No More Writer’s Block

By Kate Riley August 20, 2009

Last week, I hinted at the table I transformed into a desk for my office/library in this post

For some time, I’ve been drawn to the idea of a writer’s desk in lieu of my traditional dark wood desk with its big and heavy drawers.  By definition, a writer’s desk is more like a table, with few or no drawers, open and airy, forcing the user to be clever with storage, and always organized.  And I’m the type that has to force myself to be organized. 

In my decision to move from dark to light, I found a table at a local outlet that was closing its doors, and decided that with a little paint, and a glass top, it could become my own version of a writer’s desk. 

Just for kicks, take a peek at a few writer’s desks I admire, but am not so willing to pay top dollar for:

beckton writing table ballardBeckton from Ballard Designs

kathy ireland writers desk computerdeskexpertsFrom Computer Desk Experts 

white writing desk overstocks From Overstocks

winham writing desk crate and barrel Windham from Crate + Barrel

To replace my dark wood desk, I found a solid wood table for $40 at a local outlet closing its doors – the same outlet where I found these twin glass towers

Here’s the table:

table before

Just a basic, ordinary table, painted a butter yellow.  I didn’t want the yellow shade in my office, so I sanded the top, primed it with spray primer, then gave it two coats of my most favorite shade of spray paint: Rustoleum’s ‘Heirloom White’.  

rustoleum heirloom white

To give it a personal touch, I made my own stencil out of the fabric from this valance, with the idea to copy the pattern onto my new desk.  

Here’s what I did:  1) I photocopied the fabric on my office printer/copier, 2) I used a report cover available at any office supply store as the base for my stencil, and finally, 3) I used a sharp blade to cut out my own pattern in the plastic. 

homemade stencil 

With my homemade stencil, I sketched the pattern in pencil on the table top. 

sketch stencil

Over the sketch, I used an artist’s brush to paint over the pattern with a soft blue/gray acrylic paint. 

I had a local glass shop make me a custom glass top.  In this picture, you can see some of the hand painted detail. 

desk detail

Can I just tell you it’s almost impossible to get a decent photograph of a glass table top under a window.  The glare is way too intense. 

more table detail

So there it is – my own hand painted writer’s desk for my new office.  Please forgive the bad photograph due to the awful glare.  I even had to lower my dreaded mini blinds which I always hide.  Grrrr.  I couldn’t get a decent shot!  I’m sure you get the idea. 

desk after with chair 

And that is how I transformed an ordinary table into my new desktop.  Now if only I could tackle painting those giant bookcases, I could finish this space !


  1. Stunning! What an inspiring place to work. I do not know how much I would get done in the writing department, but I would certainly be inspired to keep dreaming of more accessories.

  2. Love your new pic, Kate! You did a great job with the stencil and boy, you really lucked out at the store closing didn't you?! Did you just use a straight edge to do the border lines or free hand that? I like this style of desk better as well – I do not want drawers that will just wind up holding stuff I don't need to hold onto.

  3. Just beautiful! It looks very serene and I think you could get some serious work done there!!

  4. The desk looks great. And thanks for showing us how you made your own stencil. The scroll detail around the edges of your desk really make it great! Love it!

  5. Great job Kate! It's beautiful. You have way more patience than I to create that intricate stencil… I had a piece of glass cut for the top of my desk too and love it. So easy to maintain. Unfortunately my desk is not nearly as pretty as yours at this point. :-) Someday I'll get around to redoing my office.

  6. I love how you swanked it up with the stencil border. I just finished a very similar project with my kids old craft table (formerly a kitchen table with a drawer.)I did a little something different with the top, I'll be posting it shortly, hope you'll check it out and give me your opinion.

  7. That is so beautiful. It would be hard to put it in an office. It belongs someplace where everyone can see it!

  8. Wow. I am really impressed! It looks so amazing! How beautiful! I love it…-carlee

  9. Very nice table, greatg stencil job, perfect idea about de glass. So pretty!

  10. This is beautiful! I love how you have such a distinct style. All of the white and light airy colors and beautiful accents… you definitely inspire me to find my own style!

  11. Your office is so beautiful! I can't believe all the talent that comes out of you. Good job! I am so glad you have a blog so we can see all the beautiful spaces you have created.

  12. It is gorgeous! The hand painting really takes it over the top. I bet that was very tedious to cut out. I can't wait to see the finished room.

  13. Looks amazing! I also love your chair. I've been on the lookout for something similar for my bedroom. Great job!

  14. I love your new desk. It is just gorgeous and I love the petty stencil design around the edge. I also really like the chair you're using with it. Hugs, Marty

  15. You did a great job on that desk. It is a one-of-a-kind and fits the space so perfectly.

  16. Looks fabulous. And kudos to you for making your own stencil. I know I'd never be able to do it.

    I have an old recessed panel door that I'd like to turn into a desk so you're giving me some inspiration for spicing it up. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Simply AMAZING!!! I'm in love and "NEED" to find a way to do something like that!

