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Reviving Mid-Century Modern, a curbside rescue

It was just a normal Wednesday, the one and only garbage day around these parts. I don’t remember why, but I made an early run to the grocery store that morning.

On the way back into the neighborhood, whilst having my routine morning chat on the phone with my best buddy, I spotted this interesting sight.

I wasn’t exactly sure what it was or what I was going to do with it, but I knew at the very least it needed to come home with me for a closer inspection. It was a free treasure after all.

I whipped my car around, popped open the back gate, moved my groceries to the front seat and jammed that baby in there with the gate still wide open.  I didn’t have far to go and my neighbors know me well enough not to be concerned by strange furniture being hauled into my garage. Ha!

Turns out, this piece of trash was actually a unique looking, mid-century modern desk and hutch. It was in pretty good shape. Solid wood construction with just a few scuffs here and there. The only offensive thing about it was this laminate top. I mean come on, really?

I guess the “new, modern thinking” of the time was that laminate made for a durable work surface.  I find it doubtful it ever really matched the rest of the wood finish. But a lot of people like to have more modern furniture so they renovate old pieces, or they buy newly made ones from online or high street stores. If this is something you’re into rather than the mid century looking pieces, then It’s always worth reading reviews on Authority sites before purchasing any furniture like a new and modern electric fireplace TV stand, just to get a look at what’s worth the money and what’s not. However, I prefer to refurbish old pieces of furniture myself as I find it much more exciting this way, but it’s your choice.

Once Emily, our teenage daughter, set her eyes and heart on keeping it for herself, I thought the best way to revive this piece was to get rid of the tacky laminate.

In between refinishing the Room of Hope table, I did a bit of restoration to the wood finish as well.

The legs were looking a little scuffed, the front of the desk had an icky wax build up and there was a small spot of damage on the hutch.

Honestly, I’d never worked on a mid-century piece before, so I was totally winging it.  I did, however, know I had absolutely nothing to lose. It was a curbside rescue after all.

I began by sanding the gunk off and the scuffs out. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I was going to need to sand the finish off completely or not. However, I noticed as I was cleaning it with mineral spirits, and it was still wet, even the parts that had been sanded seemed to match the parts that were in perfect condition.

I decided to try just applying a coat of Wipe-On Poly from Minwax and see what would happen. And much to my surprise and delight, after a few coats of finish, it was completely restored.  I have a hunch now that most mid century modern pieces aren’t stained at all.  The “stain color” is really just the natural petina of the wood with a type of low luster finish.

Next I needed to address that hideous laminate top.  I thought it would be fun to paint just the top of the desk a bright color.  It would solve the icky laminate look and further update what was turning out to be a very cool desk.

Knowing chalk paint would be the easiest and most durable paint for this application, that’s what I used. I also had some leftover from this beauty.

I taped off the top and applied 2 coats of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Aubusson Blue with a sponge roller for smooth surfaces like cabinets.

While the Aubusson Blue is in the right family of the color I wanted, I tweaked the color a little, and created a custom color to match a bright, cobal-tish blue found in her bedding. 

To do this, I added several shades of blue acrylic paint to the chalk paint until I achieved a match.  You can see my progression of the seven tries to get the color just right. 🙂

Then I applied another two coat of the custom color, followed by three coats of Johnson’s Paste Wax.

After a good drying and buffing, this mid-century modern piece was ready to move into the high tech, iPod playing, iPad text book reading, world of a modern teenager.

It was Emily’s final decision to keep the wood finish and this future interior designer was right on the money.  The rest of the furniture in her room is painted, so the new desk has added some much needed warmth and character.

In this photo, you can just see a little bit of the blue I was color matching from the bedding.  It’s on the little patch of polka dots there on the right. I couldn’t photograph the whole room because she was sick in bed. ;(

As it often goes when you bring in a new piece of furniture, we did a little furniture rearranging and then decided her desk chair needed a “groovy” makeover as well.  {Click here to see.}

We both love this hip new addition to her room.  I’m so lucky to have a daughter who appreciates good design, no matter it’s source or era. 😉

I’ll share the how to and sources for the furry chair makeover next time.

But for now, keep your eyes open on trash day!  I sure do!  If you want to see my previous roadside rescue, check out this post.


You can even follow “My Furniture Revival” board on Pinterest.

Sharing here: 

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6 Comments

  • marty (A Stroll Thru Life)
    October 9, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    What a fabulous piece. Love the redo. I would love for you to link up to my Inspire Me party that is ongoing – -http://www.astrollthrulife.net/2013/10/185th-inspire-me-tuesday.html. Hope to see you there. Hugs, Marty

    Reply
  • DESIGNITIGIRL
    October 12, 2013 at 3:31 am

    so cute and I love the color. MCM my favorite style

    Reply
  • Maryann @ Domestically-Speaking
    October 15, 2013 at 7:04 am

    You did a great update! I'm featuring your desk/hutch in the PoPP Spotlight this week.

    Reply
  • Brooke Larsen
    October 17, 2013 at 4:07 am

    What a fun idea to add color to the top…I always do it opposite!! I would love for you to come link up at my Furniture and Paint Party going on now!! Hope to see you soon<br />Brooke<br />startathome.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • Pat Winters
    October 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Cool, glad to see it rescued. You did a great job, and the colored top adds lots of personality. I have several similar pieces, bought new in the 70s at Scandinavian specialty stores in the USA. The pieces are teak, with oiled finish, which I&#39;ve maintained. Never saw an original with poly, nor with wax, though over the years owners add their own finish. Also, I suspect the laminate may have

    Reply
  • Leslie Davis
    October 17, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Pat, Thank you for your comment. I honestly didn&#39;t do any research before hand to know it was probably an oiled finish. Makes sense now why the finish would come back with mineral spirits. I think if it was a piece I bought, a prized antique, I would have taken more care to keep it true to the original. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Now I know. 🙂

    Reply

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