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Vintage Teacher’s Desk Makeover

On a trip to Goodwill, I discovered a vintage teacher’s desk.

Being a 26 year teaching veteran, I instantly fell in love with this desk even though it was in bad condition.

Teacher's Desk at Goodwill

This piece is huge and heavy.  Lucky for me, Mr. SP had driven his vintage Ranger to work and was able to drive out to Goodwill to pick up this piece. 

Even luckier for me, two kind Liberty University boys drove up to Goodwill just as Mr. SP did and kindly helped him to load this piece onto the truck. 

That evening it took all of my muscle power to help him to unload it and carry it around our house to our basement.

Refinishing the Vintage Teacher’s Desk

Since we do not have a dust collection system in our workshop, we sanded the desk outside.

Antique Teacher's Desk Before

The years had not been kind to this desk.  Luckily sanding and stain was all it needed to bring it back to life.

Every surface of this desk was sanded with a rotary sander.

Antique Teacher's Desk Before - Side View

The rotary sander did not get into the corners, so Mr. SP got out the detail sander and was able to make short work of sanding those hard to reach places.

After completing this project, I purchased a Black and Decker Mouse Sander that is perfect to use to get into corners like this.

How to Detail Sand

Stained Vintage Teacher’s Desk

I stained the desk with my favorite stain, General Finishes in Brown Mahogany. 

Vintage Teacher's Desk Makeover by virginiasweetpea.com

The stain was protected with two coats of General Finishes Satin Topcoat.

One feature that really caught my eye when I spotted this piece at Goodwill was the design of the handles. 

Antique Teacher's Desk Makeover - Drawer Detail - Look at those pretty handles!

After sanding the wood, I painted the handles with several coats of Black Tie paint by The Plaster Paint Company

To protect the paint, I sealed it with a coat of liquid wax also by The Plaster Paint Company.

Features of the Vintage Teacher’s Desk

This desk has so much storage!  And guess what?  It’s going to be my new desk! 

Antique Teacher's Desk Makeover - Middle Drawer Detail

We are going to have to do some rearranging in our office to make this piece fit and I can’t wait!  I’ve never, even at school, had a large desk like this one.

This drawer is a filing drawer.  I’m thrilled that I’ll have this to use and using it may allow me to eliminate my current small filing cabinet from our office.Antique Teacher's Desk Makeover with Stain - Filing Drawer Detail

Desk Accessories

Every desk needs a good lamp like this one from Ikea.

The globe is pre-WWII and was inherited from my grandmother.

An antique teacher's desk found at Goodwill for $25 gets a makeover. What a difference some TLC makes! virginiasweetpea.com

The office chair that will be used with the desk was picked up at a neighbor’s yard sale for just $20. 

All the chair needed was a set of new wheels and a good cleaning.

Goodwill found teacher's desk makeover by virginiasweetpea.com

I am so pleased with this makeover and I’m glad that I rescued this desk from Goodwill and gave it a makeover. 

Vintage Teacher's Desk found at Goodwill

I plan to use this desk for many, many years to come.

Desk Makeovers

These are the desks that I've made over.



  1. First of all, I am so glad you did not paint the desk black. I was a little scared when I first took a peek at it. It turned out amazing and the black pulls finished it off perfectly!

  2. I love it! Where were you 26 years ago when I student taught and had a desk like this?!? Ha! That thing was considered vintage THEN and I remember that my pantyhose would get caught on that darn thing every. single. day. πŸ™‚ You did a beautiful job restoring it.

    1. Thank you, Mimi! You and I did student teaching probably in the same year. My mom had a desk like this at the high school where she taught and I’ll bet that her panty hose got caught on it as well. I’ll ask her! πŸ™‚


  3. This came out stunning! I am so glad you decided to sand it down and stain it. You are so right too – those handles are great!! Can’t wait to see what it looks like in your office!

  4. You did a beautiful job on this! I love upcycled furniture and found an old wooden student desk at a consignment sale that I plan to sand and re-stain. I hope it turns out as nice as yours!

    1. Thank you so much, Shelley! I am thrilled with how it turned out and I know that I’ll enjoy it for years to come.

  5. Hello,

    Thank you for linking up at our Home Matters Party!

    The desk makeover came out great! You came out with a wonderful finished piece!

    Have a lovely evening,

    Randi πŸ™‚


  6. Hi! I have almost this exact desk in my office and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to refinish it and this is perfect!

    How many coats of the stain did you put on it?

    1. Hello! I’m sitting at my desk as I type this! I think I only had to use one coat of stain on my desk. I also used a poly coat over the stain and it’s held up really well. Good luck with your project!

  7. We have one in storage that belonged first to my hubby’s parents, then us. Just LOVE it, but they take up so much room! It is definitely the focal point in a room, and yours is now totally worthy! Love everything about its refinished look! Kathy, Treasure.maker

  8. I just got this same desk and chair. Its covered in what I think is a black varnish. Stripping and sanding . what color stain did you use? The chair is gonna be a beast. Any pointers would be appreciated.

    1. Good luck with your project! I was lucky and found my chair in ready to use shape. The desk needed a good sanding and after that I stained it with General Finishes stain in Brown Mahogany. The stain was protected with a coat of satin top coat (also by General Finishes). I love my desk but boy-oh-boy was it a beast to maneuver into our office. I would love to see a picture of yours when you finish it.


  9. I have the exact same desk. I bought mine in Hawaii from a gentleman in the Navy. He told me it was an old naval desk. Im not really sure what era to stick it to. I was wondering if you had any info on the timeline they may have come from. I have seen desks close to it and the have said they are from the 40’s. Their handles have been rounded and not squared on the corners.

    1. How cool that you have an Navy desk! I don’t have information on my desk. I don’t know any history of this desk. I called it a teacher’s desk but it could have been used in an office.


  10. Hey I love how you refinished this desk!
    I have the exact same desk I’m finally able to start refinishing.
    I’m wondering if or what you did with the inside of the drawers?
    The desk I have is from the 1930s and the inside of the drawers are musty and need an update as well.

    What did you do/ would you recommend?

  11. Hi i have a similar desk but it’s not real wood everywhere. Does yours was like that ? We tried to sand it but it was a mess. We decided to paint it white and stain the drawers . Thanks for your answer.

    1. My desk is all wood. I’m sorry yours was a pain to work with but it sounds like you made it look good with paint and stain.

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