My French Desk Upcycle

Man oh man, time flies. One month ago yesterday, I announced that I was taking a temporary break from blogging so I could recuperate and feel re-energized. This time of Covid has been exhausting since I work in a grocery store, and I’m still undergoing a lot of training in the store’s bakery so learning all that has been mentally exhausting. Honestly I don’t fully have my creative spark yet, but I see it reigniting soon.

In the meantime though, I’ve been working on something that requires a lot of patience and not necessarily the same level of creativity it takes to create something brand new. I’ve been refurnishing a french style desk.

I know, I know. I wish I had the original photo to paste right here, but Google decided to glitch and delete those photos off my phone & account (thanks Google). But I can show you some pictures along the way and tell you all about my process when it came to refurnishing this desk.

The first step was to remove all the old varnish. I bought my varnish strip from Walmart, and it did an alright job. It got most of the varnish off, but left a white glue on the desk. Fortunately I discovered that using my electric sander helped remove some of that glue. Even more than that, though, I got a more localized varnish strip to spray onto those stubborn areas. That worked much better than the liquid that I had to spread over the desk and wait 15ish minutes to scrape off.

The drawer on the righthand side had the varnish removed but had that white glue stuck on it. The drawer on the left was sanded and had the glue removed with a more focused spray.

I knew which areas I wanted to stain and which ones to paint, so on my desk, I removed the varnish from the top slab and the drawer fronts. The rest I didn’t bother removing.

Once I officially got all that irritating varnish and glue off, I got to sanding. I was really happy I had my electric sander, even tough I had to replace the sandpaper really often because even after all that work to get the varnish and glue off, there was still some that was getting on the sandpaper and rending it useless after just one or two drawer facings.

Early on in the job, I thought I’d have to sand the areas where I didn’t remove the varnish. I figured that sanding those areas would help the paint stick better. But in the end, I found it really didn’t make a difference.

So, the sanding was complete. That’s when I got down to staining.

This was my first time staining a big piece, and oh man, I did not know what I was doing! I applied it with a sponge brush and didn’t bother using a rag to wipe off the excess. That definitely wasn’t my smartest move! I wound up sanding off a lot of the varnish because it was so streaky and looked unnatural. Once I moved on to applying it with one rag and wiping off the excess with another, dry rag, my results improved dramatically.

With the staining, I not only did the top of the desk, but I also did the drawers. I stained everything on them except for the very bottoms of the drawers because I knew I’d never see those.

Painting was also a new challenge since it was such a big project. I painted the body of the desk white using chalk paint. I used a sponge brush to apply it, and my first few coats were pretty streaky. That was alright though–even though I hadn’t used chalk paint before, I had heard that this was how chalk paint often turned out. After five or six layers, it looked great! It’s just the right level of rustic farmhouse and polished upcycle.

The insides of the drawers came next. The contact paper I used from these is from Dollar Tree. I’m not even joking! They turned out gorgeous inside the drawers and added an element of class I would have missed otherwise (and they covered up some streaky stain, so that’s a win too). If you want to add a lining to the insides of your drawers, it’s pretty simple:

  • Cut your paper to the size of the drawer + 1/2 an inch on each side.
  • Peel off the paper so it’s adhesive, and then gently lay in your drawer. Be sure some of the contact paper goes up the sides of the drawer.
  • Start in the middle and press outward.
  • Then, grab an x-acto knife and cut off the excess paper.

Then there were the handles…What should have been extremely simple was not. It took forever for them to arrive (partly because of Covid and partly because of bad storms). I decided to spray them white, since my drawers were stained so dark. Once I went to apply them, I realized that the screws I was sent were either too long or too short. I was going to just buy some more, but then my dad realized that we could just saw down the long ones so they fit (yay Dad!) I let him have the pleasure of sawing those down and finally putting on the drawer handles.

That was it. The desk was dry, the drawers were done, and everything was ready to be assembled. I put all the drawers back in and saw my finished product. It took a lot of work and patience, but in the end, it was absolutely worth it. I now have a piece of furniture that’s unique to my space, stylish, and far more useful than my old desk.

That being said, I’ve now got the furniture diy bug. I’m planning on making two nightstands that match the theme of that desk for my bedroom. I’ll be sure to share those when they’re done!

Well friends, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed today’s walkthrough!

Happy DIYing!

Steph

2 thoughts on “My French Desk Upcycle

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