Spalted Cherry Table Makeover with Reactive Stain

Weathered Gray Cherry Table Makeover


A red cherry table turned driftwood gray using a reactive stain finish! Reactive stains cause a chemical reaction in wood, making it look weathered and aged.

Cherry table makeover before staining it gray
Spalted (also called ambrosia) cherry is very rare but so beautiful! The top had some damage from years of use and the stain was hiding the spalting. The curvy legs were in great shape, but we stripped and refinished the whole table to reveal what was beneath.

We scored this very RED spalted (ambrosia) cherry table for $50 and refinished it in a Restoration Hardware-style weathered finish. Changing cherry wood into anything but red is tricky, so I tested out several different stains to get exactly the color we wanted for this heirloom piece. Click here to see more of my furniture projects.

Our formal dining room has been sitting empty as I debated how to use this space. A library? Office? But seeing that our family has grown tired of the metal chairs in our dinette, the decision has been made. Formal dining it is! (And I hear that formal dining rooms are making a comeback!)

Cherry Table Makeover Stained Gray

I found this gorgeous, vintage French cabriole leg dining table on Facebook Marketplace for only $50. It was the right shape and size, just not the right color. It’s so unique and the legs are just gorgeous. A makeover needed to do it justice.

Cherry table thrifted for $50

I couldn’t pass it up knowing how beautiful it would be once finished. But as usual, I knew there would be a lot of work involved getting the unique patterns in the wood to show through.

Stripping and sanding the table

Instead of writing a long post about stripping the wood, I linked videos showing how I stripped the table (visuals are always better).

Videos–> I used Jasco Premium Paint Remover. First, I applied the stripping agent and spread it out evenly. Waited about 15-20 minutes, then removed the first layer of stain. I wired-brushed the crevices then cleaned the entire table using mineral spirits to remove any residue. The legs were actually the hardest!

Power & Hand Sanding the Table

Cherry table sanded to reveal spalted wood
Once sanded it revealed a perfectly weathered wood. To DIY this weathered look, read about my farmhouse oak table project.

We sanded by using a combination of power and hand sanding. Since we knew we wanted to re-stain the table, we had to remove every bit of the existing stain. We started with 60 grit (the roughest) followed by 80, 120, then ultimately 220 grit (finest) sandpapers. Hand sanding with a sanding block is great for legs.

Cherry table makeover stripping cabriole legs prior to applying stain
The legs were definitely most time consuming.

Testing Different Stains on Cherry

I tested out a few different stains in an inconspicuous spot on the table. Which is your favorite? We chose the top test, weathered wood accelerator with a layer of medium walnut danish oil.

Cherry wood stain test with a variety of gray stains

Applying the Reactive Stain (Video)

First I applied the reactive stain on the legs. Let it sit for about an hour and let it work its magic. Click the video below to see what it does to the wood. :)

After applying danish oil

Once the reactive stain was dry, applying a medium walnut danish oil made the wood grain really POP!

Once the danish oil was dry, I used a foam brush and applied 4-5 layers of water based top coat.

We stopped and started this table makeover so many times, but it’s so worth it to have our own heirloom piece that we created together. I’m so happy to play with this new “canvas” and to try some pretty tablescapes (which will be a first for me!)

To see more of my furniture projects, be sure to click this link. I’ll be posting about the chairs soon, but today was all about featuring the table. So stay tuned!

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  1. Ab-so-lute-ly stunning!! I appreciate the hard work!

    1. Jeanette, DIY Blog says:

      Thank you Ginger, we’re so glad to finally define this space. The table is the star of this room, we just love it!

  2. What weathered wood accelerator did you use/brand? I’m sorry if you posted somewhere and I missed it. I looked, Just couldn’t find it. Thanks!

    1. Jeanette, DIY Blog says:

      Hi Elaine, I’m updating the post to include a full list of resources. Sorry for omitting that, will update the post asap.

    2. Jeanette, DIY Blog says:

      Elaine, it’s called Varathane Weathered Wood Accelerator. And then I used Medium Walnut Danish Oil which was pretty dark. So I would try Light Walnut, too.

  3. Your finished table is magnificent, Jeannette! You can just see the love you and Mark put into it.

    1. Jeanette, DIY Blog says:

      Thank you Sharon, we are so happy with it! :) SO much work, too!

  4. Ummm… that table…..those legs…….amazing……speechless….one of the most beautiful makeovers I’ve ever seen. You took a nice table and made it into an awe-inspiring work of art. 50$!!!! To buy something like that in a store would be well over $3,000.

    1. Jeanette, DIY Blog says:

      Wow that’s a HUGE compliment, Christie. Thank you! You might be right about that price, I haven’t seen many tables like this one. We sold the rustic farmhouse table (in an earlier post) that we refinished for around $450 after we refinished it. Once our house is furnished we may start trying to sell bigger pieces like this again in our local shop.

  5. That turned out beautiful! I am shocked you were able to get the red out! (Sounds like an eye drop commercial!) LOL
    The finish is awsome and so beautiful with your grays you have going on in the dining room. Looks expensive, great makeover!

    1. Jeanette, DIY Blog says:

      ME TOO! I was sooo nervous about this makeover, but these reactive stains are really great and seem to change the composition of the wood. Grays and natural oak is what we love, even during the painted furniture craze I still loved it and would strip anything that was oak (versus paint it). Fingers crossed that I’m choosing decor that stays in style for a long time. Thanks Shelly for the kind words! This was a tough project but so worth it.

  6. Stunning!!! The colour choice is perfect. Those legs! I was surprised at just how big this table is too. I love everything about it. So much hard work, and it shows. I have two cherry night tables that I’ve not been overly happy with because of the reddish colour, but I really don’t want to paint them as they have 7 drawers!! . I might just try this!!!
    Your makeovers are always so awe inspiringly beautiful!! ❤️

    1. Jeanette, DIY Blog says:

      Hi Darlene, I’m so glad this helped. Stripping furniture is definitely the harder path, but the results are so rewarding. Using the danish oil really warmed up the gray – but still toned the red. I didn’t think this color was possible with cherry unless I faux painted it. I love that the real wood grain is showing through.

  7. Wow! That is beautiful. And as previously mentioned would go for several thousand elsewhere. On a side note, what color paint is in the dining room; I’ve been trying to get the right grey in mine and love your color.

    1. Jeanette, DIY Blog says:

      Thanks Paula, we are so relieved this project is finished and now we can enjoy it. The paint on the walls in the dining room is Kendall Charcoal by Benjamin Moore. :)

  8. Diana Smith says:

    I get so excited when I see that you’ve completed another project! Thank you for all your information that you share with us! Absolutely beautiful!


    1. Jeanette, DIY Blog says:

      That’s so kind, Diana. Your comment made my day! I do take my time so I know it’s a long wait between my projects. Thanks for still being here :)

    1. Jeanette, DIY & Decorating Blogger says:

      Thanks Jess! It was a nerve-wracking at first but once I applied a light layer of Danish Oil it turned out exactly the way I hoped. Thanks so much we use this table EVERY day! :)

  9. Has this darkened over time as cherry is prone to do?

    1. Jeanette, DIY & Decorating Blogger says:

      No it has held up exactly as it was, maybe a bit richer in terms of wood grain but not darker.