Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One Room School House Desk Renovation

My mother-in-law has a one room school house desk in her home that she uses in her kitchen as decor.  Her mother (Husband's Granny) had stripped and stained the desk years ago and it is just beautiful.  Husband and I have always loved it and would like one of our own.

My mother-in-law came across another desk a few years ago, which has been stored in her garage until we could bring it back home to Florida for our own home.  This desk was in serious need of stripping and staining as it was in not-so-great condition.  We were finally able to bring the desk home this Christmas and Husband went to work right away, stripping all the old layers of paint to get down to the bare wood.  I neglected to take a before picture, but here it is in pieces.

Top of desk.  I love the etched letters.  Gives it character and a sense of true history.
Bottom side of the desk top.

Underside of the desk seat.

Top of the desk seat.

It took Husband about two hours just to get all the pieces apart.  It's a delicate process because you don't want to damage the wood and the iron legs would shatter and break if dropped.  The grooves you see on the underside of the desktop is where the iron legs where attached.  No nuts and bolts here, just very tight grooves.

First, he stripped the old paint using Klean Stripp Strip-X Stripper from Home Depot.  You paint this on and leave it to bubble up for anywhere between five and fifteen minutes.  Always use gloves when applying this as it's strong and will eat your skin (I is paint stripper!) 

You can see the bubbling, the stripper is working!
Then you use a plastic scraper and strip off the paint.  Husband stripped the desk multiple times, at least three that I can remember.  This is the first coat.

He then gently sanded the desk to get down the the bare wood.

***Note: Is is important to take precautions when sanding older furniture or dealing with anything that has older paint.  Use a respirator (not just a facemask) to protect yourself from breathing in the lead-based paint materials.***
This is why I didn't get any pictures of the sanding.  Husband didn't want Lallie or I anywhere around.  After he finished, he completed a thorough cleaning of the garage before we were allowed back in as dust was everywhere.

As you saw in the before pictures, the desk had been painted yellow and green over the years. Even after lots of stripping and sanding, Husband wasn't able to get the yellow paint completely off the top part of the desk.

Now you can see the bare wood on the seats.  Gorgeous!

Now it was time for stain. 
Husband first used Polyurethane Gloss in Dark Chestnut.  The results were not to his liking as the coverage was very spotty given the inconsistent colors of the wood and the lagging yellow paint  In addition, the Chestnut color was not as red as he intended as he was going for more of a Mahogany. 

So he went over it again, but this time with a Polystain (not polyurethane) in Mahogany to achieve the red color.  The Polystain also gave the coverage Husband desired while looking shiny and consistent.

Here is the finished product.  It is being used as a nightstand in one of our guest bedrooms.
 I love the shiny red color and you can still see the wood variations.
The desktop is perfect for a nightstand and the etched letters give the piece some history.  The polystain made the etchings clearer and they certainly stand out.  I love that!
As with all school house desks, the seat folds up.  Perfect for guest rooms for an extra seat or luggage rack which can be put up for storage or during the night.
Husband originally wanted to paint the iron, but I'm glad he just cleaned it up and not paint. 
I love the rustic character of the legs.

 It looks great and the many, many hours Husband spent (close to 20 hours if not more) on the desk certainly paid off.  Great job honey, it's beautiful!  And please....correct me, honey in the comments, if I stated anything incorrectly.

Happy Wednesday Y'all!


  1. I love furniture with history! What a cool project!

  2. Great DIY project! We have one in our house that we use as a sidetable.

  3. There is nothing more rewarding than doing over an old piece of furniture. It looks great!

  4. Great project! It looks fabulous in the guest room--I love that the seat folds up!

  5. That is sooo neat! And your husband is very talented. I'm sure you already knew that! :)

  6. Absolutely beautiful Kudos to your mister!

  7. This is gorgeous!!! Ya'll really did a *great* job on this beautiful piece.

  8. I saw one of these in a store about two weeks ago, and I really wish I had one. I've quite a few pieces of antique furniture, but the graffiti is such a major addition. My stuff belonged to a great grandmother, and no etchings. Some dings and scrapes, however...