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Vintage Office Desk Makeover

Besides relaxing, a use of our lake house family room is a home office.

Every home office needs a desk and I found just what I was looking for, a large vintage office desk, on Facebook Marketplace.

The desk was in good condition other than needing to be refinished and some minor repairs.

This project is finished and we are so pleased with the result of our Vintage Office Desk Makeover.

Vintage Office Desk Makeover


The owner of this desk told us that he purchased it in Floyd, VA. This is one of the pictures that was posted on Facebook Marketplace.

Vintage office desk before makeover

In this before picture taken in my yard, the desk looks pretty good.

Vintage office desk before makeover

Note that one drawer handle was crooked and one was missing. Also note the rough condition of the finish on the desk legs.

Vintage office desk before makeover

When we went to look at the desk, we immediately noted the missing desk handle.

Mr. SP knew he could fabricate a new desk handle, so we didn’t let it stop of from purchasing the desk.

In my yard the finish doesn’t look as bad as the picture posted on Facebook.

Vintage office desk before makeover

Since this desk would be used in our lake house, we decided to complete the repairs and refinishing there.

Repairing and Refinishing the Desk

The repairs and sanding were done outdoors on our patio.

Refinishing a vintage office desk

The drawer pulls were removed and well as the drawer dividers.

Refinishing a vintage office desk

Someone labeled all of the drawer with roman numerals which was very helpful when putting the desk back together.

Refinishing a vintage office desk

I have a feeling that this big desk has moved from place to place a number of times over the years.

Refinishing a vintage office desk

Desk Repairs

The desk needed a few repairs, mainly just gluing loose pieces back in place.

Repairing a Vintage Office Desk

At home we use clamps when making repairs but since we had no clamps at the lake, we improvised with tie-down straps to hold the glued piece in place until the glue dried.

A few pieces here and there had a loose nail.

Repairing a Vintage Office Desk

A quick tap with the hammer is always an easy repair.

Repairing a Vintage Office Desk

Repairing the Drawer

The middle drawer pretty much came apart as we worked on it.

Repairing a Vintage Office Desk

Glue was all it needed to be repaired.

Repairing a Vintage Office Desk

At home we would have used right angle positioning squares in each desk corner along with clamps to keep the desk square as the glue dried.

We improvised with another tie-down strap and paint cans to weight down the drawer.

Repairing a Vintage Office Desk

We removed the desk drawer lock in preparation for sanding the drawer.

Refinishing a Vintage Office Desk

We don’t have the key to this lock, so it’s only for looks.

Refinishing a Vintage Office Desk

Sanding the Desk

After the glue was dry, it was time to sand the desk.

We used 220 grit sandpaper and our favorite Dewalt orbital sander.

Mr. SP worked on the desktop while I worked on the drawers.

Refinishing a vintage office desk - sanding

Since it was large, the desktop took a good bit of time to sand.

Isn’t the grain of the wood beautiful?

Refinishing a vintage office desk - top sanded

Our lake neighbor, Don, loaned us his identical sander so that we could work on the desk at the same time.

You may remember Don from when he helped us install our flooring and also when he helped us with our bathroom plumbing.

I actually enjoy sanding because it is rewarding to see the old finish disappear before your eyes.

Refinishing a vintage office desk - sanding

I used a mouse sander to sand the corners. This is a super handy sander to own for sanding tight spots.

Refinishing a vintage office desk - sanding

I love a good before and after. Here is a desk drawer before sanding.

Refinishing a vintage office desk - drawer before sanding

Here is is after sanding.

The drawer dividers were glued in place, so I couldn’t remove them to stain and sand them.

Refinishing a vintage office desk - drawer after sanding

Refinishing the Desk

We moved the desk inside for refinishing.

The desk was stained with one coat of General Finishes Gel Stain in Brown Mahogandy.

Refinishing a vintage office desk - Parts sanded

I purchased a pint of this stain and used about half of the container to stain all of the desk pieces.

The stain was applied using a piece of an old cotton t-shirt.

