Desk Drawer Redo!


I guess there are certain things you’re supposed to do when moving to a new place, and there are very few places where these conventions are more entrenched than on college campuses. When I got to college, I kind of tried to do these things. I committed myself to making friends and enjoying the city with all the bright-eyed-bushy-tailedness that my persistently-nervewracked brain could handle. I didn’t get involved in any clubs or student organizations or anything like that, but I tried in my own way to be a productive, socially-healthy member of NYU and New York City at large.

It was only a couple of weeks into this New Socially Fluent Me that I was somewhere in Chelsea, let’s say, coming back from somewhere exciting, let’s say. I was too distracted by trying to act like less like a feral animal and more like a likable and attractive person to remember details. All I really remember is getting Indian food that was far too spicy, and a long internal debate that followed about whether it would be worse to order something else and risk looking like a pansy or grin and bear it. I chose Option B and sobbed/hiccuped (does anyone else hiccup uncontrollably when eating impossibly spicy food?) my way through the meal, which must have definitely made me look very attractive. No question.

There’s a valuable window of time in New York between when you and your acquaintances leave wherever you’ve been and walk to the subway. Amidst the traffic and the weird smells and the weird people and the weird-smelling people, it’s a time to reflect, to dispense final thoughts, and to debate your best route home. The goodbye itself is abrupt because everyone literally has a train to catch, so this window of time is not only brief but also pivotal to ending things with a good impression. This is what I was trying to do, after the Indian food fiasco. I’m so charming! I’m funny! BE FRIENDS WITH ME!

And then I saw a little crappy wood nightstand popping out of a pile of garbage and instinct took over. I NEED THIS GROSS DUMPSTER THING, my brain told me. I WILL MAKE OF IT A NIGHTSTAND (it was already a nightstand) AND IT WILL BE GOOD. I WILL STAIN IT. I WILL REPLACE THE HARDWARE. I WILL BE SO CRAFTY. I hailed the closest cab. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE MORE FRIENDS, my brain said while I tossed it in the trunk, BUT THERE IS ONLY ONE DUMPSTER THING. And that’s how I left things.

Charming and attractive.


On the left, that’s how it looked once I un-stuck some wallpaper (which I distinctly remember doing with rubbing alcohol, for some reason, which led my roommate to believe briefly that I had a hidden drinking problem), stained the unfinished pine, and replaced the hardware. Then, when the spirit moved me to own a desk, I did some primitive cobbling together of things to create a desk out of it. Which I had for a while until I replaced it with this desk, which is much more practical for our apartment. Sorry, old cobbled-together desk.

Some readers suggested that I try to sell the desk, but after a few years of use and abuse and my slightly shoddy workmanship to begin with (no formal training! can you believe it? I can.), I just couldn’t really imagine doing that. It would be like posting an ad on craigslist for a used dishrag. “PLEASE BUY THIS SCHMATA I’M DONE WITH IT.”  <– not something you would do.

It would have read like this:


See? It’s not a good look.

Point is, desk was a fun experiment and looked good and all, but it was time to move on. Obviously I couldn’t just do the natural thing and get rid of it though.


BOOM rolling tool cabinet. New look, same great taste. I have too many tools and nothing great to hold them in, and this fits perfectly in our little closet between the hamper and the suitcases. I will not be showing that, due to shame.


This doesn’t even really merit much explanation, but you’re already here so might as well:

1. Removed the legs from underneath the cabinet and screwed some little casters I had laying around directly into the frame.

1. Sawed down the original desktop (which is 2 pieces of 3/4″ MDF sandwiched together with wood glue) with a circular saw on the roof. Discarded excess.

2. Sanded the top and sides of the remaining top to rough up surface. There were some weird stains that wouldn’t come out and some chipped paint, so I decided to just repaint the whole thing.

3. Sanded the newly-sawed edge lightly and applied some Ready Patch with a spackle knife. Ready Patch is my new favorite thing in the world—harder than spackle, not as hard as wood filler, very easy to work with and dries quickly. Perfect filler for like everything?

4. Painted the top with a 2″ angle brush in semi-gloss white latex paint. When I did this originally, I used a small foam roller for the top, but I prefer the look of furniture when it’s painted with a brush. It’s a personal preference thing.


And look! It does things! Like hold tools! Obviously I have more tools and DIY tchotchkes than fit in this little thingy, but this now holds pretty much all the essentials I’d want for a little fix-it job around the apartment. It’s easy to just roll it around to wherever I’m working and have everything at arm’s reach. Maybe I’ll even invest in a few drawer organizer things (like for utensils) to further organize stuff. I know, edge of your seat with excitement.

The knobs are the SNODD knob from IKEA, by the way. They were the cutest little knobs and IKEA only made them for like 5 minutes and it’s not fair. I should have bought a thousand of them, just to hoard. Or at least more than 4.


Yay! This thing has more lives than Keanu Reeves.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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Leave a Comment


  1. 6.6.13

    As for the spicy-hiccuping thing, when I was a junior we made jalapeño vodka and made everyone take a shot of it on their birthday. It was like taking a shot of pure capsaicin. Nearly everyone that I remember trying it got immediate uncontrollable hiccups. Including me, so it could be genetic. Or it could just be everyone.

