Mid-Century Desk Makeover

Mid Century Desk

Now that all the construction projects are complete down in the “Man Cave” I am free to start on the decor. My first project is this great mid-century desk I found at the thrift store for only 10€ (about $14.) When it came home with me it was painted blue, normally this would have gotten a new coat of paint to save the time and energy of stripping but this piece had the most horrid paint job I have ever seen. Even the top had drippy paint on it, how do paint drips get on the top? So rather than trying to sand down all the drips I decided to strip most of the piece.

desk 2

I saw this Mid Century Desk at West Elm that inspired me not to strip the whole thing but rather clean up the drawers and give them a fresh coat of white paint.


This is the desk in the process of stripping and painting.

And if it makes you feel any better, this is the state of my garage. Organization was on my “to do” list but now that the temperature has dropped it will probably stay this way until spring, minus the desk of course.


After completing the the stripping and painting came the hard part, refinishing the wood. Not the refinishing itself, but going to the German hardware store and translating all the labels.

mid century desk

All I wanted was stain and satin polyurethane. I attempted buying polyurethane once before but it got lost in translation. I ended up with a clear coat with a kind of rubbery feeling, the wood felt like vinyl flooring. So this go round I decided to ask a blogger friend who is German what I should buy. Unfortunately the hardware store did not have her recommendation so I went out on a limb, again.

This was what I chose the labels translate as ‘inside glaze in rosewood” and “clear lacquer,” seemed about right, maybe…mid century desk

So once I got then home I open the “inside glaze”and found that was a gel. I have used gel stains before so I wasn’t too concerned. I started spreading it over the top only to find that once it soaked in a bit it would not rub off. Total mess on the top of the desk, so I sanded it down and tried again. This time I tried working faster, rubbing the gel in completely almost like putting on a wax finish. This technique worked great and when I was done with two to three coats the desk was stained but also had a slightly shiny satin finish. The bonus was the “clear lacquer” was not needed and the finish was complete.

The last step was to upgrade the old wooded hardware with something more modern. In Germany hardware can be extremely expensive.  A single pull like the ones I used can cost close to $10 each. Once again Ikea to the rescue, I found these for under $3 a piece (2 for 4€.)

Next decor purchase will be a desk chair. I think this one will be perfect! What do you think?L12386393a



  1. Love it! We are searching for a desk and I am jealous of your awesome find! Looks great! I am still trying to figure out how to refinish a large armoire without a garage space…

    • Kim if you were closer I’d let you use mine but it isn’t much use anymore either,too cold, had to finish up this project down in the basement. Fortunately it is not full of furniture yet…

  2. Beautiful desk! I love that you revived the wood and the white drawer fronts look fantastic.


    • Thanks Emily, I was considering going with black and white but when I started getting the paint off the wood was in great shape so I decided to do the extra work to get it looking good again.

  3. Ajka says:

    Bravo! This is amazing transformation.

  4. Hi Maggi! I saw this awesome transformation on Apartment Therapy and looked up your blog. Hooked! Just love the way you do all these wonderful projects with lot’s of love, little money and loads of creativity. Your blog is a true inspiration, thank you!

    • Thanks Joan, I have been doing these kinds of projects for years but finally decided to start blogging about it last year. I am enjoying sharing my work with the world!

  5. Such a great makeunder! I love that you went back to the wood for a lot of the desk and the choice of white paint.

  6. Hardware stores can be intimidating, I can’t imagine trying to purchase something in another language to boot! Your tenacity sure paid of, that desk is gorgeous!

  7. Ashley says:

    It is absolutely gorgeous!

  8. Katya says:

    That is absolutely beautiful!! I am amazed how good it looks! Nicely done!

  9. Julie says:

    Wow! Incredible. How do strip the paint? Sand it by hand or do you have an electric sander? :-)

    • Thanks Julie, I used Citristrip to remove the paint.I was my first time using this product and was pleasantly surprised hoe well it worked.Once I scraped most of the paint off with a paint scraper I sanded by hand and went over the whole piece with steel wool before staining. An electric sander is fine if you are painting but when staining you have to be careful since an orbital will leave tiny swirl shaped scratches in the wood that will show in the stain. A quick hand sanding will usually do the job if you get most of the paint off first.

  10. Hi Maggie, I came here from Apartment Therapy and am now plowing through your blog. :)

    If you need help with the DIYing/paint buying in Germany, I could put you in touch with a friend of mine who a) works for a paint manufacturer, b) is married to an America who is a HUGE DIYer and c) lives really close to you!

    I read a lot of blogs about decorating and DIYing, and I find your projects really beautiful – and obviously a bit more relatable, as it’s in Germany.

    • Alexandra that could be very helpful, I need a German to tell me what it says and an American to tell me what it is equivalent to. Glad you found my blog, we are loving Germany so far and since we most likely will only be here for 3 years (we are a military family) I feel like I must soak everything up very quickly. It has been a great experience so far!

  11. telzeyamberdon says:

    I’m taking on a lot of my mom’s old mid-century furniture — let’s be honest, nobody else in my family wants it! — so I’m devouring mid-century-influenced make-over and design blogs to get ideas on what to do with some of these tired pieces I’m inheriting. Your refinished piece is even nicer than the West Elm piece that inspired the look, given the bolder shape and increase in the amount of storage (and lower price tag). I’m slowly being won over to mid-century furniture’s clean lines — I can see I’m going to have to find a cool industrial mid-century lamp, as that really completes the modern-office look. ;)

    • Luck You! I am a big fan of mid century furniture but if you have looked at the photos of “Our House In Germany” you will know that I have pretty eclectic taste so don’t feel like you are limited to ONLY mid century furniture once you acquire a few pieces. I wrote a post about it a while back you might want to check out.
      And as for that cool industrial mid-century lamp the one on this desk is actually from a FORSÅ lamp from Ikea. Good luck with you “new” furniture you will love it!

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