Thrift Shop Desk Makeover

After completing a thrift shop chair project, this desk is my first “big” thrift store makeover project, ever! It’s a writing desk that desperately needed to be refinished. I found at our local thrift store.

At first appearance, the desk left a lot to be desired.

I had a plan from the second I saw it, this thrift store desk was going to be great!

However, the desk had other plans in mind… The makeover didn’t turn out how I had planned, at all!

Thrift Shop Desk Makeover

Thrift Shop Desk Makeover

I decided I wanted to try to find a piece of furniture to makeover, so Katie and I went to the thrift shop to scope out some stuff.

Our thrift shops are tiny and are often filled with laminated junk, but sitting there in the middle of the room was the ugly oak writing desk.

It was plain and had no spunk at all – just an ugly old desk. I think the only thing which stuck out as cool was the handles – they were neat!

You won't believe what this desk looks like now!

I’m not sure Katie knew what to think of the desk, I think she thought I may be crazy – but said it was cool anyway (lol).

I was pretty sure I could transform this thrift store desk into something neat, or at least something halfway decent that I could make a few bucks on.

However, the thrift shop desk doesn’t resemble the finished product I had imagined when I first saw it.

The desk decided it wanted to create it’s own awesomeness.

The second I saw this thrift store desk, I knew exactly what I was going to do. I was going to paint the base of the desk an off-white color and paint the top of the desk a chocolate color.

I even picked up the paint at Home Depot to give this desk a makeover and turn it into a masterpiece. But, of course, nothing ever goes as planned – right?

I began the process of removing the old finish – I decided to skip wood strippers and go straight to a 150 grit sand paper on my Ryobi orbital sander. It ripped the finish right off and made quick work of uncovering the desk.

In less than 4 hours the desk was stripped down, which included removing all the hardware, sanding the crevices of the desk, and the desk leg details with a piece of sandpaper.

Once I had done the first go-round of sanding, I took a step back and saw something I didn’t expect.

An epic-looking smokey wood desk. I don’t know what happened – but the desk went from this nasty-looking thing to a beautiful smokey wood-like look, as it had been in a fire or something.

I thought it was great!

Thrift Shop Desk Project

Naturally, being my first major thrift store makeover, I turned to Facebook to get the opinions of my friends before I went ahead and painted it.

Nearly all of them said to seal it up and call it a day, because the desk looked amazing the way it was!

Well then. I guess I’m not going to paint the desk after all! The desk has decided that it wants to look like a pile of natural smokey, burnt wood of awesomeness — so it’s going to stay that way!

I have to say, I’m actually happy it worked out this way. The desk turned out better than I had imagined!

Thrift Shop Desk Finished Project

I finished the desk base with a WATCO Danish Oil in Natural Finish and I finished the writing desktop with Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut.

I applied 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish to seal the top of the desk only to protect it from future wear and tear.

Thrift Shop Desk Finished with WATCO Danish Oil and Minwax Stain

The oil finish I put on the base was the easiest finish I’ve ever applied to anything – ever. I’m glad to have found this product called WATCO Danish Oil, it was wicked easy to use! You just tip the jug to the rag and wipe the oil on!

Note that Polycrylic is a water-based material, but it does cover the oil stain! There was no need to apply Polycrylic on the base of the desk, just the top which will get the most wear.

Thrift Shop Desk Makeover

My original plan involved painting the desk, and also ‘flipping’ this thrift shop desk, and making some money to invest in the next project.

However, Katie liked the finished desk so much that she wanted to keep it. So, it now has it’s own place in our living room!

You might also like:

Join the Conversation

  1. I love what you did with this Thrift Store Desk! I love how us DIYers can turn someone else’s trash, like this desk, into a beautiful piece of art. You did a beautiful job on this desk!

  2. Yes, this desk project really was a diamond in the rough! Thank you for stopping by, Charlotte!

  3. Charlotte says:

    You were so lucky to find a diamond in the rough. The finished desk is fantastic!

  4. Thank you Nancy, it was quite the transformation! 🙂

  5. Nancy Ebersole says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Sooooo glad you decided not to paint that wonderful wood grain. Great job


  6. Hi Melissa! I really like how the danish oil worked. It was super easy to apply, just put it on your (lint free) rag and wipe it on! I like the way it looks too. If you’re concerned about how it might work or look, consider using it on a scrap piece of wood first. 🙂

  7. Melissa S says:

    That came out beautiful, it is inspiring me to tackle the side table I have been thinking about redoing. I have danish oil here but a friend discouraged me from trying it, I love the look though and think I am going to give it a go.

  8. It was very close to being painted – I had already picked out and picked up the paint! I really didn’t think I was going to be able to salvage the top. It was pretty beat up with stains and markings. But, once I sanded the base and it revealed the ‘smokey’ look. I really had a quagmire on my hands! I’m so glad I was able to get the stains out of the top with a little WD40 and soap and water! (did I even mention that in the post? hmm) I’d be lying if I said the finished product didn’t surprise me too, it came our so much better than I had planned! 🙂

    Thank you for stopping by and for leaving a lovely comment, Ann!

  9. Thank you Melissa 🙂

  10. Thank you Malia!

  11. It is rare these days for a makeover to “knock my socks off” with the reveal, but your revamped beautiful two tone wood desk made me gasp. It is beautiful! Two thumbs up for a job well done. I thought you would paint it so the wood tones were a complete surprise to me. I’m going to have to look at my thrift store projects with a fresh eye. Keep up the creativity!

  12. What a great find! I love the way it turned out. Very nice.

  13. That looks amazing! You have such a good eye for this sort of thing.

  14. That desk looks wonderful! I love that dark finished you used on the table top. Great job!

  15. It really is a nice piece! Yes, yes – hit the thrift stores! Feel free to come back and share your projects here as well!

  16. This was my first ‘big’ piece of furniture! I just jumped in and played it by ear. It’s fun and I plan to do more. I’ve been back to the thrift shop a few times but I’m picky about what I want to work on, so I haven’t found another piece of furniture yet – hopefully soon though! Thanks for stopping by Andrea 🙂

  17. Love the desk makeover! I have never tried to re-paint or varnish an old piece of furniture and wouldn’t know where to start… or how to select an appropriate piece, but I am really amazed by the magic you did here. Much more updated and modern looking now.

  18. Wow, what a quality piece of furniture – great find! i love the transformation, it looks wonderful! Now, I need to go thrift shopping!

  19. It’s Nike time… “Just do it!” 🙂

  20. Thank you Wanda! 🙂

  21. Wanda McHenry says:

    Absolutely beautiful! You inspired me to re-do one of my nightstands!

  22. That looks beautiful! I have always wanted to try remaking something like that from a thrift store! Now I feel the need to hit Good Will!

  23. You just gave me a grand idea. My husband has two very sturdy desks in his office. However, they are old and scratched up. Maybe I will talk him into redoing them one of these days. I think sanding them done to the bare wood and staining them both the same color would make them nice or even paint the a different color.

Comments are closed.

© 2021 Scrappy Geek ScrappyGeek is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by
Send this to a friend