Repurpose an MCM Desk into Nightstands

Today I’m sharing how to repurpose a desk into nightstands… one of my favorite things to do with old desks from the Thrift store.

Get more painted nightstands ideas here!

Wood desk we found at a thrift store before we turned it into nightstands.

This MCM desk was only $20 at the thrift store! It was made very well, and it was in great shape, other than some chipped veneer here and there.

I don’t get how they price things sometimes. But hey, I’ll take the good deal!

And I think it’s going to be perfect to turn into some nightstands!

Supplies Used to repurpose a desk into nightstands

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Tools Used:

Grab our list of 10 must have supplies for painting furniture too!

Remove Hardware and Clean

First, I started with how I always start makeovers. I removed the hardware and cleaned everything off with some Krud Kutter and a damp rag.

I used a scraper to get some extra stubborn things off… and the old finish scraped off pretty easily!

Click here to learn more about How to Clean Furniture Before Painting.

Remove Top and Middle of Desk

With all of that out of the way, I got started on the fun part.

I took off the top of the desk.

Typically tops are held on with some screws or nails.

This one had screws in the front and nails in the back, so it was pretty easy.

Removing the top of the desk.

Then I had to figure out how to get rid of the middle part.

I ended up using my Dremel Multi-Tool to cut the wood.

Cutting the desk with a dremel multi max tool.

I got it a few years ago, and it comes in handy for these projects where you want to completely transform something.

Just plug it in, flip the switch to turn it on, and then push the blade into the wood to start cutting.  

(This is the project that I originally got the multi-tool for… adding legs to a dresser.)

Then I pried the wood out… trying to be careful to not break anything else.

These were nailed in pretty well, but eventually, I was able to wiggle them out.

I hammered the drawer tracks off…

And then for the back brace, I had to do some more cutting.

Cutting the back brace of the desk with a dremel tool.

And then I cleaned up my mess.

Fix Damage

Closeup you can see all of the damage that I did.

So I had to glue a piece of wood back on, and then fill in all of the holes.

Gluing a broken piece of wood back on and filling holes with kwik wood.

This would usually be a great time to use Bondo if you can work outside.

I am still stuck inside, so I filled it all in with Kwikwood.

Yeah… I went through a lot of Kwikwood. But I know that I can trust it to hold strong and not sink or crack.

(This is why I love KwikWood for Filling holes)

Oh, and I filled the chipped veneer in with some Kwikwood too.

Click here to learn more about How to Use KwikWood.


While I waited for the Kwikwood to dry, I sanded the drawers down to raw wood with 150-grit sandpaper and then 220-grit sandpaper.

Learn more about Sandpaper for Furniture Painting here.

And I sanded everything else to make sure the old finish wasn’t going to come right off… and then I sanded the KwikWood down as well.

Read this post to learn more about The Importance of Sanding Before Painting Furniture.

I didn’t fill them well enough, so I had a few shallow spots to fill with wood filler.

Click here to learn more about Best Wood Filler for Furniture.

Cut New Tops

Before I could start painting, I needed to figure out the new tops for these nightstands.

The old top was easy enough to cut with the table saw.

Cutting the top of the desk with a table saw.

I put tape where we cut the wood so the veneer wouldn’t crack or split on the ends.

The edges were all straight, so I didn’t need to router new edges either.

And then I flipped the nightstands over, onto the new tops, and screwed the tops on, using the original screws and holes.

I used my nail gun to nail the back into place.

Oh, and while I had it on my mind, I replaced the drawer stoppers that were missing. Now that drawer stops right where it’s supposed to stop.

Then I sanded all the filler down again, and cleaned them all up so I could prime.

Speaking of sanding…click here to learn about the Best Sanders for Furniture.


If you’ve watched my videos before, you’ve probably seen me using clear shellac as a primer.

This makeover is no different.

I sprayed 2 coats of clear shellac on the nightstands, letting it dry for an hour between coats, and letting it dry overnight before I painted.

The clear shellac just prevents the wood tannins from staining my paint, and it helps the paint stick better!

Learn more about The Best Primer for Painting Furniture (and How to Choose the Right One) here!


The next day I mixed up some House and Canvas in the color Industrial Blue, and added some water to it to thin it out enough for the paint sprayer.

I used this Wagner FLEXiO 3000. I think it is one of the best beginner paint sprayers out there.

Spraying blue chalk paint onto nightstands with a paint sprayer.

And it could totally spray this paint without thinning the paint, but the finish would have had a lot of texture in it.

