Farmhouse table turned desk

August 23, 2010

You may remember my travesty of a desk I showed you a couple of weeks ago. It was a hot mess of mixed colors, woods, textures…just a smokin’ hot mess:
I didn’t even finish it, I just knew it was on the road to nowhere. ;)
Then I found a farmhouse table through a friend of a friend and it was everything I was looking for and more…in a table. Vintage looking, the perfect size, beautiful curves, and it had me at $15:

But it was mess as well. WHY can I not find something I don’t have to touch? Drats. 

So I started out by chipping away the little bits of brown paint with a scraper:
I thought it would come right off, but most of it was holding on for dear life. Awesome! 

I figured I would give it a once over with my sander to see how much I could get off. Thankfully, I had picked up a lead test at True Value as well, just for this project. I showed you last year how to do a lead test, and whooee, I am SO glad I tested this before I moved forward with any sanding:
lead test
Not good.
By the way, pink means lead. RED means LOTS of lead. :)
lead test result
Fantastic!! (Do you sense the dripping sarcasm yet?)
I highly recommend doing this test any time you’re going to sand anything you even suspect to be vintage or antique. The lead on this table was not in the brown paint, (that was more recent) – it was in a layer I couldn’t even see!

I was so bummed out. It took about five minutes of staring at the table before I realized I wasn’t going to tackle this one on my own. There are two things that freak me out when it comes to older pieces. One is lead, the other is mold:

And this one had both. :) Double AWESOME!! YES.
So I searched online and found a nearby refinisher who I talked to at length, and then decided to just bite the bullet and take it in. Because I was only having them take it down to bare wood, it was less than half the cost of a total refinishing job. 

And the peace of mind (with a three-year-old in our house) was SO worth it. They had to take the whole thing apart to work on it, which was fine because I needed to change the direction of the legs anyway:
(Since my plan was to use it as a desk, I need the legs to go long ways with the table.)
When I first saw the table, I wanted to just poly over it and keep the lovely patina. But when the wood was really cleaned off, it wasn’t in the best shape. My only option was to paint it, so I laid everything out in my workshop on the driveway, and spray primed it all:
Spray primer is a Godsend when I comes to legs and hard to paint pieces! Then I took it all inside and put it back together before finishing it up with a brush. 

Because I’m using some blue in the fabrics and paint colors, I decided on a slightly lighter tone of the blue paint I picked out for the room – it’s called Soft Hearted and I got it in mixed in Dutch Boy paints. 

It’s a lovely light blue, almost grey color:

(It’s hard to see the blue in these pics.) I had never used Dutch Boy before and I loved it! Just the container is enough to make me a fan for life. 

Because the table originally had leaves that dropped down, the previous owners reinforced the table and the leaves by using a thick piece of plywood:

Because you could see the edge when it was all put back together, I trimmed it out with with some scrap trim I had in the garage:

I didn’t have enough, so I still have more to do. :)
My plan all along was to take the whole tabletop apart and put it back together, because the wood had separated a bit:

But I kind of fell in love with it as is. When I painted it, I took a toothpick to each gap just to make sure it stayed goop-free. :) I think it shows the character and age of the piece, and I adore it!

I’ve mentioned about a bajillion times how much distressing stresses me OUT! This table was calling out for it though, so I did quite a bit on the legs and along the pretty edges:
And now it’s finally done!:
farmhouse table desk
I know it’s hard to imagine it as I see it in the final room, but it’s gonna be GORG. The walls around the desk will be white (for the most part), and the art will be just beautiful. If you could see inside my head, you’d so be oohing and ahhing right now. ;)
The previous desk was HEAVY, so I have to work on getting those ruts out of the carpet. (I let ice melt on mine and it always works great!)
Now I need a cover for my parson’s chair – anyone out there know how to make one? Helloooo? Anyone? (Remember peeps, I use hemming tape…I’m not a sewer! Much of one anyway.)
You Squeezies know how much I detest cords…so I took another trip to Target for one of those fantastic, honkin’ baskets (I returned something from another room just so I could OK it in my head. ;) )
I put the shredder and the computer cords in the basket, and I can easily plug them in when needed. The basket lets everything breathe (even though they won’t be plugged in while in there anyway):

