thank you so much for sharing!! You are one lucky SOB, and an amazing teller of stories!!

  4. All along I was afraid you were going to say in the end that Barbara was right about the original table top. Phew. GREAT post, you’re such a good writer Daniel.

  5. I have been waiting for this post! It is so good! Sooooo good. The table is beautiful.

  6. Your luck is amazing. The new table top is a major improvement.

  7. Laughed my head off at this post too! Gold. Cannot believe you found the tabletop for the brass base after all your handiwork. HOW do you find this stuff??

  8. You are as lucky as you are talented. A question: now that you have that nice table set-up do you sometimes eat there?

    • I do, I do! I even bought flowers for that little vase, but they died before I got a chance to take pictures.

      • I really can’t resist writing “I told you so”. Because I did. Or more accurately, “I wrote you so”. :-)

  9. Cool, dude! Your living room is really coming together, and I love how you aren’t afraid to put a lot of work into a project for it to match your vision for cheap. That really seems to be the theme of your blog, and it’s awesome.

  10. Wow. Love it! I’ve been looking for an old marble tabletop that I can put on top of my kitchen table to make it look like more than it is. I was surprised how hard that is too find. I have hope now that the table top gods may be out there and hopefully one day they will smile upon me! :)

  11. i <3 NY. the streets are paved with melamine.

  12. This entry made me laugh (not out loud, I don’t do that.) many, many times.
    “Up yours, Barbara!” was a real highlight.

  13. i love it! i only ever have good luck finding parking spots. anytime i find what appears to be a good thrift, it turns out to have something terribly wrong with it. we recently bought a console that was discovered to be a hotbed of black widow spiders.

  14. I really can’t believe how lucky you are! Love the table, looks great with those chairs. And FYI I’m probably half as obsessed with you as you are. ;-)

  15. Not sure about NY, but in LA there are these stores that carry old Hotel furniture for cheap. It was a few years ago, but I remember seeing round marble tops for around $100 or so.

  16. You finding things like that in the trash is so crazy and fantastic. Here in Sweden it would never happen, if someone throws furniture away they often destroy it first so nobody else can have it. It’s a strange mentality. The table looks fantastic, character and all!

  17. looks pretty awesome :-)

  18. Your account of this made me laugh so hard that my husband asked me to read parts aloud to him so he could experience the hilarity. We appreciate your use of “shitshow.” Congrats on the amazing table top find – and since it’s a bit scratched already you won’t have the awful sinking feeling that accompanies that first mark in the pristine surface.

  19. Love the new table top, and love that you named the old lady Barbara.

  20. I’ve read every single blog post you’ve ever published here and I found this one to be among the most entertaining. I *so* needed this diversion after a horrendous day at work (someone tried to attack me in my coffee shop), and your post was full of eye candy and great story-telling.

    The table looks great. I hope you keep getting lucky finds, because it’s very fun to read about it all and see the results.

  21. Good things happen to hilarious people!

  22. You kill me Daniel; with your stories and your resourcefulness. Ever thought of pitching
    articles to home decor magazines. I would buy the mag just to read you. Another winner, table and post.

  23. You seriously crack me up! I agree with janet, you should be writing for decor magazines or something. Best sellers for sure…

  24. Really, you must write a book. I am always so sad when there is not a new Daniel read for the day! I am inspired by your “can-do” attitude, as well as the “oh, yea?” attitude. You just make my day! The table is great. I loved that you tried to make it on your own before finding ‘the top’! Keep writing!

  25. That table top sure had a short stay at it previous owners, lucky for you. It is almost as if someone bought it last year for your fabulous brass base. “Up yours, Barbara” indeed.

  26. love your blog ,love your taste, love your writing …. and I must say that the table top looks much better with your base than the CB2 Odyssey base ;) ….. i also love how each one of your chairs is a different color. Everything is working together perfectly now :)
    just a thought though, did you think of changing the blue chairs black base to match the other 2?

    • Actually, I spray-painted that base black since the chrome finish was in TERRIBLE shape on that base and I wanted to see how it would look (these bases also originally came in black, too) before I decided to go ahead and paint the other two. I think I like the black, but I haven’t quite decided yet so they remain unmatched for now!

      • Actually I was thinking about writing you if you thought about spraypainting the other two chairbases black too! I think it makes the colours pop more and kind of makes it look more high end.

  27. Daniel,
    I was totally engaged and fully entertained by this humorous post about this never-ending table-top dilemma! Congrats for scoring the CB2 round top from the trash (I’ve made a mental note about the dollar bill measuring technique…I’m lucky I leave the house with matching socks let alone an efficient measuring device for trash finds) Have you been reading The Secret? (ughh) you know, visualizing what you want and somehow, magically, it appears! Either way, no judgement here, your table looks fantastic and you bypassed Gothic Cocaine Craft….job well done!
    The Biscuits!

  28. You are 100% cute, funny and clever!

  29. You are damn hilarious! You are way to thrift lucky….what do you do? … blood sacrifices to the gnomes?..I ain’t judging just want in…..

    Love the table!!!!

  30. Wow! You have the most amazing luck when it comes to finding things! People in my neighborhood here in DC are pretty much always leaving stuff in the alleys and on the curb for other people to grab, but I have yet to find anything good! Bah!

    Also, “Fuck the man! Know what I needed? A fucking jigsaw and a can of paint, that’s what.” just might be my new motto. And I love it when you amazing people share your fails, because it makes us mere mortals feel better! :-P

  31. Thanks for sharing the shit along with the show. Sometimes trash is just trash, but sometimes again its treasure!

  32. Oh, I laugh hard.
    Very funny.

    This is gold: “…The tabletop was almost laughably tiny and the intended round shape was never fully realized by my idiotic cutting technique.”

    My first visit to your site. I’ll be coming back.

  33. I was giggling to myself while reading this post until I hit, “Up yours, Barbara.” Then I started belly laughing. You’re too funny!

  34. Hilarious. You should totally turn this into a short story.

  35. Being as it is completely uncool to tag or poke one’s friend’s nephew, I have to say your writing is just splendid & reminds me so much of janis. The furniture is terrif too, r u selling it Daniel?

  36. OMG! So funny! Up yours, Barbara! Great job on the table. Makes me want to move to NY to do some thrifting! (I’m tired of the LA thrift stores.)

  37. Kinda funny, you see the word formaldehyde on that top.

  38. Daniel: Great find! I hate you. LOL. But seriously, I have been in your situation before. How do you get that perfect circle! Jig saws just weren’t cutting it. No pun intended. I finally bit the bullet and bought what they call a “circle jig.” It fits onto most standard routers. The jig was about $90. I already had a router, but you can find one at any one of the big hardware stores for under $100. You can create just about any size circle up to 4′ in diameter. Well worth the investment if you think you might run into this situation again. Not to mention making circle cutouts for wall decor is always fun.

  39. SOOOO crack me up! amazing that tabletop turned up out of the blue. You are gonna LOVE Brooklyn and all the stores there and fels etc. Cannot wait to see the new place!
    Cat

  40. If I could I’d give this an award for Best Blog Post Ever. It’s perfectly written – you have a way of writing that can not only make the most mundane things hilarious, but you also come across as someone who I feel I actually know. Considering that there is an ocean and several thousand miles between us and I’ve never met you in my life, that’s quite something.

    Oh, and the table looks great.

    Up yours, Barbara.

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