In this post: This is a story all about how to protect a Restoration Hardware Dining Table. Also known as how to avoid massive disappointment.

how to protect a restoration hardware table

You know that feeling when you are so excited about something? You look forward to it and build it up in your headโ€ฆfor years?

Like that thing will mean you’ve arrived. You’re finally an adult. Or something like that.

You’re past your own awkward teenage years, the eating-raman-noodles-for-every-single-meal college years. You have your own place. You work hard. You pinch your pennies (um, nickles if you’re in Canada) and you save your money.

You’ve had your eye on that gorgeous thing for what seems like forever.

The timing was never quite right though. You needed your savings for the dentist or swimming lessons or car repairs. The purchase of that thing was put off time and again.

But finally. Oh finally. There’s enough money in the bank. This is definitely a splurge, no doubt about it. But you’ve waited so long and it will last a long time, so it’s worth it.

You skip off to your favorite store and, with a smile on your face so big you look like the Joker or the Cheshire Cat, you place your order. You are giddy with excitement. Like a kid on Christmas morning.

Delivery day is a couple of weeks away. So you settle in and wait some more.

Finally delivery day arrives. Your thing is ever so carefully carried off the back of the truck and in through your front door. The delivery men unwrap it and ask you to look it over to be sure it’s all good, before having you sign the delivery receipt.

You stare. You can’t believe it’s finally there, in your very own dining room. It’s gorgeous and it’s perfect.

french industrial dining room

You carefully arrange chairs around it. You add a few candles and some flowers as a centerpiece, or maybe a tiered tray. You and your kids sit down to eat lunch. You give them instructions to be ever so careful. It seems the finish is a little um, chalky.

That’s not quite what you expected.

The kids are a little terrified to spill. If you’re honest with yourself, so are you.

And then you do.

It’s just the tiniest little bit of something. But still you rush to wipe it up quickly.

And that’s when it happens. The finish actually IS a little chalky...AND IT WIPES OFF!!?!

(A few curse words may have accidentally spilled from your lips at that moment. But only maybe.)

What a huge disappointment. The finish is practically the whole reason you bought the table.


Well, since you live in 2016 you hop online to see if anyone else has had the same issue. (And you’re not entirely sure why you didn’t think to look that up to begin with.)

Sure enough. Same issue. More than once. More than five times. Hmm. Do the designers of this table expect you NOT to use it? Do they expect you to buy it and then just stare at it from afar? It’s a dining room table, people!

You’ve waited too long. You’ve looked forward to this table for years. It’s darn well going to get used! 

So you do some more looking around online. You’ve DIY’d your own furniture before, so you know there must be some sort of sealer or something that won’t change the finish, but that will protect it.

You’ve used Poly before, but it’s rather shiny. Wax would be more matte, but the process of application would very likely rub off all the existing finish. So you keep looking.

And then.

And then you find it. Something called Dead Flat Varnish. It’s by a company you’ve never heard of before, Saman. It promises to be exactly what it says, dead flat. No shine. No yellowy color. You’re beginning to get excited again. Is it possible? Might you keep the look of the finish you love so much, and yet have it not rub off?

Well, you waste no time in ordering some (because of course it’s not in your local store, so you have to order it online). You cover the table with a thick, ugly vinyl table cloth while you wait. Because you know, it’s actually a dining room table that gets used.

When the varnish arrives  you test it ever so carefully by brushing it on the underside of the table. Just in case.

You wait impatiently as it dries.

The next day (you waited extra long just for good measure) you look carefully on the underside of the table. AND YOU CAN’T EVEN TELL WHERE YOU APPLIED THE VARNISH!

How to protect a Restoration Hardware dining table.

You’ve never been so happy. Okay, perhaps when you got married or had babies. But otherwise.

The table is saved. You will be able to use it for all those family meals you’ve envisioned in your head for so long.

And maybe, just maybe, you can help someone else save their own Restoration Hardware table by sharing your story.

Want to create your own gorgeous makeovers?

Check out our DIY Paint Finishes and Techniques guide.

It includes 12 of our most popular paint finishes and techniques all in one place! Includes photos, supply lists and how to get the looks we feature on our blog Home Made Lovely all the time! 

