too cool for school.

I suspect that unless you are homeschooling your kids, most of you would not have looked twice at the craigslist ad for these vintage desks.

bts before

But the fact that they were a pair made me immediately think ‘nightstands’.  Plus I was kind of digging their mid-century vibe.  If you look at the base, you can see that the height is adjustable, so I knew I could raise them up a bit to be the right height for next to the bed.  So one recent Friday evening date night, Mr. Q and I drove out to one of my fave Minneapolis neighborhoods, Linden Hills, to pick these up.

I debated between two different concepts for them.  I thought about going ‘industrial steampunk’ by painting them black, ‘dipping’ the legs in copper paint and stenciling some numbers somewhere.  But in the end I decided to play up their mid-century look by painting the metal aqua and leaving the blonde tops as is.  They were in really good condition, so that seemed like a no-brainer.

I started by adjusting those legs.  That ended up being the most difficult part of this project.  Those bolts had obviously not been loosened in a very long time.  Luckily Mr. Q was able to use his brute strength to get the job done.  Then I painted the base of each table in Fusion’s Laurentien.  I absolutely love this color and am just finishing off my 3rd can of it.  I’m going to have to stock up on more!

bts side view

Once the paint was dry I sanded the edges a little to add some character, but I still felt like the paint job looked a little too new.  So although you don’t have to use a top coat with Fusion paint, I opted to wax these.  I started with a coat of Miss Mustard Seed’s furniture wax (clear).  The purpose of an initial coat of clear wax is to make the application of the next coat of dark wax easier to manipulate.  If you’ve ever tried using dark wax directly on a lighter paint color and it looked really streaky and you weren’t able to blend it as much as you’d like, that’s because you needed a base coat of clear wax first.

bts desk angle 2

I added some rub-on numbers to the pencil tray just to add a little whimsy.

bts interior

I staged some of my photos with a typewriter and of course you could use these as desks.

bts 3

bts typewriter

But really, they are just too cool for school.  I would use them as nightstands.  I just don’t have a good spot for taking photos of them next to a bed.  So if you are opposed to cookie cutter furniture and prefer unique one of a kind pieces, these are perfect for you.

bts pair

bts map

This Tokyo map paper had the perfect colors to match the desks.  There is something about that combination of aqua and french vanilla that I just love.

bts poster

How would you use these desks?

bts desk title

23 thoughts on “too cool for school.

  1. They turned out really great. I think they would make great night stands with some good storage to keep the tops clutter free. Thanks for the tip on the clear wax before antiquing wax. The first time I used antiquing wax I was sure I’d ruined the piece but luckily I was able to work it out more evenly.


  2. Laurentien to the rescue! The dark wax does give the color a rich depth. These would be perfect minimalist nightstands or end tables as the slim legs give an open, airy look. Desks are built to last forever…glad these have a second life ahead of them!


  3. Great use for these old desks…i remember having a desk similar to this in 2nd grade. And interesting that you could utilize these desks with the storage opening to the front or back as well.


  4. Think you are spot on as night stands. And I am so not surprised at your color choice. I love it too! Maybe because I have three boys – well technically they are men now – I see them in a boys room. Of course changing up the color. I am thinking red with a Union Jack on top. Can the top of those be painted? Seems like I sat a something very similar to these in school when I was growing up.


    1. Been there, done that Victoria! Well, the Union Jack part anyway, remember {this one}? I swapped out the red though. I debated doing these the same way, but decided not to repeat myself. So yes, you can paint those tops, but you wouldn’t want to skimp on the prep work. Since they are so shiny and smooth there isn’t much for the paint to hang on to. I would recommend a goodly amount of sanding to rough up the surface and then maybe also use the Fusion Ultra Grip primer. Just to be on the safe side.


  5. Even tho I have only seen her kitchen, these seem to be a perfect fit for your nnk. I have an all wood one that I have been debating painting. I keep a white owl cigar box and old wire desk tray in mine. Sits next to the hubby’s chair for his laptop.


      1. They are great but no room at the inn. I did however grab a similar desk they were going to throw away at the school I work at. Linda transformed it and it looks great.


  6. Love these. I know I saw one of these used for a night table in maybe Country Living once. The color is perfect! Thanks


  7. Love the matching set! I have one of these in the boys’ room and I love it (it’s even the same color combo)! We keep current books in the desk. Very functional and unique.


    1. They are perfect for a kid’s room, right? But I think even the grown ups can get away with using these as nightstands. For sure. I bet that color scheme was hiding somewhere in my subconscious after having seen your desk!


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