29 Jan 2013

Adventure Awaits! Refinished Wooden School Desk

I picked up this little wooden school desk off of Kijiji on New Years Eve.  I know it was New Years Eve because I said I wasn't going to buy any furniture until the new year, and I ended up breaking my own rule by 1 day.  I just couldn't resist!  I saw it for $15 and pounced on it (even though I really shouldn't have even been looking!).  I've seen these types of desks for $50, so $15 was a great deal. 

It is a small desk, which is just perfect for Fin.  She can climb up into it easily and sit there and do her colouring and stickering (ya, that's a word in our house).  

I left it sitting in our living room for a few weeks while I stewed over what to do with it.  It was in rough shape from many years of kid abuse, so I knew it was going to get a paint makeover but was stuck on the colour for quite a while.

Then I found this fabric.  

It's from Stash Modern Fabric, and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to have it.  It helped that it was a pretty great price ($10 for 1.25 yards, which is good for designer fabric).  I ordered the fabric not really knowing what I was going to do with it, except that I was going to use it on the desk. 

I contemplated  Mod Podging it onto the desk top, but eventually talked myself out of it because I was worried that marker would get on it and I wouldn't be able to wipe it clean. I also considered cutting out some of the elements and adding them to side of the desk, but honestly, that seemed like too much work.  While lamenting to my Mom one day, she suggested upholstering the seat.  I was hesitant at first, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

The seat had seen its fair share of jean rivets over the years, and some of the scratches were quite deep.  It would have taken a heck of a lot of sanding to get it nice and smooth, so upholstering solved the problem (and my arm...).

I took a lot of photos to show you the upholstering process, but in the end I sort of just winged it, so there isn't really much to tell. (and I am sure you can find better tutorials elsewhere)  I used a roll of cotton batting for the padding (foam was too expensive and I cheaped out, plus I was worried about cutting it along the curve).

I stapled 2 layers of batting around the whole seat, and then used another 2 layers just on the top.  Once the batting was on, I then cut the fabric and stapled it on to the back of the seat (I sure do love the staple gun!!!).  One tip is to make sure to cut away the fabric and the batting where the old screw holes are, or you will just end up with the screw stuck in the batting and it will rip the fabric (I know from experience).

**see how professional my corners look???  Clearly I could use a class or something.

As for the desk itself, I wanted it to look authentically old, so I didn't sand it too much.  I filled a big crack on the top with wood filler and then sanded the whole thing down by hand using 80 grit sandpaper.  I then went back over it all with a fine sanding block to smooth it all out from the rough sandpaper.

I primed it using Zinser 1-2-3 primer and then painted on 2 coats of yellow.  The colour is Cornbread by Martha Stewart - it's the same colour that I used for our little end table in the living room, and luckily it matched the fabric perfectly.  Since I didn't need much paint I just bought a little Behr sample pot from the Home Depot and had it colour matched. 

I ended up using my brush on this whole piece since the surface area was so small, and I decided that I didn't really mind the brush strokes with all of the nicks and dings.  

I went back over the edges with a fine sanding block to distress it.  I let some of the white primer poke through on purpose.  Because I used flat latex paint (that's all the sample pots come in), the yellow did change colour a bit where I sanded.  I knew this would happen, so I sort of just went with it.  I actually like the colour variation that it adds.

To finish it off I waxed the whole thing with paste wax - 2 coats on the top and 1 coat everywhere else.

Then I reattached the seat and brought it upstairs.  Fin was so excited.  She loves sitting in it and just grabbing her crayons and colouring books out of the side pocket.

It doesn't really have a home yet.  Right now it's sitting in our living room, and I don't actually mind it there since it matches the end table.  I think one day though it might move into the kitchen so that she can work away while I cook or clean (hardly seems fair...).

I am still a little worried that the seat fabric will get stained, but I have enough left over to probably reupholster the seat 2 more times....and by that time she will have probably outgrown the desk.  I should probably also spray it with a fabric guard, but I haven't been able to find our can of that yet....I know it's somewhere in the abyss of the basement....

I really do love how the pink and the yellow look together.  Glad that I went with yellow and not a full pink desk (which I was seriously contemplating).

I added a little chalkboard label to the side pocket.  It's removable, so it can always come off, or Fin can scribble on it with some chalk.

I know this post is about the desk, but aren't those shoes cute?  They kill me!  Little rocker shoes.  They were a Salvation Army find. $2!!!

I kept the original hardware, just cleaned it up in a little boiling water and baking soda mixture.  It came out sparkling but still old looking (if that's even possible...).

I've been scouring Kijiji for something new to refinish, but so far I haven't found anything.  I guess now I just get to focus on finishing the basement.  Yippie!  (heavy sarcasm)

p.s. new blog design coming up soon....please bear with me as I move a few elements around and install the new template over the next week or so.

Linking to: Miss Mustard Seed

TDC Before and After


  1. WOW! That is just the cutest thing! I love the yellow you chose, and the fabric is beautiful too. Lovely makeover!

  2. I love it, I love it, I love it!

    Kelly - it just turned out so cute. The map fabric on the desk seat is so adorable. Kudos on another project completed. :)

    1. Thanks Erica. I am pretty happy with he way it turned out, and Fin just LOVES it so that made all the agonizing over paint colors worth it :)

  3. WOW!!! I would have been the first kid at school every morning if I had a desk like this!

    1. Thanks Donna. Me too...we had some pretty ugly desks in school. Fin might be sorely disappointed when she actually goes to school :)

  4. That is really great! Why dont you get some of that clear plastic like fabric and put over the fabric thats on the chair so that you can always just wipe it clean?? If the actual fabric is too expensive you could always try to find those clear tablecloths and just cut it to size! =]

    1. Thank you. Maybe when I get down to the last piece of fabric I have, then I can add some plastic. One day I will find my scotch guard :)

  5. adorable! i love the soft yellow, and love the new cushion! its adorable!!!

  6. Oh, that desk is too cute and the fabric - perfect!

  7. That is super cute! I love it! You did a great job.

  8. So, so cute! I absolutely love it!

  9. I absolutely love it! Ive seen similar desks like that before, but never considered getting one until now!

    1. Thank you. Kids love little things that are their own - so if you find one I totally recommend snapping it up. Thanks for the comment.

  10. Okay- You definitely need to find some more pieces to redo becaue this turned out so cute!

  11. Love! Color choice is perfect!

    1. Thank you Amber. I do love that Cornbread - its such a nice calm yellow, but still has a bit of personality.


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