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How to Make a $1,000 Desk for $30

Melissa from The Roane Home was in need of a desk with plenty of storage to tame the art supply and computer clutter that had taken over her current desk.

She happened upon a gorgeous two-tone desk from Pottery Barn with filing cabinet drawers on each side and was in LOVE – just not with the price.

Fortunately, Melissa was able to snag a similarly styled desk from the thrift store for only $10 and refinish it to resemble her PB inspiration!

pottery barn inspired desk

You too can get a great looking, made-over- desk like Melissa’s. We’ve all seen the second-hand wooden desk in our travels, but what to do with it is another story. Melissa gives us a terrific idea courtesy of Pottery Barn.

Make Your Own Expensive Looking Desk for Cheap

Creating this same look and style on the cheap can clearly be done thanks to Melissa’s own inspiration. So let’s simplify your steps so you can get started right away on yours.

Find a Desk

Plain and simple you need a desk. You need to not pay more than $25 or $30 for it either. You want solid wood, because we’re after a better quality piece of furniture here.

The age doesn’t matter so much because your transformation will give it everything it needs to look great.

You can check your local thrift stores, but you may find that many of them want more for pieces like desks than they’re really worth.

Your best bet is a search on Craigslist. Check daily until you find one that’s the right size for your space and that is close by. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

You’ll find that most people will take next to nothing for an old, unwanted desk like Melissa’s because it’s on the bulky side. They want back the space it’s taking up being stored in the garage or wherever, and they can’t easily transport it away.

If someone can come get it (that’s you!), then they’ll be happy to let it go for less. Melissa really lucked out getting hers for ten bucks. Check the “free” section or “curb alerts” in Craigslist, and you just might do one better than Melissa…but, hey we’re not keeping score, right?


It’s okay if you find a desk that needs a little cosmetic TLC. If it’s real wood, you can do exactly what Melissa did and touch up any dings and scratches with stainable wood putty.

Marks and discoloration don’t matter of course since you’ll be staining and painting.


Sand surfaces to help prep for stain and paint. This goes without saying, but it’s an important step.


For this two-toned, natural wood and white look, simply prime the lower portion of the desk. For the top, stain and add a couple of coats of paste wax.

This will give your smooth surface added protection. You can also use a colored wax for a richer, more even color tone on top if desired.

Swap Hardware

Some might say the most fun part is adding the new hardware. Melissa found hers at Target so don’t hesitate to start there for something durable enough, yet not too pricey.

DIY desk all set up

All-in-all you can pull off this desk makeover for not a lot of money. The key to it all is obtaining an old, forgotten desk for next to nothing.

If you’re lucky, you’ll spend only a few dollars on it. Then go enjoy the process of turning it into a look-alike catalog piece  Melissa was inspired by the Whitney Rectangular Desk Set from Pottery Barn.

whitney rectangular desk

Head on over to The Roane Home for a few more details on Melissa’s project. Or, get to clicking over on Craigslist and let your journey begin.

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