before and after

before and after: arielle’s sideboard desk

by Grace Bonney

man do i love this before & after. not only because i love retail design (i like some of my favorite stores more than my favorite houses) but because i love to see traditional furniture used in non-traditional ways. this furniture makeover comes from arielle glade of compressed pattern studio in portland, oregon. arielle’s firm found this antique sideboard and converted it into a seriously cool reception desk for the fada salon in portland. arielle and her co-designers used graham and brown textured, paintable wallpaper (in a pattern called “paintable small squares“) for the new section of the sideboard and then made a white laminate top for the desk. in order to support the corner of the desk (and house essential computer components) they made a cabinet-like leg out of maple so that it would match the floors and blend in. it’s such a transformation and i’m so pysched arielle sent this over. it makes me want to find some fleamarket furniture and start chopping. thanks to arielle and compressed pattern for sharing!

Suggested For You


  • I was reading your description and was a little scared to scroll down. But wow! It really is different. Love the before and the after.

  • I hate to be critical, but this really doesn’t work for me. The parts seem too disparate, yet the attempt to mimic the waved profile is too literal. I liked the original piece of furniture much better.

  • I agree with Shannon. I don’t get this one at all. What’s with that light wood colored box under the piece? Is that support for the desk, or a cardboard box? The top of the desk looks like formica, too. This is one ugly desk.

  • I’m with Shannon–really not my cup of tea at all. I kinda like the original; I’d stick to using it as a sideboard.

  • Wow, the texture on that wave piece is lovely.
    The only part not working for me is the maple cabinet. It seems so bulky compared to the elegance of the original legs and detailed texture of the wallpaper.

  • I love your site, but please do not keep promoting these projects where people destroy antique furniture. Many people would have loved that sideboard prior to the make-over. This is very sad, and a waste.

  • I hate to be critical as well, but I don’t think they needed the original piece to make the final one. I have to say that I really do not like it at all.

  • Don’t think I’ve got the cajones to destroy an antique piece like that…there some nice elements to this though…not sure about that natural wood “block” thingie, though….eh? I’m guessing it’s the middle support, but it’s definitely an eye sore.

  • I am perplexed by the after in this project. I think the maple “leg” looks like a cardboard box stuck under the desk for extra support. It probably would have been easier to just build the entire thing from scratch than destroy an otherwise nice piece of furniture.

  • ooooh….um, sorry to admit that i agree with most of the folks that posted so far.

    i think in theory the idea was nice but the before piece looked to have been a beautiful antique in very good condition… i could see taking one that had seen better days and needed a new life but that was hard to look at being a fan of antiques. they could’ve found many a worn down option on craigslist and given it new life.

    i agree with the comments about the wave pattern being too literal too, but a nice thought.

    i do like the wallpaper touch mixed with the old piece.

    i would’ve chosen a different top and that maple box holding up the corner is scary! it doesn’t blend in at all at least in the picture, it looks like “wth are they using to hold up that desk.”

    i’m really sorry, i feel bad not having tons of lovely comments for this one, i do, in theory, like the idea but choice of actual piece used and choice of some finishes definitely rubbed me wrong…enough to comment. :(

  • well, I love diy furniture and unconventional ideas buuut… this looks like the furniture equivalent of a mullet. maybe if the wallpaper was a nicer print or colour, if the surface material was more punctuation mark and less 80’s kitchen, if the box was more thought through to compliment the rest of the design? I can just see so much potential in the juxtaposition concept but the colour and texture of this specific piece falls flat for me. cool post! :)

  • I would have liked this a lot better if the sideboard had been damaged in some way in the “before”. I’m cringing at the thought of cutting apart that beautiful old piece.

  • I think it was a cool idea with some parts that were well executed, but that as an actual, whole object it doesn’t quite work (especially the aforementioned maple support/storage and white formica). However, to tell Grace to please stop promoting these kinds of projects seems a bit controlling to me. Regardless of the fact that you might disagree with what was done with that sideboard, this is essentially Grace’s website and it’s about design that excites HER (and hopefully us, too, but you can’t please everyone all the time.)

