Trimming furniture to make it fit perfectly

Sometimes the perfect piece for a room is already lurking somewhere in your house, but you look right past it.

That’s what I discovered recently when I was helping a client convert an office into a guest bedroom. She wanted a small desk where she could plug in her laptop when she wasn’t using it, so we’d talked about building a slim floating desk near the door. (Similar to this floating makeup desk I’d built for our daughter’s room.)

DIY floating makeup table

Then, 10 minutes later, when we were traipsing through her basement, I said, “Wait, what about that desk?” It was home to a few kitty food bowls and the top was in rough shape.

She explained it was an old partner’s desk — designed to be shared by two lawyers. While she liked it a lot, she’d checked numerous antique shops and had never been able to find a chair narrow enough to slide underneath it.

“We can totally trim a chair to fit!” I insisted. I was already committed to making the old desk work.

In fact, she already had a great wooden chair to use — the front of the seat was just slightly too wide, but I knew it could be lopped off.

The perfect old chair, posing in front of the white-and-gold lockers in my home office

I loaded everything in my truck and took it home. I used my quilting ruler to square off the edges of the chair seat — basically just removing the curve where it became wider at the front. I used my jigsaw and took off less than an inch from the widest section, but it was enough to make the chair fit smoothly under the desk.

Now, I also had plans (and permission) to trim the desk. Since it would be going in a fairly small room, we wanted to eliminate any extra bulk. I was able to saw off about an inch and a half from each side and along the back, but I left the front intact. I also unscrewed a small interior board that would prevent the chair from pushing in all of the way.

Since the top of the desk was in rough shape, I gave it a good sand to remove the dings, scratches and discolourations. I brushed on a coat of wood conditioner, and then stained it to match the rest of the desk — Minxwax’s “Dark Walnut” was just about perfect. I did the same to the chair, which took care of its newly-trimmed edges and helped it blend with the desk.

Trimming furniture to make it fit {Heather's Handmade Life}

It was exciting to bring the refinished desk and chair back to my client’s house and set it up. The poor desk that could never find a chair to fit is finally living out its destiny — not a cat food holder — and it’s perfect for the corner of this vintage-inspired bedroom.

All it took was a little furniture haircut!

Trimming furniture to make it fit {Heather's Handmade Life}
Not bad for a bit of sanding, stain + poly!
Trim furniture to make it fit {Heather's Handmade Life}
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