Refinishing a vintage office desk - Stained parts

I used this same stain when I made over the vintage teacher’s desk that I use in my home office.

Refinishing a vintage office desk - Stained parts

The next weekend the desk pieces were sealed with General Finishes Top Coat.

Staining a vintage desk top

The desktop got two coats and the other desk pieces just one coat.

For the topcoat, I applied it with a sponge brush.

The gold feet on the desk were refreshed with a touch of Rub ‘n Buff in Antique Gold.

Desk Feet refreshed with Rub 'n Buff in Antique Gold

Be sure to wear latex gloves when applying Rub ‘n Buff as it is a pain to clean your hands if you don’t.

Fabricating a New Drawer Handle

While I worked on staining the desk, Mr. SP made a handle for the desk drawer that was missing one.

He made the handle using a scrap of pine left over from framing the family room windows.

Making a wooden drawer pull to match a missing one on a desk

First the wood was ripped to the width of the handle using the table saw.

Making a wooden drawer pull to match a missing one on a desk

Then the table saw blade was set to the same angle as the handle bottom to cut the bottom bevel.

Making a wooden drawer pull to match a missing one on a desk

The process was repeated to set the saw blade angle to match the handle’s top bevel.

Making a wooden drawer pull to match a missing one on a desk

A saber saw was used to cut the wood to the rough shape of the original handle.

Making a wooden drawer pull to match a missing one on a desk

The rough cut handle was sanded to the proper dimensions and rounded the corners.

The table saw was then used (in ways a table saw is not supposed to be used) to hollow out the back for the finger groove.

Making a wooden drawer pull to match a missing one on a desk

The missing handle is now complete and ready to be painted.

Making a wooden drawer pull to match a missing one on a desk

This is the back of the newly fabricated handle.

Making a wooden drawer pull to match a missing one on a desk

Here are all of the handles before they were painted.

Desk drawer pulls after being sanded and before staining

When I refinished my teacher’s desk, I painted the desk handles black and loved that look, so I did the same thing for this desk.

I used the same paint, Black Tie from The Plaster Paint Company.

This paint needs sealing, so after the paint dried, I waxed the handles with Annie Sloan wax leftover from my furniture makeover days.

Wooden Desk Pulls Painted and Waxed

The End Result

Come into our family room and see this vintage office desk in its new home.

Vintage Office desk in a family room

Side Note: The second handrail will be removed this week and wallpaper is going up! You can see the wallpaper we are using in this post.

This spot is going to be great to use when working from the lake.

Vintage Office Desk in a Family Room

The desk chair has been in my basement waiting patiently to be used for many years.

I purchased it from a neighbor’s yard sale and we replaced the wheels and refinished it.

Vintage Office Desk in a Family Room

The desk faces the stairway wall but the lake is easily seen through the window beside the pallet wood dog and also through the double doors.

Vintage Office Desk in a Family Room

Mr. SP will primarily be using this desk.

When working from the lake, he currently uses the kitchen table and the antique barbershop chairs around the table are not comfortable for sitting on for long periods of time.

My grandfather refinished the table for me and gave it to me to use in my first college apartment. He also refinished and wove new seats for the chairs.

Vintage Office Desk in a Family Room

The globe on the desk is pre-WWII and belonged to my grandmother.

Vintage Office Desk in a Family Room

I purchased the bookends in Richmond at a vet’s office who was treating our friend’s dog for cancer.

The proceeds from the bookends go to help dog owners who can’t afford cancer treatment for their dog to get it.

I didn’t see a link on the vet’s office website, but I’ll bet that if you call the office, they’d be happy to sell a pair of bookends like mine to you.

The desk lamp is from Ikea. I couldn’t find it on their website but I did find this one that is similar on Amazon.

Dog themed desk accessories

I had Sherman’s portrait painted for Mr. SP when he was a still a pup.

The mug was a Christmas gift from Mr. SP.

Oil painting of Sherman Skulina with a Puppy Love Mug filled with Pens

The desk has so much storage space.