  • OK, I know it’s all been said above but I can’t help myself..number one is: the maple box is very distracting. And then some of the elements are great but the piece doesn’t succeed as a whole for me. And taking risks with old furniture can be worthwhile but easy to mess up. First I guess, know what you are dealing with because preservation is important.

  • I LOVE IT!

    Although I think the mid-support should have been minimized a tad.

    Why not use the sideboard top to veneer the support? May have made the new part relate more to the original bits.

  • I hate to say something negative, but this project truly is a travesty. I urge you to no longer endorse destruction of perfectly fine antique furniture in the future. I can understand harmless repainting of flea market cast-offs, but this is simply outrageous. And the end product fails completely to inspire. Perhaps that will discourage others with similar inklings from following suit.

  • wow, I had no idea how controversial this piece would be! first, thank you grace for your support! I feel compelled to respond to the remarks above to (hopefully) add some clarity to our intentions with this project.

    First, I agree that the maple support cabinet really “pops” in these photos – but I assure you it disappears against the floor in the space itself and looks nothing like a cardboard box : ). This was an essential piece because it allows for all of the wiring and storage components necessary for the desk to truly function as a reception counter.

    We selected the white laminate top for its durability and economic benefits. Retail and commercial spaces require finishes that can really take a beating, and we don’t always have a budget for high-end finishes.

    The rest of the retail space has antique chairs that we had reupholstered along with other contemporary elements. You can see photos of the rest of the space on our website – compressedpattern.com. Perhaps it will all make more sense to those of you that have placed this in the “ugly” category when seen in context.

  • Now I’m reading some of the other comments and I’m really rather surprised. Isn’t most design a re or deconstruction of something from the past? When Baker reinvents a Klimos chair, we ooo. When Stark uses Acrylic for his classically inspired furniture… we cheer at the homage.
    The original sideboard, I hate to tell you, was no Louis XVI. There’s one of these in every vintage store in the US. Note price tag of $425.
    Maybe this idea sparks a new trend in electic, recycled design. Which I would have thought everyone would appreciate the ‘idea’ of it. interesting.

  • I love the piece! Put in context with the entire space it is spot on. Would I put it in my home, nope; but in a retail space it is splendid!

  • Oh dear. I am afraid I agree with most of the comments here as well. That sideboard was gorgeous, way too nice to be destroyed like that! Why not stick to thrift store castoffs instead?


  • I agree with many of the other commentators. Recycled design is good when you use worn out or badly designed pieces of furniture but when someone redoes a perfectly nice piece into something ugly, you have as far as I am concerned committed an inexcusable aesthetic crime. In fact, I find a quite a few of the remakes on this site to be lacking in taste. I have often looked at them and thought in five years they will be regretting this make-over because these new designs will look so dated – as bad as anything redone in the 70s or 80s.

  • I’m not one who instantly cringes when repurposed or redesigned furniture is posted. In fact, before I scrolled down to see the after shot, I was thinking about how this is a pretty sideboard that would present a lot of cool redesign options.

    And I was really surprised when I saw the after shot. What an upset!

    What bothers me the most is the corner. That flat bottomed edge right in the middle of the cool undulating curves seems really jarring to me.

    And the walnut support is jarring. Ditto for the top.

    I understand the reasoning for the various elements given by Arielle. I just think that given the materials and sources used, a much more flattering and much less jarring piece could’ve been made.

    But then again, different strokes for different folks. : )

  • I’m sorry, but that “after” is hideous. The pieces don’t go together at all. They destroyed a beautiful antique and created something weird that almost completely hides where it came from. What’s the point? Why not just build what it ended up being instead of demolishing such a lovely antique?

    I don’t get it at all. I usually love all of the “before & after”s on this blog, but not today. Sorry…

  • Usually, I love the before-and-after makeovers. But I’m devastated over what you’ve done to that desk.

