Telephone Gossip Bench: Part III – Final Finishing & Inspiration

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Join Lori Haught, Woodcraft Marketing Manager and Woodworking Adventures Blogger, for Part III in her series on refurbishing a unique thrift store find — a Telephone Gossip Bench.

In Part I of this three-part series, we re-covered the seat cushion, while Part II showed how to create a beautiful inlay accent. In Part III, the final in this series, you’ll learn about General Finishes Java Gel Stain and Pearl Effects paint, and see the completed project!

Final Finishing

Once the inlay was securely glued in the top part of my Gossip Bench, I added a clear coat of General Finishes High Performance Satin over the entire piece, with the exception of the barrel-shaped part of the desk, which got General Finishes High Performance Flat finish (you’ll see why in a minute). Once the Satin finish went over the inlay piece on top, the different colors of wood really came alive – Wow!

(See how to create the inlay in Part II of this series.)

Now, here is where the Pearl Effects come in, as well as the reason for the different finish on the edge of the desk. I wanted to break up the General Finishes Java gel stain color a little and accentuate the lines of the bench, so I chose the new General Finishes Bronze Pearl Effects as a subtle highlight on the curved surface.

General Finishes Pearl Effects are water-based, pearlescent colors used to create specialty finishes. They can be used alone but work really great over Milk Paint or a sealed surface topcoat like High Performance polyurethane. In addition to the Bronze Pearl, there is Argentine PearlBurnished PearlChampagne PearlCopper Pearl, and Tawny Pearl. The photo here shows all the Pearl colors at full strength (one coat) on top of General Finishes Dark Chocolate Milk Paint.

For best results when using Pearl Effects, your base surface should be sealed and not too glossy, or you will not achieve good adhesion.  Therefore, that one surface on my bench received Flat finish, while the rest was finished in Satin.

General Finishes Pearl Effects come in 6 beautiful colors

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General Finishes Bronze Pearl Effects, Extender, and Java Gel Stain 


After stirring the Pearl Effects in the can, I poured some out into a cup and diluted with General Finishes Extender for a thinner application. Directions advise against overbrushing so the Extender allowed for a little longer drying time to get the look I wanted. I also wanted to tone down the full strength of the color for a more subtle effect.

I gave the sides of the bench two coats of the Bronze Pearl with a foam brush, using smooth, even strokes going with the grain, allowing each coat to completely dry in between. Since I didn’t want to remix the color with extender, I simply covered the mix cup with a piece of foil and set it aside for the next day. General Finishes advises waiting 2-4 hours to dry between coats and 12 hours before applying topcoat.

You can see the slight difference in the color of the gossip bench’s legs and the sides of the piece in the photo at right. It’s just enough to create interest without being distracting and complements the inlay pattern on the top of the bench, as well as the new fabric on the seat.

After a couple coats of polyurethane all over, I was almost finished!

Telephone Bench

Reattaching the Cushion

The last step was reattaching the cushion, which received new padding and fresh upholstery fabric in Part I of this blog series.

I saved the screws that originally held the seat to the bench, but they were a little rusty.  I did a quick cleanup using some Odie’s Clear Oil, which also lubricated the screws for going through several thicknesses of fabric and padding.

I placed the re-upholstered cushion onto the bench, lining up the notched corners on three sides and the square corner on the outside edge. Using a slotted screwdriver and a little muscle, the chair seat was reattached in no time.

Final Reveal!

Here’s the Before and After! This gossip bench, purchased at a thrift store, received a new seat cushion and padding, a fabulous inlay on the top, and a complete makeover with Java Gel Stain and Pearl Effects highlights. I love how it still maintains the vintage feel but looks so much more modern!

Telephone Bench


If you run across a neat, vintage piece like this, you might want to snap it up! These treasures may be found in antique stores and estate sales in all kinds of styles, as well as different woods and materials. You will see gossip benches with a variety of seats, including needlepoint, vinyl, upholstered, patterned, or striped. Pinterest features tons of inspiration — everything from traditional to retro, to fun and funky; you’ll find something there that strikes your fancy. Even in modern decor, a refinished gossip bench can be a charming and useful conversation starter.

In case you aren’t sure where to start with refurbishing a piece of furniture, Woodcraft has the knowledge and products you’ll need to turn those battered boards and found furniture treasures into beautiful home furnishings. Check out our many resources available at Woodcraft for everything from plugging screw holes, fixing wood splits and cracks, and tightening loose chair joints.

Live near one of our Woodcraft stores? We have employees that would love to discuss your project and help you find just what you need to make it a reality.

I hope you’re inspired to get in the workshop to start creating your next project! 

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