A long time ago in a land far away I painted a table.

Not this table.

It was a table I found in the trash next to a dumpster at our apartment complex.  It called out to me—sitting there next to the bags of egg cartons and lemon rinds and pizza boxes.  I couldn’t resist.  I picked it up and dusted it off and primed it and painted it white.  And then?  For the crowning glory, the sprinkle on the sundae, the finishing touch—

I painted a cornucopia on the table top.

I know what you’re thinking.

And you would be right.

A table just isn’t a table without a painting of a bountiful harvest.

I thought it was glorious.

I thought that table was the finest thing since sliced bread and bags of salad with dressing inside.

I wanted to preserve it for all eternity.

So I sealed the top with a finish sealer.  I went to the hardware store and bought the sealer they recommended and followed those instructions to the letter.

It was glossy.

It was beautiful.

That cornucopia table top would be there when my grandchildren showed up.

And then something terrible happened.  Something that is still difficult for me to talk about.  Something that made me shiver and shake and fear for the future of my table.

The entire table turned yellow.

Not a pretty yellow.  Not the color of the yellow corn peeking out from the center of the bountiful harvest.  An awful, icky, paint-dripping looking yellow.

And all because I used an oil-based sealer.

Do as I say and not as I did.

Save yourself the heartache of an ochre colored feast of plenty.

When sealing your painted furniture (especially when it’s white) DO NOT USE AN OIL-BASED SEALANT.

Use latex instead.

You’ll know it’s latex because you can clean it up with water.

Now I know better.

This table top was just refinished this weekend.

See that chippy paint?

See those beautifully sanded lines?

See that brush with LATEX sealant on it?



The table is sealed and ready to go.

It’s hanging out on the back porch with some chairs and a rug and an owl in the nearby tree.

I know it’s not a cornucopia.

But it’ll have to do. 🙂

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  1. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    I love screened in porches! And yours is divine, friend!! Thanks for the sealant advice....I remember days of icky sealer colors at my grandmother's farm! Now--not be repeated.

  2. Image for Missy Missy

    When I saw the title (before reading the article) I immediately thought you should not put your cornucopia on your head while dancing around in a toga. This mom needs to get more sleep, but thanks for planting the fun image!! Sorry about your cornucopia.

  3. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    I learned that lesson as well when we were working on the farmhouse bathroom...my buffet turned vanity was all chippy white perfection and I sealed it and watched in horror as it turned yellow. I had to strip it and start over. Kind of a good thing as I found mold in the cabinet. I scrubbed it and when it was dry painted it Coco. It turned out way better than the white ever would have. But it was a painful lesson nonetheless. Can I come sit on your porch? It looks so welcoming! Happy day, friend! Cecilia

  4. Image for Jolene Jolene

    Thanks for the tip! That is so good to know. How heartbreaking to put all the time, not to mention your heart and soul into a piece, only to have it "turn" on you. At one point in your tale of woe, I thought that you were going to warn us against getting too, attached to our creations. I have to guard against that, because sometimes accidents do happen, and sometimes I make mistakes while creating. But...if I can prevent a mistake by reading great tips from others, I'd rather do that. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Image for Mah Mah

    Hey, I'll do you one better, use water base polyurethane! Wonderful stuff! Self leaveling, no smell, shiney or low luster. I tell you it is a wonderful thing!

  6. Image for Teresa Teresa

    I have my husband's antique butcher block table with metal legs that he ate on as a child on. I want to paint the top white but just don't know what white to use. Chalk paint? And, now thinking I could seal with your water based sealer. Any thoughts or ideas appreciated. Thanks, Teresa

  7. Image for Elizabeth Day Elizabeth Day

    I love everything about this blog. I love the stories, the photos of beauty, your writing style, the loving and positive things you say, and the always positive outlook. But I'm asking you for one change - please change from grey ink .. it is so difficult to read, and the blog would be just as happy if it was printed in black ink, too. Thanks.

  8. Image for Gabi Gabi

    I, too had that experience with a multi-tiered plant stand for my Mother-in-law, which my hubby made and I painted it white with a light green Ivy vine in certain places and then polyurethaned. And what to my wondering eye did I see over the years but icky yellow. She still uses it but I cringe whenever I see it! I've offered to repaint it but she says don't worry, it's fine!!

  9. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    That was a tough lesson to learn-after all that time painting the cornucopia! Your new table is beautiful and love your porch. So cheerful and inviting!

  10. Image for Sandy Sandy

    Great advice but I want to see a photo of that cornucopia table! Your porch is heavenly! Oh how I would love to have our covered porch screened it but it's not your typical shape of a porch. I've thought about panting my wicker furniture white, the deck floor gray and the railings of our deck white but not sure how it would look so brown it is! You are a great story teller and you always weave in good tips and advice! I could sit on your porch all day!

  11. Image for Monica Monica

    So THAT's why my moms blue (she was in to the color blue!) table, chairs, shelves, stool turned an ugly gooey looking yellow!!! Ugh!!! Too bad she's not here any longer to tell her. She wondered what had happened. I still have all and will redo them at some point. Thanks for the info....now I know what not to use!!!!!

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