I love, love, LOVE all the space I have!! I can use the computer, craft, whatever. The table is surprisingly even on top, but I may get a piece of glass cut, or cut down some wood and paint it to make a smooth spot for writing.
I still need to get some clear, water-based poly to coat it a couple of times, but otherwise, I’m DONE. It was way worth it to pay for the help. ;)
When I asked the owner of the refinishing shop his guess at the age of the piece, he said it was made in the 1920’s, at the latest. That made me very happy. I love old pieces, and I love bringing them back to life:
And this one has me fired up to get some paint on the walls!! Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Soon. :)
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  1. The desk is fab but you are WAY more handy than I am so the thing I'm taking away from this is the cute basket to hold your desk "accessories"... I always have a camera cord and power cord and other junk that clutters. I need a cute basket like this one! :)

  2. How beautiful! I love that color and the distressing is just perfect.

  3. Gah - I love it!!! You are so smart to check for lead. I was sanding away on some old drawers that I picked up on the side of the road over the weekend and who knows what I was inhaling...

    Beautiful. Every single thing about that table is wonderful! All i can say is WOW!


  4. Eek! Lead! So smart of you to check. The table looks fabulous. I love it! I'm looking forward to seeing the completed room.

  5. Oh, I love it. This post is my new best friend. And, I'm a basket hoarder.

    PS. Sweet lamp.

  6. It looks like it was def worth the extra work. Looks great.

  7. sar bear,

    i love what is happening in that room! i love the placement of the table, not to mention how AWESOME that table now is! i love it's legs. and warbly top.

    nice legs and warbly top. that kinda describes me :-)

    can't wait to see the all new re-design in there. but have to say i love the way that table looks with the red. its makes the red look moderny. with a country table. i know you are getting rid of the red, but that doesn't mean i can't like how it looks today!

    you're not the boss of me.


  8. Great the lines and simplicity of that piece. Can't wait to see what you do with the room : )

  9. I was searching for a table runner the other day and found a site that had slip covers that may work for your chair or at least be altered easily- they were not expensive. I think.

  10. Sarah,

    So very clever of you to turn the leg box of the table around! I for ever more will now look at tables differently.

    Ingenious way to disguise the shredder. I'm so pilfering this idea!

    I'm already standing in line waiting for the room reveal. I just know it'll be devine!

  11. It never occurred to me to check for lead paint - thanks for the reminder!

  12. The desk is beautiful! It turned out so nice! I can't wait to see the rest of the room when it is done. Trust me on this one, you definitely want to get the poly acrylic on there asap! I have a post up today of what happens when you skip that crucial step!

  13. Very cute and I love your "cord management system"! Can't wait to see the final result!

  14. I love this table. I used to have one in my bedroom when I was growing up (on the farm!!!) and that is one antique I wish I would have snagged from my mom. My sister got it! You snooze, you lose, right? :) Thanks for sharing your beautiful redo!

  15. This turned out great! Even with all that "awesomeness" you had to deal with! What a great size for a desk and it's going to look great when you have the whole room together. Wish I could help with the parson's chair cover, but I'm useless with slipcovers. I'm sure you can find one that involves drop cloth, though {a True Value buy?}. I would check with Kelly at Much To Do With Nothing blog and/or Traci at Beneath My Heart {not sure if she did a slip}.

  16. Looks great... where do you find the time? I'm inspired to do something now! Lx

  17. I actually love the burnt orange on your walls with the desk, but I can understand the blue. I just painted my office Shoreline Blue. I have never, ever painted blue in a room I would be in because I haven't liked it, but this color is soothing, relaxing and motivating. You do such a great job with your projects. I am getting inspired to get some more of mine done. Maybe next week...

  18. Beautiful, and yes I can see your final project (mine may be different than yours) but I know you will make it amazing. Wish I could find a "find" like that for myself.

  19. Love how it came out after all that work! I understand about having a vision in my head but trying to convey that to anyone is IMPOSSIBLE! They just look at me with a blank stare! Blue is good!