  • It seemes as though this piece has created a *!@# storm! I for one find this piece to be a breath of fresh air. The original piece had no relevence to the space what so ever. What was created from something that I see thousands of anytime I walk into any thrift or atique store is very stunning. I think that taken out of it’s context it can be torn apart like previous posters have. Unfortunatley for the majority of the posters here I think the design is too progressive. I did look at the pics of the space and think the piece works very well. Good job!!!!!

  • wow- i can appreciate what they were going for but they sure did mess it up. it was a lovely piece to begin with and 99% of that charm was lost forever when they used white formica as the top. terrible choice!!!! i say D- for thi one.

  • I appreciate the aesthetic the creator was aiming for, I really do. With some major material changes, I believe this could make a great piece.
    The final product, however, is an awkward amalgam of an old, high quality, timeless piece with new, cheap, conventional, and soon-to-be dated components. The use of a cheap laminate top is particularly puzzling, since it would seem over $400 was spent on the credenza (that could have easily been a damaged flea market or craigslist find).
    Also, if space would be needed to store lots of components, why not incorperate this into the design instead of resorting to a big maple box that has to match the floor?
    All in all, it just makes me very depressed to know that the new components will fail long before those beautiful walnut components, but they will all be tossed out together and replaced during the next remodel :(

  • This is my first time commenting here; I couldn’t help myself this time. I really like the idea of this piece, but I do not understand the need to hack apart that nice look sideboard to make this new piece.

    arielle mentioned that the top piece was chosen due to economics/budget…then why saw a $425 piece in half? Why not dress up a less expensive, more worn antique and invest more in the new materials for the project? Why was that sideboard selected to destroy?

  • I love the after. It is a very cool piece of furniture. But I have to agree with what some others have said, that I hate to see that happen to an antique. It is a line I won’t personally cross. I guess if the piece is beyond repair or refinishing then it is ok.

  • Lot’s of antique lovers I must say! I seem to be part of the minority on this posting and think it is genious! I do believe the top could have been another material, perhaps a stone slab or something. However I also understand budgetary restrictions in a retail space. The top can always be replaced in the future with success of the business. Anyway great idea and very cool piece and watch out for the crazy “road show” enthusiasts. Who knew?

  • Well, I am inspired. Inspired to post about how awful I think this piece is! I am a long-time browser and first-time poster here at d*s. Even when shown in context, this piece is a pure eyesore. If I had seen this desk in the salon, I would have thought it looked odd and ugly. It is so bland that I might have not even noticed it at all. Knowing that someone destroyed that beautiful sideboard to make boring office furniture makes me want to cry. It’s just such a bulky and cheaply made looking desk.

    Why not use the sideboard unconventionally as office storage and work to make a reception desk that fits the rest of the room’s design better? Without the antique legs, the rest of the desk would have been okay (I mean, come on, it is office furniture). Put together it just doesn’t work.

  • We love it.

    And ditto to the O.P’s defense of Laminate. It may be passe but in commercial spaces, it’s a must. Durability and price per square foot can’t be beat by any similar product.

  • If cost is really a big concern, I wonder, then why a $400+ piece was selected. You could easily find a slightly more worn version of the same thing at a thrift store for $20 and spruce it up with a little paint. Then you’d have lots of money left over for nicer finishes. I completely understand budget restraints, but this seems like poor planning. I actually believe that a much nicer/cooler looking piece could have been created for about half the cost.

  • It’s always great to see a design piece, whether product, graphic or interior/architectural that promotes open dialogue and forces people to have an opinion and really think about what they’re looking at. I feel like most people are too willing to accept what they find popular amongst the trends. Anything that creates a reaction is a good thing to me.

    Overall, I agree with a previous commentor on this piece: no I wouldn’t have it in my house, but I think it works in the space it occupies.

