Thursday, July 18, 2013

How Nate Berkus & I Revived This Mid Century Modern Sewing Desk

OK now that I have your attention, Nate and I did not technically collaborate on this one but I am gonna show off his exclusive Calico Corners fabric line while I reveal my desk update! If you follow me on Instagram you know the Mid Century modern desk I found sitting by the road on a run with Erin in her neighborhood. Lucky for me I spotted it first or else I would have had to wrestle her sweaty boot for it! Here she is, the desk....not a sweaty Erin! Looks pretty good, right?!?...well, except for that HOLE in the top!! 

Turns out this old beauty is an antique sewing desk. And this hole was somehow used for the machine. I tried to google desks like this one to see how it was used but didn't come up with much. But if I am to use this for a desk, I needed to brainstorm ways to disguise the top. Enter Nate and his line of fabrics which just so happen to have many masculine and modern options. After all this desk makeover is for my son's room and I want it to last awhile. Here is a glimpse of just some of the choices I had from Mr. Berkus! BTW, does everyone feel the same way about Nate as I do?!? He had me at Oprah...


I can't wait to use some of my other fave fabrics from his line to update a chair or maybe some pillows in Harris's room?!? If you google Nate Berkus fabrics you can find several Etsy shops selling pillows covers and other items upholstered in his fabric line. 

So without further ado, here is the desk in full completion. I mean why should you have to wait, right?! I guess if you like it than you will read on to find out how I patched the hole in the desk, updated it with some paint and hardware and covered it with a hardened fabric application, right?!?

Here is a closeup shot of the Nate Berkus fabric I decided to use on his desk. I liked that the color was neutral but the pattern was a fun modern look. 

If you remember Harris's room you know it is primarily red and blue and his furniture is a golden carmel color so I thought the neutral fabric color and painted desk front would be best. Plus I found a bright red chair years ago at Midland Antique Mall here in Indianapolis and I have been keeping it for a desk chair all this time! You can see it there in the left corner where its been sitting waiting for a desk to marry:)

I will have to update the post at a later date to show you how it looks in the room! My moving crew is still perched up in the French Alps watching the Tour de France! I know, I am sure he is wishing he was helping me hoist this desk up to style and shoot it for this post... BTW, that grimacing look on his face is the same one I get when he has to participate in furniture moves or when I take his picture too much on a vacation:)! 

And also waiting on him to put in this light as there is one window and a collection of lamps in this poor child's rooms and it is not really the best lighting anyway! I scored this fixture for $70 at Home Depot. Can't wait to get it up in there! 

If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen some pics of the first part of this trip! I flew out with him mid week last week and we visited Zermatt, Switzerland! It was amazing! I came home though so I could finish this desk:) Well, that wasn't the main reason... It was hard to leave him there and I am sure it is hard for him to hear that the kids and I have been nearly suffocating of heat all week while he enjoys the crisp and clear air of the mountains.... Booooo!!!

Anyway, back to this desk I flew across country to finish! I decided to paint a few drawer fronts as I wanted to try this Annie Sloan chalk paint that everyone has been chatting about. This is chalk paint NOT chalkboard paint which is different. The intrigue with the paint is that it is a paint and done process. No prep work required. The hitch is that you have to use the wax over the dry paint as the sealant and protectant after you are done painting. But no sanding or priming necessary before beginning this paint process. I have to admit I am not much of a primer anyway. I have painted A LOT of furniture and not primed and most of it has been fine. Although I will say, I usually only paint furniture to go in kid's rooms and so usually I end up repainting to change up a nursery to big kid room anyway so maybe that is the reason my half-a process has not failed me yet! They sell these little tiny testers and so I choose to do each drawer in shades of white, lightest to darkest. 

For the hardware, I choose to salvage the pulls which are the original. I used an amazing product called Brasso to shine the pulls as well as the gold tipped legs. It worked wonders. The pulls on the left are what they looked like before any product. The one on the far right is after some shining!

