Projects: My DIY Coffee Table

Who would have thought that a simple coffee table could get so much attention? I shot this table for my largest client, Jodi at Simply Inspired Design [1]. In the spirit of disclosure I should also mention that Jodi is my wife, and The Simply Inspired Home is also my home.

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This all started with the need to get a new coffee table for the living room. I love a good DIY in the morning. Or any time day really. As I write more for this site I will share my vision and results from a few of my favourite DIY projects. There is a time and place to buy new. But there is also a time to make it yourself, especially when you know what you want and can’t find it. Our new coffee table is a great example of that premise. We knew we wanted something rustic but not TOO rustic, with storage, and was durable enough to stand up. When we saw these wood filing cabinets the idea came together in a flash. The boxes used to belong to a CN Rail office somewhere. They were oozing charm and detail. I knew the shots I would take of them had to tell that story. What is still amazing to me is how many people have connected with those properties I mentioned in the images I took of this table. It was just another DIY post on The Simply Inspired Home, and now through the power of the internet it is famous. It is a good example of having a vision before shooting, and then executing that vision. People are responding to my vision, and it is probably the biggest complement I could ever get.

What is more remarkable is the simplicity of the lighting scheme. It was composed of three speedlights aimed into the three of the four corners of the room. The key light was from the corner to the camera’s right. The fill was camera left. It was at least ten feet away, so it would appear to be a relatively large light source, the kind of light you would expect from a large window. It has this nice effect of frontal/sidelighting fill. The third light was from behind the table to the cameras right, acting as a rim light. I don’t remember the exact settings of the lights, but I think the rim light sits about a stop and a half down from the key light. The fill light is probably about a half to two thirds of a stop down from the main light. The overall effect plays to the warmth and character of the wood and sets a very nice mood. It also dispels a myth that I run into a lot that you can’t light a room with flash and keep any kind of character. This was shot at about 9:30PM in early December. There was no ambient light, it was all lit by flash, using the room itself as one big light modifier.


[1] The Simply Inspired Home is a blog about home design and styling. It features several of our own room makeovers and DIY projects. Here is a link to the original post of the diy coffee table.

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