How to Create an Old Farmhouse Finish

old farmhouse finish writing desk

Our office has been evolving and transitioning over the past few years. It has transitioned from a landscape architecture studio to a thesis writing getaway and finally to its current (and future) status as our blogging workspace. Our furniture has evolved with it.

I had a pretty basic Ikea setup that helped me survive college but ultimately had seen better days by the time we moved back south. While we were in transition, we came across an abandoned desk next to our storage unit. It was a really cool mid-century tanker desk that was in pretty good condition but was missing a leg (easy fix). We decided to swap out our weathered Ikea desk for the mid-century desk. Hopefully, someone enjoyed our contribution as much as we have enjoyed the desk we got.

Now that our needs have changed, it has become apparent that we need space for two. Luckily, my parents had inherited a writing desk they were willing to part with that had just enough room for two to work. We brought it back to our house and decided it was time to give it a whole new life. The desk had a nice look, but it definitely needed to be refinished and the color was the first thing that needed to change.

writing desk before

This farmhouse finish is something we have wanted to incorporate in our office for a while now. As easy as it was to do, we can’t wait to take on more farmhouse projects. Here’s what it looked like before its transformation.

old farmhouse finish wood finish

How to create an old farmhouse finish


Writing Desk
Miniwax Stain
Miniwax Polycrylic Water-based finish (satin or matte finish)
Paint Brush (Synthetic bristles)
Lint Free Cloths
Electric Sander (medium and fine sandpaper)
Fine Sandpaper (for use by hand)


Prepare the desk

Raw unfinished wood is always the best to start out with. Our desk had a decent coat of old polyurethane and wood stain on it that had to be removed. We used our random orbit sander to remove the finishes on our desk.

getting a farmhouse finish

After taking the legs off and the drawer out, I sanded off all of the finishes that I could with the random orbital sander using a medium grit sandpaper. After dusting the desk back off, I went over everything lightly with a fine grit sandpaper to smooth out the rough surface. To get into all of the nooks and crannies, I used a detail sander to remove any remaining finishes. Our desk had bullnosed edges that I didn’t care for, so I used a combination of the two sanders to give the edges a more angular eased edge as well.


Once everything was sanded down, it was dusted off again with a clean broom. Then, I wiped all of the surfaces down with a wet rag to clean anything leftover off.

getting a farmhouse finish

Start staining

Apply the Minwax Stain using a lint free rag to spread a somewhat consistent layer over all of the surfaces. Don’t be too perfect, a little variation adds some nice character.

getting a farmhouse finish

Let the stain dry for 3 hours or as directed on the label. Once everything was dry, I came back and lightly sanded the surfaces of the desk by hand with a fine grain sandpaper. Then, I wiped everything clean again with a wet rag. After everything is dry to the touch, apply a second layer of stain.

getting a farmhouse finish

With the second layer of stain has dried for 3 hours, repeat the steps of lightly sanding and wiping clean. Let the stain dry for 24 hours before applying polyurethane.

getting a farmhouse finish

Apply the protective finish

With the staining wrapped up, it’s finally time to apply the polyurethane finish to help protect the wood for many years to come. We selected a clear stain finish, so the desk won’t be overly shiny. Using a paint brush, I applied a thin coat of Miniwax Polycrylic to all of the surfaces of the desk.

getting a farmhouse finish

Let the first layer dry for 2 hours. Then, sand with very fine sand paper to ensure an even finish and help the layers better adhere. Wipe the surface clean with a wet rag. After it dries, apply a second coat. Give the final coat 3 hours to dry before handling and 24 hours before it’s ready to use.

old farmhouse finish

This farmhouse finish is going to be something we use over and over as we finish out our office redesign. We love the way it looks against the white accents in the room. After we wrapped up the rehab of our writing desk, we added these vintage knobs we found on Etsy to complete the new look.


We are so excited to put this desk to good use. Now we just need someone with a  strong back to help get our old tanker desk out! Any takers?

old farmhouse finish writing desk

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