$25 Writer’s Desk

By Kate Riley May 10, 2011

Hey everyone, I’m adventuring in New York City today, exploring the downtown area and enjoying the spring weather.  I’ll spill all the details of the event I attended very soon!

Today I wanted to share a recent revamp of a great little writer’s desk I recently scored at a thrift store.  This desk was a total bargain, marked at $49 at my local St. Vincent de Paul, but it was 50% off furniture day, so I picked her up for $25 dollars.  Solid wood, classic lines, rope detail around the desktop, and little pull out ledges on each side makes this the perfect writer’s desk.  How could I resist bringing it home?

The top was scratched and dented, so I thought with just a simple coat of white paint and a little distressing, this desk could be brought back to life, and would be so lovely.

Here is the desk Before:

honey desk before paint


And After:

cg writers desk


Of course, I couldn’t resist temporarily bringing this desk into my entry.  I was thinking of replacing the hardware, but lately I’m loving antique gold finishes, so instead of new knobs, I simply recoated the original black and gold knobs with antique gold paint so the finish is more subtle, and less shiny.

gold paint


To refinish this piece, I followed all of the same techniques I mentioned in this recent article on how to paint furniture.   Some light sanding with my 3M sanding wedge  . . .



. . . led to this distressed finish, bringing out a hint of the original wood tones.

cg writers desk distressed finish


Scratched up before. . .

honey desk left side before


. . . and after

cg writers desk left side


Nothing like a coat of white paint to freshen a great find.

little boy in entry


For now, the desk is sitting in my entry, but here’s a funny thing.  My neighbor spied it in my driveway, and stopped by the other day to tell me she would love it for her daughter’s room.

And I’ve already mentioned it to another family too . . .

cg entry

Such a dilemma, where will it eventually go?

This one is so pretty, and the perfect size for where it sits.

So I just might have to keep it here for awhile.  :)



  1. How cute! I purchased a desk almost identical to this one for my grandson. You did an excellent re-finish on the piece. I love it! Oh, is that your fav, heirloom white?

  2. I love it! I recently got a wood desk (sorta the same style) from my job. And I thought about painting it white, but then I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. For some reason, I’m always hesitant about painting wood, but after seeing your desk I’m ready. I really wanted a white desk in my study and I’m ready to take the plunge. Great job!

  3. Help! I have an old buffett from my Grandmother that has been left in a damp garage. The veneer is peeling terribly and I don’t know how to save it…can it be saved???

  4. Oh you did a beautiful job on the desk!! Can I ask exactly what kind/brand of “antique gold paint” you used on the knobs? I tried to “golden up” a picture frame but it doesn’t look as nice and bright as your desk knobs do – thank you!!

  5. Love it! Definitely a great find for so cheap! I always wait to buy thrifted furniture until I need it for a specific space… I really just need to start buying up good deals because I know it will find a place, just like this guy!! : )

  6. looks great!

  7. Hey Catie, I still have the blue dresser and the entry table, both are sitting in my garage. I’ll probably sell both the desk and the blue dresser and return the console table eventually. I like having pieces to move around the house when the mood strikes, especially if they’re pieces I foun for a bargain and fixed up myself. :)


  8. I love this distressed piece. It turned out great. I just bought a two drawer unit for my computer area and painted it white…but now I’m thinking it definitely needs to be distressed! I love that look.
    Casual and nice.
    Love it.

  9. Gorgeous! I love that the distressing ties so nicely with the new knob color.

  10. That is a gorgeous desk! I would pay big buck for that beauty! Great job!
    Lila Ferraro

  11. Beautiful, Kate! It does look lovely in the spot you have it in. You son is a cutie!

  12. I wish I could find deals like this at our thrift stores. It’s either overpriced or junk :(

  13. I have a similar piece that was my grandfather’s desk. I’m thinking about adding two shelves in the middle and modify the bottom trim to make it sort of a dresser. What do you think?

  14. This desk is gorgeous and I agree – it needs to stay where it is for a while at least :) I do love a bargain, and $25 was fantastic! Love what you did with it!

    Mary @ Redo 101

  15. Looks wonderful! I just posted a white desk I found for five dollars at a local flea market on my blog. I’m going to see if I can find some knobs like you have to create a similar look!

  16. So envious of your foray into NYC! I have to wait until December. :( The desk is looking mighty fine. You could always take out an ad “Looking for a loving home” and see who will treat the desk the best before deciding on a new owner. ;) Love the hardware!

  17. Hey Kate–
    I just bought a dresser like this for $15 at a local thrift store! What brand of paint/color did you use? Is it flat or semi-gloss? Thanks for the paint inspiration!

  18. Gorgeous work Kate! I am also digging the blue vase on top with the branches. Was the vase a unique find or can I find it in a department store?

  19. No way would that be leaving my house! It looks beautiful! I would love to know your opinion on the chalk paint that so many people are raving about — any thoughts?

  20. So so so great! Love a steal of a deal!!! I picked up an old captains chair today—hardest part is to decide on what color to paint !!

