Gateleg tables have been versatile space saving pieces of furniture since the 16th century. A gateleg, or drop leaf, table features a narrow center section as the base of the table. There are one or two large hinged sections which are supported by legs that swing out like a gate to make a much larger table. When folded down, the table can function as a console table or be easily stored. When the leaves are up, it can be used for dining or a workspace.
My mom had a great old gateleg table in her garage for years. She had taken it from her parents’ home after they passed with the intention of someday restoring it. The table had been something my grandmother rescued from a side of the road junk pile in the late 1960s (I come from a long line of DIYers!). Once grandma got the table home and cleaned up she gave it a very stylish 60s update with some yellow green paint. In the 50 or so years to follow the table had seen some better days. When I rescued it from my mom’s garage this is what it looked like:
Because of the vintage age of this piece, I wanted to be careful about possible lead paint. You can purchase test swabs and quickly & easily find out if the piece you are working on contains lead paint. If the paint is pre 1978 it could contain lead and sanding it could release the lead particles into the environment. The test is as easy as swabbing the furniture piece, if it turns red the paint has lead! Luckily my piece did not have lead.
If your vintage furniture has lead paint, it is important that you do NOT sand it. Sanding will turn the lead into tiny particles that you could breath in, or small children could ingest the fallen paint chips. You might want to consider having a professional handle the restoration if there is lead paint that is flaking. If the flaking is not severe, take a soapy wet rag and rub down the entire table and especially any areas with chipped paint. Once you have removed all the flaking paint, wipe again with a clean wet rag, then bag up the rags and drop cloth. Lead paint is considered hazardous waste so you will want to dispose of this properly. Once you paint the piece, you should seal the entire thing with a shellac.
Before painting my table, I had repairs to do. Some of the leg connections were loose so first I used wood glue to make the table stable again. After the glue dried, I sanded the table lightly with a sanding block then wiped with a wet rag.
I wanted the table to have coastal meets farmhouse vibe. The entire table got two coats of Behr Chalk Paint in Gingham Blue. Then I painted just the table top & leaves with Behr Chalk Paint in Farmhouse White. It is such a sweet color combination! I lightly distressed parts of the table to expose some of the blue on the tabletop.
The table already looked a million times better but I wanted to add something extra to it. I found a cute stencil set that included some folk art looking chickens and also a chicken wire design.
The chicken wire design was perfect for the center section. As I mostly plan to use this table with the leaves down as a console table, the center section is the main “table top”. A simple chicken couple decorate each leaf. After the paint dried, I rubbed Behr Decorative Wax on the entire project to add a protective layer.
I hope grandma would be proud of the table’s newest look! I love the way it came out and is the perfect “drop spot” in my entry for keys and other items.