Rising Coffee Table Built in a 500 sq ft NYC Apartment
I remember the glory days of unlimited garage/driveway space and access to my dad’s tools that I had as a kid in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Scrap wood in the backyard became an ill-fated quarter pipe skate ramp, or single occupancy tree house stand. I did not realize how good I had it until I built a rising coffee table in our 500sq ft. apartment in New York City.
We adore our small apartment, but what was missing was a dining table that could seat us and a few additional friends, something for which we didn’t have quite enough space. We had seen rising coffee tables before, but they were either used on very small tables or were of poor design/quality. After searching everywhere for a ready-made option, our options were to settle for something pre-fab, or make exactly what we wanted.
I found this really great piece of hardware on Amazon from E-CLOVER LLC that had good reviews and met the load bearing requirements I needed for a table to keep plates, glasses, silverware, and leaning elbows from tipping the whole thing over or accidentally collapsing. This lifting mechanism is spring loaded; so when the table top is lowered the spring is fully extended, and when up/open the spring is collapsed. I knew I had to build the table around the hardware in order for it to work the way I wanted. It takes an intentional push to get the table moving forward before it starts to lower, so there is very little risk of bumping into it and sending your bottle of wine cascading onto the white shag rug.
When the part arrived, I took measurements and using SketchUp 3D (an invaluable tool for this project)), I knew the cuts I needed to make to fit the unit flush inside. The 2″ x 3″ pine studs are wood glued to the bottom and sides of the frame, providing the anchor for the hinge. The tabletop in its “up” position can manage about 50lbs of pressure on the edge before it barely starts to tip, which is plenty for what we needed. My original design had the legs in a different position, but we realized that this would make the table more susceptible to tipping. Additionally, my girlfriend thought it looked too much like a picnic table (she was right). The final position of the legs made the unit infinitely stronger, and since it will tip with enough pressure, there is no worry of the hardware bending or snapping.
The build process was an exciting and occasionally frustrating challenge in our small space, and my girlfriend and I conceded we would have to live in woody shambles for a week or so. All of the cuts were made on our small, and I mean very small balcony and once on our shared roof terrace using a Dewalt 12″ Miter Saw. Since the only screws in the table are the ones securing the 4″x4″ legs to the base of 2’x4′ plywood sheet, most of my work was wood gluing (Titebond Original) and clamping using various sized DeWalt trigger clamps. The table top is (5) 5.5″ boards glued together, then planed to level the surface. Minwax conditioner, English Chestnut Stain 3x, white gloss accent paint, and gloss polyurethane 3x gave us the perfect finish. If we had the money I would have chosen walnut or oak, but the entire table is basic pine from the HD, and I think looks quite handsome. The total cost of the project was just under $200 and took us a little over a week to complete. The side table and wooden mirror are also our custom-made pieces.
A little bit of sawdust in the carpet, wood stain on the balcony, and probably a few brain cells lost to polyurethane chemicals, but it was most certainly worth it in the end.
– David Thomas Brown