A Mid-Century Desk Comes of Age

I live in a little town right outside of Austin, Texas.  If you’ve never been to this part of the country, you really owe yourself a visit.  Austin is not what you think of as Texas.  It’s the hippest of the hip and the coolest of the cool.  In fact, it’s so hip and cool that it’s hip and cool to act like it’s not hip and cool.  Got it?  Yes, it’s confusing, but just go with it.

Being as that I live a stone’s throw from Austin, we get to have fun friends come stay with us so they can explore the town.  This past October, my sister and three of her girlfriends came to play.  We spent the weekend shopping and eating and listening to live music in my favorite parts of this great city.  But before we did any of that, we had something else to do.

“Would y’all go with me to pick up a desk I found on CraigsList so I don’t get ax murdered?”

Yep.  My guests are forced to go on CraigsList runs with me.  It’s sort of like my little fee for them getting to visit – a Lindsay Tax, if you will.

Of course, they were sweethearts and were happy to go with me to pick up the desk I had found.  I had been on the search for something with cool mid-century lines, yet still big enough for me to work on.  I found a desk from a delightful couple who had used it in their family business for years (and probably wouldn’t have ax murdered me at all).  It was in nearly perfect condition, and I tried to contain my excitement as the girls and I loaded it into my pick up truck (I am a Texan after all).  The desk was an exact match to a funky rehabbed one I had seen somewhere online, so I knew that my plan for mid-century to meet awesome was going to work out quite well.

Mid-Century Desk gets a Modern Touch | Makely School for Girls

It did, right?

After my sister and her friends headed home, I got to work on the desk.  The top is a really heavy piece of thick Formica – it would fool you into thinking it was wood if you didn’t know any better.  The rest of the desk is solid wood.

This piece was really simple to paint.  I first used TSP to really clean the decades of grime off of it.  Then, I took out the drawers and painted them with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint in Flow Blow (more details on that process here.)  Notice how the drawers are almost an identical blue to my walls?  I matched my wall color (Glidden’s Blue Blazes) to the drawers.  Real decorators are now clutching their pearls in horror.  I’m such a backwards decorator.

For the body of the desk, I primed it with Zinsser Cover Stain oil-based primer.  When it was dry, I used a quart of Benjamin Moore’s Advance in Simply White (satin sheen).  Y’all.  Y’ALL!  That Ben Moore Advance is one amazing paint.  It is water-based, but it goes on as smooth as a lacquer.  Once it’s cured, it’s as tough as an enamel.  I put two coats of Miss Mustard Seed’s Furniture Wax on the desk once it was dry.  I am so happy with the finish of the desk.  Cover Stain + Advance + MMS Wax = True Love.

Mid-Century Desk gets a Modern Touch | Makely School for Girls

My favorite parts of the desk are the amazing tapered feet and the drawer pulls.  I used a fine grade steel wool to buff the metal hardware on both the legs and the pulls.  I also used some leftover stain from the herringbone wood paneled wall to give the wood pieces more of a rich color.

Mid-Century Desk gets a Modern Touch | Makely School for Girls

I’ve been using the desk for several months now, and it is absolutely perfect for me.  Score one for a hip town, CraigsList, sweet friends, and good quality paint.

Mid-Century Desk gets a Modern Touch | Makely School for Girls

Filed Under: Project Gallery, Transform Your Furniture

About Lindsay Ballard

Lindsay Ballard is a former college mascot turned political geek turned DIY fanatic who is conspiring to live in a Technicolor dream world. Her designs are bold and graphic, while her spirit is fun and full of color. Lindsay chronicles her projects and design ideas here at Makely, where she shares daily tutorials and inspiration. Lindsay lives outside of Austin, Texas with her husband (Tom), children (Zack and Emma) and dogs (Jack and Duke).


  1. Looks beautiful! Love the colours you chose.

  2. Lindsay! You never fail to amaze. The desk is absolutely gorgeous!

  3. I have a desk I got for free that literally looks almost identical to yours. It’s been waiting patiently for a makeover for ages. Thanks for the awesome inspiration!!

  4. GORGE!

  5. Oh wow! It looks like a totally different desk. I can’t wait to move to a bigger space so that I can start back picking up Craigslist and curb finds. It’s amazing what a little sand paper, primer and paint can do to old furniture.

  6. This is a beautiful makeover Lindsay! I love the touches of wood and the blue color you picked is gorgeous!!

  7. Wow this looks beautiful! It reminds me of a furniture piece my mom has had for 40 years! I soooooo want to paint it and do something fun with it like you did :) Pinning to the BHG blogger home favs board :)

  8. Love it. You made me go search Craig’s List. I found one exactly like it for $300! Not exactly in my price range, but it is a beautiful piece of furniture.

    • Thanks! I bet if you keep searching, one will turn up for a lot cheaper. A lot of people have these giant old desks and a) don’t realize what they have and b) think it’s too big to keep around. We’ll gladly take them off their hands!

  9. That turned out fantabulous!

  10. Holy Cow! I JUST bought that same exact desk from my local thrift store this past weekend! I love how yours turned out!

  11. Awesome does not begin to describe that desk!!

  12. Love this desk! We have been wanting to do an office makeover, and after I saw this post I found an almost identical desk on CL. Of course we bought it, and now I have to find the time to paint. What technique did you use when painting the body of the desk? Do you use a specific brush or roller? I want a really smooth finish. Thanks for your help, and I love your projects and blog. :)

    • Hi Abbe! I used a high density foam roller for the body of the desk. That and the combination of the paint I used gave it the smoothest finish imaginable. Good luck with your desk!

  13. Marissa W says:

    Hi! We just moved to Cedar Park, TX and I’m turning the formal sitting area into my craft/sewing room. I’ve been scouring Craig’s List for a desk and found one just like yours…FOR $50! I love what you did with yours! I love the natural wood with the paint. I think I’m going to do a turquoise and natural wood combo. I just wanted to ask about the desk top. It’s definitely particle board. DId you sand the top of the desk? Mine is definitely particle board with a fake wood veneer.

    I just love this desk! Mine also has the the writing desk pulls and it is super sturdy. My poor husband and his best friend almost broke their backs getting it to our house!

    • Oh, fun!!

      The top of my desk is Formica, but it’s the really sturdy old stuff. It was in perfect condition, so I didn’t have to do a thing to it. Does yours have damage? Could you not leave it as is?

  14. I know I’m late to this party, but LOVE EVERYTHING about the desk! The era, the shape, the size and particularly your upgrade to it. Just love the blue/white combo. And THAT blue is spectacular. A “bookmark” for sure!

  15. Sara Beth says:

    Oh this is a beautiful desk! I just showed my hubby and he loves it, too!

    Do you mind if I ask you a question? I was googling trying to find advice about a mid century desk that I bought last night off of Craiglist. I didn’t realize until I saw it in better light (it was in a dark storage unit) that there is mold covering. I am heartbroken because I wanted to bring that piece back to life.

    Have you ever restored a piece with mold? I’m scared to death it will contaminate my home. It seems like most might be surface mold but some might be in the finish. From what I’ve read, if the finish is shellac, bleach might destroy the wood. I was going to sand the piece but am petrified the mold will still be there. Your desk appears to be constructed similarly to mine, so I was hoping you might have some advice to give. The piece was only $25 but I need to get a new top (the current doesn’t look original and is hideous) so that’ll cost probably at least a $100 due to the size. I’m not sure if I should just cut my losses on this piece before putting a bunch of time and money in it.

    Thank you!
    Sara Beth

  16. Love it! Great color combination. Looks like the same color blue that I recently painted my living room.


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