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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

What to do with giant, ugly desk my husband loves

hotdrysunnyFebruary 25, 2013
My husband bought us a Rustic Mexican-made desk a number of years ago that he loves. The words "rustic" and "ergonomic" rarely go together and this desk is no exception.

Fully 6 feet long and almost 4 feet deep, it is a monolithic monstrosity. The drawers are not on slides so they tip downwards when you open them. They are just large empty holes so things just have to sit in there. I have drawer organizers to put in them, but I am developing the opinion that drawer organizers in a home office can actually defeat organization. This post isn't about the evolution of my home organization philosophy so I'll just leave it at that.

The back is completely enclosed so I would have to drill holes in the top and back if I wanted to discreetly run cables and cords to outlets. The thing is impossible to move, so if the outlet is behind any part of it, you end up with a giant surge protector ON the desk to facilitate plugging and unplugging cords. Plus I just unconditionally and irrationally hate it as a computer desk.

Dogs have chewed the bottom corners and the whole thing is finished with a dark oil-type rub so it's a weird gray-tan-greenish, old motor oil color. It looks dirty all the time.

The boards that make up the top were not joined properly (giving it even more of a RUSTIC appearance), so the putty has fallen out and there are 1/8 inch gaps between them. They're also not completely even so you can't write on it unless you move your paper all the way over to the side. I tried to use it as a craft table, but it's too low to stand at and the gaps have eaten any number of beads, paper embellishments, sequins and pins.

I was hoping it would be too big to move out of our old house (we remodeled the kitchen after we moved it into the back office) but no such luck. So we are preparing to move into a new house and I fear I am going to be forced to put this beast into my new office, which I was hoping to fill with light and brightness. This desk, I am sure, will suck the life and joy out of any room I put it in.

The photo I'm attaching is as close as I could find - ours is in the storage unit. Imagine a similar desk with no fancy rope trim, several shades darker, and an aura of grey, moribund depression hanging over the whole thing.

Any ideas about what I can do with this thing? My husband thinks it's awesome, but probably wouldn't be adverse to me "fixing it up" a little.
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Sounds as if the desk is completely dysfunctional for storage or work space of any sort. Many of the problems (uneven top, dog chews, drawers tipping down, dirty/ugly finish) could readily be fixed (with time and money) IFF you were motivated. So my question is...if the specific problems identified were resolved, would you then be very happy with this desk or are you always going to hate it? (I'm sensing the latter.) Desks need to be functional. That is the point.

Maybe it would help to make your husband work exclusively at this desk for a time. For instance, if you usually pay household bills and work on taxes, have him do it solo - at this desk - for the next 3 months. No fair escaping to dining table. Kindly but firmly lead him back to the desk. Then I think you will have an easier time guiding him to the right shared decision.

You might have an easier time getting rid of this, if you help him choose a new piece (maybe end table or console where the rusticity is less of a practical problem) in this rustic style so he can enjoy the style.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 6:53AM
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Two suggestions (warning, both involve getting rid of the desk rather than remediating it):
1. Is there something your husband really wants and you don't--something that you don't want slightly less than you don't want this desk? An expensive fly fishing vacation? Learning to play a sport he likes? Letting him pick the next car? Offer a trade--the desk gets replaced in exchange for your concession on another issue he knows you usually would oppose.
2. Buy your husband a beautiful, expensive new desk--something in a style he will really like, but not this dysfunctional rustic mess of a desk you have now. Surprise him for a birthday, Christmas or anniversary by getting rid of the old desk and installing the new one without his knowledge. He'll be too polite to tell you that he misses his old desk because it would seem like he was ungrateful for your generous surprise gift.
3 Likes    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:04AM
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Starla Kelsey
I agree with feeny. This desk needs to go.
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:12AM
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I love your sense of humour! It does seem to be only a laugh or cry situation.
I think you need to backhand someone to accidentally drop it during the move (from a 5th storey building). But if you are unable to get rid of it or break it - what can you do that will keep your husband happy and you not breathing in a paper bag everytime you see it!!?

