The DIY Coffee Table And The College Kid

Hey loves!  This season of my life is full of preparation;  we are preparing our nest for future emptiness, and helping our children prepare for independence.   We have four kids: a recent college graduating new at “adulting”, a college sophomore moving soon in to his first apartment, a rising high school senior in the throes of college applications, and a high school freshman.  Oh the tears and frustration.  And that’s just me.  ;)  Last week my 19 year old son came to me with an idea to build a DIY coffee table for his apartment.

Oh my heart.

My first reaction was to jump in with both of my mama feet, take over the process, and “help” him build the most awesome Fixer Upper style DIY coffee table EVER.   Then I remembered the chocolate cake story.



What does chocolate cake have to do with a DIY coffee table?   Nothing really, but it has a lot to do with my relationship with my 19 year old son.  Let me tell you.

When son came home for Thanksgiving last year, his first year of college, I asked him what you might call a “leading question.”  I asked:   “are you glad to be home and see your family?”, fulling expecting to hear what I wanted to hear:  “yes, mommy, I miss you terribly.”

Well…what I got was this story.

“Well, Mom, it’s like this.  When you’re growing up, you LOVE chocolate cake.  It’s your favorite dessert, and you can’t imagine loving anything more.  But chocolate cake is all you know.  THEN, someone gives you cheesecake.  You still love chocolate cake, but…

Good grief.  THAT answer is not what I was expecting, but it kind of changed my approach to our “new” relationship.  I had to take a tiny step back and let him grow.

Back to that DIY coffee table.  He asked a few questions about what kind of wood to buy, and set about designing his new table.  And a TV stand.

DIY Coffee Table For A College Apartment


(there are affiliate links in this post for your convenience)

The bases are constructed from 2×4’s screwed together.


cheap and easy DIY coffee table for a college apartment


Not exactly Joanna Gaines’ style, but I’m working with chocolate cake here, people.

The tops are 1/2 inch plywood.


DIY coffee table for a college apartment


Cute, huh?  (I meant the kid…)

He asked for help with the finishing, so I showed him how to sand, and helped him stain the tops with General Finishes Antique Walnut.   GF gel stain is perfect for the types of wood that fit a college kid’s budget because it doesn’t penetrate as deep, leaving a beautiful finish on even lower grade lumber.

He painted the bases with DecoArt’s Americana Decor Satin Enamel in Classic Black.

And here we have a finished DIY coffee table, designed by a future engineer, perfect for a college apartment, and about $25 to build…


DIY coffee table finished


but priceless for the mom that got to help.

The moral of this story?  Take a small step back and let your kids figure things out, ready to help when they have questions.  AND be sure that you have chocolate cake waiting when they move home for the summer.  Yes. I. did.  ;)

Thank you SO MUCH for reading, have an awesome day!!




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11 thoughts on “The DIY Coffee Table And The College Kid

  1. This is a great post Kimm! As I prepare for my oldest to go to 4th and our middle to head to preschool, this really tugged at my heartstrings. Love that chocolate cake bit as well!

  2. What a fabulous story! I had a similar thing happen to me when my son left home 2 year’s ago! It’s nice to know they are being independent but sad at the same time knowing that they aren’t so dependent on you anymore!

    Awesome coffee table too! He did so well! It’s nice that he asked you to help with the finish also :-)

    Thank you so much for sharing over at Waste Not Wednesday this week! So looking forward to seeing what awesomeness you share with us this week!
    Sam @ Raggedy Bits recently posted…Twinkle Twinkle Kids Table and ChairMy Profile

  3. What a sweet story; thanks for sharing. I’ve experienced one of my boys leaving home as well and it’s certainly not easy on our momma hearts is it? It’s a very mixed bag of feelings really. I know I enjoy seeing my son in this phase of his life, when he got his apartment, etc. but that need to still be a momma doesn’t go away; I think it just looks different. My son is currently in Afghanistan so of course can’t do much but I do regularly send care packages and pray but it does this momma heart good to know that in my own little way even with him on the other side of the world I’m still doing “something”.

    1. Thank you for sharing Rebecca! I’ll admit, my son is just moving about 12 miles away, I can’t even imagine having him across the world! You are an amazing mom, and I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  4. Reinventing definitely seems to run in the Boes family. Well done to your son and kudos to you for letting go with some chocolate cake. It’s such a scary thing. My son’s off to study in Canada in 29.5 days time and I’m a quivering wreck. It’s the other side of the world and it snows there. How on earth will I be able to check if he’s wearing his jersey :-( Sending lots of love from South Africa as always.

    1. Thank you Michelle! I don’t know how you mamas do it that are sending your kids across the world. Mine is only moving 12 miles away! :) Have a great day my sweet friend!

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