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Farmhouse Style Desk and Stool Makeover | 21+ Thrift Store Transformations

April 11, 2016

CREATE   |   Published April 11, 2016

While I never would have believed it years ago, shopping for second hand finds is now one of my favorite things to do.  I find excitement in searching for unique items that someone else no longer saw a use for.  Being able to decorate on a limited budget is very important to me, and I don't mind having to do a little work to make the affordable finds more beautiful and functional.

Today I'm honored to be in the first day of a blog hop with some incredibly talented ladies.  Many of you may be stopping by here today from Finding Silver Pennies.  Welcome!  Danielle never ceases to amaze me with her makeovers and decorating skills, so it is a pleasure being able to follow her in the tour.  Links to everyone participating throughout the week appear at the end of this post.

Each of us in the tour were each challenged by our host, Beth from Home Stories A to Z, to find and makeover something from a thrift store or Craig's List for under $50.  That amount of money for me in a second hand store is like handing someone $1000 to go into Pottery Barn. I found a few things to share with you today, plus still had plenty of money left over.

The items that I purchased for today's makeover were....

A wood desk that had a dated looking stain finish (the before picture looks way better than it really was!) and some black stains on the desk top.  It was backed with a piece of faux wood paneling and had one leg that wasn't attached.  It cost $10.


A wood stool poorly upholstered with a faux dark blue leather and painted a deep red.  It was $6.

And a collection of random glass bottles for less than $3 total.

(I also purchased a faux framed sketch of a boat and sea gulls that I planned on turning into a mirror for $3.  After beginning to work on it, though, I realized that the mirror would be an odd size and not one I could pick up inexpensively at the store.  It will either have to be cut OR I'll have to continue looking for another thrift store mirror!)

Rather than just sharing my before and after with you today, I thought I'd also give you some of my tips for finding the best deals when shopping in thrift stores and consignment shops.  Are you ready?


Items at thrift stores, consignment shops, and Craig's list will often be covered in layers of ugliness.  Maybe it is a bad upholstery job.  Maybe it is an ugly paint or stained finish.  Maybe it is just dirt. But at first glance, furniture and accessories in these places may not immediately catch your eye.

The stool I purchased was painted dark red (which isn't really my style) and was pretty dirty.  Underneath the red coat was another three layers of paint (mint, dark green, and white).  The top was upholstered in a piece of faux leather that had been reused from something else.  It was all stapled very poorly overtop thick foam.  Layer by layer everything was peeled away revealing that the wood everything was stapled to wasn't even part of the was just another layer to cover everything up.  But once everything was removed, a very primitive wood stool was revealed that aside from the color was just my style.

You can find some beautiful things if you are able to look past the layers of ugly and get down to the bones of the piece.  The turned wood legs.  The vintage glass knobs.  See past what something is in front of you, and see it rather for what it could be.


When you are purchasing something second hand to refurbish, it is hard to predict how the process will go.  Don't hold on so tightly to the vision in your head that you can't adjust and turn it into something even better if things don't work out.

When I started working on my purchases, the plan was for the desk to be painted and the stool to be stained.  But when I started working on the stool, I realized that I was likely never going to be able to get the red paint out of the cracks and holes in the wood to be able to stain it.  As much as I would have loved to see this stool in rustic wood, I still enjoy how much character it has now that it is painted in a gray chalk paint.


And then when I starting gently sanding the desk to paint it, I realized that the wood was actually beautiful with the finish removed and that it could be what had a rustic finish.  It took a little while, but the dark finish was sanded off using a palm sander and by hand.  Then it was "stained" using Fusion Mineral Paint Antiquing Glaze, followed by their Beeswax and Hemp Oil Finish.

The antiquing glaze gave a beautiful aged tone to the wood and settled into the numerous dings in the wood.  Then the beeswax finish darkened the glaze and gave the desk a very smooth feel and matte finish.

I also removed the back paneling to create an open desk and of course, reattached the broken leg.


Whether it is a house or a piece of furniture, buying a fixer upper means that you'll be spending time fixing the problems that it has.  Many times, the amount of time that you'll spend fixing will be just as costly in value as going to the store and buying it new.  But there is character in the old stuff.  And if the process is something that you enjoy, it can be worth it.

You also need to consider the skills you have and the skills that are needed to fix up what you're purchasing.  Just about anyone is capable of adding a fresh coat of paint to a piece of wood furniture.  But not everyone is capable of reupholstering a French settee, no matter how great of a price it may be at the store.  New skills can be learned over time, but you'll have to realize that your first makeover may not be perfect if you are using a technique for the first time.


Years ago, before developing a love of antique treasures and way before starting a blog, there was a flea market vendor in my town that was able to draw me to his space every time.  It wasn't his displays because he had none.  It wasn't his prices because he didn't actually have any of those either.  What enticed me was that every item he was selling was in a box on the ground.  Hundreds of boxes lined up in the dirt.  You had to dig through every one and then ask the price for what you uncovered.  And you know what? I found some of my favorite vintage items of all time from this guy....and rarely ever paid over a dollar for any of them.

Anything that is in pristine, clean condition and nicely displayed is going to cost you a lot more than something shoved in a box lying on the ground.  And it is thrilling to literally uncover a treasure.  Just because a store isn't the cleanest or most organized doesn't mean that you won't find something incredible!


If you are in the process of refinishing a bathroom and want an antique dresser to use as a sink base, it is not likely that you'll be able to jump in your car, drive to the nearest antique store or thrift shop and find exactly what you're looking for.  It rarely happens.  Normally I've found that when I'm looking for something in particular, it becomes almost impossible to find.

You've got to be patient and keep looking for what you know you want.  If the dresser you find isn't what you dreamed of, walk away.  Anything that you want is out there somewhere, but it likely isn't right in front of you.....and that is part of the fun.


When you have DIY on the brain and can see possibility in practically anything, it is important to know what your style actually is and stick to it.  Otherwise, when you are scouting out that perfect piece we discussed above, you may wind up bringing home a car load of things that you didn't.  I see many unique items when I'm shopping that I know I can make better.  But it is only the things I've brought that will fit into my style that I enjoy working on and actually get done and use!


It is hard to go wrong with things like solid wood furniture, glass candlesticks, or white pottery.  They won't go out of style and can be used in different ways all over your house.  A collection of similar items like glass vases can fill up a bookcase or create a centerpiece down your dining table.

I picked up this collection of different size glass bottles and I love the look of them all displayed together on the desk.  But they can also be used elsewhere as a grouping or alone with other decor.

And finally,


There are times when you will have no idea why something speaks to you, but you know the minute that you lay eyes on the item that it will make you happy.  And for those items, your vision, shopping list, and style can go right out the window.  Because those are the ones that you'll likely leave the store without and forever regret not buying.

Thrifting can be a lot like shopping for your first house or the perfect little black dress.  You'll know you see a true treasure when you find it.

Thank you so much for letting me share with you today.  I hope that I've inspired you to start (or continue) looking at second hand stores and online sites like Craig's List and Ebay for unique, one of a kind treasures to decorate your home.  Tomorrow our Thrifty Under $50 blog hop will continue starting with Courtney from French Country Cottage.  I can't wait to see what French country beauty she creates!

What are your best tips for finding items to makeover and repurpose?

Design Dining Diapers





This post may contain affiliate links.  That means that if you purchase a product I've recommended, it won't cost you any more, but I may receive a small commission.  I only will share products I believe in and all opinions are my own.  You can view my disclosure policy here.  Thank you so much for helping to support this blog!

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