  • Although I don’t feel the end result was a success, I do not believe that this before and after deserves some of the comments being posted. The design concept is clear and concise and executing an idea such as this would have thrown up a number of hurdles. I seriously doubt that you would have been able to find a sideboard that met the specific requirements on Craig’s list. A number of you seem far too concerned with the fact that the item cost $450 and was in good condition prior to the remodel, this is after all ‘DESIGN’ Sponge and not a site dedicated to the restoration and preservation of common as muck, late 19th century, mass produced sideboards. Great design is born out of experimentation, successful or not. I for one was relived to see it hadn’t been painted glossy black and given some nice new handles, BORING!

  • Oh man as soon as this popped up on my bloglines I knew there would be a firestorm of comments about the “destruction” of an antique piece. But seriously folks, I am literally laughing out loud at all the demands on Grace to cease and desist these sorts of posts. Really, LLOL!

    I mean okay, I had a fit when an actual hazardous baby’s crib was posted on this site as a contest finalist, but repurposing an antique piece really causes this much heartache? COME on.

    This isn’t my favorite before and after, but I think it’s interesting. I guess I’m mostly perplexed because the final piece retains so little of the original, at least it appears that way, that it seems sort of a waste to me?

  • I enjoy makeovers….. but this one horrified me. The original furniture item was nice and to be honest the transformation was absolutely horrid. The wood now looks fake, cheap and tacky. The curves in the desk just look wrong. If you are going to hack apart a seemingly decent peice of furniture, at least it could have been a bit more modern and design forward. The whole point of redesigning something is to give it new life – but still focus on its original features. This desk just tacks a bit of the original on the sides – what is the point?

  • it’s just an abomination. i saw the before and just thought that it’s impossible to improve on perfection. i was right. beautiful things should not be mutilated!

    i’ve loved pretty much every other before and after. this is just unbearable.

  • I absolutely LOVE the idea behind this before and after but NOT the finished product– the maple “box” leg is incredibly distracting – you barely notice the lovely sideboard elements at all. As for hacking up antiques – each to their own, it’s certainly no crime.

  • Guys, come on. The original piece was a dime-a-dozen Duncan Phyfe repro-probably from the 40s or 50s, hardly priceless, rare, or even truly antique.
    I am SO all for protecting historical integrity (heck, I’m in process of having my house declared a historic property) where historicity and value exists, but the original sideboard was just old-nothing more.

  • I like it ! I think it’s a great way to give some elegance to those awful desk that most companies use !

    The maple support doesn’t bother me, it seems that the light is a bit emphasizing it on the photo, but it seems to blend in the floor. I didn’t notice it.

    I’m onboard with the choice of cool, neutral yet patterned color (think office !), and I like the wave pattern.

    I only disagree with the choice of Laminate, but I would do the same, heartbroken, for an office. I sure wish there was a wooden top instead.

  • Take functional, well-made, rather lovely piece of furniture.
    Bash it to bits.
    Attach gunk to it.
    Make sure it looks like something cheaply knocked together out of MDF.
    Shove it in office.
    Put phone and computer on it.
    Celebrate it as design.

    Yeeeaaaahhhhh, not quite there with that one.

  • Oh, I had a really fun time reading these comments! Allthough I’m not crazy with the result I find it very inspiering and quite fun. Sure it’s important to treat items of historic value with care and respect but this sideboard is nowhere near that. And as Grace said in one of the other threads, furniture has always been altered througout history to fit the owner’s taste. I would say that the final result will have ALOT more historic value in the future, there is a whole story to tell about it and in that way it will become many times more interesting than the massproduced piece that was before!

  • My only complaint is that the paintable wallpaper is so drab–I would love to see it painted sky blue or maybe apple green…

  • I’m sorry “bash it to bits”? Has everyone in this comment thread lost their mind?

    It’s a piece of furniture, not a precious child or a priceless work of art. Someone cut it into pieces and used it for something else- get over it.

