A Children’s Rolltop Desk Makeover | One Room Challenge – Week 7

You guys, I seriously can’t believe it’s the last week before the final reveal for the One Room Challenge! Eric and I got a little sidetracked last week when we had almost 9 consecutive days full of sun and no precipitation. Our deck is now 21 months old and has never been sealed. It wasn’t looking good at all, and Eric really wanted to get it cleaned and sealed before our super hot and humid weather arrives. We thought we’d be able to knock it out in a couple days. Who were we kidding?! Ugh! #overlyambitiousmuch

Of course this means we’re running a little behind on the projects we have left to complete for our daughters’ shared bedroom makeover. We did, however, manage to put the finishing touches on their vintage desk and begin (finally!) hanging some stuff up on their walls though. Yay!

Here’s a quick recap of our projects and progress during the Spring 2020 One Room Challenge.

WEEK 1: A Shared Girls’ Bedroom Makeover — The Plan

WEEK 2: DIY Twin House Headboards

WEEK 3: DIY $60 Corner Bookcase

WEEK 4: Easy DIY Built-In Closet Shelving

WEEK 5/6: A Simple IKEA Rast Nightstand Makeover

WEEK 7: A Children’s Rolltop Desk Makeover

WEEK 8: The Final Reveal — See the Complete Transformation of Our Shared Kids’ Bedroom!

This week I’m going to show you how we gave a vintage children’s rolltop desk a slightly modern makeover so it’ll coordinate with the rest of our girls’ bedroom.

Learn how we managed to achieve the perfect vintage-yet-slightly-modern finish on a children's rolltop desk. Visit www.freeandunfettered.com for the complete details on our vintage children's rolltop desk makeover. #vintagefurniture #reclaimed #modernhome #eclecticdecor #kidsroom

When we initially decided to transform our daughters’ shared bedroom for this challenge I had really hoped to make space for a desk area since they both love to draw and write. I knew it would be a tight squeeze, but I think it’ll be worth it.

Learn how we managed to achieve the perfect vintage-yet-slightly-modern finish on a children's rolltop desk. Visit www.freeandunfettered.com for the complete details on our vintage children's rolltop desk makeover. #vintagefurniture #reclaimed #modernhome #eclecticdecor #kidsroom

Luckily, a few years ago I managed to snag a vintage children’s rolltop desk from the original owner at an amazing price. It was in really great condition considering its age, but it definitely needed a little TLC on the finish.

Learn how we managed to achieve the perfect vintage-yet-slightly-modern finish on a children's rolltop desk. Visit www.freeandunfettered.com for the complete details on our vintage children's rolltop desk makeover. #vintagefurniture #reclaimed #modernhome #eclecticdecor #kidsroom
Structurally, the desk is in great condition. But the orangish tint wasn’t going to work in their bedroom.
Up close, you can definitely see it needs refinished.

Here’s how we managed to achieve what I feel is a perfect vintage-yet-slightly-modern finish.

STEP 1: Sand Completely

This is definitely the most time intensive step of the project. We disassembled the rolltop, the chair, and removed the interior compartment divider as well as the backing board and then began the tedious process of giving the desk and all its component parts a thorough sanding to remove the old finish.

Learn how we managed to achieve the perfect vintage-yet-slightly-modern finish on a children's rolltop desk. Visit www.freeandunfettered.com for the complete details on our vintage children's rolltop desk makeover. #vintagefurniture #reclaimed #modernhome #eclecticdecor #kidsroom
Here you can see the raw wood on the desk compared to the original finish on the backing board and interior compartments.
Original finish vs. natural wood
Getting it to this point took us about a day and several 60-grit sandpaper discs.
We disassembled the chair so we could sand it more easily.
We initially tried to sand the rolltop while attached, but there were too many nooks and crannies that we couldn’t reach so we decided to remove it.

We used our rotary sander for everything except the rolltop, which I ended up carefully sanding by hand using an angle sanding sponge.

Sanding the rolltop by hand took some time, but it was totally worth it!

Once we finished sanding, we wiped everything down with a clean, damp rag.

