Upcycling a Vintage Writing Desk

Many people have learned new skills during lockdown. Some have even taken up calligraphy!

Me? I’ve managed to upcycle a vintage writing bureau, with a bit of help from my friends at From Loft to Loved in Sedgefield, County Durham.

Years of running calligraphy workshops there, surrounded by tins of paint and upcycled items of furniture, must have rubbed off on me!

Upcycling a vintage writing desk

As soon as I saw the bureau, I knew Sarah and Kim could help me turn it into something beautiful and more importantly, a dedicated writing space.

The bureau came from a friend, who was busy decluttering, ready to move house.

I’m glad I managed to rescue it before her husband chopped it up for firewood! (She told me this had been Plan B as she dropped it off at my back gate in a safe and socially distant manner.)

Over the years it had been played with by her children, so there was the odd bit of glitter and nail polish stuck to the dark wood, but otherwise it was in good condition.

Kim and Sarah talked me through the process and it was much more straightforward than I thought it would be. Being able to paint outside in the warm weather helped too.

Prepping the wood for painting

I started by scrubbing the whole thing down with sugar soap, using the rough side of a kitchen sponge. (A little washing up liquid and water works too.)

Then I gave it a scuff with fine sandpaper (again, the rough side of a kitchen sponge works too) then wiped it down with plain water to get the soap and dust off.

It needed three coats of paint altogether – I did two with a brush and the last one with a roller to get a neater finish.

I opted for Autentico Vintage Chalk Paint, which is stocked by From Loft to Loved, in Versante Matt in the colour Berries and 500ml was just enough.

Finishing touches

I decided to line the drawers with wallpaper and also use it to cover the frayed writing area inside the desk, securing it with spray adhesive.

I’ve taken great delight in putting some of my favourite things in the cubby holes, including the envelopes containing my Meticulous Ink nib subscriptions and bottles of ink.

I also have two pots of pens – one for my broad-edged pens and one for my pointed nibs and holders – so I don’t have to spend time digging them out of boxes!

Cubby holes stocked up

Extra storage = more tools?

There are two drawers, which I’ve so far filled with excess books that won’t fit on my shelves, paper and notepads, again so they’re readily available.

I’ve replaced the handles on both with some mis-matched ceramic knobs.

The jury’s out on whether to varnish or wax the finished product and I’m tempted to add some gold leaf to the detailing on the front.

For now, I’m just happy to have a writing space that isn’t the dining room table! Although I’ll still be needing that for larger jobs.

Upcycling with a purpose

It’s my intention to use the bureau to inspire more practice sessions, particularly over the summer holidays, when home schooling no longer takes up most of the day.

The extra storage has also enabled me to move things out of the cupboard under the stairs, so I’m not fearful of things landing on my head every time I open the door!

It’s also just pretty to look at and sits quite neatly between the two windows in my dining room, so I should get lots of natural light.

Are you a fan of upcycling? What new projects have you taken on during lockdown? Let me know in the comments!

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