DIY Paint Finishes and Techniques pages for blog

P.S. This post is NOT sponsored. We really did dream of our Restoration Hardware table for years and were shocked when the rather pricey table’s finish rubbed right off. But we were thrilled that the Saman Dead Flat Varnish did not change the finish and absolutely protects the table now. See, some stories really do have happy endings!

shannon pixie photo and signature

home made lovely book on table with get it now text button

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  1. Hahahahahaha….oh my, I laughed so hard I snorted coffee the wrong way!!….and I’m trying to be quiet this early on a holiday Monday morning….your descriptive narration put me right there with you, slowly peeking under the table….that would so be me!! ….on the flip side….can’t believe they would put such an ‘unfriendly’ finish on a dining room table???….maybe it’s only supposed to look good for the catalog…???!!!! ?

    1. Whew! That is one beautiful table!! I have a Bassett table and I’m so nervous of spills. Wonder if that would work on any table.

    2. Did the Saman varnish change the color of your table at all? What about the sheen? Did it leave a sheen? Thank you.

  2. Thank you for this post! I have the exact same table except mine has a big water spot on it. The first week we had it I spilled. It is a big light spot. So disappointed!! Nothing I can do about that now but at least I can save future mishaps!!

    1. Oh Tammy! I’m so sorry! I KNOW EXACTLY the disappointment you feel. Try the dead flat varnish I mentioned…hopefully you can relax after applying it!

  3. Good to know! We have the same table and I’m excited that it is in Canadian Dollars! We have a couple of scratches on ours, any idea if it will fill them in?!

    Thanks for sharing!!

  4. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the story at first. I was afraid something awful happened to YOUR table. I’m really glad it all worked out for you. I had a Bavarian vase with hand painted violets and gilding which belonged to my grandmother, a beautiful dainty thing. I was rehanging the mirror, after giving it a good polishing, above my dresser. It slipped and directly struck the vase. The vase broke into SHARDS. ?

    1. Lol. No thankfully ours just has one wee spot without the finish. But we like a rustic look, so it’s not a huge deal for such a small spot. I’m so sorry about your vase!

  5. Great end to what could have been a really bad finish (literally). I have used Flat Out Flat finish from General Finishes many times when I want a smooth, dead flat finish and it is also great. But, I feel like Restoration Hardware should carry some responsibility for this finish fiasco, especially since yours is clearly not the only one! I am hoping you got in touch with them and let them know what is happening so some poor, unsuspecting person (who may not have the DIY chops you do) won’t have to go through this torture!
    PS: I have also LOVED that table forever! Gorgeous!

    1. Lol. Yeah. I’m pretty sure they don’t care. They should. But they don’t. Have you ever been into one of their stores? Their sales people act like they have more money than I do and therefore don’t have to talk to me. Lol.

    2. YES! that is exactly how I feel when I walk into their store too. Which stinks because they do have some really pretty things. But makes me NOT want to buy anything from them because of how unbelievably snooty they are! So glad you found something to work for your table. We have used Benjamin Moore Stays Clear sealer in MATTE finish on the butcher block counter on my new desk and it is super matte – can’t even see it either. So that may be another good option for those of us in the States ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. It does stink. But perhaps their target audience buys their products and doesn’t actually use them?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. WoW !!
    Did you talk with Restoration Hardware to let them know you were ‘another’ customer who had the same problem with the dining table you purchased??! What frustration for you —I am so HAPPY the Saman product worked to solve the problem. Beautiful table !! ?Linda

    1. I’m pretty happy it worked too. Otherwise the nonchalant RH people would have had a bit of a bear on their hands! #kiddingnotkidding

  7. too late for me… ๐Ÿ™ Our table arrived two weeks and after researching and testing several products, I thought it sounded like Rubio Monocoat was the way to go. I pre-tested the product on the underside, and it appeared good, only darkening slightly, so the next day I plunged ahead and did the top. Maybe I rubbed too hard and removed the chalky… but now my table is a barnwood gray, not exactly at all what I was looking for. Hope your blog helps the next person, I guess I’m stuck with with I have.

