The $20 Desk

In CategoryAdventures in Decorating

When we moved into this house, you may recall that we had pretty much zero furniture, and a budget of about four dollars to rectify that situation.

I planned to get a kitchen table and have the kids do schoolwork on that. They did not like that idea. They were too far away from me.

So I let them work on the dining room table I am currently using as a desk. That way they were right beside me, I could still kvetch on Twitter, and it was mostly okay.

But then their crap was all over my desk; Big complained endlessly and bitterly about the uneven table top; and they blew erasures all over my arm.

So I started trolling Craig’s List for a desk. Just a small student desk with three drawers. We found one that looked perfect online and went to pick it up.

It reeked of cigarette smoke. REEKED. Jim apparently could not say No to the old, nicotine encrusted couple and stuffed it in the back of the car while I looked on doubtfully.

And then we had to drive home with all the windows rolled down because DUDE. It was BAD. The whole way home I asked, “do you want to just donate this to Goodwill and cut our losses?” But the more I asked, the more stubborn he got.

Obviously, the minute we got home, we chucked the desk into the garage to air out and headed to Home Depot.

We bought TSP and Kilz and some turquoise paint.

Here is Jim, going to war with the desk –


I had my doubts about this whole thing, for reals. I cannot abide the smell of cigarette smoke and I was not going to have even a whiff of it in my house. The TSP worked wonders, and the Kilz (three cans!) put a stop to any residual odor.

After –



The kids picked the paint color, and Controlly Mom was surprisingly relaxed about it. It’s their desk after all. What’s the worst that could happen? I put chalkboard paint on the table top (Controlly Mom is not planning on letting them chalk on it, though. Do you know what kind of mess that makes? I have enough stuff to clean, plus also I suck). The turquoise is my standard homemade chalk paint. Not be be confused with chalkboard paint.

I know. It’s confusing.

There is not even the faintest reminder that it was coated in nicotine – and believe me, I have a super sniffer and wouldn’t have let it in the house if it smelled. The three drawers are perfect for the kids, and the mid-century legs appeal to me.

So there you go. I probably would not got through that again, but it worked out great and we are very happy with the results.

Of course it cost significantly more than $20 by the time it was all over, between the TSP, the rubber gloves, the twenty-seven kinds of paint (chalkboard spray paint, regular chalkboard paint, Kilz spray paint, Kilz roll-on paint, the turquoise paint….), but we don’t focus on that.

Once again, Other People’s Crap makes me happy.

6 Responses to “The $20 Desk”

  1. hikooky Says:

    LOVE IT. You guys rock.

  2. Ingi Says:

    Totally with you on the cigarette smoke thing! Looks fab – I’ll be over with my $20 real soon 😉
    Ingi´s last blog post ..The green stuff

  3. Julie Says:

    Love the color!

  4. Dawn Says:

    That desk looks awesome! Good job, Jim!

  5. Rose Says:

    Love it!!!! You guys did a fabulous job on it!!!!
    Rose´s last blog post ..Random Monday

  6. Applie Says:

    It looks great!