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Before and After: $11 Pottery Barn Knock Off Desk

How much money are you willing to pay for a desk? I imagine there’s a spectrum from $0 to Kardashian amounts of cash that most of us are willing to spend. It probably depends on the type of desk, personal philosophies on money, and the current financial situation of the buyer.

I’ll admit, I am on the lower side of the spectrum. At the moment, I couldn’t imagine spending more than $100, although I can imagine a future me that has money to burn being willing to spend a couple hundred.

However, even in my ideal imaginary daydream where future me is a billionaire with more money then I know how to spend, I can’t imagine spending more than $1000 for a desk.

I just can’t think of reason why a $1000 desk would be necessary, when there are plenty of beautiful, high quality desks for under that amount.

And yet, Pottery Barn exists. With all of it’s beautiful, $1000+ desks that someone must actually buy and the rest of us just covet. So this week, I set out to recreate a desk I saw on Pottery Barn (specifically, the Aubrey Desk,) but with my $100 budget in mind.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.)

The $50 Pottery Barn Knock-Off Desk

I started with a nice and sturdy $11.75 desk I found at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. 

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations
Yes, this desk transformation happened in my living room. It was super cold outside, so the porch and garage were out, and there was no way I was going to be able to get this thing into the basement myself.

If I need a furniture piece, I always try to transform an existing piece rather than build a new one myself. It is A) easier, B) significantly cheaper, and C) better for the environment.

I can’t always find what I’m looking for, but I got lucky this time and found this desk after only three trips to Habitat. It checked all my boxes of 1) medium sized, 2) made of wood, 3) fixable if broken, and 4) under $50. I purchased it as soon as I saw it.

If you’re interested in my Thrift Store Furniture Checklist, which helps you pick out quality used pieces, click below!

The Desk Transformation

Since I had plans to store a computer in this desk, in addition to the just changing the outward appearance, I need to convert one of the sides of drawers into a cabinet space. I decided to start with that, then work on the aesthetics of the piece once the structural components were complete.

Part 1: Structural Changes

I started by taking out all the drawers on the left side, and cutting out the front dividers with my jigsaw. For those of you that are considering doing a similar project, know that getting started is the very hardest part, and I sat there nervously for about 5 minutes before actually being brave enough to start cutting.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

Since the computer I’m going to store in the space is pretty heavy duty and creates a whole lot of hot air, I decided to remove the back panel so that the space had some ventilation. I drilled holes in each of the four corners, then cut out the panel with a jigsaw.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

Then I added some scrap wood bars (with wood glue and screws) so that the space wasn’t totally open. Note that I countersunk all the screws so that I could fill in the space with wood filler and they wouldn’t be visible.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

Finally, I flipped the desk over and added scrap wood cut from a leftover 1″x 8″ to the bottom to create a “floor” for the cupboard. I used wood glue and screws to secure these pieces to the bottom of the desk. I also did a whole lot of measuring before I did this step to make sure my computer would fit in the space.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

Before adding “floor” of cabinet.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations
With new “floor.”

You’ve probably noticed that there are spaces between the boards- this wasn’t super thought out or or intentional, I was just too lazy to cut another piece, so I just spaced the three pieces I had out.

You also might notice that my cupboard is currently door-less. There will be a door eventually, but I’ll get to that later!

Part 2: Aesthetics

The Pottery Barn desk I was particularly coveting had significant base molding and beautiful beadboard sides. The website implied the whole series was meant to resemble built-in furniture, hence all the molding. But guess what? I, too, am perfectly capable of adding beadboard and molding to a desk, with the added bonus of not having it cost thousands of dollars. (Am I bitter? Maybe a little.)

The legs on this desk were almost 7 inches tall. I couldn’t find molding that tall, so I added some 1/2″ plywood to cover the space between the top of the molding and the bottom of the desk. I secured this to the wood pieces I had already added to be the “floor” of the cabinet.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations
I did this on both sides, I promise!

Since I had to make a trip to Lowes to purchase the baseboard molding, I actually did the beadboard next. I had some leftover from the mudroom project, and simply cut it with a combo of my circular saw and miter saw to fit in the indented places on the sides of the desk.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

I secured the beadboard with wood glue and brad nails, using my awesome Ryobi Electric Nailer. Seriously the best thing ever- super versatile (I don’t think there’s a single project I haven’t used it on) and easy to use. I was even raving to my friend about it at Thanksgiving, because clearly, everyone should own one.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

Once the beadboard was in place, I moved onto the baseboard molding. I purchased the tallest molding I could find (5 1/4″, if you were curious) to wrap around the bottom of each sides. This was the biggest investment I made in the project, costing me around $25 for two 8 foot lengths.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

I am not at all a molding pro- maybe someday I’ll get better and write a whole post on how to apply molding perfectly, but in the meantime, you should probably read somebody else’s advise on applying molding. That being said, I’m pretty good at covering up all my bad corners with caulk, so I guess there’s that.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations
Part 3: Doors and Drawers

Since I hollowed out one of the sides of the desk, I needed to make a door to replace the drawers that were there before. I wanted to keep with the beadboard theme, so I designed a three layer door. I had 4″ wide 1/4″ plywood strips left over from my kitchen floor project, so I used those combined with the beadboard to create my door.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations
An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

I attached it to the desk using these hinges that I special ordered from Home Depot. I struggled a bit to find hinges that I knew would work with this door since I wanted it to be inset style.

