The Story of Greatness: A Vintage Desk Makeover

Everything, with even a few years behind it, has a story to tell …

Every person and every thing.

Some have more to say, some less.

Some show their age, their character more than others.

But even the youngest has lived some life, has history behind it, a story to share.

It’s precisely these stories that draw me in. They draw me to people, to books, to things.

The older the person, the book or the thing, the more interesting they become. The more history they’ve gathered. The more stories they have to share.

Honestly, I could listen to my grandparents tell stories for hours. I want to soak up each and every memory they have to share.

I dream of endlessly wandering through antique stores, flea markets and thrift shops and especially love it when the owner can tell me even the shortest story behind a particular piece.

This desk is the best of both worlds. Not only is it a vintage piece with an incredible story to tell, but because it belonged to my husband’s Grandfather, those stories hold an extra special place in our hearts.

Vintage Desk Makeover

First, let me just tell you a bit about the man that sat behind this desk…

I’ve never actually met Merrill Wolfe, as he passed away before Brady was even born, but Brady’s Mom talks of him often. She tells stories of his kindness and generosity. Not only was he a loving Father, but he was an incredibly successful business owner and a prominent member of his community. Her pride in her Father comes out in each and every story she shares about him.

I won’t get into listing each and every achievement and wonderful thing about Brady’s Grandfather because, honestly, I’d be here all day, but I do know this man meant an awful lot to so many people (in fact, his funeral was televised – how neat is that?!). His achievements and generosity have impacted people for generations to come.

Brady & Carson in front of a memorial dedicated to Brady's Grandpa as one of the founders of Fort Edmonton Park.
Brady & Carson in front of a memorial dedicated to Brady’s Grandpa as one of the founders of Fort Edmonton Park.


Every thing has a story to tell and this desk, Brady’s Grandfather’s desk, definitely has a great one! Just imagine the contracts it held, the meetings it was a part of, the late night planning, the early morning phone calls, the interruptions from little ones … there’s just SO MUCH HISTORY in this desk! We are so honoured and proud that this desk has been passed on to us!

Now, despite it’s story of greatness, this desk had certainly seen better days. True it shows a ton of character and each & every scratch helps to tell it’s story, but it has been so well used that it was simply falling apart.



It made me so sad that it looked as though it’s best days were behind it.

It was definitely time to bring this desk back to life.

I started by removing all of that old hardware. It was quite pretty actually, but, after so many years of use, was missing a few key pieces that actually hindered the functionality of the piece. I hunted high and low for something that would look like it belonged on a grand old desk such as this and was so excited when I came across these simple knobs and these gorgeous pulls at D. Lawless Hardware! I loved that all of the measurements were listed right there, so I could be sure everything would fit perfectly and, even traveling across the border, they were on my doorstep in no time at all. You may remember my excitement when they arrived in the mail as I shared them on Instagram:

D. Lawless Hardware

Aren’t they perfection?

With the old hardware removed I got to work patching and painting. I used a ton of wood glue, filling in the seemingly endless cracks and then clamping it all together (resorting to books and paint cans when I ran out of clamps), and finally letting it all set overnight. After A LOT of sanding, I finally had this desk ready to paint.

I started with a quick coat of primer because, as I learned when painting these dining room chairs, red wood tones tend to bleed through layers and layers of paint. I’m not sure what type of wood this desk is, but I wasn’t taking any chances this time. I then pulled out my new favourite white paint (read more about my adventures in finding the perfect white here) – Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White – and, after mixing it with a bit of Chalky Paint Powder from Vintage Storehouse I got painting.

Now my friends, let me just tell you about this brilliant Chalky Paint Powder … if you’ve been following along with me for any time at all, you’ll know that I’m a HUGE chalk paint lover. I love the ease of use, the way it distresses, and the vintage look it brings to a piece. The only thing I don’t like about the stuff is the fact that my colour choices are limited by whatever the manufacturer chooses to create. I almost always find myself compromising the colour I’d like for the chalky finish that I’m looking for. Which is why I was completely over the moon when I discovered Vintage Storehouse! Seriously, this was SUCH a game changer my friends! Kelsey at Vintage Storehouse has created the most brilliant Chalky Paint Powder which can be added to any (yes, ANY) colour of paint out there to turn it into chalk paint.

Mind blowing, right?!

I’m telling you, it’s my new favourite thing!

In the end, it took three coats to really cover everything perfectly (darn that red wood!), but I couldn’t be happier with the results!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

I was so in love with this new white look that I struggled for weeks with the decision of whether I should distress the paint or just leave well enough alone, but in the end I decided that I wanted at least some of that beautiful wood to shine through. After a very quick once over with my trusty palm sander, this desk was looking more perfect than ever!

