The Creative Mama » inspiring art, encouraging women

A Desk for My Daughter – before and after

I‘m so excited to be able to share with you all that I have successfully marked off the first thing I decided to tackle on my “My 2011” list! I want to show you all the (super easy!) steps I took to get it from this …

to this …

First, a little history: this dainty little dressing table has been a part of our family for a very long time. I have all kinds of memories of this dressing table when it was in my sister’s room (I used to sneak her journals out of it and READ them. I know, so naughty!) and later in my room. It has since been moved at least a dozen times until finally my parents decided it was time to say goodbye.


I knew I had to save it. And, although a dressing table is adorable to have in a little girl’s room our daughter’s room has no space for another piece of furniture.

That’s when I got the idea to use it in our basement which we are in the process of turning into a functional and kid-friendly family room. Still no need for a dressing table there, but a desk would be nice for our daughter to one day use. So, the mission to turn this memory-filled dressing table into a desk was on!

You can’t quite tell in the before shot, but the dressing table had all sorts of cracking veneer on the drawers. On one drawer I had to carefully pick off all of the veneer to get a nice, even layer.

Next, I sanded the drawers and the entire dressing table using my mouse with a fine grit sandpaper (220) to get a nice, smooth surface.

To fill in the cracks, holes and dents I used spackling paste. I let it dry overnight and on day 2 I sanded everything with spackling paste on it down by hand until I had a flat, smooth surface.

Next step was cleaning the surface to prep for painting. For quick clean-up I used my Shop-Vac to vacuum all the dust up and then went over everything with TSP+water in a squirt bottle and wiped everything down clean with a towel.

As you can tell the center area is specifically for a dressing table, not a desk. My next step was cutting a piece of wood to fit into that space.

Using a jigsaw I measured twice, cut once and in no time I had myself a piece of furniture that was quickly resembling a cute, little desk!

To make the new addition look like it was a part of the furniture all along I added a trim (that I actually had on hand from another project). I cut and secured it to the side of the wood using Liquid Nails. And, day 2 was done! So I thought …

On my way out I picked up one of the drawers to move it and the bottom portion of it snapped off. Boo. I secured it back on with Liquid Nails and one small nail.

On day 3 I spackled the drawer to hide the crack, waited for it to dry, sanded it down smooth and we were back in action!

Again, using Liquid Nails I doused the center portion of the dressing table and layered my new desk piece on top.

On the top, back part of the desk was a space where a large mirror used to be. I still remember the day when it fell off, falling right behind the dressing table and shattering into a million pieces. It scared the living daylights out of me! My dad gave me the idea of getting a 1″ piece of wood to cut, glue on and make it look all the more “repaired” and whole again. I thought it was a fantastic idea, but started to wonder if I could do something even more creative with that little mishap of a place … As my wheels kept spinning I moved on with the project.

Next step was caulking the edges of the new desk top so that once painted it would look like it’s always been there.

Everyone has their own way of caulking and smoothing. I have no fancy way of doing it. I simply caulk and then using my finger I run it over the caulk to fill in the space and smooth it out. The excess that exists at the end gets wiped on a paper towel.

And day 3 in the books!

For the remainder of the days (when I would paint) I decided to move from my work room to the living room. Not sure that was the best idea, but at least I got to watch TV and elicit my husband’s help when needed. : )

Day 4 brought the first round of paint: a trusty, Kilz primer.

Day 5 and 6 brought two layers of fresh paint (so satisfying!). We are planning to paint our basement a rich, gray/brownish color so I wanted to go with something in the gray family, but light and airy. I decided on Heavy Goose by Martha Stewart Living.

After I painted on the first coat I was kicking myself for getting eggshell. I personally like furniture to have a little bit of shiny sheen to it so I don’t know what I was thinking. Luckily, I was able to paint on a coat of Polyurethane which will protect the paint and added a perfect, subtle shiny’ness to it. Problem solved!

And, to my go-to store, Anthropologie, for some simple, vintage, glass-knobs. Love, love, love!

And, remember that indented area where the mirror used to rest? I got the idea of securing a 1″ dowel rod with a small hinge on the side. This way I was able to add a roll of art paper (which can be found here) and replace when necessary. I love how it looks like it was there all along, don’t you?

And, there you have it! It really was NOT hard to make this little piece of furniture functional and new. I hope this post inspires you to make something old in your home new again.

Please, please ask me any questions in the comment section. I’d love to help!

p.s. The banner shown in the “after” photo was bought from this Etsy designer.

About Jessica

Jessica is a full-time lifestyle photographer mainly focusing on families and children. In her free time she loves a good memoir, is a sucker for reality TV, loves DIY projects and is addicted to traveling the world. Find her at 503 Photography and browse through her blog to get a peek into the girl behind the lens!

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  • Rachel-Wildflower Photography

    This is adorable! Lovely job!

  • Kelli France

    That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!

  • Trude

    So gorgeous! Fantastic inspiration.

  • malia

    jess, i absolutely love this!!! how talented you are 😉

  • Jessica Cudzilo

    Thank you, sweet mamas, for all the kind words! If any of you (ahem Meghan 😉 redo a piece of furniture please let me see!! xo!

  • Erika

    Great job on the desk!

  • Sarah

    I love it! Great inspiration!!

  • Emily

    What a beautiful job you did on this meaningful piece of furniture! My favorite part was the inspired idea of adding the dowel for the roll of art paper – brilliant! Now you’ll never have to hear, “Mom…I need paper…” :-)

  • Tiffany

    That looks great Jessica! Very inspiring!

  • Danielle

    looks awesome!

  • Amy

    WOW! That is a SERIOUS desk makeover!! Looks lovely! I’m so very impressed!

  • Rae

    absolutely fabulous! :) I love giving old things a new life.

  • aimee

    Fabulous re-do! It’s beautiful and your ingenious idea for the paper roll is knocking my socks off! Well done and thanks for sharing!

  • heidi @ wonder woman wannabe

    Looks SO great!

    I didn’t even notice all the details on the legs/sides of the table until the transformation – it’s simply amazing what a little paint will do!

  • Meghan Boyer

    I love it! I have an antique vanity and I needed some inspiration to restore it and get it out of the basement! Thanks :)