The drawer fronts were much easier. I wood filled the holes left from the pulls, and then sanded down the fronts:

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

I glued on some a frame made from the 1/4″ plywood, then painted so the drawers matched the rest of the desk.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations
Part 4: Finishing the Desk

Before painting, I liberally applied wood filler to the desk. Any visible screws, brad nails, and damaged portions got filled with wood, then sanded back down.

Caulk was applied anywhere there might have been a gap; behind the molding was the most significant spot. Then, the desk got a thorough sanding with my orbital sander

Finally, the desk could be painted. It got a coat of primer followed by two coats of latex paint. While I’ve seen chalk paint produce some gorgeous vintage-style pieces, I much prefer the semi-gloss finish of latex paint in my own home.

As long as I prime and sand before painting, I’ve never had an issue using latex paint on furniture.

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

Once the desk was painted, I was able to attach the door and replace the drawers. When I was finished, it looked like this:

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

It’s so much better, right? And it has just the right amount of storage!

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

It was definitely a bit time consuming of a project; I probably spent a 3-4 days working on it. But for less than $50 ($11.25 for the desk, $25 for the molding, and $10 for a half sheet of beadboard), I consider the time investment totally worth it!

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

I’m so excited for my sunroom to be finished! Take a look at the other furniture I made for this room- a standing lamp and tilt-out trash can! Finally, if you found this project inspiring, go ahead and pin it to Pinterest so you can find it later!

An $11 thrift store desk gets a makeover in this DIY Before and After! #FurnitureMakeover #ThriftedTransformations

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FrancesV

Thursday 20th of June 2019

Wow !! Good job ! This is the second pin I read from you and you done a wonderful job and good at explaining and showing step by step!! The desks looks beautiful and elegant!!! I'm definitely following you for more ideas!! :) God bless!

Frances

MissLindsayFay

Thursday 20th of June 2019

Aww, thank you! When I first started DIY-ing, I had so many questions. I got really frustrated trying to find the answers in vague blog posts, so I try to be as detailed as possible now that I'm writing my own. I'm sure I don't hit everything, but I try!

Morgan

Monday 22nd of April 2019

This is fantastic! Found you from an Apartment Therapy Before & After and glad I did – tons of cool projects!

MissLindsayFay

Monday 22nd of April 2019

Aww, thanks!!

Debra Holland

Thursday 21st of February 2019

That is an amazing desk! Such creative and beautiful work.

MissLindsayFay

Thursday 21st of February 2019

Thank you!!

Lana Kaiser

Wednesday 20th of February 2019

You did a great job. I just paint an old dark piece and used furniture paint. Not sure what it is but worked and has more of a satin finish than chalk paint. I’m worried about the paint scratching off. Do you put a protective coat on yours?

MissLindsayFay

Wednesday 20th of February 2019

Hi Lana,

I don’t typically put a protective coat over my painted furniture pieces, for a couple reasons: 1) I normally use latex semi-gloss paint, which is pretty sturdy on its own; 2) the classic finish for latex painted furniture is Minwax Polycrylic, and every time I’ve tried that stuff, it’s made my project sticky. I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong or what, but I’m not a fan; 3) I don’t have kids, so my pieces don’t get a whole lot of abuse; 4) The paint protects the wood from water damage, which is my main motivation when I do put a topcoat on. Scratches I can fix pretty easily, and frankly, I’d much rather touch-up the paint occasionally than spend another day putting a topcoat on a large piece.

As for your piece, furniture paint can mean a bunch of different things, including chalk paint, milk paint, and acrylic paint. From your description, it sounds like you might be working with acrylic paint, but honestly, I’m not at all sure about that. Regardless, if you’re worried about scratches, it’s worth your time to put a topcoat on. A polycrylic is probably your best bet, as it works with a large variety of paint types. I wish I had a recommendation for you, but unfortunately the only one I’ve used I really didn’t like.

Hope this helps!

Lindsay

Kirstin Troyer

Wednesday 30th of January 2019

Love this...where did you get the wood stand the computer is on?

MissLindsayFay

Wednesday 30th of January 2019

Hi Kirstin,

I made it! If you're into woodworking, I should have a post detailing the process up in the next couple weeks. If not, I got the idea from two Songmics monitor stands that I saw on Amazon (here and here!) Hope this helps!

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