My dining room table is in need of some serious love and attention. The top is scratched and water stained, and the varnish is colored in places. There is a darker strip that goes around the table about three inches from the edge and then divides the table in half in the center. It has been this way for a year now, but I haven’t been able to figure out what to do with it. I could sand and paint it, or distress it first. I could paint inside the strip and leave the rest stained as wood. I could even stain it as is.

I finally found an idea I liked at HomeTalk. It involves using stain to create an image on the table top, without concealing the grain of the wood.  The website provides step-by-step instructions for creating the stain, and you can learn more about technique from a video like this one.

The first step is to pick your design. Do you want flowers or stripes or herringbone? Perhaps you want to just decorate around the edge of the table. Decide whether you want to stain or paint it, and if you’ll be using different shades.

If you don’t trust yourself to freestyle your design—either with the stain or drawing it on first—consider tracing a pattern onto the table. If your design is small enough, you might be able to find a stencil. If it’s larger, you can buy a very inexpensive projector or even make one using a shoebox, a magnifying glass, and some glue or tape.

Prepare your table by sanding it. It may be easier to add the design if you turn the table on its side. If you’re going to draw the design freehand, go ahead and get started! If you’re using a stencil or projector, trace the outline to give yourself a starting point.

Use the stain to finish the image. When you’re happy with the design and the stain has dried, the last step is to put several layers of a polyurethane on top to protect your work. Allow each coat to dry completely and then sand lightly in between layers.

Place the table back in the room and proudly show it off. You’ll be the envy of all your friends with this new technique.