out with the new and in with the old

There isn’t one day that goes by when I don’t read at least one blog post boasting about an incredible cragislist score!  Deep down I am envious and a bit frustrated that I rarely have luck finding an amazing piece of my own.  I know, such problems to have huh?  You see, the odds are pretty stacked against someone living in the San Diego area where millions of people are vying for the same deal.

I spend way too much time flipping through page after page of stuff on craigslist.  Sometimes with a purpose, but most of the time just for fun.  Most people read a book in bed at night but I’m in my comfort zone when I’m all snuggled in, HGTV is on and my fingers are happily flipping through people’s junk for sale online.

Three weeks ago I was sitting in bed with my laptop, the kids were sound asleep, the husband was working and I typed “desk” into the search box on craigslist.  A ton of IKEA showed up, some very ornate desks showed up [no thank you] and then…

effortlessly restore a beat up craigslist find

bringing life back to a beat up desk found on craigslist

an old beat up desk gets some new life

choosing not to strip furniture found on craigslist

[I fell in love with the Mid-Century Modern feel of this desk, especially the legs]

 I spotted this beauty!  I know most of you reading this are probably speechless and your jaws have hit the floor.  But for $20 I just couldn’t pass it up.  I’m a firm believer that when things click and fall into place effortlessly it was meant to be.  That was the case with this desk.  I have to admit when I showed up to take a look at it I was a bit surprised at its rough condition.  But you know you’re a DIY’er when you see something like this and think, “I can strip it, sand it and re stain it.  NO PROBLEM!”

After lugging this desk home on our trailer it sat in our garage for the next two weeks.  Reality had set in.  I would sneak off to the garage once the kids were asleep, gaze at it and wonder how in the hell I was going to make this desk pretty again without spending the next year sanding it and refinishing it.  I did a little online research and watched a few clips on YouTube and discovered most old, worn pieces of furniture simply need a good cleaning and several coats of furniture oil.

stress free cleaning up an old desk found on craigslist

[I'm 100% NOT endorsed by any of these manufacturers]

I grabbed the recommended supplies [I found this dark tinted Old English made for dark woods] and started by wiping and wiping and wiping down the desk with a slightly damp Magic Eraser.

beautifying an old beat up desk found on craigslist

I dumped out at least 5 bowls of brown water before I could consider it clean.  Nasty!

no painting old beat up furniture just using oil

After the cleaning was done, I wiped the entire desk down with the original Old English.  I used a microfiber rag saturated with the oil and rubbed with the grain, making sure it seeped into the scratches.  You can see the difference before the Old English and after in the above photo.

bringing new life to an old beat up desk using oil


bringing the life back to an old beat up desk


I gave the desk two coats of original Old English and two coats of the dark version.  I have to say, even though it’s still not in perfect mint condition it looks 100% better.

As for the handles, those proved to be very stubborn.  First I wanted to determine if they were solid brass or simply brass plated.  Want to know a quick tip for figuring that out?  Grab a magnet and hold it up to any object you think might be brass.  If it sticks, you have a brass plated piece.  If it does NOT stick, then you my friend have a solid brass piece.  Magnets will not stick to brass.  I was not so lucky and my magnet stuck.

After decades of neglect the brass plated handles were so tarnished, they were black.  The only way to remove the tarnish without stripping the plating away is by rubbing it with a microfiber cloth.  After three days of rubbing, I was fed up and with little to show for it.  For those purists reading, please do not read this:  I decided to spray paint them!   I figured they are not the REAL thing, nor do they hold monetary value.

when not to paint an old beat up piece found on craigslist

I think they turned out lovely.  I dabbed off small sections after I painted them so they wouldn’t look brand new.  Here is how all that cleaning, rubbing, buffing turned out…

deciding not to paint over an old desk from craigslist

It still is pretty rough looking in a few spots and maybe one day [aka year] I will get around to re staining it, but for now I think it looks just fine.  For an old, solid wood desk that is held together with dove tail joints [no nails or glue] I think it’s just lovely.  Oh, and did I mention it was $20?

using oil to beautify an old desk from craigslist

bringing beauty back to an old desk from craigslist

choosing an ugly beat up desk from craigslist instead of buying new

restoring beauty to an old desk using oil

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5 Responses to out with the new and in with the old

  1. It’s gorgeous! I’m so glad you got it and whadda deal! It definitely feels like luck if you manage to actually score something off of CL here. I’ll ask my husband to pick something up and he’ll respond that he has time the day after tomorrow but I know it’ll be gone by then. He just doesn’t get it when I say, But honey, it’s BROYHILL! Hehe.

  2. Amy says:

    You’re so funny!! It’s darn near impossible to score these kinds of deals here, but sometimes the planets align and you score on CL. I’ll keep my peepers open for some BROYHILL! :-) LOL!

  3. Mom says:

    The desk looks fabulous. I’m going to start following you around to see what other bargains you find. Love you bunches – xoxoxoxoxo

  4. Pingback: Ugly Desk Makeover |

  5. Katie B says:

    Hi! I found you via Pinterest today. I too am restoring an old beat up desk. I think yours is beautiful, blemishes and all. I will take a well-made, real wood piece of furniture with character ANY day of the week, over something cheap and mass produced. These are the things we pass along to our kids one day (if they are cool enough to want them haha). Thanks for the post!

Thank you for your comments!