Studio Desk Makeover – Part 2 (It’s Just Not Quite Right)

I had a plan to give my desk a quick and easy makeover. I walked through most of the simple steps to get me from the before to the after in my head before I even started. Sure, there were a few unknowns that I’d need to figure out along the way, just like with all of my projects, but I was confident that those unknowns would become obvious as the project went along.

Unfortunately, after implementing many of those steps over the weekend, I’m not pleased with how the desk is turning out. It’s salvageable, and the desk will get done, but I just made some design decisions that didn’t end up working out. So let me show you what I did, and explain how I plan to fix it.

First, I’ve already gone over how I made the side panels with the vines. If you missed that post, you can read it here. So here’s what the side panel looked like last time I showed you.

And here’s what it looked like after I cut off the excess frame pieces and attached the stretcher board below the framed vine insert.

I was so excited to get this side finished, and so focused on making sure that the vine was pointing towards the front of the desk, that I somehow missed that I installed it upside down. In my head, the vine needs to go up (plants grow towards the sun) and not point towards the floor. I was so bummed that I didn’t even notice that it was upside down, but it was glued in on top, and nailed in on all four sides, so I didn’t want to take the chance of removing it for fear that I’d break it. So I put the other panel in upside down also.

You may notice that I attached the bottom stretcher pieces with the pocket holes visible. That’s because (1) it was easier to attach it this way rather than with them on the bottom, and (2) I had already decided to add some decorative trim to the desk, so these holes will be covered up.

Next, I needed to fill in the space around the top of the desk so that the drawers that I plan to add won’t show on the sides and back of the desk. So I used some 1″ x 4″ lumber, cut them to length, and nailed those in place.

I had to miter those pieces where they met in the corners so that no ends would show from the back or sides of the desk.

And then I stood back and looked at the progress, and it just got worse. Putting those boards on the inside of the desk like that kind of gave a paneled look (like an inset panel cabinet door) except that the panel was set back 1.5 inches. That’s way too much. And it also looked strange that the panels on the top were set back 1.5 inches (attached on the inside of the 2″ x 2″ boards that make up the frame of the desk), while the framed vine panel was only inset about 1/2-inch (set in the middle of the 2″ x 2″ boards that make up the frame of the desk). That just looked like a design mistake to me. To my eye, those two things — the top panels and the framed vine panels — should be set at the same point on those 2″ x 2″ boards that make up the frame of the desk.

Here’s another view so you can see what I mean. To put it a different way, the top panel and the bottom framed vine panel should be on the same plane. There shouldn’t be that discrepancy where the top panel is set back further.

So before making any knee-jerk decisions, I decided to put the top back on on the desk (it’s just sitting there, it’s not actually attached) to get an overall view. And then it looked strange to me that the desktop is the same dimensions as the base. That looked fine to me with its original, simple, modern design. But with this new design, and the addition of the panels, I think the desktop needs to extend past the base like a more traditional desk design.

Technically, these aren’t difficult problems to fix. The hardest thing will be removing those framed vine panels without ruining them. But even if I have to remake those frames around the vines, it will be worth it. I should have corrected it after I installed the first one upside down, but I just wanted to get finished, and I pressed on. I should know myself better than that by now. I should have known I’d never be satisfied with that compromise.

And for the upper panels, I just need to use my table saw to cut some boards that will actually fit inside the frame pieces rather than simply attaching the boards to the back of those pieces. And then extending the desktop before adding the veneer will be a simple step. So it’ll all work out in the end. I just wish I had stopped and corrected my mistake when I installed that first panel upside down. I can fix it, but I’ve made things harder on myself than they needed to be. I hate it when I do that. It seems like I would have learned by now, but some of us are very slow learners. 😀



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  1. When I am working on a project, I do just like you do. Almost finish it before I give up and fix it right. I do that over and over hoping I can adjust to the mistake when I KNOW I will not be happy. So you are not that different than most of us. Your difference is that you know how to fix it and you are willing to do the extra work to make it right…..and beautifully.

    It is going to be perfect when you are finished. Everything you do is in the end.
    Have a good week.

  2. Been there, done that, lol! I finally made a sign for my workroom….
    STOP WORKING when tired or in a hurry!
    Not easy to do sometimes but invariably I make much more work for myself in the long run. Good luck!

  3. The frames around the vines are exactly how I was thinking you could install them. I thought the vines were branches so having them pointing down wouldn’t bother me but the only thing that matters is that you are happy with them. I agree that the panels that will cover the drawers would look better inset the same distance as the frame around the vines. I’d prefer the overhang on the desk top which is a more traditional look but I know many people like a more contemporary style without an overhand.

  4. The stems pointing down like a vining plant didn’t bother me but I have to agree on the setback issue. I think we’ve all been there done that when it come to making DIY mistakes but in the end, we always get the bespoke item we want.

  5. I think those vines are branches. That’s what Hobby Lobby calls them. They look perfect on your desk. It’s just the stuff you added after. Maybe paint will make the look more cohesive.

  6. Yeah, it will look much better with the vines pointing upward, and the other changes you want to make. A bit more trouble to get to that point, but it will be worth it in the long run. There are some compromises you can live with, and some you can’t. You are so blessed to have the skills and tools and time to do it exactly as you like, lol. Did you decide what color you will paint the base?

  7. I have also had that “it’ll be fine” attitude in projects, and get waaay far along and decide it won’t be fine. And I will do it again and again. It’s not that I don’t learn, (I do!) it’s that I’m rushing myself, instead of demanding perfection in myself. I KNOW that I can do it right, so that I can be proud of my work, it ‘s just that sometimes I just want to finish and move on. I end up taking longer to repair the damage I did. I HAVE learned to not start rushing, to take small breaks and analyze what has been done so far, so that I can fix any rushed mistakes. It’ll work out, as you say, and maybe next project you will slow down and focus better! No harm done in the long run!

  8. I don’t think those insert panels will even show after a larger top and don’t forget to leave ‘knee area’ on the other side so if you meet with customers they have 4-6” to scoot up to your desk and not hit their knees.
    It looks great. You are hard on yourself. Live and learn ❤️

  9. Sorry if I got it wrong, I’m in a hurry and only skimmed through your post, but can’t you remove the entire frames, WITH the leaves, from the desk, rather than remove the leaves from the frames?

  10. It’s your desk and your decision and it will be beautiful when you have completed it to your satisfaction.
    I do agree with you on the branches inside the frames, they would look better pointed upward. And…the branch frames would also look better lined evenly with the same plane as the legs. But I wonder if the inset above the branch frames could have some kind of beautiful ornate wood design(s) that would protrude out from the inset distance. Some sort of design that would be fitted inside those insets length wise and width wise….on all three insets. You are so talented, I bet you could find something already made and you remake it, or, you design and make them yourself. Maybe more small leaf branches, or some kind of floral design, or some design taken from the other designs of things in your studio. Just a thought.

  11. When you said you were going to add the vines, my first thought was more diagonal inside the panel would look nice but after seeing how you put them horizontal, I thought they look really pretty and proportionate with the desk. I have lots of plants and they grow up, down, sideways so it didn’t strike me as ‘wrong’ in any way. As for the top, again I thought that looked nice but I know it’s not what you had envisioned so this is where I look forward to seeing how it will turn out!! Will it be your original idea or go in a different direction? Ether way, you won’t stop until it’s absolutely beautiful!!

  12. Hi Kristi. I’m so happy you have decided to redo the update on your desk. It was bothering me so I knew you’d never be happy with it. It’s going to look so good. God bless.