How to upcycle an old desk

Ever wanted to know how to upcycle an old desk? 

Before I had my babies, I ran my business from a bedroom on our first floor landing.

This lovely room was chock-full of all of my work stuff; samples, paper-stock, cutting board, printer — and a HUGE desk.

But when we found out I was pregnant we decided that this particular room would make the perfect nursery; so bit by bit my workroom was disassembled and shipped out — in boxes — to my husband’s office.

As a result, my Mac lost its permanent home and was given ‘temporary’ residence on an uninspiring IKEA shelving unit in the dining room. Now don’t get me wrong, I love IKEA.

Not a whole houseful of it, granted, as you’d end up feeling as though you were living in one of their stores, but used sparingly it is fabulous (plus I’m obsessed with their meatballs.

Horse or not, they are the most delicious thing to come out of Sweden. Apart from Dime Bars).

That said, the white melamine unit — that was originally bought to dress our stand when we exhibited at the NEC — was never meant to furnish our home and certainly not a piece that I wanted on permanent display.

And not only that, trying to design — using a mouse — when you don’t have a proper, decent sized, desk-top is a nightmare.

So my mission was to find out how to upcycle an old desk.

How to upcycle an old desk.

Here’s what I did…

1. Bought a lovely, solid oak, desk off Ebay; a little bit tired…

How to upcycle an old desk.

2. …and in need of some love and attention…

How to upcycle an old desk.

3. …but with BAGS of potential.

How to upcycle an old desk.

4. I bought some paint and some furniture wax.

annie sloane chalk paint — perfect for upcycling an old desk

5. Took the old handles off.

How to upcycle an old desk.
How to upcycle an old desk.

6. Sanded the entire desk with fine grade wire wool. Then waxed it.

How to upcycle an old desk.
How to upcycle an old desk.

7. Got my glamorous assistant to drill new holes for the new handles.

How to upcycle an old desk
How to upcycle an old desk

8. Painted and waxed the drawer fronts.

9. Added the new handles.

10. The insides of the drawers were a little bit dusty and rough…

17_photo 2-2

11. …so I lined them with some gorgeous, vintage airmail stamp paper.

How to upcycle an old desk

12. Et voila. My beautiful new old desk!

How to upcycle an old desk
How to upcycle an old desk
How to upcycle an old desk

Print Or Save How To Upcycle An Old Desk For Later

Upcycle An Old Desk with Chalk Paint

Upcycle An Old Desk with Chalk Paint

Upcycle an old desk with chalkpaint and give a piece of unloved furniture a smart contemporary look and a new lease of life!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Active Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Difficulty Medium


  • A desk
  • Chalk paint
  • Clear furniture wax
  • Handles
  • Wrapping paper


  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire wool (fine grade)


  1. Take the old handles off.
  2. Sand the desk with fine grade wire wool.
  3. Wash the desk down thoroughly then wax all over.
  4. If using new handles, drill holes to suit.
  5. Paint, then wax the drawer fronts.
  6. Attach the new handles.
  7. Line the base of the drawers with pretty wrapping paper


You can use wallpaper — instead of wrapping paper — to line the drawers.

So happy with it.

It doesn’t look quite as tidy now it’s got all my stuff on it but hey. You can’t have everything!! ;)

Please share, if you like this!

About Caro Davies

Caro Davies art directed fashion and interiors before leaving the world of design to pursue a career in social media. She can now be found chasing the light — and two small twin boys.

30 thoughts on “How to upcycle an old desk

  1. That’s beautiful -and I love the character that old furniture has, but love it even more when it’s given a new lease of life – thanks for hosting #homeetc xx

  2. Beautiful and such a fab project! You’re a clever lady! Thanks for being a super co-host :) Jess xx


  3. Looks lovely! Really adore a good upcycle project. I can’t stand waste so if I can give a new lease of life to a piece of furniture that’s perfectly fine, it’s a win-win!

  4. You had me at ‘upcycling.’! I was grinning my way through this because I was excited to see how it all turned out. I am so glad you left some of the beautiful oak unpainted. It looks really lovely and substantial too. Proper wood.

    I really want a Dime Bar now…


    1. Haha!!! I couldn’t have painted the whole thing — it would have spoilt it I think. Love a bit of wood — I get so bored of the whole shiny, white gloss trend. Nice to mix it up a bit :)

  5. Oh I love it! LOVE! You have kept the character but also given it some swagger too :- )Brilliant. Will you come round and sort my office please? #HomeEtc

  6. It looks lovely, I wish I had the patience to upcycle I have bought many items with the intention of doing so and just never get around to it and end up re selling them. I love seeing old furniture being re used in this very disposable society we live in.

  7. Brilliant job, it looks great! I love the touch of vintage with the lining paper, it’s those little details which makes a good upcycling a great one!! #HomeEtc xx

  8. Isn’t it amazing what a touch of paint can do? Your new desk looks great, hopefully you will enjoy working on it! I’ve got a kids rocking chair (that was mine when I was little) to upcycle for my son, and have no idea where to start! I’m sure it will be a fun project though!

    Stacie xx

  9. Oh I hadn’t seen this before- it looks so lush Caro! And funnily enough, this fits in very well with my own #HomeEtc for this week – we should sometimes think twice about painting every surface and let the wood shine through; just doing the drawer fronts is just gorgeous! K x

    1. Thank you Caroline!! I’m delighted with it… had seen something similar in a retro shop for over £300. This cost £60, including the paint and handles. SO happy :)

  10. Your new old desk is really lovely! Well done! Sure it will be very inspiring to work at :) xx

    1. Thanks so much Tracy :) Looking forward to the next project… especially as I’ve just found out that you are my challenge buddy!!! Hurray!! :) X

Comments are closed.