HOUSE: Newburgh

My desk.


My desk is comprised of the top of my father’s huge drafting table and two pairs of steel legs from IKEA. The original adjustable legs weren’t stable, and I needed it to work as a computer/sewing machine-friendly surface. The replacement legs have worked out really well, and I have no regrets about removing the old base (it’s safely stored in my basement, in case I ever change my mind).

One thing I had been worried about, though, was the condition of the top of the table. My father used it for many years, and I then gave it a real beating while I was in art school—I ate my meals at it, did all of my drawing and design projects on it, and even fell asleep with my head on it more than a few times. It was dirty, and really needed to be cleaned with a stronger method than soap and water.

I had put off sanding it because I was concerned the desk would lose its time-earned patina (which really is the best thing about it), but it turned out I had nothing to worry about. I went over it with my orbital sander, and as you can see, all of Dad’s pin-holes and all of my cut marks are still beautifully evident. I gave it a good rubdown with Feed-N-Wax (I’m not a fan of finishing wood with polyurethane unless absolutely necessary), let it dry overnight, and it’s ready to go.

I also sanded the peeling brown paint off of the front of the drawer and coated it with an opaque black stain. While I was polishing up the handles, I discovered this pegasus griffin (wait, maybe it’s just an eagle?) engraved in each one. How funny that I have known this table for literally my entire life, but I never noticed them before. Huh.

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  • Reply kathryn September 13, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    what a beautiful desk, and that it was your dad’s makes it even better. my mom has a great table she uses to paint at, maybe one day she will pass it along to me 🙂

  • Reply Dawn Marie September 13, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    What a beautiful work space you have created. To have a desk with so much history and meaning for you and your family is so nice. I am in awe of the lack of wires and mess, the same mess that seems to plague the back of my open desk. Maybe you can let those of us “wire organized” challenged people in on your secret.

  • Reply chrispito September 13, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    I love the light coming in from the window. Your work space is lovely!

  • Reply Katja September 13, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    It’s a beautiful table! I like furniture with a history.

  • Reply stacey September 13, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    i’m pretty sure that half eagle/half pegasus thing is a griffin. that is a pretty cool desk.

  • Reply LaDonna September 13, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Great desk. What do you have your sewing machine on?

  • Reply Robin September 13, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    I’ve always wondered where you got your massive calendar from? I can barely see it in the first picture. It is a calendar isn’t it?

  • Reply Rachel September 13, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    BEAUTIFUL and so well laid out. Lovely workspace!

  • Reply kate f September 13, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Ooh, I love it–it’s so glowy and lovely. I have a loathsome Ikea desk that I’ve had since I graduated from college, and the birch veneer makes me sad. I’d love something wonderful and weathered like that.

  • Reply Cori September 13, 2008 at 3:20 pm


  • Reply peacock modern September 13, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    the patina is lovely – you did a great job refinishing it!

  • Reply karina September 13, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    I love your home office, your old desk, the ikea chairs, warm and net.

  • Reply erin@designcrisis September 13, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Gorgeous desk, beautiful windows. You’re a lucky girl!

  • Reply Pip September 13, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    what a great workspace.

  • Reply karly September 13, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    How on god’s green earth do you keep your desk so neat? I am an obsessive organizer and my home is spotless but I CAN NOT for the life of me keep my workspace clear for more than 5 minutes. I am in awe!!! (plus it’s really lovely too)

  • Reply Anna at D16 September 13, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Dawn Marie: The secret is a wireless modem and an Airport. Everything is done wirelessly. My modem and printer/scanner are inside of that white locker next to the desk, and are plugged into a power strip (also inside of the locker). I hate wires! The only reason I don’t have wireless keyboard/mouse is because I need an extended keyboard (which isn’t available wireless).

    stacey: I know, my husband just told me! All I know is that it’s not a Satyr or a Centaur. 😀

    LaDonna: I store my sewing machine on a little cart from IKEA. Nothing fancy!

    Robin: It’s Massimo Vignelli’s Stendig calendar. You can usually buy it at MoMA or Unica (they have it available for preorder now). Crate & Barrel sometimes stocks it, too.

    karina: I love IKEA, but that’s not an IKEA chair!

    karly: Believe me, it gets messy when I work! I try to clean up as I go, though, because I’m far less productive when I have clutter all around me. I’m one of those people that can’t even have an “inspiration board”, because it’s too distracting. (That black drawer holds a lot!)

  • Reply iwantunow September 13, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Awesome work on this desk. What a great example of how giving a second chance to old-furniture can give a stupendous result!
    Where does this chair come from?