    1. Yes! Absolutely. If you add a coating though, be sure to test it on the underside for sure.

  8. Great story, kept me on the edge, scarred things would not wok out.. Going to look for saman, dead flat for our many needs. So hope restoration hardware sees your blog! What ashame they do not seem to care.

    1. Yes, they are. They were from Birch Lane/Wayfair. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find them. I’ve sent an email to my contact there to see what I can find out for you.

    2. Ugh. And sadly apparently their buyers didn’t restock them and they’ve been discontinued. I’m so sorry. I adore those lamps and can’t believe they’re not available anymore! ๐Ÿ™

  9. Wow, good to know, although I’m still in the dreaming stage. It amazes me that even I have fallen for the selling of a fantasy, which is what RH does. We’re not buying quality, we’re buying the gorgeous image. Like you said, reality then hits when we realize that “living’ doesn’t fit into the fantasy. I’m glad you didn’t just cry and fuss and actually found a solution to allow you to keep the table and use it.

  10. Hi! I just discovered your blog and love it! I was reading your post about pickling the table. Do you think if you would have used this product vs Minwax poly it would have decreased the blue hue?

  11. We have own our RH table now for 5 months and I luckily before purchasing I did a bunch of research, so we already had bought a clear vinyl table cover to cover it until we could figure out what product to use to protect it. I never planned on keeping this ugly clear cover on it, but frick, we use the table every day and I’m too scared it will get some major damage. It’s been really overwhelming trying to figure out which product to use: Recommendations so far – 100% tung oil or use Monocoat, and now this one. Do you use this table everyday or is this just an occasional table? I have three little 6 and under, so it will be cleaned multiple times a day from their mess. Just need to make sure it can hold up! Thanks for the help!!

    1. We use our table every day. Honestly. We homeschool our three kids – ages 12, 14 and 16 – so it gets used for school, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. It gets wiped down with a damp cloth constantly. It’s help up pretty well. I’ve spilled a touch of paint on it and it’s gotten scratched. But it’s a table and it’s not going to stay perfect forever. I think the only way to keep it PERFECT is to not use it or put a glass top on it.

    2. That is great to hear! We love the distressed look, just not necessarily the stained look you know. So some dings and scratches are no big deal! Do you know of a local store that sells this or is Amazon the best place to go?

  12. Hello,
    I bought one of these tables second hand and of course it wasn’t until I was home that I noticed the same thing had happened to one of the corners. The darkish reclaimed color is rubbing off and a natural wood is coming through underneath. Is there anything I can do to “add” the reclaimed color back? Or only apply the varnish to prevent this from happening further? (I understand it’s technically not a color but just to make it not look rubbed off on one side). Thanks so much!

    1. Unfortunately I’ve yet to come across a tutorial for adding that powdery look that RH has. I’m sorry! I’d personally just use the sealer and be done. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. We just purchased a restoration hardware salvaged wood table. Do you still recommend the varnish? Is it difficult to apply

    1. I definitely recommend this varnish still. The only recommendation I would stress is to make sure you continue to stir/mix it as you go. Otherwise you may get white flecks in your finish.

  14. Hi – I have had my RH table for a couple of years now but I am sick of putting a table cloth on it worrying about gravy or wine hitting the table. I was going to try the dead flat but I called Saman and they recommended the satin varnish. I am still hesitant that it will not be the look I am going for. I think I am still going to try the dead flat, they thought it would be hard to clean. How did you apply spongee, roller, brush?


    1. Hi – I have had my RH table for a couple of years now but I am sick of putting a table cloth on it worrying about gravy or wine hitting the table. I was going to try the dead flat but I called Saman and they recommended the satin varnish. I am still hesitant that it will not be the look I am going for. I think I am still going to try the dead flat, they thought it would be hard to clean. How did you apply spongee, roller, brush?

      Also, did you find that the smaller 16oz was enough?


  15. I just bought the RH Reclaimed Russian Oak table, is yours the same one? I haven’t gotten it yet so I’d like to be prepared when it comes!

    1. I don’t think it’s exactly the same…but truly no two will ever be from RH because they use reclaimed wood from many sources. I hope your table is lovely and needs to no extra finishing!

