a question for me: rehabbing old school desks

I love being asked questions. Love. I’m the master of pretending to be an authority on any subject. When I get questions in the comment section of posts on this here blog I jump up and down. Someone wants to know what I think? My suggestions? My advice? It warms my heart, seriously. So when I got this tweet from Valerie, I did a little dance and thought hard about her quandry.

Valerie told me that she found these two schooldesks in her mom’s basement. Of course she couldn’t toss them out– everyone remembers sitting in similar ones throughout gradeschool. They’re in pretty bad condition but easily salvageable with a little elbow grease and heart.

A project I recently read about on Apartment Therapy came to mind right away. The writer behind Lost and Fawned, an inspiring blog I added to my reader after the AT post, used spray paint, sand paper and Barkeepers Friend to update an old cart she found at an estate sale. Total cost? Under $10. Check out the before and afters and do browse around her great site while you’re there. I especially enjoyed this post because it featured two of my favorite things: a doggie and estate sale finds.

So we’re covered for the legs and body of the desk. What about the top?

If it is not just a matter of sanding and refinishing, Valerie could have new wood cut and installed by a carpenter. A post on Walnuthaven Cottage details one family’s experience with their old school desktop replacement.

She could also use chalkboard paint as Trey and Lucy did over here.

Lastly, Valerie could sand the whole thing down really well and paint the entire thing one color. She could leave it as is or add some flavor with a stencil or even simple polka dots, like Flickr user niftythriftygirl did right here.

I’m more a fan of the original wood myself but either paint alternative will look great if the wood is really trashed or if she doesn’t feel like fooling around with replacing it.

Thanks for the question, Valerie! Let us know how it goes!

vintage heywood wakefield desk, $150


8 responses to “a question for me: rehabbing old school desks

  1. The polka dotted desks are just adorable. Thank you for the great ideas and post! I’ll let you know what I do with them.

  2. I have a school table similar to those. I think the top is a weird veneer that probably won’t take to painting very well…… the tops of those actually don’t look “too” bad —maybe some mold—- I’d bet that a good scrubbing with bleachy water (but not too much water) would clean the tops up fairly well (if she wants to keep them vintage) . The rest could be sanded & painted.

    If the tops are beyond repair, she might think about doing a mosaic or other tile work on top – or cheapo route — cover with some cool Contact paper (I saw some cute prints at Home Depot not long ago — unfortunately they still offer WAY too many fake wood grains 😦

    that’s my 2 cents 🙂

  3. I’m fixing one up right now. I went down to my local salvage store and got some vintage oak T&G floor boards, glued together, and will cut and sand to fit for the desk top. Refinishing the metal is easy – sand off the gunk and any modern spray paint gone bad, scuff up the original paint, prime, and spray paint desired color. Finish w/ glossy clear coat or use gloss paint. Easy. I love how durable these tables are and the aesthetic as well. I use a two-person one as a computer table and the single person ones as bedroom nightstands. They rock!

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