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Antique school desk upcycle

Becoming a Leader

Antique school desk upcycle


There is nothing more satisfying than taking a piece of furniture that’s relatively unsightly and making it perfect for your home.
One of the most exciting things about renovating our home is that I get to design our childrens new room.


I have so many fun ideas for their rooms and as Anya is now in big school I wanted to add a desk for her to colour and draw as it brings so much joy and calm to her. But I didn’t want just any desk, I actually had a pretty clear idea of the desk I wanted. An antique school desk. 


These are not readily available as the one I was looking for was circa 1950’s with the ink well and desk top that you could lift, providing extra storage. I searched for months and then finally I found one on market place. I literally sent Derek out the same day to pick it up as I knew if we missed it it could be months before we found another one.


This desk was in great condition, there were a load of scuff marks – which add to the character and the bottom of the desk was cracked but other than that it was good to go.


Design Plans

Initially, I planned to sand it back to the natural wood and seal it and I probably would have done it if it had been for another area of the home but as this was for Anya’s room, I wanted to spruce it up a little. So I moved on to plan B, which was to paint






Sanding deskSanding desk

Step One: Sand

Using an orbital sander I sanded down the flat surfaces of the desk and then went over the curved edges with a sanding block.


Sanding FillSanding Fill

Step Two: Filler

I used a wood filler and mixed it with water to allow me to spread it onto the desk to fill some of the scuff marks. You could repeat this if you want a perfectly smooth finish but I only wanted to fill some of the larger marks so I just applied once.



Step Three: Sand

Once the filler was dry I used the sander to sand until smooth, I then wiped the desk with a sugar soap before painting.


prep and paintprep and paint

Step Four: Prime

Before priming, I removed the top of the desk. Make sure the put the screws in a safe place as you don’t want to lose these; after all they’re over 70 years old. 

I primed the desk using an oil-based primer; once dry, I noticed yellowing on some of the legs, so I applied another coat of primer.


Step Five: Paint

Prior to painting I sanded the surfaces using a sanding block then used Dulux 340g Duramax Flat White Spray Paint and sprayed the desk for a more even coat. I applied two coats and sanded in between.



Bright Copper RoseBright Copper Rose

Step Six: Hardware

On either side of the desk is a lovely metal hinge, Originally I was planning to just clean these up but changed my mind and decide to make them a feature. Initially, I chose Rose Gold Metallic Paint from Dulux however when I tested it I found it was a little too pink so instead I used Bright Copper Rose Paint instead. I protected the white desk with painters tape and glad wrap (yes, from the kitchen) and sprayed two coats on the hardware.




Replacing bottom with plyReplacing bottom with ply

Step Seven: Repair Desk Base

As I mentioned earlier there was some minor damage to the base of the desk, a split that overtime would give way. Instead of removing it, it’s built into the desk I cut another piece of ply to fit and lay it ontop.


Personalising plyPersonalising ply

Step Eight: Personalising the Base


I wanted to add a little something to the base of the desk to personalise it. Before I did that I primed and painted it.

Using my cricut Joy I created a sign and using the smart stencil, cut it out. I stuck the stencil to the painted ply and sprayed the copper rose paint onto a Tupperware lid, using a sponge I sponged the paint to create the sign to avoid overspray. I had a feeling it would bleed as the ply is not a perfectly smooth surface and that’s partly the reason I sponged rather than sprayed. Once I peeled off the stencil I touched up some of the white paint. Honestly I don’t mind the bleeding of the paint as I didn’t want it to look perfect, I wanted it to look a little aged.


Replacing hardwareReplacing hardware

Step Seven: Reassemble the Desk


Once the paint was dry I reassembled the top of the desk and screwed it in place. This process took me 30 minutes, 5 minutes to reassemble and 25 minutes to find the one missing screw!!!! This is why I say put them in a safe place as I would have been upset to replace such an old screw.


Happy renovating






Bunnings Team Member
Bunnings Team Member

Re: Antique school desk upcycle

Hello @Renowayoflife 


Thank you very much for sharing the details of your school desk upcycling project. It's always satisfying to see an old piece of furniture get a second chance to be useful. It's great that you've used the old hinges on the desk as it gives it so much character. Not to mention that those hinges are built to last for ages. 


Again, thank you for sharing such a wonderful upcycling project.




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Becoming a Leader

Re: Antique school desk upcycle

Thanks @EricL 


I completely agree, there's so much beauty in older pieces and they can add so much character to a room.

Having an Impact

Re: Antique school desk upcycle

Awesome project, well thought and well implemented, I love the metallic paint touch and now I know what a Cricut machine is, I might need it ...

Re: Antique school desk upcycle

Thank you @Rolando I'm delighted you like it. 


You can make all sorts of things with a cricut machine and there are a few to choose from. You can cut stencils or vinyl for names and labels. I'm looking forward to finishing my pantry makeover as I will be using it to add labels to my jars.


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