Coffee tables don’t have to be boring slabs of wood attached to four legs. There are a wide range of interesting coffee tables available commercially, but you don’t have to break the bank to get a cool coffee table. You can design your own table using materials you already have around your home, or from items you pick up at flea markets and garage sales.

STEAMER TRUNKS: If it’s time to update your living room’s coffee table, an ideal option might already be in your home. An old vintage trunk generally is the perfect size to take center stage in your room’s setup while providing extra storage. A clean, polished trunk adds character and interest to design, and depending on the style of your trunk, it can work well with traditional decor or even an uber-modern room.

STACKED BASES: Stack logs vertically on their ends on a plywood base and attach casters to the plywood for a unique spin on the traditional wooden coffee table. Secure the logs by driving a screw into each from beneath the plywood. Another option is to re-purpose old or damaged books by stacking them beneath each corner of a glass, Plexiglass or wooden tabletop to function as the table legs. Secure short stacks of less than five books with adhesive, gluing one book on top of the next. Drill a hole through the center of each book in a tall stack and insert a wooden dowel. Drive a screw through the underside of the plywood and into the dowel to fasten it in place. Old record albums can also be stacked either horizontally or vertically to create a coffee table base.

RUSTIC MATERIALS: A long, shallow basket or tray, wooden sheeting or glass placed on top of two wooden sawhorses creates a rustic coffee table suitable for a cozy country decor. Paint the sawhorses so that they suit the room’s design and color scheme and to make cleaning easier. If you have children or pets, glass may not be ideal as a tabletop, but wood or baskets can be secured to the sawhorses with a couple of screws at each end. Another rustic table idea is to use an old chicken crate as your coffee table base and top it with weathered, wooden boards. Old beams or framing boards are ideal for this purpose, or you can use new lumber. If you use new lumber, ensure to seal the wood with a clear finish or paint to make cleaning easier.

BRING IN THE OUTDOORS: There’s no law that says outdoor furniture can’t be used inside. Instead of a traditional coffee table, bring a metal, wicker or plastic outdoor table inside. You can paint the table to match your decor or leave it as it is. Wicker tables are ideal for classic or traditional decorating schemes; metal or plastic tend to suit more contemporary styles. Other outdoor options include tree stumps, which can be used as a base or as the table itself depending on the size, or make a table with flower pots at each corner as the legs. Use wood, tile or glass as the tabletop.

FLEA MARKET FINDS: Flea markets and garage sales offer interesting and affordable materials to make a cool coffee table. For example, large, old picture frames can make an ideal tabletop. Metal frames from old tables or shelving units can be re-purposed for the base. Street signs are another option for an urban spin on the typical coffee table. Flea markets stock all kinds of old doors and windows that can function as tabletops when fastened atop caster wheels or wooden pallets.

PAINT: Sometimes the best solution to an outdated coffee table is not to replace it, but to turn it into something cool. Paint can change a boring, traditional coffee table into a modern or glamorous piece. Paint the base or top of an old coffee table with metallic gold, bronze or silver paint. Replace wooden tabletops with ceramic tiles or glass for a modern look. Alternatively, use bold colors and paint geometric designs to create a retro look.

LIFE’S LESSON: When you throw dirt, expect to lose ground.

HAPPY JULY 21 BIRTHDAY TO: Norman Jewison 87, Robin Williams 62, Don Knotts (1924-2006), Josh Harnett 35, Justin Bartha 35, Earnest Hemmingway (1899-1961), Cat Stevens 65, Chelsie Hightower 24, John Lovitz 56, and Brandi Chastain 45.

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