  18. The desk is gorgeous, and I love your hand-painted touches. I really like the idea of making your own stencil using a fabric pattern. I was always good at tracing when I was little – I'll have to give his a try!

  19. Just when I was thinking that that desk would look great painted in Heirloom White, you go and dial it up a notch with that pretty scrolly border. Lovely work! I have a black desk and now I'm thinking I might want to paint it white for my blue office. And add a glass top. What's the cost for the glass top?

  20. Rose just asked the question I was pondering – is it expensive to get glass cut to order?
    The desk looks absolutely beautiful and I think your photos are actually pretty good!!

  21. Rose and Struggler:
    Custom glass tops vary in price based on thickness, size, and edging. Mine was $85 for a 1/4 inch piece that is 3 feet x 5 feet with a polished edge. I recommend getting several estimates from several glass companies in your area to find the best price and quality. :-)

  22. Great job. I have a traditional table as well and while I love it because it was a gift from hubby for Christmas. However, I recently longed for something more simple and spacially clean. Love what you did with this.

  23. very smart makeover! i'm still soooo jealous of your outlet finds…those towers and that table!? crazy good finds!

  24. I have to say I am IN LOVE with the fabric you used for the valance!!! I wish I could find it here! And I love how you used it to paint the top of your desk – beautiful!

  25. I love the idea of a white desk and yours is spectacular. I love the parson desk from West Elm, I think that's going to be my next desk.

  26. you did an amazing job on this! i love the colors you have chosen for your office too- calm and relaxing.

  27. You never cease to amaze me. I just love it. Great job and a gutsy one too.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  28. I cant believe how creative you are. I am following your blog for a month or so and everyday you surprise me!!! Congratulations!!! You are so talented!

    Rosa (from the small part of the world that is called Greece).

  29. I have a table similar to that for my bedside table and I want two more. One for hubby's bedside and one for my I'm on the lookout too! I'd settle for two sofa tables for bedside and move my bedside table for the computer…anything works. OR two beatup old sewing machine tables for bedside tables.

  30. Love what you have done with that office! The crisp white and the clean look is great!

  31. So beautiful!!! I love everything you've done in the office and this desk is just amazing!

  32. Ahh Kate, seriously?! How do you do it every single time??? I LOVE it and just know I'm going to want to live in your office, er, I mean library, when you finish it! It is so tranquil and refreshing…I'm so jealous!! :)

  33. Could you share the size of brush you used to paint the design?

  34. Your desk is beautiful! I love it. Where did you get your cute little Eiffel Tower that is sitting on the desk?

  35. I love your project and started to love the color "heirloom white" that you always use. Where do you get the paint? I tried Home Depot and Lowes but couldn't find the exact one. Thanks

  36. I ADORE this project. I’d like to update my own writers desk in the same way. What a good idea.

  37. Absolutely gorgeous! I like yours the best! I can’t believe you painstakingly cut out a stencil to do the edges like you did! I don’t think I could have been quite so patient. Thanks for the idea, though…lucky for me I have a nifty Silhouette SD machine that cuts stencils (among other things). I think you NEED one too! Maybe Silhouette America would let you review one and you could show how you would use it for decorating!

    You have a very inspiring site! Thanks for the wonderful ideas! I just delved into spray paint (well primer spray paint) for the first time just an hour ago. I’m attempting a remake of an old brass chandelier. I wish I would have read your tips first. Oh well, I only paid $15 for the chandelier and I’ll chalk it up to practice and experience. Can you sand primer drips on brass? Thanks again!

  38. I love how you bring back to life items with a little TLC and a ton of creativity (but not a whole lot of cash expense). I can picture two glass knobs on the front of this desk becoming a ‘faux’ drawer… after seeing the samples you posted included their own drawers. It would go with the glass top I would think…

  39. Do you mind me asking what the glass cost you? I’m almost done re-doing a desk I got (inspired by your desk of course!) and am looking for a place to make the glass. My desk is 30″x60″…I wonder how much money I’m looking at to get that glass?

  40. Beautiful and so inspiring! I’ve been keeping an eagle eye on craigslist for a table that i can turn into a sewing/craft table using this very idea.

    I’d love to have a chair like yours to complete the look – did you refinish/reupholster that yourself or did you buy it that way?

  41. I love love love this piece! Man I just want to be a copycat on this one, actually now that I am thinking about it I just want you to gift me this one.

  42. Congratulations on your many successful pieces. QUESTION: You used acrylic paint on the embellishment, over alkyd/oil enamel…usually this peels off with a thumbnail. What acrylic paint did you use, and/or what was the process? Is that why the glass is on the top?

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