How to Upcycle an Old Desk

Creating a lovely space for working from home can be a fun project but buying new furniture can be expensive. I wanted the furniture in my home office space to be quirky and cool so I learnt how to upcycle an old desk. It gave an unloved piece of furniture a new lease of life. And gave me a lovely surface to work on.

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Goodbye to My Ikea Desk

Before I had my babies, I ran my business from a bedroom on our first floor landing. It was a lovely room; chock-full of all of my work stuff; samples, paper-stock, cutting board, printer — and a HUGE desk. 

But when we found out I was pregnant we decided that this particular room would make the perfect nursery; so bit by bit my workroom was disassembled and shipped out — in boxes — to my husband’s office.

As a result, my Mac lost its permanent home and was given ‘temporary’ residence on an uninspiring IKEA shelving unit in the dining room. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love IKEA.

Not a whole houseful of it, granted, as you’d end up feeling as though you were living in one of their stores, but used sparingly it is fabulous (plus I’m obsessed with their meatballs.

Horse or not, they are the most delicious thing to come out of Sweden. Apart from Dime Bars).

That said, the white Ikea desk — that was originally bought to dress our stand when we exhibited at the NEC — was never meant to furnish our home and certainly not a piece that I wanted on permanent display.

And not only that, trying to design — using a mouse — when you don’t have a proper, decent sized, desk-top is a nightmare.

So my mission was to create myself an upcycled desk from an old, unloved vintage desk.

Here’s what I did:

How I Upcycled My Desk

  1. Bought a lovely, solid oak, desk off Ebay; a little bit tired and in need of some love and attention… but with BAGS of potential.
  2. I bought some paint and some furniture wax.
  3. Took the old handles off.
  4. Sanded the entire desk with fine grade wire wool. Then waxed it.
  5. Got my glamorous assistant to drill new holes for the new handles.
  6. Painted and waxed the drawer fronts.
  7. Added the new handles.
  8. The insides of the drawers were a little bit dusty and rough…
  9. So I lined them with some gorgeous, vintage airmail stamp paper.
  10. Et voila. My beautiful new old desk!

I’m so happy with it.
It doesn’t look quite as tidy now it’s got all my stuff on it but hey. You can’t have everything!! ;)

How To Create a Vintage Desk With Chalk Paint

How To Create a Vintage Desk With Chalk Paint

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Medium
Estimated Cost: Under £100

Create a beautiful and stylish vintage desk by learning how to upcycle an old piece of furniture.


  • Old Desk
  • Chalk Paint
  • Furniture Wax
  • New Handles
  • Pretty Wrapping Paper


  • Fine Grade Wire Wool
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill


  1. I bought an old desk from Ebay.

  2. Removed the drawers and took the old handles off.

  3. Sanded the body and drawers of the desk with wire wool.

  4. Marked up and drilled holes in the drawers for the new handles.

  5. Painted the drawers with chalk paint

  6. Put on the new handles.

  7. Wax the entire surface of the desk.
  8. Line the insides of the drawers with pretty paper

  9. Et voila. My beautiful vintage desk is finished!

Caro Davies editor of The Listed Home
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Caro Davies is a former art-director turned writer and content-creator, and editor behind UK lifestyle blog The Listed Home. She writes about home-related topics, from interiors and DIY to food and craft. The Listed Home has been featured in various publications, including Ideal Home, Grazia, and Homes & Antiques magazines.

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30 thoughts on “How to Upcycle an Old Desk”

    • Thanks so much Tracy :) Looking forward to the next project… especially as I’ve just found out that you are my challenge buddy!!! Hurray!! :) X

    • Thank you Caroline!! I’m delighted with it… had seen something similar in a retro shop for over £300. This cost £60, including the paint and handles. SO happy :)

  1. Oh I hadn’t seen this before- it looks so lush Caro! And funnily enough, this fits in very well with my own #HomeEtc for this week – we should sometimes think twice about painting every surface and let the wood shine through; just doing the drawer fronts is just gorgeous! K x

  2. Isn’t it amazing what a touch of paint can do? Your new desk looks great, hopefully you will enjoy working on it! I’ve got a kids rocking chair (that was mine when I was little) to upcycle for my son, and have no idea where to start! I’m sure it will be a fun project though!

    Stacie xx

  3. Brilliant job, it looks great! I love the touch of vintage with the lining paper, it’s those little details which makes a good upcycling a great one!! #HomeEtc xx

  4. It looks lovely, I wish I had the patience to upcycle I have bought many items with the intention of doing so and just never get around to it and end up re selling them. I love seeing old furniture being re used in this very disposable society we live in.

  5. Oh, I love it! I love how you can see the potential in it in those first pics, and with just a simple update it really brings it to life. Beautiful! #HomeEtc

  6. Oh I love it! LOVE! You have kept the character but also given it some swagger too :- )Brilliant. Will you come round and sort my office please? #HomeEtc

  7. You had me at ‘upcycling.’! I was grinning my way through this because I was excited to see how it all turned out. I am so glad you left some of the beautiful oak unpainted. It looks really lovely and substantial too. Proper wood.

    I really want a Dime Bar now…


    • Haha!!! I couldn’t have painted the whole thing — it would have spoilt it I think. Love a bit of wood — I get so bored of the whole shiny, white gloss trend. Nice to mix it up a bit :)

  8. Looks lovely! Really adore a good upcycle project. I can’t stand waste so if I can give a new lease of life to a piece of furniture that’s perfectly fine, it’s a win-win!

  9. Beautiful and such a fab project! You’re a clever lady! Thanks for being a super co-host :) Jess xx


  10. That’s beautiful -and I love the character that old furniture has, but love it even more when it’s given a new lease of life – thanks for hosting #homeetc xx

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