JoAnn's Potting Bench/Outdoor Serving Table

By Rick Wharton

Winning Category


I built this Potting/Entertaining "bench" from scratch using a pile of old barnwood and miscelaneous repurposed vintage items (wheels, doorknob drawer pull, backsplash cieling tins, steel acorn finials). The wood raw material came from various disassembled North Carolina barns.  Building a piece of furniture with repurposed wood is often challenging - especially for a hobbyist like myself. Furniture must be square and flat, yet barnwood is anything but square and flat with its' cups, twists and ragged edges. There is a fine line between making the wood useable while still maintaining the character and patina that time, weather and insect pests have added to its natural beauty.

The bench was built this year as an Anniversary gift for my wife, JoAnn.  She desired a basic potting bench to assist in her love of gardening. My inspiration for the overall look of the bench started with four vintage wheels which I acquired years ago from an old mill cart just waiting for that perfect project. With wheels that magnificent, I could not bring myself to building just a basic bench. Other than the overall dimensions, I had no build plan, yet I had a picture in my minds eye of the final outcome.  The intent was to build a useful, colorful outdoor bench that reflected practical elements involved in gardening and entertaining while keeping with a vintage style.  It took almost two years to collect all the material elements contained in the project.

The multi-purpose nature allows it to covert from a potting bench to a bench suitable for outdoor entertaining with little effort.The top has a trap door the leads to an easily removeable, large container for holding potting soil or ice and drinks. Various hooks, a bottle opener, shelf, vase and drawer adorn the unit to increase functionality and add decorative elements.

This project combined the love I have for my wife; my enjoyment of woodworking; the satisfaction of building a piece of furniture from scratch and making it come alive through the creative use of colorful paint and aging techniques; my interest in providing new life to items by repurposing all things old; the excitement found in "picking" that unique treasure and my wife's fine eye for color.


The base unit (legs, posts, aprons, post caps, drawer face & shelf brackets) was painted with GF Milk Paint - Patina Green followed by GF Milk Paint - Klein Blue then distressed using sandpaper.  GF Milk Paint - Driftwood was then dry brushed furthering the weathered appearance.  Between color coats, I applied GF High Performance Water Based Top Coat to assist in the ease of removing paint during the distressing process.  Finally four coats of GF Exterior 450 Satin were applied with a brush.

The top shelf, bench top and lower shelves were brushed with 5 coats of GF Exterior 450 Satin to protect and preserve the natural patina of the barnwood.

The wheels and acorn finials were degreased, steel brushed, primed and spray painted black. Gilders paste (patina, cream & bronze) was applied by hand.  Three coats of GF 450 Exterior Satin was then applied by brush. 

The backsplash ceiling tins were painted with GF Milk Paint (Tuscan Red, Patina Green & Summerset Gold).  They were embellished with Gilders paste in various colors to create a weathered patina look, antiqued with GF Glaze Effects (Van Dyke Brown) and finished off with four coats of GF Exterior 450 in Satin.  The frame around the ceiling tins was painted with GF Milk Paint in Driftwood and antiqued with GF Glaze Effects (VanDyke Brown).  Finally, three coats of GF Exterior 450 Satin were brushed on for protection from the outdoor elements.

I built the window using barnwood painted with GF Milk Paint - first with Tuscan Red then Summerset Gold, distressed by sanding then antiqued with GF Van Dyke Brown Glaze and finished with three coats of GF Exterior 450 Satin.



Products Used

  • General Finishes Milk Paint - Driftwood, Somerset Gold, Patina Green, Tuscan Red & Klein Blue.
  • General Finishes Glaze Effects - Van Dyke Brown
  • General Finishes High Performance Water Based Top Coat - Satin
  • General Finishes Exterior 450 - Satin
  • Barouque Art Gilders Paste - Cream, Patina & Celtic Bronze

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