Repurposing furniture takes ingenuity, little cash

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I am lucky enough to have a house, albeit a very small one, that I get to decorate all by myself.

But here’s the thing. I’m still a college student. I still make what feels like zero dollars and literally can’t afford anything I can’t find at Deseret Industries. But that’s OK because college kid ingenuity and a little creativity can save the day.

I actually love finding hideous trash and making it beautiful.

I’ve been wanting a bigger desk to do all my writing and homework on. And by bigger I mean executive size. But if you’ve ever priced an executive desk, you’ll know the cheapest mahogany rip-off, plastic-paneled desk will still cost you about as much as a semester’s tuition at Dixie State University. And the desks I really wanted were more in the range of $3,000.

Since the only 3Gs I have access to are via old iPhone, I got creative.

I looked at a few local furniture stores for inspiration. My fancy was snagged a couple of times, to be sure, but it was not caught. I sized up the executive desks and then headed to D.I.

The desk selection at Deseret Industries is less than palatable. We’re talking particle board, wood glued retro ‘70s stuff here—and not the good retro. Besides, there weren’t any executive-sized workspaces to speak of. So I turned my attention to small dining room tables.

Yes, tables.

I found a real winner. It looked to be circa 1987. It was the most hideous color you’ve ever seen (think 70s Cadillac wood paneling), and it was wholly reminiscent of “The Golden Girls.” The legs are carved to look like bamboo, and there’s two big, tacky pieces of glass on top. But it was heavy and sturdy. At first glance, and even after some thorough examination, my shopping buddy asked me why in the world I would choose this hideous table.

Well, the price was right. At $50, that’s one-sixtieth the price of a similar-sized, sturdy desk space at a furniture retailer. Besides, it’s not what it looks like now that counts. It’s what it will look like when I’m done.

Once I got it home, I wet a rag with hot water and wiped the whole thing down. I removed the glass and prepared to transform this trash into treasure. Now I’ve read that sanding something is the best way to go, but I’ve never sanded a piece of furniture before repainting it. I just don’t use furniture paint.

I use car paint instead.

It saves so much time. Since car paint is specifically designed to grab hold of slick surfaces, it’s ideal to use on stuff that you’d regularly sand. But truth be told, any color by Rustoleum that says “high performance” on the label will suffice—just in case you can’t find your perfect color in the auto section of Walmart. Cost: $4.95.

Once the whole table was covered, I set to work sealing it. This isn’t always necessary, but throwing on an extra coat of gloss will even out any splotches in the spray paint, and it makes your piece super shiny.

Make sure to use a water-based polycrylic. Do not use polyurethane (I found out the hard way the first time I ever tried this experiment that polyurethane eats through spray paint). I found a small, cheap pot of the stuff at Home Depot and an even cheaper brush. Total cost: $12.41.

You really only need one coat of polycrylic. But I like to put on about three or four on the top just for that extra shine. Make sure to wait a couple of hours between coats.  

Finally, I took a couple of old posters I had lying around of two of my favorite ladies, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, to put on the surface. I’d be placing these under the glass. I’m not including these in the price because they’re items I already had. In fact, I bought them so long ago I couldn’t tell you the price if you threatened to shoot me.

I thought I was going to have to cut the posters, but the repurposing gods were smiling upon me because, with the exception of a couple inches off the top and/or bottom, the posters were the exact size of the glass. Hallelujah!

Now you might not have the same luck I did with finding the perfect glass-topped table. But this formula can work on any piece of wood or plastic furniture.

So with a total cost of $67.36, my new executive-sized desk with a pop culture twist is ready to be used. Now I just have to wait for my roommate to move out so I can finally have my own office.