  16. Did you apply this directly to the table as is or did you sand first? We recently refinished a table and loved how the stain turned out but the wax finish that gives it that matte look, does not work well with 3 young children. If we eat at the table and the kids touch the wood at all, greasy finger tips ๐Ÿ™ My husband was hoping to not go back multiple steps but we have heard you can’t apply anything over wax. So you just applied the varnish on the table as is, is that right?

    1. NO sanding! The idea was to keep the finish on the RH table…which is sort of a dry powdery finish. I’m not sure how the varnish would do over wax, but you could try it!

  17. Hi there,

    I have a similar issue with my RH table and am looking forward to following this tutorial.

    I noticed that your article references the product “SamaN Dead Flat Varnish”, but when I click on your provided link, it takes me to something called “SamaN Water Based Flat Varnish with Aluminum oxide”, which is described as “flat mat”, not “dead flat”.

    Can you please confirm which is the correct product to use? I found a different product by SamaN called “Dead flat varnish”. Is the link to Amazon in your article correct?



    1. Clarification: the product I found by googling is called “Dead flat clear coat”, not “Dead flat varnish”

    2. Hi Alex, I replied to your email regarding this. I used Dead Flat, but I don’t see that on the Amazon site anymore. Perhaps check with SamaN to see what they say?

  18. I am about to purchase the salvage wood table at RH, I have 3 boys ages 6, 3 and 2…wondering if this tip would hold up thru their future table abuse? How is your table doing and how often do you apply the dead flat varnish?

    1. So, our table was fine after the varnish. I don’t know if it would be fine for three boys though. We actually got a different table and I’m much more relaxed about it as it’s more durable. Depends how much you like the distressed look, I guess!

  19. How much did you need to cover your table? Thanks for the great information since I’ve been searching for a while to find a solution for our RH dining table.

    1. It made it ever so slightly darker. But by like the smallest bit. I tested it underneath first and recommend that everyone else do the same before doing the whole table. Since RH tables are reclaimed wood, another table may react differently than ours.

  20. I have the same problem with my RH coffee table, I could just cry. My actually licked crumbs off the dog and you would die if you saw the marks it left. Did you sand the water mark spots before applying the Saman dead flat.

    thanks for sharing, really enjoy your blog


    1. oops I meant to say, my dog licked crumbs….kids were asking questions while I was typing, they too are probably spilling something on the table as we speak.


    2. Ugh. I’m so sorry. Yeah, there definitely should be more of a buyer beware with these finishes from RH! I only had the smallest mark from wiping our table, so no I didn’t sand or do anything like that. You may have to try wiping the table to see if you can get the marks to even out. I’m sorry, I don’t have an answer for that specifically. Let us know how it turns out though!

  21. Have had our reclaimed table for like 48 hours and Peanut butter has done me in. Big greasy stain. Tried to clean it wish dish soap …you know cut the grease. Did not work….yet. Ordering the varnish STAT hoping the whole thing will blend…maybe I should smear peanut butter all over it first!?!

    Either way the table is SO pretty…still in love, blotch and all. Aaaaannnnd I have three boys (9,6,2) and a dog that finds a way ON to my tables so weโ€™ll see how this all goes. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

  22. Update: I use General Finishes Flat out Flat on my round trestle table and it turned out amazing! Didnt change the color at all

  23. I’m thinking of having a piece of glass made for our RH table until the kids get old enough (10, 8, 5) to understand the significance of using a coaster at all times. A piece of glass may not be the prettiest, but at least I know it will protect the table and won’t change the color of the finish ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Hello – I just purchased a RH Salvaged Grey Farmhouse Table and want to seal my table like you did! Would you still recommend he Saman Mat Flat varnish you used? And how did you apply each of the coats / wait in between each one? Did you just let it dry completely after or did you need to wipe anything off? Any information on the application would be great – I currently have the saman on its way.

    Thank you!

