Posts Tagged ‘up-cycle’


Old School Desk Refurbish : Lifestyle of a Creative

March 10, 2016

Once again, I have strayed from the graphic design and photography loop, just a little. For those who have seen previous tutorial posts, I have a special category just for them called “Lifestyle of a Creative.” I decided this was fitting, because as a creative, I can rarely contain the craftiness.

That being said, several months ago I found this FANTASTIC old school desk. My intent was to not only use it for “the personal,” but also to use it as an adorable photo prop. I just couldn’t resist. So now, if you will step with me outside the box, let’s get this thing from rusty to rustic perfection!

Desk Refurbish | © Noel

Desk Refurbish | © Noel



Frankly, because of the “dinged up” rustic look I wanted to keep, there really wasn’t much prep on this item! In fact, there’s only two steps for prep, or three if you’d like to go above and beyond.

1. Despite that it’s wood, scrub and wash that baby down! This desk in particular had mud soaked into the wood. I’m guessing it was sitting in an old, abandoned school house for quite some time. (Which makes this piece even cooler!) So with a hose, no soap and a plain ol’ rag – wipe and spray it down. Let it dry for several hours or over night is best.

{TIP: Washing down wood not only cleans the surface, but in the case of staining, it helps to open up the grain. Allowing the wood to receive the stain better and look richer.}

2. Unlike mine, if you’re wanting the desk to be smooth, have less dings and more “fresh” wood to paint on, then you’ll need to do some sanding. (As with any older item, masks are recommended during sanding.)

3. For those who want to go a step further, these old desks can be taken apart and reconstructed with wood glue and new bolts. Some may even choose to replace the old wood. (However, I shall not be doing that in this tutorial, as I want all the original parts.)

Cleaning it all up! | © Noel

Cleaning it all up! | © Noel


Like with many old, industrial designs the base of the desk is very heavy cast iron. As a fail on my part, the only shot I took of the base before starting was while it was wet. However, as you can see toward the bottom – it’s pretty rusted. Basically, both legs were covered. The good news? You can actually REMOVE rust. WHAAAAT!!?? Crazy, I know…

Rusted Base | © Noel

Rusted Base | © Noel


So, as some may know, you can remove rust from metal using a steel wool pad. It’s actually quite effective, but very time consuming. Again, I didn’t want to lose the original little quirks of the desk. In fact, I kind of liked the rust, I just wanted less of it…

My goals for the base were to: 1) Keep some original charm 2) Make it contrasted from the wood, and 3) Have it still look really nice and clean….Talk about wanting it all, right? Well this is how I achieved that:

1. Using a steel wool pad and a wet cloth I started rubbing away. Scrubbing the rust, then wiping it away with the rag. Silly me should have realized even after I started doing this, the metal was still pretty beat up. It wasn’t going to be the clean, consistent look I wanted after the rust was controlled. This was frustrating, because while I wanted the metal to look older, I didn’t want it to be AS beat up as the wood. It would just be too much going on for this piece. (Especially as a photo prop.)

2. After removing a lot (but not all) of the rust, I decide to cheat and add some consistent color back in with spray paint. The wood was still raw and unpainted, so I just taped off the edges like so:

Tape off the wood. | © Noel

Painter’s tape works wonders. | © Noel

3. Using a combination of RUST-OLEUM Metallic Black and DESIGN MASTER Glossy black, I lightly and inconsistently began painting. Take turns painting and then rubbing with the steel wool to keep some of the rust and damage showing. Avoid an excessive amount of the metallic finish vs the glossy, because it almost has a “sparkle” to it, which is not a classic look for metal. What was achieved was this:

© Noel

Painted and Distressed Base | © Noel



For the wood, I was originally going to paint it shanty chic – like distressed ivory. That was until my “other half” kindly reminded me how gorgeous keeping it classic wood would be. He was right – therefore it would have to be stained. Before we jump into this, let me warn: Staining is NOT for the faint of heart! It is definitely an art all its own and I am still mastering this skill myself. The tricky part is keeping the color even, because remember, it’s already soaking in and drying as you go. Any place that dries and is then rewetted will start to look richer, creating streaky lines on the surface.

