Tutorial: $6 Nailhead Side Table

nailhead chest step 12

I have special respect for DIYers who are able to work magic on a budget. This “nailhead” side table cost just $6 to remake from an old nightstand that lacked any kind of design mojo. With a few dollar store materials, some new paint, and a bit of determination, Jessica Hill from Mad in Crafts was able to create a stylish accent piece for her home.

Jessica Hill is one of my favorite craft bloggers. And how does one land on that list of favorites? Simply by making projects that haven’t already been made all over the blogosphere already. Jessica never goes for the obvious DIY project, and always executes her craft ideas with a great mix of design, innovation and frugality. Jessica’s sharing this exclusive tutorial for her $6 Nailhead Side Table today!


$6 Nailhead Side Table

by Jessica Hill, Mad in Crafts
bernhardt cabrillo nailhead chest

If anyone asked me to sum up my personal tastes in interior design, I could just show them this Cabrillo Nailhead Chest from Bernhardt.

How do I love it?  Let me count the ways:

  • The feminine design done in masculine nailhead trim

  • The textural and graphic contrast between the metal and the linen

  • The strong, clean lines that are modern without being cold

  • The slightly global flair

  • Its beauty AND functionality

  • The fact that, although way out of my price range, it is totally DIYable

nailhead chest step 1

You have a side table in your house that looks just like this, don’t you?  I think in the ‘70s there was some company just pumping these bad boys out at warp speed.  It is made from good, solid wood but has no design quality.  Perfect for a makeover!  I was able to achieve a reasonable knockoff of the Bernhardt piece with patience, perseverance, and $6.  Yes, you read that right.  Six. Dollars.

The chest from Bernhardt is wrapped in linen fabric.  I am sure there is a way to DIY that, but I wasn’t up to that particular challenge.  I decided to approximate the look with lovely paint color.

nailhead chest step 2

I removed the dated hardware and gave the entire piece a light sanding to rough up the finish.  This was the first time I had used a foam sanding block.  They rock!  It made sanding the trim work so much easier.

After sanding, I primed the whole piece using Gripper primer.  It just happened to be tinted grey because it was leftover from a previous project, but tinting is not necessary. Gripper is fantastic primer, less expensive than other brands and it covers like crazy.

I bought brushes at Wal*Mart for cheap.  Mistake.  Even as I was buying them, I could hear my father’s voice in my head, “When you’re painting, don’t skimp on the brushes,” but I bought them anyway.  Worst brushes in the history of ever.  Learn from my mistake.

I used two coats of Glidden’s Warm Stone which is a pale grey color, almost white.  Glidden sent me a quart of this paint as part of a promotion last year, so I didn’t have to fork over any cash for it either.  I probably didn’t need two coats of the paint, but I wanted to make sure I had given it a smooth, creamy finish.

nailhead chest step 5

Once the paint was dry, I needed to figure out how to accomplish the nailhead design.  Since my piece is oak, just pushing the tacks into the wood was not an option.  When I tried to nail them in, I either bashed my finger or hit the tack off-center, bending it at a wonky angle.  I took a deep breath and resigned myself to drilling a guide hole for every tack.

When I got a method down and a rhythm going, the drilling really didn’t take very long.  Even with my mediocre math skills, I was about to figure out that if the tacks were 1 cm in diameter, my holes needed to be 1 cm apart for a continuous line of tacks.

I busted out my holographic ruler from the 4th grade and marked a dot every centimeter down the line.  Using my smallest drill bit (1/32), I quickly drilled each guide hole.

Be careful to only drill deep enough for the tack to stay steady in the hole.  You want to be able to hammer the tack into the wood itself, otherwise the tacks will fall right back out.

nailhead chest step 6

Instead of forking out the money for actual nailhead trim tacks, I picked up two packages of thumbtacks from Dollar Tree.  I carefully hammered each tack into its hole.

Since the tacks were so cheap, I can’t really complain about their not being uniform in size and shape.  If you are an uber-perfectionist, buy your tacks at an office supply store, because the dollar store tacks will not give you a perfectly straight and even line.

nailhead chest step 7

For the repeated flower design on the drawer, I cut a simple template out of cardstock junk mail.  I marked dots around the template at 1 cm intervals.

nailhead chest step 8

Drill, hammer, repeat.

nailhead chest step 9

After the center flowers were complete, I stepped back to take a look at my progress.  You can see the two spots where I drilled the holes too deeply and the tacks fell out.  I remedied this by applying craft glue to the stem of the tacks and putting them back in the holes.  Worked like a charm.

nailhead chest step 10

More tracing, drilling and hammering later and the drawer was done.  I added new drawer pulls that I bought at a home supply store for less than $2 each.

I had originally planned to spray paint all the thumbtacks silver, but I am so glad I didn’t.  I don’t usually have gold/brass in my home, but this table is infinitely warmer with the gold-finished tacks!

nailhead chest step 11

I would estimate that the drawer took about 2 hours total to embellish.  For the impact of the design, I think the time was well-spent.

nailhead chest step 12

I outlined the decorative edge at the bottom of the table using the same process I used to outline the drawer.

This process could be used to jazz up headboards, mirrors, cheap IKEA furniture; the possibilities really are endless.

A quick summary:  the inspiration piece from Bernhardt, my entry table as it was (BORING), and the completed look.  Not bad for a few hours and a few bucks!

nailhead chest step 14

I love that my new entryway table greets our guests with a massive dose of style and design.  It was such a bland space before, now it demands attention!

Thanks for the opportunity to share this tutorial with you Décor Hacks readers! DH is one of my favorite sources of information on stylish looks on the cheap. If you like this tutorial, I would love for you to visit me at Mad in Crafts!