  20. Looks great. Now if my desk could look that CLEAN! lol.....nice job

  21. Ooooh this makes me want a table to use as a desk... painted white... with curves.... :)

  22. Yes, lead, yikes! Your original post prompted me to test an old cabinet I was going to refinish earlier in the year for my husband's office. It had lead and off it went to be taken care was my grandfather's cabinet from his woodshop, so totally worth it!

    The table looks great, looking forward to seeing the rest of the room! Janell

  23. I love the lines of this table, and I think it was such a good idea to reorient the legs. The scallop edges really make it special. Excited to see how it all comes together. I'd love you to check out my amazing Salvation Army find on my blog today. I'm so excited!

  24. Love the table, the cord basket, and how the whole room looks...but what the hell is that on the "before" picture of the table???? It looks like the outline of a human hand - a LEFT hand to be exact. Yikes!!!! LOL!

  25. Your parsons chair looks fairly similar in shape to a chair that I covered. I gave a bit of info on my process here:

    Note that the cover I made was stapled to the bottom of the chair--I'd recommend that you start this way, because then you don't have to fit and sew the seams on the seat of the chair, just the back. But if you want a removable slipcover, you could follow the same steps I outlined for the back to fit the seat, and then add a skirt for good measure.

  26. question: (please forgive me, I'm new at this)

    Why wouldn't painting over the science experiment desk eliminate the mold/lead problem? Wouldn't a couple coats of paint seal it all in and prevent any worry?

    Thanks for explaining :)

  27. Its just lovely!! cant wait to see it when its all done. As for the parsons chair cover- I know Ikea has cheap ones and you can jazz em up with trim, buttons or even maybe an iron on monogram or design. Have you ever seen OliveRue's iron on designs-she has some awesome ones. If you bought a cream or burlap looking cover you could download one of her designs and print it out in brown ink then iron it on the fabric- it would be very Ballard-Deisgn-ish!

    And I LOVE the drum shade chandelier- its awesome!

  28. Hold your iron about an inch over your carpet and hit the steam button. The steam will help to lift the marks out. After you have steamed it a little bit, you can rub your hand back and forth over the marks to help lift them. In no time at all the marks are gone! It's much faster than waiting for ice to melt.

  29. It looks wonderful! And I love the idea for the cords in the basket. I hate cords!! LOL

    I have always wanted a table for a desk, I just love the look of it.

    God bless!

  30. I love the table! Lead would freak me out too. I have some old windows from my grandma's house that I would love to use in the house but they are so old and chippy, I am scared of them. I need to get one of those kits. I just looked at those awesome baskets at Target yesterday but they are just too much moola! I am hoping they go on sale soon.

  31. Cute! Awesome job.

    I love that you chronicle your "bad" projects as well as the good ones. They're fun to read about, especially for someone like me who's a bit of a slapdash-DIYer who screws things up about half the time, hehe. 0:)

  32. thanks for sharing the trials and tribulations with the lead. so scary. i never do lead tests on old stuff but should. the room is looking great! i esp love your pendant. adorable.

  33. I want it.
    Give it to me or I'll come over and steal it while you're working on another project in another room in your house!!
    I'm kidding of course- but I do LOOOOOOVE it!!!

    Layla :-)

  34. I have the exact same table that was my grandma's and I'm using it as a desk, too. But I never thought to turn the legs. That is a great idea!

  35. My husband and I toted a table much like that home on the roof of our car for our 1st home. Your new desk really brings back memories... I detest mold (!) here in FL it's everywhere! You did a nice job-smart you for checking for lead.

  36. Very cute! I love the Dutch Boy paint containers too :)

  37. What an adorable table. I can't wait to see the finished space.

    P.S. There's still time to enter our give away

  38. Such a cute table! I can't wait to see the rest of the room! From the style and color of the table, I can tell it's going to be great!

