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Antique Desk Salvage


Reduction Rebels, I know you’re going to appreciate this pick! I came across this to-die-for antique desk on the side of the road and my eyes dropped out of my head. What luck! No damage, except some nicks and chipped veneer; dove-tailed drawers; all the hardware; no horrible smell. The garbage picking checklist was a clean sweep. I loaded the drawers into the mini van and then, to get the desk loaded in by myself, I lifted and rolled it like a WWF wrestler would body slam an opponent –  maybe a touch more gentle. The salvage was underway!

Accenting the Assets

Yes, I could have put this desk in a room and called it touched with “patina.” But up close, there were some rough spots and since it was veneer, I thought I’d best accent it with paint. The nice thing about paint is that it accents the details that often get lost in dark, grimy wood. I chose Valspar Smoky Mountain paint which really made it look like a Civil War period piece.


After I got the grey color on, I thought it could use a pop of color. I just happen to have the smallest amount of red paint left from the sewing cabinet that I upcycled into a bar cart. Don’t you just love leftover paint at the right moment?

Every Piece of Furniture Needs a Hero

For those of you who fainted because I just painted a piece of wood furniture, just wait. I carefully sanded the top. I went through way more sandpaper than I thought I’d need (why am I surprised?), not anticipating the grime on this desktop. Really gross. But, the smooth top is the easiest part of any piece of furniture to sand to a natural, glorious finish…or what I like to call the hero of the piece of furniture.

Exploring Design Options

I do like to preserve the natural wood finish as often as possible so my original intent was to keep the drawers natural. This looked really weird – like saddle shoes. Nothing against saddle shoes, just not the look I’m going for in my antique desk.


To make the drawers match the overall look, and not compete with my hero desktop, I painted them Smoky Mountain. I dry brushed around the drawer edges to further the worn look that amplifies the vintage appeal. I played around with some more red accents, but settled on just the square outline in the lower drawers.


There you have it. The final transformation.

Want to Repurpose Your Antique Desk Instead?

A desk, though extremely useful in many rooms throughout your home, may not fit your needs. So if you have a cool looking desk, but you don’t really need one, consider repurposing it before you get rid of it.

Before I did this painting and wood staining project, I used this desk as a prop in a video I did for on repurposing ideas for an antique desk. Below is my video, outlining several ways that you could give new use to an existing desk.

Repurposed Antique Desk Ideas —powered by

Eve of Reduction: Free Seasonal E-Newsletter; Extra tips and wit on Facebook; Reduction Beauty on Pinterest ; The debut DIY lifestyle book (includes 10 upcycling tutorials); and the guide to creative streams of income ebook (only $2.99).

Have you done a similar project? I’d love to hear about it!

I’m Cristin Frank (AKA Eve). I love all things frugal and crafty. My mindset is always on upcycling, repurposing, reducing waste and saving money – and Eve of Reduction is my roadmap. You might also want to check out my book, "Living Simple, Free & Happy."

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4 Responses to Antique Desk Salvage

  1. Darla September 13, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    I love the way your desk turned out!

  2. DeDe September 13, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    This is beautiful! I love the red top! It looks like a stain? How or what type of product did you use for the top?
    DeDe recently posted…Boy’s Attic Bedrooms – Part 1My Profile

    • Eve September 13, 2013 at 9:09 am #

      Thank you! Top was stained with Minwax Golden Pecan. The walnut veneer was naturally on the dark side – even after I sanded it down. So even though the stain I used is fairly light, the final look was dark and reddish.

  3. anna September 15, 2013 at 1:41 am #

    Beautiful desk! I have a drop down desk with the same legs, but it is perfect, maybe cherry wood.

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