before and afterdesks

before & after: multiple makeovers of an old desk

by Kate Pruitt

This is an unusual scenario for “Before & After,” as the creator has refurbished not one but multiple versions of the same “before” piece in different ways. I hope we see more of this phenomenon in the future; it’s like watching a friend try on many different outfits, and they all look great! Michael Jones, co-founder of the furniture design company Hunter Jones, has enhanced the simple shape of the desk each time, and the added details — knobs, paint and various finishes — complement the pieces beautifully. Great work, Michael! — Kate

If you are interested in purchasing one of these desks, you can visit the Hunter Jones site to see what’s available.

Time: 4 hours (plus 2–3 days of drying time)

Basics Steps: We started off with five desks, which became a joke at the local auction, as no one else was interested. With a simple sanding, an undercoat of water-based eggshell, a topcoat of oil-based eggshell and a final sanding, we came up with a rather quick and inexpensive way of up-cycling the desks.

The idea was to create as my looks as possible, so we used finishes, such as rubbing a darker varnish into the bright green Arsenic-painted desk with a cloth to bring out the colour, or using a contrasting undercoat, and just added different knobs for each.

The paint we used for the topcoat is Farrow & Ball, which is quite expensive, but anyone could reach the finishes with a regular oil-based paint and lots of time — you basically just need the patience for an undercoat and two topcoats, sanding in between each and then sanding the final coat to get the level of “shabbiness” you want to achieve. — Michael

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

CLICK HERE to see more of Michael’s refurbished desks after the jump!

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  • I love the different looks of the desk! Seeing all those helps visualize how many ways one piece can work in your living space : ) it all depends on how creative you get!

  • what an eventful journey this desk has had..looks like its on its way to becoming a cat with nine lives!! i pretty much love all its avatars, except ofcourse the original! thanks for this fun and inspiring post..do visit my blog when you have a moment! xx meenal

  • How do you determine whether old wooden furniture can be painted or should stay the way it is (as an antique piece)? I’ve got several pieces from my granny’s house that could use a makeover but don’t know whether I should or not. One bureau is definitely mass-produced, missing the mirror and would be a candidate for a paint job but the rest I have no clue…help!

    Love the blue desk…

  • My favorite was the original look! It makes me sad when something lovely and elegant is painted and mussed up to look shabby. That said, the chalk paint idea is pretty brilliant! I may use that on a shabby piece I have now.

  • The colour of the green desk is Farrow and Ball Arsenic and be patient with the plates – they will be available in the USA very soon!

  • I think I love them all, including the original, but the first blue is lovely–reminds me of the palette of colors in the historic Shaker village near my old college.

  • The plates are melamine and a product licenced from the British National Gallery. They are currently available in the UK but will be available in the USA in around 4-6 weeks. I’ll post some stockists details on here as soon as they land. Thanks for all of the comments. Unfortunately after a quite a few years of wear and tear in the hotel we couldn’t leave them in the original state so some painted love was required. Colours used are Farrow and Ball Downpipe (dark grey), Farrow and Ball Blue Gray, Farrow and Ball Arsenic and good old blackboard paint.

  • Wow! These desks are lovely. I know that’s repeating someone else’s adjective but that’s the first one that came to mind! I wish I had this kind of artistic talent. My home would look very different!

  • i like the original so much more! feels almost like the tags “before” and “after” were inversed.

  • I know you posted these pics a year ago , but I just came across them. I live in Australia and wanted to know what the eggshell paint was. Is it a thinner consitency ? Also … when you did the topcoats in oil paint … what finish was it? We have satin ..gloss over here. Flat paint is probably water based ( do you call it latex paint?…) it is like ceiling paint! …. sorry for sounding so thick but I am new to all of this paint lingo! thanks Sally

  • Hi Sally, sorry for the very late reply. It is an old based eggshell, we call it satinwood here. The kind of paint you would paint interior woodwork but without the high shine. You then need to sand it back slightly with a very fine sandpaper, more in areas where you would naturally have wear and tear, like around the handles and on the corners. Hope that helps!

  • Sorry, I know this is an old post but I’m obsessed with the Arsenic F&B paint.
    How did you knock-back/age/darken the Arsenic? It says you rubbed in a varnish which I didn’t understand. Wouldn’t that be very sticky then? Or was it a stain that you darkened the green with? Do you remember what exactly you used?
    I’m really keen to do a similar effect with my living room walls so any tips would be gratefully received.
    Thanks in advance.
    PS fantastic job on all versions!

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