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Craigslist Desk Makeover

Posted Apr 24 2012 3:30pm

Wow, as much as I enjoy DIY projects, I hate writing about them. I’ve been wanting to tell you guys about my desk makeover for weeks now but have just been dragging my feet on writing everything down. This post has just been chilling out in my draft folder and I’ve probably been averaging five words a day writing it. Geesh!

I was hoping to do a super-detailed write-up à la Young House Love , but guys, I just didn’t have it in me. So if you have any questions about my basic breakdown of steps, just feel free to ask in the comments section or email me and I’ll be sure to answer them!

So let’s start from the beginning. In Seattle, I had a pretty sweet nook area in my bedroom that worked out very well as a small office area. I had the Crate and Barrel Sloan Desk on one side and the Sloan Bookcases on the opposite wall (it looks like Crate and Barrel no longer carries the Sloan series in the oak finish that I have). I did my best to try to find a decent picture of my old bedroom, but this poor-quality cell phone picture was the best that I could do.

When I moved to Connecticut, I lost my very practical office nook and had to make due with a regular rectangle bedroom. I stuck my leaning desk against a wall in my bedroom where it just started to accumulate stuff. I’m too embarrassed to post a picture of what it looked like in my new bedroom since there was just so much crap on top of it. It quickly became apparent that my new setup just wasn’t practical and I wasn’t using it at all.

During last Fall, I decided that I would keep my eyes open for a desk on Craigslist. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, just a simple table would suffice. I wasn’t diligent with searching, and would maybe check Craigslist once a week to see if anything caught my eye.

Finally in March, a desk popped up that seemed to fit the bill. Simple, plain, and cheap. The seller was asking for $40 for the desk, but I offered $25, so we ended up settling on $30.

For $30, I think the desk was a steal! It was in perfect condition with no dings or scratches and was made out of solid wood. I considered it to be a bonus that the desk came complete with a working drawer as well. The desk was the perfect size to fit right in front of my window, but I knew from the beginning that there were going to have to be some changes. For starters, the old, antique-looking handles had to go. Secondly, I wasn’t so sure how crazy I was about leaving the desk a natural wood color.

Since the desk was so cheap, I decided that I would try to make it over since I wouldn’t be out that much if I totally botched the job up. It never hurts to try, right?

I first started the makeover by sanding the desk down. I set up shop in the hallway within my apartment and just closed the area off by shutting the doors to the bathroom and bedroom and hanging a sheet over the open doorway to the living room. I donned on my sexy protective gear which consisted of a pair of safety glasses, a scarf wrapped around the lower half of my face that acted like a mask, and an old Pink hoodie to protect my hair from too much dust.

I first started out by trying to use a small power sander, but felt like I wasn’t making great progress with it. It was also really LOUD and I was afraid of making too much ruckus and disturbing my neighbors. I switched over to regular sandpaper, and although it took me F-O-R-E-V-E-R, it got the job done.

Oh, I don’t know if you can tell in the picture above, but there’s some sort of thin veneer panel covering the top of the desk. I suppose this was put there for to provide a smooth writing surface, but I was annoyed that they would ruin a quality piece of wood furniture by adding a veneer layer. As I learned from Young House Love, paint typically adheres better to a rough surface since it has something to grab on to,  so I attempted to sand the veneer layer a bit, but I didn’t have much luck.

Speaking of paint, I had selected this Better Homes and Gardens Interior Eggshell / Satin paint in white to use for my project. This time I set up shop out in my living room by laying an old blanket down to protect from any paint drips or splatters. Using a small foam roller, I applied three very, very, very light and thin layers of paint, allowing each layer ample time to dry in between. I also had a small foam brush that I used to get into some of the corners and crevices that the roller couldn’t reach.

When it came to the drawer, I knew that I wanted to replace the handles with either knobs or pulls. Each handle had two screw holes, so after removing the handles, I filled the innermost hole with wood filler. After the wood filler dried, I just used the sandpaper again to smooth it down and make it even with the surface.

