orange tabletop in an open rustic living space

A slab of wood on a repurposed base made fab by the orange lacquer surface: the miracle of high gloss paint.

The secret to getting truly shiny high gloss is to use oil base (alkyd) paint. When we did side-by-side tests of high gloss alkyd and water-base latex paint we made a big discovery: the latex doesn’t shine or reflect nearly as much as the Alkyd. On a table, it will be prone to waterspotting and staining.

For those who are adverse to using alkyd paint, we wondered if you could use latex paint and seal it with a high gloss polyeurathane. We asked a friend who seems to know everything about paints and fine fixes for interiors. He said: “The problem with putting any oil-based finish over a latex one is that you set up a hard finish over a relatively soft one – so it’s better to start with the finish you want to end with.” 

If you do want to paint a table, or anything high-gloss (floors for instance) be sure to follow these steps: lightly sand the surface, carefully wipe off dust, do a first coat with a primer, allow to dry, sand lightly, carefully wipe off dust, paint with oil paint, allow to dry, sand lightly and carefully wipe off dust, paint again…until you have the surface you want. Here’s a step-by-step guide we found at Real Simple.

We did this with are oyster-white painted plywood floors in the Laboratory and LOVE them. (More to come on those later.)

photo: sally schneider
photo: sally schneider

via the style files

Related posts: chic utilitarian diy work table
copper pipe table to d-i-y or buy
d-i-y “masked” painted tables
ever wonder what an orange floor would look like?
diy strapped-together dowel tables


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5 replies on “the magic of an orange table top + high gloss oil paint

  1. For smaller areas that are high use and high liquids I’d use the water-based paint myself. Then epoxy the top. It is expensive but solid. You’re looking for barman’s top, barman’s glaze, etc. You can even get it at Home Depot (cringe) next to their stains and sealers. For a table area it’s the best thing you can do, hard wearing, long-lasting, shiny….

  2. Another approach that works well is to mix gloss latex paint with a gloss waterborne acrylic or polyurethane. I particularly like a brand called Ceramithane, available from, but I’ve also gotten good results with Minwax Polycrylic, which is available at Home Depot and Lowes. The ratio isn’t critical; 50/50 works and so does 60 paint/40 poly. You end up with a gloss finish that has a hard shell, like lacquer, and is the exact same color as the paint. The first coat is only translucent and acts like a stain, but it dries fast and sands very well. If you have dry air and it’s 75 degrees F., you can do 2 or three coats in a day, easy. Same proviso, though, as your gloss alkyd advice: sand, dust, paint, let dry, sand, dust, paint, repeat as needed. Nice thing about this is it’s nice and self-levelling. I have sprayed it but probably my favorite way to apply it is with a trim roller. A friend clued me in to this finish when I needed to paint some bookshelves, and didn’t want the books to stick in August humidity. This stuff does the trick.

    ps) make sure your polyurethane or acrylic is “waterborne” or “water based,” without the word “oil” appearing anywhere on the label. There are some hybrid products out there and I can’t vouch for their miscibility with latex paint.

  3. While the orange high gloss top is interesting, I can not help but marvel at this gorgeous space… What a lovely house…

  4. I can’t thank you enough for this info. As alkyd gloss may be phased out, it is a relief to know that the same effects are achievable with water base products. Thank you for your detailed instructions. And your blog is so chock full of info; we’ll use it as a resource.

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