  2. 6.6.13
    susan said:

    Another fun post that had me laughing pretty much through the whole thing. I’m glad you get more use out of the DUMPSTER THING! I swear, you are hilarious!

  3. 6.6.13
    El said:

    Love the bold white contrast drawers, but I got distracted by your beautiful floor. Parquet, I love it so much!

  4. 6.6.13
    Kirk said:

    Looks great! Love the casters.

  5. 6.6.13

    It may have more lives than Keanu Reeves, but it is definitely a better actor. Oh, was that mean? I like that you didn’t just toss it out when you it no longer served its purpose. It is now a cute little tool chest. Can’t wait to see what it will be in its next incarnation.

  6. 6.6.13
    Michelle said:

    Yes, you must keep this forever and ever, it will have many more lives, I just know it! You are great, that’s all.

  7. 6.6.13
    Rachel said:

    Great idea for a rolling tool cart. I think I need one now!

  8. 6.6.13
    Christa said:

    Hilarious as always. I think that’s your lucky cabinet, so happy you have kept it.

    • 6.6.13
      Jack said:

      After the worst few weeks (i was indencently assulted and my sisters lung collapsed) it was so nice to see a new post Daniel! Much like you, I’ve been known to take street furniture too! The tool cart (as its called now!) is very cute and a great use for such drawers! I am terribly angered though, not with you, but Ikea for not making Snodd anymore!

  9. 6.6.13
    Sandy P. said:

    Hahahahaha!!! You’re a piece of work I tell ya! Hey … Keanu Reeves is fine in my book!

  10. 6.6.13
    mia0909 said:

    Only you can make a sophisticated tool cart!…. you are proof that great taste can’t be bought!…. I’m so impressed and inspired!!!

  11. 6.6.13
    Mom said:

    Love the Craigslist ad. You probably made a much better choice.

  12. 6.6.13
    Lilly said:

    Great reuse of an otherwise discarded nightstand. I will now stalk your blog for more inspiration for my own apartment renovation. Congrats on the engagement as well!

  13. 6.6.13
    car54 said:

    I have a tool cart too! I have a garage where the tools supposedly live but I found I constantly would bring things into the house, abandon them wherever I finished the task, and never took them back out to the garage.

    I made a little cart like this and I too have a small closet it fits in–when I need to do a task with tools–it rolls to where I am working, then it rolls right back–works great.

    I have another cart in my sewing room for sewing tools–it rolls under my sewing table and works the same way.

    I think it’s great to keep something you made and that was important to you at one time–and give it a new life–I bet you end up loving it!

  14. 6.7.13
    Hillary said:

    That desk is why I started reading your blog and tonight, while reading about its new life, I laughed out loud multiple times and said things like, “This kid is the funniest shelter blogger ever,” while my husband rolled his eyes at me (which I totally deserved). Daniel, you are so YOU. So transparent, so entertaining. Thanks for sharing your gifts with the world.

  15. 6.7.13
    Florian said:

    Such a great idea – a tool trolley! I have my tooly stuff in very unattractive plastic toolboxes on a top shelf, which is so inconvenient. Hah! I shall emulate this, once I find some weirdly appealing old discarded nightstand.

    I think I still have two of those knobs. I bought them for a wardrobe and ended up not liking them (much too small for the wardrobe). You can have them, if I can find them.

  16. 6.7.13
    Tracy said:

    Like Hillary, this (former) desk is how I started reading your blog. So pleased to see you’ve reincarnated it again. Also, hilarious Craigslist ad. :-D

  17. 6.7.13
    Jill said:

    Fellow hiccupper, reporting for duty. (Mamoun’s hot sauce does it for me without fail EVERY TIME.)

  18. 6.7.13
    Nancy said:

    I became a fan when you were in the Small Cool Contest.

    I really loved your desk but I also respect that it no longer worked for you. It’s inspiring to see how you repurposed it into something to fit your current needs. To me this is what great design is about – making something that is attractive and functional.

  19. 6.7.13
    Jessiejack said:

    I havent heard schmata since my grandmother passed away 20 years ago! I forgot about that word.

  20. 6.7.13

    Love love love it! I am in the same boat as a reader above, saw that desk somewhere and found your blog and have been hooked ever since. I’m glad that little piece is getting another life (though we’ll all forgive you if you ever get tired of it).

  21. 6.8.13

    Um hello, how is it that I’ve just found your blog? As a single, cat owning lady…snorting/laughing/loving!

  22. 6.8.13
    Marta said:

    Love this. The cabinet and the post. You always crack me up, no matter what the subject.

  23. 6.14.13

    this post is making me die laughing. Loved it. and i love the new tool box too.

  24. 6.17.13

    What a change! Love the new look. The wood and white combo makes an awesome impression.

  25. 6.17.13
    Diane said:

    The only thing you haven’t done with it is hang it on the wall but then there’s still time…I love it. Damned clever guy.

  26. 2.23.14

    Of all the amazing posts that keep me awake in the wee hours, and amazing instagram pics of DIY/renovation in progress, the one thing that makes me comment (on an old post, no less!) is the spicy food = hiccups thing. It doesn’t even have to be the spiciest thing ever, it just has to be a certain spice, and I can’t even talk because of the unending hiccups. It’s terrible. Terrible.

    Anyway, great stuff here, and I’m so glad I follow you. Gives me so much inspiration on my own place. Thanks!