To replace the handles, I selected these cheerful aqua drawer pulls from Anthropologie . I thought that the aqua color would be a fun contrast to what I had planned for the inside of the drawers… yellow!

From the very start, I knew that I wanted their to be a fun pop of color in the drawer. I spent some time searching for a yellow pattern shelf liner, but was coming up empty handed. It was then that I remembered reading on Young House Love a similar project of lining shelves without using shelf liner. I decided to go the same route and modge podge regular paper into the drawer.

(Oh, and see how the threaded part of the door pull sticks out in the photo above? I put a dremel on my birthday wishlist, so if I get it, I should be able to cut the screw down to size.)

With a little bit more searching, I found the most gorgeous yellow ikat pattern paper from Paper Mojo . I’m telling you, it was love at first sight. I measured the drawer and order two sheets of the paper which I cut down to size. Using a wide foam brush, I applied a very thin layer of Modge Podge (the matte kind) directly onto the wood drawer. Working quickly, I lined up the paper and pressed down firmly to make sure I had a strong bond. While letting that all dry, I threw some heavy books on top of the paper just for good measure in making sure that no bubbles or wrinkles appeared. After letting that sit overnight, I went back and painted a thin layer of Modge Podge directly onto the paper. I won’t lie, this part was scary since I was so afraid of ruining the paper somehow. The paper did seem to bubble or warp a little bit while still wet, but thankfully flattened out once dry.

Ok, so onto the final reveal!


Let’s take a closer look at that drawer, shall we?

I picked up a clear drawer organizer from Bed, Bath, & Beyond so as not to hide any of the fun yellow print that was going on underneath. I quickly found that there was a small problem with the drawer however. Without a doubt, the drawer was my absolute favorite part of the desk makeover. So much so, that I kept opening the drawer every five minutes just to stare at it lovingly. Creepy. Who stares at drawers lovingly?

To help remedy the problem, I decided that I would make some fun desk accessories with the remaining pieces of the yellow ikat paper.

First up was making a coaster for the desk since I am never without coffee or water while sitting down. I had seen on several pins on Pinterest that showed making your own coasters by modge podging paper or photos onto bathroom tiles and made everything sound really simple. So, for $1.60, I picked up for plain bathroom tiles from Lowes and modge podged the yellow ikat paper onto them. I painted a thin layer of modge podge directly onto the tile and then after covering the tile with the paper and allowing it to dry, I painted two more thin layers of modge podge on top of the paper. I found small adhesive rubber feet at Target that I stuck onto the bottom so that the tile wouldn’t be sitting directly on top of the desk. So easy and cute! There’s a good chance that all of my friends and family will be receiving colorful coasters now as a gifts for all birthdays and holiday. Who doesn’t dislike water ring stains?

I also made a matching planter by using the same technique of modge-podging paper onto a clear container that I picked up from Target. That’s parsley in there which seems to be doing really well. It’s been alive for three weeks now and isn’t showing any signs of dying, which is pretty much a record for my black thumb.

I wanted to make sure that the yellow was balanced out by some more aqua, so I picked up a light blue candle from Target to go on one side of my desk and made an aqua and gold polka dot paper to go into a white frame. To make the polka dot paper, I dipped the end of a pencil eraser into some gold nail polish and stamped it onto heavy duty aqua paper that I picked up from Michael’s. I’m hoping to add a small picture to the frame so that the blue polka dot paper looks more like a matting, but that’s still a work in progress.

So there you have it, my $30 Craigslist desk transformed. I estimated that I probably spent about $40 on supplies to make over the desk and another $25 on desk accessories. So total, this project comes in under a $100!! Not too shabby, huh?

The desk is my new favorite place in my apartment and I love sitting there and watching the birds outside the window. And sitting at a proper desk to work on my computer sure beats my old setup of hunching over the coffee table in the living room. I’m sure my spine will thank me for this change later.

Oh, and just a quick note, I still have my doubts on how well the paint is going to hold up on that top layer of veneer. So far, it seems ok, but I’m being very careful to try not to chip it. I later learned that there are special paints that you can use for veneer, so if I end up repainting the top of the desk at some point, I’ll let you guys know!

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