    If you don’t like it, fine. But to imply that someone hacked away and created a piece of trash is ridiculous and ignorant. Whether you like it or not, someone obviously put some time into it.

    I normally don’t comment here and I certainly don’t mind disagreement, but this is just plain silly. Why do people have to belittle construction just because they don’t like the final results?


  • It’s an interesting solution, I like the idea of taking something antique and changing it. This particular look isn’t one that I personally like – but the overall concept is good. I totally dig the wallpaper.

  • Normally I don’t comment on these things but just admire from afar. But I must say, these comments seem overly harsh to me.

    I really like it. I won’t say love it but I think it’s well done for the space it’s in. I would’ve probably made a different choice on the counter top but that can be fixed at a later time. I agree that the maple cabinet is a bit distracting in the photos but probably isn’t as noticeable in person. Somehow incorporating the drawer fronts from the sideboard into that center section might unite the piece a little more. Overall though, I think it’s very nice.

    I’m not disturbed at all by the reconfiguration of the sideboard. I won’t call it “destruction” since the piece is still useful and has been given a new life. I certainly have seen enough of those sideboards to be sick of them and don’t think that every old piece that is referred to as “antique” needs to be preserved. I think modernhaus said it best – “the original sideboard was just old-nothing more”. What someone does to a piece of furniture that they purchase is their business. This one did not appear to be a collectors item and I certainly did not find it appealing in the “before” state. The “after”, however, works for me and my eclectic sensibilities.

  • I am a little blown away by the antique lovers here!
    This project did for these commentators what good design should do…it made you stop, look, disect and determine! to me that is what truly good design should do.

    But please hate it because you hate it not because the antiques of the world are on some sort of endangered species list!

    now as a designer I do need to say that ‘i would have gone a little more outrageous with the paper…it needs some color.

  • An item that is 100 years or older is considered to be an antique. Furniture that is old, but not yet 100 years old is considered a “collecible.” This is why you see so many “Antique and Collecibles” shops

  • i’m in love with this table no matter what anyone else said in the previous post. Great job. The colors, textures, and concept is all around a dream office desk for me.

  • BEYOND COOL! i expected a lot of criticism since it was about a real antique… but i found it really bold and with a wonderful result. it’s contemporary, clean full of good taste. it made a statement and created a cool atmosphere for the room.

  • I too liked the original desk, but what it was turned into is nothing short of amazing! I barely recognized the “after” as being the same piece of furniture. It is bold and daring, and though the style of the table is very eclectic and mixes several styles, that’s what makes it work. I love it!

  • The legal (read Customs regulations) state:

    Used: Less than 100 yrs; ordinary, commonly found items

    Vintage: 50-99 yrs old with some rarity or excellence

    Antique: 100 yrs old plus. (1930 Tariff Act)

    Of course, then you can get into designations such as Reproduction vs Adaptation too….

  • I love this piece. I was at the Furniture Market in High Point, NC last month and saw a lot of high end furniture that was trending in this direction – a juxtaposition of the antique and the modern.

  • Do you know, over a year later I still remember this piece, and it took me about 20 minutes to look through the before&afters to find it as I would like to replicate it for a desk at home.

    I hadn’t read the comments at the time, and am SO surprised by the negativity. First, that is not an antique. Second, great green creds for recycling something old and of little value.

    I would give it only 4/5 stars because of that cube (perhaps its just the photo and it does serve a purpose). But otherwise, I STILL LOVE IT and remember it over a year later!

  • so very sad to see a lovely piece ripped apart to make a monstrosity. i agree with the furniture equivalent of a mullet comment!

  • I think if budget constraints were a big factor in this project starting out with a solid and sound piece of furniture at near on $500 ticket price is probably a bad start. I like the ‘idea’ executed here but think it’s an idea best saved for a character but junked piece of furniture…

  • Really, really liked the concept…the execution failed for me though. Same reasons as others have noted. The light maple cabinet, the choice of wallpaper and the laminate top….all fail…for me personally.

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.