With a little help from hubby, we had the new hardware installed in no time and I couldn’t help but smile at this lovely desk that was taking shape!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Now, I’m not sure how Brady’s Grandpa would have felt about this (I’m not sure he was a flowery paper sort of guy), but I couldn’t help but brighten up the inside of those drawers too. I simply cut a bit of my favourite wrapping paper to size and used some folded up painter’s tape to secure it inside the drawer creating a bright and cheerful drawer liner.

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

This beautiful desk has definitely been given new life and I couldn’t possibly be more in love with it’s light & bright new look!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

I love that even though some of it’s story has been covered with paint, there’s still a ton of character and memories shining through!

Just check out this old newspaper flyer that I found stuck to the back of one of the drawers…


SO neat!

I’m absolutely thrilled that this lovely old desk, Brady’s Grandfather’s desk, still has plenty of memories to make and many years of history left to share!

Every piece has a story to tell and this is one you're not going to want to miss!

HUGE thanks to D. Lawless Hardware for providing the beautiful knobs and pulls you see and to Vintage Storehouse for supplying that brilliant Chalky Paint Powder that allowed me to find the most perfect white colour!

Wishing you SUCH a lovely day!

*This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.*

PS. You can find me sharing here and Savvy Southern Style.

Happy Notes copy    

72 thoughts on “The Story of Greatness: A Vintage Desk Makeover

  1. First, the desk looks gorgeous Kristi, you gave it a beautiful makeover! I need to try the Vintage Storehouse chalk powder to expand the color pallet I’ve been using.

    Being a born and raised Edmontonian, I can appreciate the history behind the desk and the person who sat in it – wow! We LOVE Fort Edmonton in this house. Every December, since the early 90’s, our family has participated in the Christmas Reflections tour. It’s an event we look forward to every holiday season. I even wrote a short story about it! Every July we participate in the Celtic Days at Fort Edmonton. My nephew is drummer in a local pipe band and it’s always a treat attending this fabulous event. Next time we visit I will take a closer look at the plaque honoring Brady’s grandfather.

    1. Thank you SO, SO much Marie! We LOVE Fort Edmonton Park too and try to visit a few times a year! I’ve never actually made it out around Christmas, but we’re certainly aiming to go this year – maybe we’ll see you there!!! Brady’s Grandfather was a very special man and we are so honoured to call his old desk ours!

  2. Aw such a special story and so amazing that you have this heirloom in your family. You gave it the perfect update and of course I’m in love with that paper πŸ˜‰

    1. Awwwww, thank you Amy! I hope he would love it – I thought of him a ton while I was working on it. I love that Brady’s Mom is so happy with it too! It’s about time this beautiful desk was seeing some love!

  3. I love reading about the history behind a piece-and yours was truly touching, Kristi! I bet Grandpa would be super proud to see his treasured desk re-purposed-and indeed- done so beautifully!

  4. Your desk turned out beautifully! I love a piece of furniture that has so much family history and now you’re family will be able to enjoy it and give it new life! And that drawer liner paper is perfect!

  5. Love this desk! It’s the perfect size, all those drawers, and it has a fantastic story behind it! And, even though it’s painted and papered (that Rifle Paper Co paper is delicious!), the desk still is it’s old self, just in new clothes! πŸ˜€ And those clothes are fabulous!

    1. Awwww, thank you SO very much for your sweet words Jessica! I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out and it means so much to know that this special desk is feeling loved again!

  6. The desk turned out beautiful! I especially love how you arranged everything. Filling your home with special pieces is a great way to make a house a home. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Kristi! You did a stunning job of bringing this tattered desk back to a thing of beauty! Great choice of color and hardware!! I also wanted to say that it is nice to meet a fellow Canadian blogger … I too am from Alberta! (Central Alberta) and I grew up in Northern Alberta! I would be so happy if you would share your work at my Making Broken Beautiful party today! You can link up anything furniture/design related! I enjoyed browsing your blog!

    1. Thank you SO much Terry! And it’s so exciting to meet a fellow Albertan blogger!!! Hope you’re enjoying this beautiful weather we’ve been having! You bet I’ll pop by, thanks for the invite!

  8. Kristi – This desk makeover is gorgeous! We loved hearing about grandpa and the legacy he left his family. The desk has been given a whole new lease on life for the next generation. Your paint and hardware choice are perfection. Although the wrapping paper would not have been grandpa approved πŸ™‚ we think it is fabulous! Great job! Thanks so much for linking up with us!

    1. You’re super sweet words totally made my day girls! Thank you SO, SO much! I am absolutely thrilled that this lovely desk is feeling as loved as it should again!