  • Reply megan September 13, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    what a lovely post. 🙂

    ps: i love rosebud salve!

  • Reply suzanne September 13, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    fantastic workspace. howards feed-n-wax is unstoppable! just last weekend i used it to bring an old teak tray back to life and i have been admiring it from across the room ever since.

  • Reply Anna at D16 September 13, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    iwantunow: The chair is a vintage Eames DAT-1 in warm yellow (mustard) with a black shell.

  • Reply angie September 13, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    what a gorgeous desk! i am also a fan of non poly finishes, and think your whole area is simply wonderful.

  • Reply B.Alkan September 13, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    I’m loving the miniature Modigliani book.

  • Reply Adam September 13, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    What a beautiful piece of furniture! Family heirloom pieces like that are great, i love that you were able to sand it yet still maintain the character. I have never heard of using wax like that before instead of polyurethane.

  • Reply Adam September 13, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    I’m sure that is a griffin and not just an eagle.

  • Reply Fredric September 14, 2008 at 3:54 am

    What a nice and warm place. Here is my desk 🙂 What do you think?

  • Reply read me... September 14, 2008 at 10:54 am

    WOW looks fantastic! What a lovely place to work…

  • Reply nina September 14, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Oooh… how beautiful to have a desk with such a great history. It’s really beautiful, not just because of all the marks and the life that the table obviously has been living, but also because it simply is a beautiful table that gives so much life and a great atmosphere to the room, it really combines well with the clean white stuff!

  • Reply Anna September 14, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Hi, I’ve been following your posts for a while and just wanted to say I love the work you’ve done. My boyfriend and I both work from home and have our desks facing each other. My desk is a clean, modern piece with chrome legs and a cobalt blue top. His has a beautiful old oak library desk. We both have Aeron chairs. I love the combination- so warm and clean. Your desk legs from Ikea are PERFECT with your Dad’s top. Thanks for all the great posts.

  • Reply griffo68 September 15, 2008 at 4:12 am

    Loving your work area and your desk is gorgeous.
    I have the wireless version of your Apple keyboard and mouse and I love them (although the scroll ball tends to stick now and again and it also does it on my wired version).
    You have my dream Eames chair…..I’m still looking for one!!
    I’m going to NYC in 3 weeks time and hopefully Crate and Barrel will have the Stendig calendars in stock,I’ve been after one for a while now.
    So nice that you have all that history with your desk.

  • Reply dana September 15, 2008 at 9:02 am

    I love your workspace…the desk and the chair are gorgeous! I wanted to ask what you use for your files? I’m organizing my office/sewing room from scratch….and I’m sure I am going to become one with IKEA! any thoughts? I have the stainless top desk from Ikea, and my cutting table is a stainless prep table from a restaurant supply. thanks!

  • Reply Anna at D16 September 15, 2008 at 9:28 am

    dana: What do you mean by files? Paperwork and that kind of thing? We have a 3-drawer filing cabinet (it’s in a closet), but I think we are going to switch to stackable file boxes because the cabinet is kind of overkill. We’ve been trying to go as paperless as possible with bills, etc., so hopefully we won’t accumulate too much more going forward.

  • Reply onlygoodthings September 20, 2008 at 4:39 am

    If you don’t mind me asking what are the measurements of your beautiful table top? I am currently looking for one, but need a rough idea of what to look for (especially over the net). Thanks!

  • Reply Anna at D16 September 20, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    onlygoodthings: The table top is 60 x 36″. Hope that helps!

  • Reply Kate September 22, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Eee, this is so lovely, Anna! You’ve done a perfect job – you’re lucky to have a piece with so much personal history.

    I also wanted to let you know I’ve passed on a small blog award to you today – thanks for always providing such lovely lovelies 🙂

  • Reply ambika September 23, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    The patina really is beautiful.

  • Reply Elisabeth October 5, 2008 at 4:17 am

    Your place is just gorgeous Anna.

  • Reply Angelia October 9, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Wow!! your desk is very clean… mine is usually a mess!! love the kalanchoe

  • Reply kelly January 6, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    waaaaay after the fact (I only discovered your blog last night, via sfgirlbybay!), but I am grinning because I have that same little monkey on your desk. Mine is named George.

    I am currently unemployed (laid off last month) so have LOTS of time to read your blog archives and, boy, am I getting sucked in! I love your writing, photos, puppies… everything. (I am also intensely envious of your plaid dress with wide belt/black opaque tights/boots ensemble.)

    Kelly in SF

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