  25. I bought Restoration Hardware’s Salvaged Wood Island. I’m using it as a bar height table in my kitchen and it’s BEAUTIFUL! Currently, it’s covered in an ugly, white, thick, plastic table cloth. I’ve been reading and reading about how people are protecting these tables and there are so many conflicting solutions. I’ve read about 100% tung oil, but a furniture maker told me NEVER! He said it would not hold up, and to use Modern Masters water based matte finish poly. I bagan reading about the Dead Flat product you used, and thought I’d found a better solution. However, I called Modern Masters yesterday to ask about the product. They said the Dead Flat product is meant to cover imperfections and sheen in their paint products. He cautioned me that it’s not designed as a table top finish, and again referred me back to the water-based poly. Honestly, I’m terrified of everything right now! Can you tell me if you have any knowledge to compare the Dead Flat to their poly product? I REALLY want to maintain the look and lack of sheen that you achieved with Dead Flat, but I was told the product wouldn’t hold up over time. Can you tell me your experience? How long ago did you use it and is it holding up??? I’m dying to pitch the table cloth, but so confused as to how to protect it!

  26. Count yourself lucky that you went with a different table! We had one that was “salvaged brown” so we didn’t deal with the same issue. But four years down the road, and hardly ever using it, there is a huge crack right down the middle. Apparently this is not unheard of with these salvaged wood tables.

  27. After to es of research, I settle on Monocoat by Rubio. This stuff is amazing and so easy to apply. It was designed as a hardwood floor finish in Europe. I love the matte finish, and itโ€™s waterproof for everyday use. Itโ€™s been 4 years si ce I finished my table and it looks as good as the day I applied it!

    1. Did you get a certain color or is it just clear oil with matte finish? We had a piece of glass made for our table to protect. And while I love the look, it reflects our chandelier and drives me more insane than a little stain would, I think!!

  28. After purchasing a RH salvaged trestle table in the natural, we as well realized we had a challenge on our hands with protecting it. We initially thought we had the answer with the 100% tung oil we read about online. We applied it to the bottom of one of the table leaves and excitedly thought our problem was solved. Then we applied the Tung Oil to the top side of the leaf. Yikes! The wood looked charred! So back to the drawing board. We ordered a sample swatch of the wood from RH. We then ordered three products we had read about online: General Finishes Flat Out Flat Topcoat (GF), Modern Masters Dead Flat Varnish (MM), and Saman Flat Mat waterbed varnish. We tried all three products on the wood swatch. The Saman product had more of a sheen than the other two, so we ruled that one out as we were wanting the table to look as close to the way it looked when we received it from RH. The GF and MM looked really close. We decided to try the MM on the bottom of the second table leaf. So far so good, so we then applied it to the top of the leaf…this is where things went terribly wrong with the Tung Oil, so our expectations were low. But it looked great! It did darken the table ever so slightly, but we were pleased with the results so we decided to go for it. We applied three coats of the MM to the top of the actual table, and at this point we are so relieved…we think we’ve found a way to protect the table while still keeping the look we loved. We’ve tested it by pouring water and hot sauce on it…both easily wiped up with no change to the table. Phew! What a relief!

  29. Did this method protect your table from spills? What about frequent wiping and daily use? Crayons and play doh? We have an infant and toddler and want to make our RH table our main table but I’m terrified of ruining this expensive piece. We are moving and I do not want to get rid of this piece.

    1. Hi Melissa,

      This treatment offers protection from spills and daily wiping. BUT you still have to catch the spills quickly because it’s a water based sealer. Our table was fine that way. But a sweating glass of cold water that sat on the table while we played cards left a visible ring that wouldn’t come out. Since our kids were teenagers when we bought the table, we haven’t test it with crayons or play doh.

      Truthfully, if our kids were still little, I would have:

      1. Not ordered the table until they were older
      2. Bought it but covered it with a vinyl tablecloth or
      3. Protected it with a more durable finish like polycrylic (which unfortunately will likely leave a bit of a shine).

      I would be hesitant to make this your main table for those activities. I’m sorry. ๐Ÿ™

      xo, Shannon

  30. Hi. Im late to the game with the RH salvaged wood table, Im still scared to death to seal it for fear that I will ruin it. Has anyone heard there is some sort of antique look powder on the table? Im wondering if they used this on older versions of the table or if it is something new they are doing to make it look old. I want to use Rubiomonocat but heard it can’t be used if that is the case. Does anyone know what this antique powder is???? Also, how are everyone’s tables holding up with flat varnishes. Im worried about wine spills.

