Before and After: A Trashed Vintage Desk Becomes a Restored Treasure

published Oct 28, 2020
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Before: Desk left on curbside

A lot of junk gets tossed into dumpsters or left out on the curb—but sometimes you can spot some real treasures amidst the rest of the noise. Sylvia Worsnop (Transforming Trash) knows all too well. On her blog, she chronicles her makeovers of found furniture and decor, so she’s had plenty of experience in identifying what has potential.

Sylvia saw something special in this Queen Anne-style desk she spotted on the curb near her home. While she guesses the desk had been made in the early 20th century, it had been decoupaged in a red-and-yellow paisley fabric that was peeling up at the edges. “I don’t like seeing beautiful furniture being sent to landfill, so I routinely pick up pieces of ‘trash’ and restore them to beauty,” Sylvia says. This desk simply had to come home with her.

Over about a month, Sylvia slowly made under this busy piece, carefully pulling up the fabric to reveal the wood desk beneath. “A setback was finding how hard it was to remove all the adhesive that had held the fabric in place,” Sylvia says. But thankfully she was rewarded with a pleasant surprise: the once-covered top was actually a “gorgeous piece of mahogany,” Sylvia says.

While the top and drawers were still in excellent shape, the frame and legs were less fortunate. Beneath the fabric, Sylvia discovered serious damage and shoddy leg repairs that prevented her from being able to restore the whole piece. So instead, she went for a combined refinishing and restoration project, painting the frame of the desk black to help conceal the repairs and letting the drawers and top shine with some refinishing that brought them back to their original glory.

“I love how this piece’s elegance was restored,” Sylvia says of the finished project. “It’s amazing what beautiful pieces you can find kicked to the curb, and if you’re starting with something that costs nothing, you can’t go far wrong!”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.