Out With the New, In With the Old

Did you ever get rid of a piece of furniture to make room for a replacement… without knowing whether the replacement would even function, or fit in the space? It’s a commitment. It takes some faith to burn a bridge and say I’m gonna make this work.

For about five years I’ve used a cheapie “hand-me-up” desk that we got for our older son back when he was in high school. You know the kind: particle board with wood-grain contact paper on the visible surfaces, barely sanded on the undersides. It had become worn, scuffed and scratched, but was still plenty sturdy.

Occasionally we talked about replacing the ugly desk with something a bit more grown-up, but never got around to it. If it ain’t broke, you know…

Then three years ago, while we were emptying my parents’ lake house for sale, we found something in the tool shed — something I knew well but had forgotten about. There, behind scrap pipe and cans of outboard motor fuel, sat a dark wooden box about three feet long and half as wide. The lid was split in half lengthwise. When I saw two antique-brass drawer pulls along one long side of the lid, I realized what we’d uncovered.

“Hey, this is Mom’s old desk!” I told Brent. Sure enough, we soon found the carved, screw-on legs wrapped in a towel. “I used to do my grade-school homework on this.” I showed Brent how the front half of the lid flipped over onto the back to form a shelf, with pigeonholes and a drawer underneath. A “trundle” writing surface pulls out from under the pigeonholes.

Mom had often told me the story of the brown desk. “Santa” had brought it to her for Christmas when she was in first grade, somewhere around 1930-ish. My grandmother promptly went to borrow an old dining chair from her grandmother, brought it home and set it in front of the desk. Mom used that desk/chair combo for her studies all the way through high school.

We didn’t put the desk in the estate sale, thanks to its sentimental connection with both my childhood and Mom’s. “Too bad we don’t have any place at home to use this,” I said as we parked the disassembled piece in storage with the 1950’s kitchen stool and boxed dishes.

Recently I got the notion to bring the desk home and see whether I could polish it up to be presentable–the tool shed years had not been kind. But… even if it looked okay, where would I put it? Nevertheless, we retrieved it and stashed it in the spare room.

Then, in perhaps the world’s longest double-take, a bold thought struck me:

Maybe I could use Mom’s desk for work!

What, that old thing? It had never held a computer component, or even a calculator, in its life. Would it manage a desktop computer and peripherals?

I took a hard look at my equipment. Only the tower was heavy, and that could sit on the floor. The flipped-open lid was wide enough for the monitor base, and would put the screen at eye level. A full-width drawer under the writing surface would probably hold my supplies…

Hmmmmmmm… It’s so crazy, it just might work.

I went after the dried-out surfaces with lemon oil, soft rags and optimism. Before I knew it, the finish had regained its dignified glow. Out went the “new” desk with the trash. Boy, I hoped I wouldn’t regret getting rid of it.

Vintage / Modern: getting along nicely, wouldn't you say?

Vintage / Modern: getting along nicely, wouldn’t you say?

After an hour’s shuffling and organizing, I’m glad to report that I now have a pretty, inspiring place to work. With most of the supplies in drawers and pigeonholes, it’s clutter-free. I even have room to display the telegraph key my dad used during his early years with the railroad.

This post is getting as long as it is long overdue, so I’ll quit gloating now. A question before I go, though: Have you ever discovered that something old suits you better than a more contemporary version? I’d love to hear your stories of rescuing or repurposing an old item that others might have discarded. Did you risk anything in the process?

Thanks for reading!
This week I’m linking up with Jen and the Soli Deo Gloria sisters.

About Jan C. Johnson

Welcome! If you like food, reading, laughing over life's little disasters, and maybe thinking about the bigger things of life, you have come to the right place. Besides blogging, I write humorous fiction, though real life tends to leave fictional humor in the shade. But I'm not a total goofball. No, really. I'm also working on a biography project. I live in North Texas with my husband, Brent. We enjoy bicycling, Mexican food, and traveling to visit our kids and grandkids.
This entry was posted in I Remember When... (my OWN stories) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Out With the New, In With the Old

  1. Jody Lee Collins says:

    Jan this is the best story…..Frankly, I always go for old and used–even my ‘new’ couch (10 years ago) is in an older looking fabric….I always like things that look worn in and loved–pieces with character–like us!


  2. Excellent choice! The desk is beautiful and what’s more…full of memories for you! My choice is always old over new…and my house is full of old furniture, books, memories! They comfort me!! ❤


  3. This is awesome! So great that you have this piece with such family history in your home! 🙂


  4. Hi Jan! Welcome back to blogging, yay! That desk is gorgeous, I’m so glad you didn’t throw it out. That desk has had quite a journey, hasn’t it? As far as me repurposing, I don’t do it that much…except that every stick of furniture (except for a few) in my house have been hand-me-downs. Our living room set was given to us by my friend who was getting new stuff…ten years ago!! But we have enjoyed having it here.

    Thanks for your visit today! I’m looking forward to getting to know you better 🙂


  5. Jan, you did an amazing job with this desk! It is beautiful. Much like you.


  6. marlece says:

    I’m with Jen, beautiful!


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