{TIP: For amateurs like me, keep just a couple paper towel sheets with you and continually wipe as you go. This will simultaneously smooth out excess stain that can get tacky if left on the surface AND keep your stain consistent and even. Oh – and wear gloves! 😉 } 

Wear gloves and keep that stain smooth! | © Noel

Wear gloves and keep that stain smooth! | © Noel

As for the product I used a two-in-one: stain (the color) and polyurethane (the seal). I wanted a classic stained look, but I needed some color. To contrast the dark metal and give the desk a “rich” feature, I chose MINWAX PolyShade in Bombay Mahogany. What an awesome difference! Plus, it matches the rust. 😉

MINWAX PolyShade Bombay Mahogany. | © Noel

MINWAX PolyShade in Bombay Mahogany. | © Noel



Finished Product |© Noel

Finished Product |© Noel

and a few accents and finishing touches……

Accents and Finishing Touches. | © Noel

TA DA!!!! | © Noel


There you have it! Simple and sweet right? I think the whole process from prep to finishing touches took about two days. For now this lovely piece will hold it’s place on my porch, but I am [impatiently] waiting to find the right client’s kiddos to use it as a photo prop. Maybe YOU!?!?


For more updates from yours truly, follow me here on WordPress by blog or email, and hit that LIKE button on Facebook! Until next time 🙂 —

Happy Creating!




Trash or Treasure? Flea Markets and Up-cycling.

August 5, 2013

Hello friends and Bloggers!

If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for a new artsy project or cool decor, while saving a little green.  My way of doing that is heading out to local flea markets and antique shops to search for awesome finds! But if you’ve ever been to a second hand store, you know that there is a lot of just plain junk. So here are some helpful ways to find useful items and things you can refurbish for your own home, without becoming a hoarder or having an up-cycle project blow up in your face!


1. HAVE SOMETHING IN MIND BEFORE YOU GO. Before even leaving your house have things in mind that you are looking for. Maybe you need a cool old frame, an interesting vase or a new dresser to repaint. Whatever it may be, remember what you’re going for and don’t pick up random stuff.  Many people look at stuff and say ‘I’ll think of something to use this for later.” That’s when hoarding starts! 🙂 So remember what you need and stick to it.

2. ASK YOURSELF THREE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS. Where will I put it? What will I use it for? Can I buy it new for the same price? If you don’t have useful answers for the first two questions, and you can buy it new for the same cost, this is a bad purchase. When we find interesting things we don’t have a plan for, once again it’s hoarding. This would be my only exception to rule #1. If you find something not on your list, but you REALLY DO have a plan or idea for it, then buy it for “someday,” otherwise leave it on the shelf.  Your, “I’ll think of something later,” box is full enough. We can’t always plan for what we find, but we can ALWAYS know what we’ll do with them before we buy.

3. MAKE SURE ITS DURABLE. This is an important rule to follow when you are buying items or furniture with plans to refurbish. NEVER buy an item without making sure its stable, durable and can handle whatever beating it will be taking when you are redoing it. If an item’s foundation isn’t strong, its a BAD purchase. You’ll end up putting more into remodeling it, then if you would just go to the store and buy exactly what you want. Not to mention, your project will quickly turn from fun to a terrible disaster.

4. THINK ABOUT IT. If you come across something you like but you can’t answer those three questions correctly, LEAVE AND THINK ABOUT IT. The nice thing about flea markets and antique stores is you can walk away from something and it will be there a couple days later. If you are unsure about your purchase, go home, do some research. If you decide it’s a useful, good buy then go get it later. Nine times out of ten, it will still be there or another booth has the exact same thing.

5. SHOP FOR YOURSELF ONLY. Remember not everyone enjoys second hand finds. Don’t buy things for people unless you know they really will take it and use it. Otherwise you just end up with more stuff you don’t need, or force your friends to keep stuff they don’t need!


I hope this will help you keep your junk to a minimum and help make the most out of your treasures. I always love a good craft project, and cool finds. But when our creativity outruns reality, we need these simple rules to keep us in check. Happy hunting! 🙂


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