An Old Desk Transformed To Farmhouse Decor

desk refinish

I recently refinished an old wood desk and transformed it to farmhouse decor style. This desk was sitting in an old barn for over 10 years. The back was removed, someone had decided to run wiring to it and cut a light switch hole in the desk top. As some point, mice had chewed up that wiring, making it useless.

I love the look of white or ivory with warm, rich wood accent pieces. Replacing the top was a great opportunity for me to add in an earthy cherry stain color to warm up the white. I wanted this desk makeover to be a one-time project, and white is so very classic. However, I went with a warmer ivory tone that I had on hand because it adds just a little more polished a look.

The original desk was constructed from hardwood birch. I left the drawers and structure of the front part of the base exactly how I found it, with no modifications.  However, I replaced the back with beadboard panels. I made a fascia of beadboard over the two ends to complete the look and tied it all together with trim painted in the gorgeous cherry tone.

Of course, this desk was a heavy piece. It required more carpentry than I can do. My husband loves woodworking and did the carpentry and I took on the extensive sanding, priming, and painting. It took a whole lot to obliterate that oil-based green paint. It appeared that the green paint/wiring/hole cut in the top occurred sometime around 1990. I say this because somebody scribed a date inside one of the drawers.

Here are a few images of what the desk looked like when I found it in an abandoned barn:

desk makeover
The front of the desk was painted a dark green. It was in good shape but very outdated.
desk makeover
The desk is solid birch, good quality. But UGLY!
Desk makeover
The desk had no back panel. I needed it to face out. Also, someone had cut up the birch and added odd looking wiring and a light switch hole was cut into the top.



We started by breaking down parts of the desk in order to start over. All the drawers were removed. The pullout keyboard tray was discarded as it’s obsolete with my laptop. The slats that firmed up the back of the desk were pulled off so to add the beadboard. The little wood buttons that cover the screw holes were pulled off with pliers and put away safely.  The handles were removed from the drawer and set aside to be spray painted later.

My favorite part was cutting out all the odd wiring and pulling off the desktop. I decided to rebuild rather than try to somehow fill the gaping hole where they put a light switch. That was a very “unique” feature, to say the least.

desk makeover
Pulled out all drawers, remove hardware and screw cover buttons.
desk makeover
Laid the desk on its back to remove the old desktop.
desk makeover
I save the little cups that my cheese snacks are packaged in as a parts tray. This keeps all pieces together neatly.
desk makeover
I save the little cups that my cheese snacks are packaged in as a parts tray. This keeps all pieces together neatly.



Because we had laid the desk down onto its front (drawers removed) we had it in the perfect position to add the beadboard.

We measured twice for beadboard panels for the back and sides. We snapped a chalk line to cut our panels. They were attached using an air compressor brad nailer which leaves the tiniest of hole to preserve the beauty of the beadboard.

After the beadboard was attached, we stood the desk back up and it was as sturdy as new.

how to snap a chalk line
Snapping a chalk line ensures a straight cut. Double check your measurement after you snap the line but before you cut.

Here’s a quick little video of my hubby nailing the panel. You can see how he found the back of the drawer supports to nail into, moved his hands away, and nailed it in.


We took careful measurements of all trim pieces. My husband cut them for me. My stepdaughter and I stained them and set them aside to dry as he continued attaching beadboard.

how to stain
Staining the trim the same cherry color as the desk top warmed it up. We had so many pieces we had to dry them across our wheelbarrow!


We also had a couple of spray painting projects. We sprayed the handles a dark hammered bronze. We also took the tiny buttons that cover the screws and painted them to match the drawer pulls. The wood tone of the birch was off from the cherry and they just looked wrong.

We also took the tiny buttons that cover the screws and painted them to match the drawer pulls. The wood tone of the birch was off from the cherry and they just looked wrong. Ten minutes of spray paint fixed that problem!

spray paint projects
Stretching a scrap board across two sawhorses brings pieces to your height when spray painting.


I thoroughly sanded the green drawer panels and front sections that were now still exposed. The green paint would not go away. Period.

I had two choices: stripping or stain blocking primer. I took the easy way and used Zinsser Stain Blocking Primer which completely blocked the remaining ugly green paint…in two coats.

I also sanded and primed the beadboard so that it accepted the paint evenly. It was raw wood and the sanding smoothed out the rough spots.

I used Valspar’s Fossil White paint from my local Ace Hardware store. I chose a flat finish so that it mimics a matte chalk paint effect, without the expense of chalk paint. It took two coats to get a great finish.

desk makeover
Primer ensures that the paint will adhere to the desk well.
adding wood trim.
Back in from painting, it’s time to add the trim pieces.


It took two sets of hands to build the new desk top. We used pine boards to create the top. We joined them with wood glue, clamped them together, and let them dry for an entire day and night.

We sanded and stained the top. It took three coats of polyurethane, with a light sanding between each coat, to make sure the desk top is well protected from coffee spills.

Unfortunately, this was such a labor intensive job that I forgot to snap photos. Sorry ya’ll!


Finally, we attached the desktop to the desk.

We added all final trim back to the desk using the air nailer again.

Finally, we screwed the handles back into the drawers and popped the screw cover buttons back onto the desk panels and drawer fronts.

update drawer pulls
The desk drawers are updated with the pulls painted in an updated bronze instead of the old 1980s brass pulls.
How To Refinish Furniture
The front and sides of the desk have beadboard finish.
desk makeover
Although I decided to do away with the slide out keyboard tray, I do like this pullout. It will give me a little bit of extra space.



Finally, I had a desk completely reworked. I am thrilled with the outcome. It was a long project done over several days. This was because of all the different parts that needed stained, painted, drying times, etc.

This desk is going with me to my full-time job, it’s not staying to live at my own home office. I know I will get daily use out of it and enjoy it every work day.

I feel like this outcome was worth the effort:

desk makeover
The ivory color is soft, pretty, and feminine.
How To Refinish Furniture
The front and sides of the desk have beadboard finish. Pardon the shadow of the lawnmower in the photo!
cherry desk top
The cherry stained desktop is rich and I love the contrast with the ivory paint.

I love hearing reader feedback! If you have any suggestions or tips, please share them in the comments section!

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desk makeover
This broken desk was left in a barn for 10 years. See what it looks like now! Epic transformation.


2 thoughts on “An Old Desk Transformed To Farmhouse Decor

  1. That hardwood top looks gorgeous! Also, I love he idea of reusing food packaging to store hardware. I usually use Ziploc bags, but your idea is a lot less wasteful!


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