  21. KaTE It is beautiful You are the best at this I am sure many would love to purchase your makeovers!!

    Art by Karena

  22. Wow! Behold the POWER OF PAINT! This looks amazing. And I love the little niche where you placed it also. Another home run.

    Warmly, Michelle

  23. This turned out absolutely gorgeous! You really have a knack for transforming old beat up furniture into beautiful updated pieces. I aspire to be just like you! :D

    I’ve just started a new blog, I’d love for you to come check it out!


  24. You always find the CUTEST pieces! Love it and I know just where it can go…my master bedroom! I’ve been looking for a writing desk for my room and that one is PERFECT…while you’re at it could you help me make over my bedroom? It’s in desperate need! (Oh…and on a shoestring budget too please???) I’d be forever GRATEFUL!!! thank you!

  25. I’m sitting at a very similar desk, sadly in need of a coat of paint. A word to the wise, don’t leave a bottle of windex on top of your desk where the sun can shine and heat up the bottle. Serious damage to the finish. Now, I know what to do about it. ;)

  26. Wow, what a beautiful transformation. I could see why all your neighbors and friends are vying for it!! Send it to me when they are done with it;0. looks great where it is!

  27. What a perfect transformation. You have a great eye for style. I wonder where this beauty will end up?

  28. I have one just like it sitting in the garage but I have not being able to get to it because the weather has not been cooperating!! arrggg. Sunny days ahead; the weather man is predicting – can’t wait!!

  29. Gorgeous! I’d like to find one just like this and give it the treatment you used on your former entry way piece.

  30. This is gorgeous!! I have been wanting one of these forever.. and you found it for 25 bucks! What a steal! Anyways, I love it!!

  31. Kate, can you tell me where you found the wipe on poly in the tube? I went to Home Depot today and the paint guy had never heard of it.

  32. Hi Kate! I love that you are showing so many before and after projects lately! These are the things that made me fall in love with this blog when I first started reading! Your work continues to inspire me :)

  33. Lovely desk and another beautiful furniture redo. I’m glad you didn’t overly distress it. You are quite talented.

  34. I love this! We have almost the exact same desk, but the drawer fronts are plain. I think I will route the edges like yours… and then paint it for sure after seeing how good yours looks! Thanks!

  35. Your neighbor’s eye must be trained to keep a lookout for your creative pursuits!!

  36. Oh my goodness I LOVE this! I’ve been scouring websites for months looking for a solid wood desk to refinish in white. All of the ones I’ve found have been too pricey or too wide for the compact spot I’d like to put it in. So lucky! It looks great :-)

  37. Gorgeous desk Kate, but I reallyl want to know about the CHAIR…. I’ve been looking for something like that for my office. I’ve looked for something like that in stores, but I feel like it will have to be a thrift store find. If you recovered this piece I may have to ask for advice…recovering a chair that is not a slipcover is something that I yet to try.

  38. Hi Kate, You continue to amaze me with your painted furniture. You girl, are a true artisan!
    I have a bedroom set, kitchen chairs and a desk that I would love to paint…gotta get past the fear of failure.

  39. the desk is so cute! you do wonderful things! I do need to ask…where did you get your front entry rug? i have been searching everywhere a similar rug! thanks.
    alisonnay at gmail dot com

  40. Beautiful! I envy you your entry. I’m getting ready to move into a tiny doll house with no entry, so I’m wracking my brain for entry ideas that would give me at least the illusion of an entryway.

  41. my hubby and i are building a lake cottage…not a mcmansion, mind you…just a lake cottage. anywho, the thought of furnishing another house was kind of daunting to me. I’m so much about getting a good deal that it would break my thrifty heart to just go to a furniture store and duplicate the look of everyone else’s house this year. our regular home is very “pottery barn/restoration hardware” and the cottage will definetely be a retreat to painted woodwork, clean colors, and unique fabrics. thank you so much for all of your ideas. it’s got my wheels a turnin’. i will be be checking out all the thrift spots/used furniture stores and craigslist this summer. hopefully i’ll come up w/ a few inspiriring pieces that will give our new cottage a thoughtful look.

  42. I really like the desk makeover. I have a desk very similar that I want to paint now. Great post!

  43. Love it. I never thought of using the Pier One cancle holder as a vase!!! I think I might do that tonight. :)

  44. Hellooooooo :D OMG I fell in love with your writers desk from the minute I came across it on a search… I said to myself I NEED one like this! …. I managed to purchase one off craigslist for $25 … my ALMOST realwood desk had a formica looking top… i still went ahead and followed your process…

    My desk is too cooooool!! :) I used good primer on the whole thing and painted it white, distressed it and looks soooooooooooo nice! Thanks for this idea! :)

  45. This desk is too cute! I love the distressed look to it. I’ve been contemplating buying one of those sanders but haven’t been able to muster up the courage, but I just might have to give it a go!

  46. Love it! Can you tell me what color white you used? I’m trying to pick one for a piece I’m redoing and I think the one you chose is perfect. Thanks!!

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