STEP 2: Clean

Once the desk and chair were thoroughly sanded, I mixed a very dilute solution of bleach and water to completely clean the desk and remove any residual stains. Then I wiped it down with a 50-50 vinegar and water wash afterwards. We finished by wiping it down once more with a clean, damp rag again. At this point we let the desk dry for several days.

STEP 3: Sand Again

This time we used 120-grit sandpaper to reach a smooth finish on the desk and then wiped everything down with a damp washcloth to remove the dust.

STEP 4: Apply Finish

I went back and forth on leaving the desk in its natural state or applying a stain. I really loved the natural oak, but I knew it would need some type of protective coat since it will be exposed to markers and pens, etc. However, I really didn’t want it to turn yellow when I applied a protective finish. So, I opted to go ahead and apply a stain. We tried a few different options, but ended up settling on Minwax Simply White. I applied it using a cloth and tried my best to buff it into the wood as I was staining. Applied this way, the Simply White stain ended up giving the desk a really cool ceruse look.

Learn how we managed to achieve the perfect vintage-yet-slightly-modern finish on a children's rolltop desk. Visit www.freeandunfettered.com for the complete details on our vintage children's rolltop desk makeover. #vintagefurniture #reclaimed #modernhome #eclecticdecor #kidsroom

STEP 5: Apply Protective Finish

I opted to use Minwax Polycrylic in a Satin finish as the protective coat. It gives the desk a little bit of sheen and will protect the wood from errant marks and ink stains.

STEP 6: Add Decorative Touches

Because we love all things vintage, instead of buying new hardware Eric simply gave the existing hardware a good cleaning.

The original backing board wasn’t in the greatest condition either, but neither of us was willing to part with the original stamp so I found some removable wallpaper in a fun print to affix to the front of the board and then we re-attached it to the desk.

Learn how we managed to achieve the perfect vintage-yet-slightly-modern finish on a children's rolltop desk. Visit www.freeandunfettered.com for the complete details on our vintage children's rolltop desk makeover. #vintagefurniture #reclaimed #modernhome #eclecticdecor #kidsroom

I used the same wallpaper to line the bottom of the drawers for another little touch of whimsy.

Learn how we managed to achieve the perfect vintage-yet-slightly-modern finish on a children's rolltop desk. Visit www.freeandunfettered.com for the complete details on our vintage children's rolltop desk makeover. #vintagefurniture #reclaimed #modernhome #eclecticdecor #kidsroom
Learn how we managed to achieve the perfect vintage-yet-slightly-modern finish on a children's rolltop desk. Visit www.freeandunfettered.com for the complete details on our vintage children's rolltop desk makeover. #vintagefurniture #reclaimed #modernhome #eclecticdecor #kidsroom
We opted for brass picture frames to coordinate with the small brass pull on the rolltop.

Looking at our One Room Challenge project list, we still have a few more things to complete over the coming week, including painting the accent wall feature, installing new lighting, and hanging a few more pictures on the walls.

ORC PROJECT LIST

  • Build matching twin headboards
  • Build a small-space shelving unit for books and knick-knacks
  • Ditch the dresser for a nightstand
  • Refinish a vintage desk to provide our children with a space to write and draw
  • Install custom closet shelving
  • Add a rug to soften the floors
  • Figure out a lighting solution, particularly one that will help ease fears of the dark
  • Create a minimal self-care station
  • Decorate all those bare walls!

We got this! At least I think we do! Ha!

Next up will be the Final Reveal. I hope to see you back here for it!

If you haven’t yet, be sure to visit this year’s other participants in the One Room Challenge to wish them the best of luck in finishing up their remaining projects.

4 thoughts on “A Children’s Rolltop Desk Makeover | One Room Challenge – Week 7”

  1. That desk is literally perfection! I can’t believe how natural that white stain looks, we had sooooo much trouble with staining our dresser that we just ended up painting it. Can’t wait to see the entire space!

    1. Stain can be so finicky sometimes! My husband was definitely in favor of painting the desk when we first tried a few different stains, but luckily the white took to the wood really well. Thanks for following along!

    1. Hi, Jennie! The desk is definitely getting a lot of use, so I’m glad we added it to the room. Thanks for following along!

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