My first furniture rehab: The blue desk

I’d been making a lot of noises about crafting and snazzing up my garage and I guess my little sister caught on because for Christmas, she got me an awesome book on rehabbing furniture (amazon affiliate link ahoy). That week, I set off to our huge local Goodwill with my cousin. When I spotted a 1960s desk I saw all the potential the book had taught me to look for. We pulled the drawers out one by one to make sure they were working (clean and dove-tailed), and found a bunch of letters from the 70s and 80s inside.  (I accidentally forgot them when we left, and I’m pretty bummed about that. They included a pen pal letter from a child, bills, and a doctor’s office sign-in sheet on notebook paper.)



I haggled gently with an employee and ended up getting the desk for $30. A total steal, if you ask me. It had some bumps and light mold on the outside, and one small peeling veneer spot on a drawer, but other than that it was in awesome shape. I loaded it into the back of my car and took it home. My mom advised me to note how much time and money I’d spend on it when I mentioned how cheap it was. I didn’t, but I’d estimate it took me four weekends, a few week days, and about $160. But that included many tools I’ll use again for future projects.

To complete the desk, I did this over the span of about a month:

  • Removed all hardware
  • Washed the desk with a mold remover.
  • Glued the peeling veneer down and let it dry with a clamp.
  • Sanded the desk with an orbital sander.
  • Vacuumed the surface and drawers and wiped with a damp shop towel.
  • Drilled new holes for hardware.
  • Filled the old hardware holes with wood putty.
  • Painted the desk with a tinted primer.
  • Painted the desk with flat paint.
  • Sealed the desk with clear poly-acrylic.
  • Refreshed the legs with Danish oil.
  • Replaced the hardware with white enamel knobs.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed getting to say wood, hole and knob a lot.




The putty part was definitely the most fascinating since I had no idea what I was doing. It didn’t come out totally perfect but I don’t think you can see the holes unless you’re really looking and feeling for them. Drilling was very fun. The polyacrylic was a total nightmare and I’ll be much more careful next time I do it, especially if I’m planning on giving a piece away or selling it. The drips made me crazy. But the kids will be using the desk as a homework and busy-time desk in my home office so I really needed it decently sealed. (It could have used one or two more coats of the sealant but I rage quit the entire project at that point, threw the knobs on and carried it into my office like The Hulk.)

I was going to paper the drawers, but NOPE.


The final result is just wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with it. Every time I glance over it at it I’m thrilled with how cute it is and how cool it is that I did it all by myself. (With the assistance of a cool book, lots of blog posts on how to paint and use polyacrylic, and my best friend wandering over from next door to chatter at me while I swore about paint drips, so many paint drips, we hates them, precious.)

Stuff I used:

  • Ryobi 18-Volt Drill (the only thing I already owned)
  • Drill bits (Christmas present from my brother)
  • Ryobi orbital sander
  • A shop-vac with a brush attachment (borrowed it from my dad)
  • Shop towels
  • Painter’s tape
  • Tons of latex gloves and a plastic drop cloth
  • Fine and medium grit sanding blocks
  • Minwax Polyacrylic
  • Minwax Wood Filler
  • Valspar Ultra Paint + Primer in Sea Exposure
  • Kilz Latex tinted to close to my paint color
  • Watco Danish Oil
  • Wooster Pro synthetic brushes
  • Foam brushes
  • Small foam roller and 3 rolls
  • Plastic tray


 Finished product!


Some day I’ll take a nice picture of it!


home is where you make things

One of the most surreal days of my life was the day I spent packing up all of my then-husband’s belongings and divvying up our kitchen and bathroom stuff. He had just moved out and we knew he wouldn’t be coming back and it felt good to do something, to grab onto that small bit of control I still had. I worked in silence, filling giant storage bins and packing suitcases and making neat piles of clothes. It sucked.

But it also made all this room in my house. And once I was cleaning and organizing for myself, and no longer feeling like someone’s maid, it started to feel a lot nicer to keep my house tidy. I started liking it. (Not dishes or folding or floors though — I still solidly hate those chores.) The de-cluttering and organizing and redecorating, though. That felt so good. Like massaging my own brain. When my anxiety was reaching near-crippling levels during the early divorce stages, cleaning was one of the only activities I found calming.

Then something happened. Actually, nothing happened. I don’t know what tipped the scales or inspired me but I started feeling compelled to make things. And not just stress-hats knit in a frenzy while watching MTV.

I started baking again. I cleaned my garage. I bought new cans of spray paint. I decorated some shitty furniture on the dog-porch so it didn’t look so much like a dog-porch. This escalated little by little, until a friend said to me in a text that I should probably stop saying I’m not crafty. She was right! I’ve become… crafty. I might not spend a lot of time embellishing things with glitter or scrapbooking, but I’ve begun to love using my hands to make things. I made tons of Christmas ornaments. I made an awesome display for photos. I built a planter out of a pallet. I stained a pallet for wall art (but haven’t decided on the art yet.)  I hung a light fixture. I painted picture frames. I installed step stones in my side yard and helped my best friend lay a flower bed between our houses. I installed a curtain wire for photos. I rehabbed an old curio cabinet. I rehabbed a 1970′s desk.

I made things.

My garage is my happy place. My brother and dad have helped me get shelves installed. I have a shop light. I bought an old workbench on Craigslist. My tools are on pegboard. It’s pretty neat.

The other day a friend of a friend asked me why I had a workbench in my garage. I kind of sputtered because I wasn’t sure why he was asking. Was it surprising that a woman would have a workbench? Do I not look handy? I said something awkward about “furniture is fun” but what I meant is that I like making shit, man. It feels good. And not just because of the paint fumes.

wall_art photo_hanger ornament pallet garage photo_frame_art hippo_frames frames planter curio_after


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