I decided to replace the three button knobs with a more decorative knob since I was going to leave those top drawers plain. I found these knobs on clearance at Anthropologie for $3.99/knob? Not bad!! 

Before I started the fabric adhering process I decided to use some furniture wax to shine up the wood a tad and get rid of any imperfections. I could not believe how well this stuff worked! The legs look brand new after some of this Johnson's Paste Wax magic potion! Check it!



Now that I have strung you along this far I will save the most labor intensive part for last. Patching the hole and fabric covering the top of the desk! I had both original pieces to cover the hole but they needed to be secured as the latch that held them in was broken. I used some L shaped brackets that I drilled in the bottom to hold the pieces up (I know what you are thinking....why was I passed up as a hand model?!? I have no answer for that.)

Then I filled in the cracks with wood putty and sanded smooth so that there would be no evidence of a hole once the fabric was adhered. 

Ready to adhere fabric!!!
Basically I followed Martha Stewart and Sarah M. Dorsey's instructions for how to fabric wrap a side table and dresser respectively. You can get the full details there. 

In a nut shell...
1.)  Cut the fabric to size, leaving some extra fabric on all sides to wrap around and tuck under the desk top. 

2.) Starch and iron the back of the fabric piece so that it is pressed and stiffer than when you started. 

3.) brush on a layer of Minwax Polycrylic protective finish straight onto desk top and then lay the fabric onto the top while the poly is still wet and iron fabric to adhere it. Now this process is easier if you have the top removed so you can iron the fabric onto the sides of the desk top and underneath. Since I didn't take the top of the desk off I had to iron the top and sides on with the poly and then go around and hot glue gun the fabric under the lip of the desk. Yes this is tedious! But I don't do well with nail guns to be taking off and putting back on the top. Whatchout!

4.) For the final step brush on the poly to the top of the fabric and finish with a coat of furniture wax to protect it further!

Sounds easy, right?!?

Here is a summary of products I used for the project:

Also the best part (and sometimes the worst part) of salvaging an old piece is that you always find some interesting things. When I went to take apart and clean this desk before I finished it I found these old sewing instructions scattered at the bottom of the desk. They must have fallen behind a drawer and were not found when the drawers were cleaned out. 

So cool!

These below were for making a bathing suit! Seriously makes me feel like a total wimp to say there was anything tedious about this desk makeover when I know someone out there was making their own swimsuits!!!

So there you have it. A little old sewing desk found on run for free

Transformed into a desk for a boy's room and his dreaded 3rd grade homework load that everyone keep telling us stories about:)! 

OK, I just got the big dog up into his room a week after posting this! Here is a not so great iPhone shot of the desk in his room against the wall that we are putting it! Just to give you an idea of the colors!

Hope you enjoyed! Cheers!! {Laura}


  1. Oh it turned out so fabulous! I had those knobs in my hand several times but ended up not getting them. They are so pretty and perfect with that fabric.

  2. Can I just say that I am jealous! No one ever throws anything that great out on the sidewalk! The style is right up my ally! Great job refinishing it! I love the ombre drawers... super fun!

    1. Thanks Tiffany! Its fun to see him use it although it is still a bit tall for him. He was doing his math workbooks on it yesterday:) I love mid century modern style and of course freebies never come to me either!!

  3. Cubus and Atelier desks are usual desks with mobile pedestal, although Atelier has a nice feature which could be suitable for a lot of people.

  4. This is a pretty amazing makeover. How lucky are you to find it on the curb for free!

    1. Hi Brandi!

      Yes I felt lucky on this one! It was not on my radar at all!


  5. That's the exact table I grew up sewing on! Great revamp!

    1. thanks Janice! Yes, I have been seeing it now in some of the antique places I have come across. I may not have gotten it had it not been free since I had to think of how to cover the whole on top to make it a desk! Its funny how you are motivated when the deal is too good to pass up!!


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