  39. Oh no!, not LEAD!
    Turned out CUTE though! & I LOVEEeee that hour glass! :)

  40. Enjoyd the process and love the results! And, now I know I can get depression marks out with ice OR steam! :)

  41. Looks really nice! I agree that the "character" it has is FAB! As always, great job!

  42. even with that leadblock, i mean roadblock it turned out great. I cant stress enough how important it is for anyone to have a professional take care of lead tainted items. I work for a demo company that is lead abatement certified and I know how dangerous it is! Great job!

  43. It looks gorgeous, and changing the direction of the legs was exactly what this desk needed.

  44. I'm seeing this in your head, and yes, it's fabulous.

    Of course, I'm in love with it so far too.

  45. Big congrats to Reeban! Lucky girl.

    The table is really cute. Still looking for the perfect one here in Roanoke for either sewing or replacing my desk which would then be used for sewing....


  46. When I was in Goodwill today they had a pretty good selection of parson chair slipcovers. Sometimes there are some very pretty ones from people that donate them after a wedding. I love the idea of changing the direction of the legs. I just found your site a couple of days ago and I'm addicted! Thanks so much!

  47. I love the simplicity. Makes me think of 'quiet' ahhhh.... :)

  48. Oh I love your new table! It's very chic. I like that you abbreviate (i.e., abbrev) words and say things like "This table is going to be GORG." I do that all the time, but my husband doesn't understand it at all. I've been combing through your site for a few days now. You have a beautiful home!

  49. LOVE how the table came out. I like it against the range wall, too!
    Just wanted to mention, yours and Miss Mustard Seed are my favorite blogs! I always look forward to reading your posts! Thanks for putting yourself out there.

  50. I love how it turned out! and the idea of putting the shredder in a basket is brilliant - who wants to look at an ugly shredder all the time when it's not being used? :)

  51. Great Blog post on your desk! Thanks for sharing the info about the lead.....I never thought of that doh! And Ice to fix your carpet? Really? I'll have to try that.

    Love the orange walls.

  52. I kinda have to agree with Plain Jain... Refinishing is SUCH a job, I've done it recently myself. But I really, really, need to know, what is the paint color on the walls?

  53. Congrats! Your table (er ahem desk) looks fabulous! Thanks for sharing.


  54. I saw this and instantly thought of your stairs. How fun would it be!

  55. Would you believe I have that exact table? I also use mine as my desk/craft table! Love it :)

  56. Ya did good lady! Looks amazing! Glad you know when a job is too big for your amazing talents! Mold and lead is scary especially with little ones! It looks fantastic and I can see inside your head and I am ooohhhing and ahhhinnngggg =)

  57. I love it friend. I can't wait to see a lighter brighter room. I can see it in my head. So fresh and chic. I love it. I so need to be more cautious when I sand. Ugh...I am probably going to die at age 35 because of lead poisoning.

  58. Oh, Sarah. A lot of work, yes, but what a wonderful result!

    I wish I COULD see inside your head! I know there's a lot of good stuff in there! But I guess I'll have to wait along with everyone else to see things as they come to pass. :)

  59. I love this desk! Thank you so much for all you share and idea's you help sprout and form in my own brain! Keep it up!

  60. You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em....
    You chose well on having an expert take this table down to bare self!
    I Luuurrve the end result!

  61. Hi,

    Do you think that paint containing lead will be harmful after dried for so many years ?
    Of course that wearing some respiratory protection is advisable.
    Now, if you don't mind I'd like use your article, since it's related to the kind of activity, that when sanding MDF, people should wear respiratory and eye protection.

    Best regards,


  62. Sarah - Great job, as always! I received an email this morning, and it included some parson chair covers. One looks like it would work well with your new colors. Can't wait to see the finished product!

  63. I have this table too! Mine is in my sewing room covered with stuff that needs to be organized... It is from the 20's, mine has four tiny chairs that modern-sized people probably could not fit into. Love you leaving the top wonky - great job. :)

  64. Just discovered your blog. Love it!

  65. Wait a minute!!! I'm stuck on the whole 'ice cubes on carpet' thing. Is that really a way to get the rivets and indents out of carpet? We're moving soon and seeing the ghotst of other people's furnite is creepy to me so I want those holes gone! What do I do?


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