  9. What a special desk Kristi! The makeover turned out to perfection! I love the new hardware and the white with the bit of distressing just shows the character in this piece. Thanks so much for sharing it at the Creative Circle Link Party

  10. Hi Kristi!

    Love the story behind this piece! Items in homes that have memories behind them, whether it be a some decoration or a furniture piece, are always interesting to learn about. And wow, well done in fixing it up to look new, oh and I love the floral print inside the drawers. πŸ™‚ Thanks for partying with us at Talented Tuesday, definitely one of my favorite from the week!
    Take Care,
    Aspen Jay

    1. Thank you SO, SO much!!! I’m head over heels in love with how it all turned out and so happy that this beautiful desk is looking as loved as it should again!

  11. I think that one of the best things about transforming pieces of furniture like we do is getting the change to keep a piece with such a beautiful family history and making it fit seamlessly into our modern day homes! Lovely job Kristi!!

  12. Beautiful piece Kristi! I love how it turned out!! I also LOVE the paper you chose to place inside – such a nice pop of brightness and colour πŸ™‚ I’m featuring your desk tomorrow at the Talented Tuesday party!

  13. Hi Kristi!
    What a lovely job you did on this desk! It is so fun when the furniture we put our time and effort in to have such special and interesting histories. When I buy old furniture from people, I allways try to get as much history from the piece as possible before I take it home. I think it is very important to keep the histories alive.
    And what a lovely touch with the flowers inside the drawers! I love it:)

    1. Thank you SO, SO much! I love that you put in that effort to keep the histories alive! That’s what makes these vintage pieces so special I think! Thanks again!

    1. Awwww, thank you SO much for your sweet words Gilly! I hadn’t ever thought of it that way, but you’re right, it does mean so much to be a part of it’s history now! xo

  14. You did a lovely job fixing up this beautiful piece of old furniture! I moved into my grandmother’s apartment last year after she passed away, so all her old furniture was passed down to me. I love fixing up pieces like this, but I’ve been struggling with making decisions about how I should fix them up, or if I should just leave them be! I do love using chalk &/or milk paints though, so this post was great to read!

    1. Thanks SO much Alex! How neat that you get to live in her apartment! What a special way to still connect with your Grandma. We’ve got a few pieces too, but I only plan to paint the ones that are too damaged/ worn to leave or re-stain. Thanks again!

    1. Thank you SO, SO much Bethany! It’s an incredible feeling to keep a piece with so much meaning alive and loved! How special that you have some from your Great-Grandmother to enjoy too!

  15. Kristi, your desk makeover is fantastic! I love the wrapping paper you used for the drawers and the color you chose. How special that it belonged to your husband’s grandfather. Great job, take care, Tara

  16. Beautiful! Pinned and tweeted. We truly appreciate you taking the time to be a part of our party. Please stop by and party with us again. The party starts Monday at 7 pm and ends on Friday at 7 pm. Happy Sunday! Lou Lou Girls

  17. Beautiful desk! I have a question. After you paint the desk, do you apply anything else like a clear coat of poly to protect the paint? I never know if we need to do that.

  18. I was shocked when I saw this pop up on Pinterest.. You see, I have one that is nearly identical and also belonged to my grandfather. It is still in pretty good shape so I just gave it a good cleaning, sanding and spray painted it satin black. I even used the same style pulls you did! I would have painted mine white as well if I was using it for an office desk, but I am using it for a craft table/sewing table with a fold out leaf added to the back of it. I also added casters under the bottom trim piece (we will see how they hold up)..fingers crossed on that one. Great to see I made good choices-yours is so pretty!!

    1. How neat Trisha!!! Thank you so much for stopping by to tell me about it!!! I just love stories like this! It sounds like the perfect crafting & sewing space, especially with a fold out leaf and some casters on the bottom (I bet the weight of that desk is giving those casters a run for their money). Black would be such a classic look (we actually painted our vintage dressers black and I absolutely love it! Thanks again for sharing Trisha! Happy Holidays!!!

  19. I have this SAME DESK! I love to see how other people come up with different ideas for the same piece. Love it, it turned out beautiful!
    If you want to see how I painted my desk, you can search my blog for “Make a Statement Desk Makeover”.

  20. I love what you did with this desk! I like how you finished it down to the last detail, and your decorating style. I also love the fact that antiques represent so many memories and historical events. That’s why I like them.

  21. Hi Kristi! I love pieces that have meaning and memories attached to them. You did a fantastic job with this desk. Looks like you’ll be making many more memories at it! Thanks for sharing with us at Dishing It & Digging It! We enjoy your projects every week! πŸ™‚

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