So putting on the thinking hat:
1) If you could fix it up a bit - you could have a tragic accident with paint/saw/drilling while you were fixing it up and then it would have to be torn apart
2) If not do it up so badly that he won't want it.
3) If he see through that - then does it have to go in your office? If not, could it go outside like a potting shed table and you could let the elements have their way with it and cover it with tons of potted plants - preferably ones that trail over the front?
Hmmm I can't think out of the box much more....
All the best and let us know what happens - this is one of the most entertaining dilemmas for today, although very sorry for your predicament
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:14AM
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Carolyn C. Interior Decorator, Brampton, ON.
Here are a couple of ideas. Not sure if any will appeal to you. But here goes :-)

Can it be stripped down to its natural state and then you could do a wash on it or leave it natural and re putty the cracks failing that you can prime and paint it any colour you want

Consider a glass top which will protect the top and make it more functional

Consider new drawer glides on the drawers. I just put new full extension soft close glides in the kitchen for about 3.50 a set

Consider having a flip down front on the centre drawer and use it for your keyboard or laptop

Drill a hole in the top and use grommets to finish any holes so you can run your wires and mount your power bar on the underside

Hope these suggestions help

Good luck!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:17AM
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Interiors International, Inc.
How about paying some friends to help move it into the new house. For a hundred bucks I bet they could drop it while it comes off the truck. ;-)
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:19AM
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Carolyn C. Interior Decorator, Brampton, ON.
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:22AM
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I am especially happy to see that, at least at this point, Houzzers are confirming my irrational hatred of this innocent piece of furniture and not suggesting that I strip it and paint it hi-gloss candy-apple red.

ASVInteriors, I think you've hit on something - the house we're buying has a huge detached workshop/garage that we intend to use for my husband's reloading and gunsmith-stuff space. Your suggestion #3 is right on the money and saves my marriage in the process - I can put this out in HIS work area and he can gaze upon it's rustic awfulness to his heart's content!

I'll even slap a coat of protective something-or-other on it, although it will get covered in Hoppe's and barrel oil soon enough. Brilliant!!!
4 Likes    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:23AM
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Carolyn C. Interior Decorator, Brampton, ON.
Sounds like a perfect solution then you can get what you love for your space. Sounds like you hate it so much that anything you do is not going to make it any better.
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:28AM
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hotdrysunny I enjoyed reading your post lots, you were born to write, I swear!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:31AM
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Carolyn C - your suggestions would probably make this desk work really well - and I totally appreciate the thought and creativity - I never even considered a flip top front, that's a great idea.

However, I think I'm going with "giving it to the hubby to use as HIS desk in a place where I don't have to look at it" plan. That's probably a cop-out, I admit, but I think at this point I could buy a nice, light computer/office desk for less that it would cost (time and money) to retrofit this thing. Plus I'm not a patient craftsperson so I'm pretty sure I'd really screw it up in the process - thus putting into action ASVInteriors plan for me to do a bad job on the refinish so I'd have an excuse to ditch it!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:31AM
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Carolyn C. Interior Decorator, Brampton, ON.
I agree. :-). It's the perfect solution.
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:34AM
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Here's the proposed home of the desk - unfortunately the guy who's selling the house is NOT selling that awesome SuperBee with the house. . . but you get the idea!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:35AM
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Hahaha! I think all of us, as designers, must slip into "therapist" mode most often than not..and this is a perfect example. You now have your perfect solution, thanks to your houzz "therapist" who really listened to what troubled you the most...it wasn't a renovation..it was a relocation!
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:35AM
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R J Hoppe Inc
Does your new home have a fireplace hint hint. I agree with feeny. Gert rid of it.

Having said that, we have made custom "computer desks" for years. Rustic and functional can work together. It's just not mass marketable or "in" at this particular point in time so you won't find one at your local store. What is perhaps more challenging is the juxtaposition of high tech looking monitors, telephone equipment, faxes, printers and cpu's onto or into a rustic looking desk that is supposed to look like it came at a time when the telegraph was first invented. But, it can be done. :)
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:44AM
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Oooh, hotdrysunny - can I add marriage counselor to my resume!!!?
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:46AM
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hotdrysunny, LOVE the sense of humor! I had the same issue with a HORROR of a desk my husband loved..... ASVInteriors hit it!! we moved it into his machine shop area, it's now covered with metal filings & drill holes - everybody's happy!
But..... are you SURE the Seller won't part with that gorgeous Super Bee, tho????
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:55AM
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this is EXACTLY what I was looking for when I posted: confirmation that my instincts were right (we all need confirmation from total strangers, don't we??), and suggestions that would inspire me to do something with it that would satisfy both MY wish to get rid of it and my husband's desire to keep it.

opposite-sounding results can sometimes be achieved with just the right amount of creativity.

Now I just have to Jedi-mind-trick my husband into believing this is the right place for HIS desk!! :-)
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:55AM
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on second thought, Candy Apple Red with Pearl White drawer pulls WOULD look stunning...lol!
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:56AM
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i went with the ol' tried-n-true honesty thing.... "Honey, you really love this thing, errr... piece of art, and i absolutely detest it. Can we make better use of it in the workshop?? When Momma's happy ....... " :)
4 Likes    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 8:01AM
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Starla Kelsey
This all has reminded me of the leg lamp in "A Christmas Story". I've had a nice laugh for the day!
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 9:52AM
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