DIY Antique School Desk Upcycle: How To Guide

There is nothing more satisfying than taking a piece of furniture that’s relatively unsightly and making it perfect for your home.

As well as our home renovation, I have a lot of DIY projects and upcycles so make sure to join the newsletter so you never miss a project.

One of the most exciting things about renovating our home is that I get to design our childrens new room. For more on our full house renovation click here.


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.


Antique Desk Before
Desk before open

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<br />

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.

filler ondesk

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.

Sand filler

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.


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.

hardware spray paint<br />

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.


new base for desk<br />

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.


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 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.

Upcycled Desk


Happy renovating



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