Sometimes the solution you’re looking for isn’t the one you first think of.  On the hunt for a new desk, nothing was quite cutting it.  The requirements were that it must be able to seat two people simultaneously to work at their own computers.  But must not take over the whole room.

A lot of desks were either pedestal style – which are very heavy looking and take up lots of room, or were just glorified tables, and were generally very wide.  Purpose-built options were very prohibitively expensive and weren’t guaranteed to look great.

The solution appeared in the form of an antique Chinese altar table over two metres long.  It took some tarting up, and making fit for purpose, but it ended up being perfect.

First I stripped off the black lacquer that covered it.  It made it look too heavy for the room, and was also uneven and starting to look unattractive.

black lacquer table before

It took some work to get all the layers of lacquer and varnish off, but it was worth it. The beautiful wood was revealed, with a lovely honey glow.

Then I took a saw to it.  This is the nerve-wracking bit, but also the fun part!  Altar tables are quite high, far too high to act as a desk, so first I had to take about 15cm off each of the four legs.  Then, there was a cross bar on all four sides, so I had to remove the one at the ‘front’ of the desk so that you could actually sit at it.  I wasn’t sure if this would affect its stability, but with the other three bars still in place, it was fine.  No wobbles.

long expanse of desk

The top of the altar table/desk looked gorgeous after stripping.  The grain of the wood was pronounced and the wear and tear of the years had left fabulous marks and colours.  I decided not to varnish or seal the wood, but just to condition it with an oil mixture that I’ve used on other benchtops.  That way, hot mugs of tea don’t burn white rings into it, but leave it unmarked.

Once it was in place, at over 2.3m long, two people could work at it comfortably.  But at only 60cm wide, it didn’t take up too much floor space.

Altar table as desk