Adding water to the paint helps the sprayer spray the paint, but it also helps the paint level out better.

(Learn more about this paint sprayer here!)

So then I tested the spray to make sure I was happy with the settings, and then I sprayed 1 coat on.

It sprayed SO good! The finish was that perfectly fine finish that I’m always looking for, so I was super happy!

By the way, I saw this idea for a paint booth filter on Instagram from Phillip or Flop.

It’s 4 thick filters and a box fan taped together. It did a great job at keeping the paint cloud out of the air while I sprayed!

We built this paint booth filter with 4 air filters taped together in a square with a fan on top.

After the paint was dry, I decided to fill the wood grain, since I had sanded the tops all the way down to bare wood.

And I also wood filled some spots that I had missed… and caulked the seams.

Caulking the seams and cracks on the nightstands.

After I sanded the wood filler and spackling down, I sprayed another coat of shellac onto the nightstands.

I’ve had issues with bleedthrough after filling in wood grain, and I could see some bleedthrough in the spackling because I sanded it down.

So I didn’t want to chance having those stains show up in my final finish.

Click here to learn more about How to Get Rid of Bleed Through – The ugly stains on painted wood that won’t go away.

This time I only let it dry for an hour or so.

Then Taylor sprayed the 2nd and 3rd coats of paint on the nightstands.

After the 3rd coat of paint was dry, there were a couple of very small runs, so I sanded those away and hit them really quickly with more paint.

Topcoat the wood drawers

While all of those coats of paint were drying, Taylor sprayed the drawers with some poly.

The can of poly was dripping, so he wiped the drips away… and then sanded it with 400-grit sandpaper when the poly was dry.

Then he sprayed 2 more coats, repeating the process.

Topcoating Chalk Paint

When the paint was dry on the nightstands, we emptied out the paint sprayer’s container, so there was only a teeny tiny bit of paint left in there.

And then we filled it up with some Satin water-based polyurethane and a little bit of water.

And then mixed it together really well.

Learn more about the best polyurethane for furniture here.

I adjusted the sprayer’s settings to where I thought they should go… tested it out and thought it was good.

It was way too much though. And I had drips ALL OVER. So I brushed them out before they dried…

Brushing the polyurethane drips with a paintbrush.

And when the poly was all the way dry, I sanded the poly to smooth it out.

I didn’t want to have to repaint these, but I wanted to get the texture smooth again.

So I sanded lightly with 220-grit sandpaper and 400-grit sandpaper.. and even a sanding sponge.

Then I cleaned everything up and sprayed again. I adjusted the settings, but a lot was coming out still! But I hoped it would be fine…

But nope… The poly ended up dripping, and so I had to brush it out and sand everything again.

I was seriously so frustrated and confused. But when I adjusted and tested the settings I realized that I had my fluid settings almost all of the way up!

This sprayer is backwards from my other sprayer, so I get confused sometimes. Ugh! Nothing but user error here!

Learn all about How to Spray Polyurethane with a paint sprayer here!

So, with a lot less of a spray, I sprayed the 3rd coat.

Spraying a third coat of polyurethane on the nightstands with a paint sprayer.

And it worked perfectly!!

Maybe I should listen to my own advice and make sure my settings are where they are supposed to be before spraying! haha

Read through this post to help you choose the best topcoat for painting furniture.


And here’s what it looks like now!

A pair of matching, tall nightstands! Perfect for a small bedroom.

Top view of chalk painted nightstands made from a desk.
Side view of mid century modern nightstands painted in blue chalk paint.
Finished nightstands with blue chalk paint and natural wood drawers.

More Before And After Makeovers

Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

What do you think of this hardware? We wanted something a little bit funky for these. But the good news is that they can be easily switched out to different knobs for whoever buys these.

Speaking of, I’ve sold these types of nightstands for anywhere between $300 and $550 before.

They do take a lot of work though.

Repurpose an MCM Desk into Nightstands

Repurpose an MCM Desk into Nightstands

The best thing to do with old desks is to transform them into something new. Here's how to repurpose a desk into nightstands.


  1. Remove the old hardware and clean the desk to prep for paint.
  2. Take the top of the desk off and cut the middle part of the desk.
  3. Fix all the damage from taking the desk apart.
  4. Sand everything down.
  5. Cut new tops and attach them to the nightstands.
  6. Prime to prevent bleedthrough and help paint stick better.
  7. Apply a few coats of paint.
  8. Topcoat with some poly.

Recommended Products

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