    1. Yes, there is a powder on the table. That is originally why I decided to protect it with a clear matte coating. We mistakenly thought a table was for using, used it, wiped it and removed part of the finish. It was craziness! Unfortunately, I can’t speak to wine spills. The water-based varnish we used was good, but if you let a sweating glass on it, there was still a mark. If you wipe things up quickly it seemed okay. Sorry I don’t have better news. RH tables sure are pretty – but they’re not so practical!

  31. I had a piece of glass cut to go over the top. It looks awesome. The glass gives it a cool modern vibe. It makes it flat so we can do homework, puzzles, etc. It’s protected, but you can still see the wood.

  32. Do you happen to know what that antiquing powder is? Im wondering if I should try to buy some. Also Danielle, Id love to see a picture with your glass top on your table if you don’t mind sharing. My email is Thanks for your responses! I really appreciate it!

  33. I would also love to see how the glass looks. I am debating getting a RH Boulangerie table which is unsealed, but I want it to be protected from daily use (especially my 2 year old son). My email is Thanks!

  34. Just bought the Saman flat mat varnish to apply to my natural color RH trestle table. It appears to be for floors. Any application tips?

    1. Interesting. I wouldn’t have thought to use it on floors! Use a quality brush, stir to avoid bubbles that shaking would cause, and apply in a small section at a time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. Hi Laura, do you still feel like the MM Dead Flat is the best choice to keep the look close to the original? Does it stand up to sweating glasses, spills, warm plates, or keys being dropped on the table? Looking forward to your answers because I’m at a loss with my RH table.

    1. I still like that one, yes. But keep in mind with any water-based sealer, things like sweating glasses will still leave a mark. You would need an oil-based sealer to avoid that completely. Most of which will leave at least a bit of shine.

  36. Thank you so much for this post. My friend have me her RH Acacia Trestle Table when she opted for a new decor. It was perfect in my newly remodeled kitchen and I was so excited until my husband dripped olive oil on it from eating a salad. This was followed by two boys leaving french fry containers on the table. I was horrified and all I could see after than were those ugly oily stains. Then I found this post and coupled with some additional research and talk with NC wood furniture manufacturers took my table back. I was able to TOTALLY remove the stains and seal it Here is exactly what I did. 1. Clean table with dish soap and water. 2. Sand table top with 220 grit sandpaper. Concentrate on blemishes but know that I didnโ€™t come close to completely removing them. Just exposed enough of the surface to allow next step to soak in. 3. Wiped surface with mineral spirits and let dry completely. 4. Followed mineral spirits with a 50/50 denatured alcohol and water solution. You cannot apply a water based varnish like the Samans Dead Flat over mineral spirits! Allowed to dry completely. 5. Used a tack cloth to wipe surface. 6. Applied three coats of Dead Flat in very thin layers waiting two hours in between each coat. Also lightly sanded between coats and used tack cloth again between coats. 7. And Voila! Brand New Table. I have four boys so we will see how this holds up! Happy to share pics of before and after if interested.

    1. Hi there. Unfortunately, I can’t say as we don’t have that table at this point. I would imagine, based on the table we just built that it would need to be wiped down with a cloth and have the sealer reapplied.

      (We no longer have the table due to 1. a brand collaboration which required that we use their table (a few years ago now) 2. we built a new table that fits our current space better.)

  37. Hi!
    So the link on your page is for a Satin finish … I’m just confirming that’s the correct item?
    Thanks so much!

  38. Did you sand it lightly first? Clean with cloth? What prep did you do before varnishing? I have the table in 60โ€ round which i had a glass top made for it and the coffee table.

    1. I had already wiped it with a cloth – thus realizing the beautiful but totally impractical RH powdery coating wipes off. That’s all I did before I sealed it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. Hi Shannon! Itโ€™s been some years since you posted this, how has the seal held up? Have you had to reapply at all? Thanks.

    1. Hi there,
      Unfortunately, as I’ve told others, we no longer have the table, so I’m not sure how long the seal lasts. It lasted a couple of years for sure without needing recoating.