Vintage office desk drawer with dividers

Mr. SP will be able to keep everything he needs to work inside the drawers leaving the workspace open for his laptop and monitor.

Vintage office desk drawer with dividers

We both love how this desk looks in our family room and I know that Mr. SP is going to enjoy working from it with a lake view.

If you want to see more of our lake house, you can click here.


  1. The desk turned out beautiful. I would much rather have old pieces of furniture as they are built with solid wood . It looks so good after you refinished it. The chair is perfect for it . You two make a great team working on projects.

  2. I love this desk because of the one my dad has that is almost identical–except for its orange-y finish. I didn’t see a picture of the pull-outs? They are my favorite feature!


    1. I forgot to take a picture of the pull-outs. One is original and the other is a replacement made out of plywood.


  3. I love this! I wish I liked to re-do furniture b/c I love how this looks. You and Dave and Sherman make a terrific team.

  4. You two
    did a great job on this desk. I am refinishing my dining room table. Do you prefer General Finishing products to Minwax ones? I am ready to do a top coat now and was interested that you use a sponge brush. I can see why.

    1. Thank you, Joan! I definitely prefer General Finishes over Minwax. The GF that I like is a gel and I find it very easy to apply. I usually use a brush for applying topcoat but found that the foam brush worked just as well.


  5. Gorgeous job! I’m afraid I immediately thought of what a great spot to do projects on! Mr. SP would never get his desk back! That chair matches so well and looks so comfy, too!

    1. Thank you, Kathy! I think Mr. SP will share his desk with me. That large surface will be great for doing projects.


  6. As much as a love old furniture that has a really modern makeover it’s so nice to see a more gentle and sympathetic restoration sometimes. This looks great, how lovely it looks in it’s space too.

    1. Thank you, Sarah! It’s going to be great to have a desk to use when we are working from the lake.


    1. They definitely don’t make desks like this anymore. I’m so happy that I was able to restore it.


  7. Those old desks are beautiful but heavy as I don’t know what. Not that it’s a bad thing. Yours reminds me of one in my classroom when I taught in public school. Look at those dovetails and pins. Nice piece!

    1. Hi, Shannon! The handles were screwed onto the drawers. We just unscrewed them from inside the drawer.


  8. I recently purchased almost the identical desk to refinish. How did you remove the top from the sides? Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much! I was so happy to find it and refinish it. It’s perfect for my husband to use when he is working from home at our lake house.

  9. Really fine job refinishing, Paula… I LOVE this desk! I’m not sure if I answered your post somewhere else, but we have a small desk which was our son’s through high school that we brought with us. Charles uses it in the office as his work desk (now for over a year since Covid), but he really wants a bigger one. I’ll be on the lookout for one like yours/Mr. SP’s! Great find and isn’t it nice when we can save a beautiful piece of furniture from being trashed?!

    Happy to have featured your post at this week’s Share Your Style #303 for you and Mr. SP. Your lake home is really coming together. Pinned many photos! (my usual)

    Barb πŸ™‚

  10. Wow this is an amazing transformation!!! all of your hard work and talent has created a beautiful piece of furniture that I’m sure you will love for years to come;)

  11. Looks amazing! Thank you for showing us the step by steps that were taken along the way to restore it to its natural beauty. And thank you for not destroying it with paint. That would have been a crime. A true piece of art should always be admired and respected. You took the time to make that happen with your skilled labor and countless hours of work. This piece of furniture now has found new life in a home that can be enjoyed for many years to come.

    1. I agree that it would have been a crime to paint this beautiful old wood. My husband loves using this desk on days that he works from home. Thank you so much for your kind comments.

  12. Great job with the desk. I have acquired one almost exactly like this and plan to refinish it. One of the pervious owners gave it a terrible paint job and I plan to strip it and refinish it much like you have. I was curious if yours had any furniture markings or if you know the brand because mine is probably the same. (I can’t figure it out because of the paint.)

    1. I have two vintage desks and neigher has any markings. I’m sure yours will be gorgeous after you refinish it.

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