52 weeks and 6 days | Upcycling an old desk

Back in the winter of 2013, I created a Secret Santa gift for another member of the #CraftBlogClub that I’m part of. This fantastic club is the brainchild of the lovely Emma, who writes over at Frugally Peachy. Since I first joined, there are now lots more members and we get together each Tuesday evening (or some in my case, as I’m often busy with the Twinkles!) to chat, on Twitter, about our crafty projects.

Following the success of the Secret Santa challenge, Emma laid down the gauntlet and the first challenge for 2014 was to up-cycle something. A piece of furniture, jewellery, clothing… there were no set guidelines. Just take an item and give it a new lease of life.

Given the fact that I’ve been working off a shelving unit for the last 9 months, I figured that my Mac — and the rest of my paraphernalia — needed a decent home. A proper desk.

Before I had the 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 it’s 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 that was my mission for the ‘I Re-Love You’ project. Upcycling an old desk.

Find — and up-cycle — a desk, that I would feel happy to have sitting in the corner of my dining room. Because until I sort out my garden office, I will be working from that small corner of the house. Possibly for some time. And the IKEA shelving unit had long outstayed it’s welcome.

So here’s what I did…

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


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


3. …but with BAGS of potential.


4. I bought some paint and some furniture wax.

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5. Took the old handles off.

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

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

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8. Painted and waxed the drawer fronts.

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9. Added the new handles.

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

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

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12. Et voila. My beautiful new old desk!

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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!! ;)

Caro Davies
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.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook


  1. Tracy
    18th March 2014 / 11:18 pm

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

    • 19th March 2014 / 5:36 pm

      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

  2. teaistheanswer2013
    19th March 2014 / 5:32 pm

    Brilliant job, love it!

    • 19th March 2014 / 5:40 pm

      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 :)

  3. 17th August 2016 / 7:17 am

    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

    • 19th September 2016 / 2:39 pm

      Yep — I love up-cycling things but if the surface is beautiful to begin with, it seems a shame to paint over it all! Painting the drawer fronts was a good compromise ;)

  4. 17th August 2016 / 7:46 am

    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

    • 19th September 2016 / 2:40 pm

      Aaah do it Stacie!!! And please come and share it over on #HomeEtc when you do!! ;) xx

  5. From Day Dot
    17th August 2016 / 8:12 am

    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

    • 19th September 2016 / 2:42 pm

      Aaah thanks lovely — I love it. It’s had a LOT of use since I wrote that post!! ;)

  6. 17th August 2016 / 9:53 am

    It’s so lovely to see old furniture given a new lease of life. Truly beautiful!

    • 19th September 2016 / 2:43 pm

      Thanks ever so much Lindsay :) Thant’s lovely of you xx

  7. flying solo
    17th August 2016 / 10:43 am

    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.

    • 19th September 2016 / 2:44 pm

      Thanks Emma — you should do it! Honestly, such a buzz to complete an up-cycling project an know you’ve got something totally original :)

  8. 17th August 2016 / 11:32 am

    Oh, I love it! I love how you can see the potential in it in those first pics, and with just a simple update it really brings it to life. Beautiful! #HomeEtc

    • 19th September 2016 / 2:45 pm

      Thanks so much Katy! I was so pleased when I found it — got it for such a bargain too!!

  9. 17th August 2016 / 3:59 pm

    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

    • 19th September 2016 / 2:36 pm

      I’m so chuffed with it! It’s been moved into my she-shed now — looks a million dollars in there :)

  10. 17th August 2016 / 4:01 pm

    That does look gorgeous! Bet you feel really proud of the effort you put in :) #HomeEtc

    • 19th September 2016 / 2:47 pm

      Thanks so much Steph!! So pleased with how it turned out :)

  11. 17th August 2016 / 6:59 pm

    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…


    • 19th September 2016 / 2:26 pm

      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 :)

  12. 18th August 2016 / 10:20 am

    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!

  13. 21st August 2016 / 2:46 pm

    Wow, it looks lovely. I would never think to do something like this, I’d be sure to mess it up I’m sure haha! xx

  14. 22nd August 2016 / 7:57 pm

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


  15. 24th August 2016 / 8:58 pm

    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

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