Refurbishing a Desk… it depends on who you ask. I thought it was a little challenging at times, but for Jeff it was a piece of cake.

In case you were wondering (I’m sure you were on pins and needles), this is the project we worked on in the SUN last weekend that I bragged about sharing with all of you. I might have oversold it a tad, so I hope you’re not too disappointed. 🙂 Desk BeforeLast week, Jeff and I took to Craigslist to see if we could find a small desk that would work for my little room. Luckily, we ended up buying the first one we found for only $30 dollars! Doing this instead of purchasing a new desk is more time-consuming, but definitely more budget-friendly. And these days, Jeff and I LOVE budget-friendly solutions. It’s all part of that being young and poor thing, right? At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves.
Since this project is more user-friendly than some of the others we’ve worked on, I thought I would walk you through our process in case you wanted to try your hand at a desk or other piece of furniture. If you’re as lucky as I am, you have your own version of Jeff around to help.

Here are the steps we took to refurbish the desk (with Jeff’s consultation of course):

1. Remove the old handles and knobs. I knew a head of time I wanted to replace the old ones, but if you plan on reusing them that’s great. Besides, you’re probably doing the environment a service too. 🙂 Removing Desk Knob2. Sand off the old finish. Jeff says you can do the entire desk with sandpaper, but it’s much easier to use an orbital sander (don’t worry, that’s a new term for me too). Start with 80 girt sand paper and follow-up with 180 grit. Sandpapers with lower grit like the 80 we used are best for removing old stain. The 180 grit sand paper is best for preparing furniture for the stain and finish. Jeff with Sander3. Apply the stain. On this particular desk we used two coats, but it’s totally up to your discreation. You brush on the stain, let it sit for a few minutes and then wipe it off. Wipping Off New Stain on Desk Wood Stain Can4. Apply the polyurethane. Once the stain is completely dry brush on a coat of polyurethane. Jeff also says to look out for dripping, because you don’t want drip marks to dry on the furniture. In case you’re wondering we used Minwax Wood Stain in Driftwood. Polyeurathane on Desk 5. Let the polyurethane dry overnight, do a light sanding with a high grit sandpaper, and apply one more coat of polyurethane. Polyurethane Can6. Last but not least, put the knobs and hooks on the drawers. I chose ones from Anthropologie, which you can find on their website, here and here. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that these cost more than the desk, but I guess that’s what happens when your desk is only $30. New Desk Knobs7. And this is completely optional, but show it off to all your friends! In 3, 2, 1… Desk Before and AfterI’m still not 100% sure if this is going to serve as a desk, vanity or both, but as soon as I figure it out you’ll be the first people to know!

Hopefully this post came just in time for your own weekend DIY project! Let me know if you have any questions or advice for others.


14 Comments on Refurbishing a desk in six easy(ish) steps…

  1. Diana
    April 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm (5 years ago)

    and now for the chair….

    • Anamarie
      April 5, 2013 at 1:43 pm (5 years ago)

      yes! I’m actually going to work on my grandma’s old chair next. Haven’t decided exactly what I want to do with it.

  2. tcer
    April 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm (5 years ago)

    I’m loving those nobs! Definitely a nice touch

  3. Amanda
    April 6, 2015 at 1:57 pm (3 years ago)

    It looks like you used paint? I had no idea stain comes in colors like that. Why not just use paint? Is there an advantage?

    • Anamarie @ Less Than Average Height
      April 7, 2015 at 12:05 pm (3 years ago)

      Hey Amanda,

      Good question! We chose a colored stain, because when you paint something you generally can’t see the wood grain anymore, which we still wanted to come through the stain. We also didn’t want a solid uniform color throughout. Does that help?

  4. Nikki
    August 28, 2015 at 11:50 pm (2 years ago)

    Love this! We got a desk at an auction for $1 and I want to redo it. Did you do anything inside the drawers? I don’t even know how or what to clean them with.

    • Anamarie @ Less Than Average Height
      August 31, 2015 at 3:20 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Nikki,

      We were actually lucky that we didn’t have to do anything inside the drawers. However, we have talked about putting some fun contact paper in them! That might be a project for a later date.

      But, if you’re drawers are in bad shape, my husband (the one who actually refurbished the desk 😉 ) says it would be best if the drawers are actual wood, to sand them down to clean wood and then seal them with a sealer of your choice. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!

  5. Chance
    March 19, 2016 at 10:19 pm (2 years ago)

    I do wood carvings as a hobby/side job and most of them I wood stain. I’m not saying your wrong in anyway at all, but I’m just simply curious cause maybe it helps in a way that I don’t know, but why after applying the stain do you wait a few mins and then wipe it off instead of just letting it completely dry?

    • Anamarie @ Less Than Average Height
      March 20, 2016 at 8:28 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Chance! Thanks for the question. We wiped off the stain because we wanted to best control the concentration of the color. My husband Jeff says it’s easier to wipe and re-apply the stain if you feel the color needs to be darker, than making it too dark to begin with. Hope that helps!


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