[2008-03-06] ZAP tiled coffee table with Space Invader motif

Wide shot of coffee table, with couch showing scale.

This is a coffee table incorporating a tiled "space invaders" motif. Several years ago tiled space invader sprites began showing up as graffiti in major western cities--Paris, London, New York, etc. It may never be possible to accurately say who was really first, but the British graffiti collective at space-invaders.com has a well-established presence. "Space Invader," of course, is a clever double entendre in the graffiti context; as the subject of the graffiti is a videogame "space invader," so too is the medium of graffiti an invasion of space. My coffee table's not nearly that clever.

ZAP table from high angle.

It does achieve a nice contrast between sense and style through the use of handmade Mexican Talavera tiles. These tiles, like most handmade artifacts, are imprecise and show significant natural lumpiness and variation. The depiction of the precise, orderly, pixellated image of the space invader sprite would be boring if executed in precisely manufactured injection-molded bathroom tiles from the big orange store. The slightly uneven tile heights and lightly meandering grout lines lend a warmth to the image which would otherwise be lacking.

Part # Description Source Price TX Sales Tax Shipping Total
1 38 Blue Talavera Edge Caps Austin Brick & Tile Center $113.62 $9.37 $0.00 $122.99
2 Custom-cut Stainless Steel Coffee Table Legs www.tablelegsonline.com $102.00 $0.00 $15.00 $117.00
3 2 4x8' 3/4" BC Plywood McCoy's Building Supply $49.98 $4.12 $0.00 $54.10
4 50 Gold Talavera Tiles 4x4" Austin Brick & Tile Center $37.50 $3.09 $0.00 $40.59
5 38 Blue Talavera Tiles 4x4" Austin Brick & Tile Center $28.50 $2.35 $0.00 $30.85
6 4 Blue Talavera Corner Caps Austin Brick & Tile Center $16.00 $1.32 $0.00 $17.32
7 Spray-On Grout Sealer Breed & Company $9.99 $0.82 $0.00 $10.81
8 2 8' 2x4 Lowe's $5.52 $0.46 $0.00 $5.98
9 Triple Expanding Spray Foam 12 oz. Breed & Company $4.88 $0.40 $0.00 $5.28
10 Dry Tile Grout Breed & Company $4.49 $0.37 $0.00 $4.86
11 Black Spray Paint Home Depot $4.07 $0.34 $0.00 $4.41
12 16 1.25" SS Wood Screws Breed & Company $1.28 $0.11 $0.00 $1.39
TOTAL $377.83 $22.76 $15.00 $415.59
Parts list and budget for ZAP table.
Cross section of untiled tabletop at corner, showing attached leg beneath.

Physically the table is a sandwich: a number of 1/4" plywood disks, about 2" in diameter, cut using a hole saw, were secured between two sheets of 3/4" plywood by glue, and by countersunk screws passing from the top of the table through the disks and terminating in the bottom layer, without actually passing through. Once the tabletop was tiled, the screws became completetly concealed. The interstitial space between the disks was filled with spray-in urethane foam. The total thickness of the wooden layers, without the tile covering, is 1.75". The planar dimensions are 38" by 51", again without the tiles in place. The underside of the table was painted matte black, and the corners and edges were concealed beneath matching Talavera vee- and corner-caps. The table legs were purchased from tablelegsonline.com (their model 330-70-ST-Coffee, "Brushed Steel"), and were custom-cut to 11" in height (at no extra charge), giving the finished table an overall height of 13". The nominal dimensions of the surface tiles are 4" square by 1/4" thick, of the vee caps are 4x2x2", and of the corner caps are 2x2x2". The tiles were glued in place with heavy-duty floor epoxy before black grout was mixed and applied in the joints.

A white efflorescence appeared after the grout dried. Fortunately, it was easily removed with water and a toothbrush.

Grout was prepared by mixing an entire bottle of Quikrete Charcoal cement color into 5 lbs white Polyblend sanded grout, which was mixed and applied per the package directions. As shown above, a white efflorescence appeared on top of the dark grout after final drying. This was removed by scrubbing with a wet toothbrush to give a nice matte black. The efflorescence problem could probably be avoided by using Polyblend's pre-blended Charcoal grout. The final step was the application of a full can of spray-on grout sealer, which absorbs into the grout but is readily wiped away from the non-porous tile surfaces.

Worm's eye view showing table bottom and leg attachment.  Kitteh not included.

This table is for sale. I love it deeply but I've had another clever idea for a coffee table and no room for two of them. I'm asking $450 US, which, as you can see by the bill of materials on this page, is only slightly above cost discounting my time and labor. Preferably the buyer will live in central Texas and can come to my condo in central Austin and pick it up. If not, shipping can be arranged, but it will be expensive as the table is quite heavy.

Table surface, with scale, showing tiling pattern.

last modified 2008-03-06