Wax On, Wax Off - Finishing Up the Studio Desk

I know how fortunate I am to have a great nook in our home to utilize for my home office and for crafting, sewing {ha} and working each day.  Although this has been by far the most challenging room to finish for a variety of reasons, I appreciate how much I continue to learn by the process and really miss the space when it is not being used.  In fact, for the past few weeks I have been working at our kitchen table again as we have worked to get the desk stained, waxed and protected.  It shouldn't have been a super long process, but we ran into a few road bumps along the way.  But the desk is done, the new - old chair is done and they look so fantastic together!

The entire staining process was completely new to this gal.  Nothing a first timer can't tackle, just a learning experience that allowed me to play with a new technique.  You can find the tutorial for how we built the desk here, and when I last left off, it was in an unfinished state.

There was a lot of thinking about the finish of the desk.  As a girl who typically loves all white everything, the studio just could not handle another piece of white furniture.  In fact, I have been on a "project warm up the house with wood tones" kick for awhile now, so I knew that some sort of stain was in the future.  Some mentioned the deep dark stain as the top and white legs as the bottom may do the trick, but in this space with the specific table style I feared it would be a little too farmhouse for me.  The floors were already a dark walnut finish and I have learned from the past that the room can't handle too much dark anything.  So I looked for a few inspiration furniture pieces and found this desk here as well as this table from World Market.

A soft, toned down wood finish with a very natural feel.  And also thanks to you friends, you introduced me to liming wax, which would be the key ingredient in achieving the finish I was after.

All that ends well did not start well.  Once I finally settled on a base stain color, which was Minwax's Special Walnut, I got right down to staining {we always recommend using a pre-stain wood conditioner prior to staining}.  Only problem was that the stain wasn't covering the wood filler!!

I seriously went into panic mode and maybe even shed a few tears.  All of that work building the table and something so silly was completely ruining it!  I looked up every last fact about the wood-filler that we opted to use, and it all stated that it was stainable!  Sure didn't look that way, but thank goodness my husband always balances me out and told me to chill.  After the stain had time to dry, he took his palm sander back over the entire table top and edges.  My guess is that we had waited far too long to apply the stain and the filler had cured.  Once we sanded everything down the second time, the problem was solved and those spots went away with the second coat.  Whew, crisis averted.

That was my thumbs up as I was staining.  I was happy to see the finish going on nicely and everything looking beautiful the second time around.

If you are looking for a beautiful colored stain, I would say this is it.  It really is the Goldilocks of stains; not too light, not too dark, juuuuust right. 

Once I stained the remainder of the table, my eyebrows may have raised a second time.  I know that stains typically will absorb and show differently based on wood types, and that was definitely the case here.  We used three similarly toned wood types when building the desk and I thought they would be close enough that the stain would appear consistent throughout, however, that wasn't really the case.  The legs are pine and they were thirsty.  Totally sucked up the stain and even gave off a really orange-red finish.  After the second coat, my panic level started to raise again {excuse the poor iPhone photos throughout - stain covered fingers didn't make for sharp photographing}.

But this is where the liming saved the day with this project.  I let the stain absorb and dry for a few days to be sure it was ready for the lime wax finish.  The can stated that it helps if you use a wire brush to open the grain of the wood {which is where the liming wax settles}, so I scraped the entire thing down with a brush found at Home Depot.

Here you can see the difference after halfway through - notice I went along the natural grains of the wood.

This started the lightening of the wood process as it essentially sanded / scraped a layer of the stain off of the top.  I was already breathing easier.

Once everything was brushed and wiped clean, I began applying the liming wax with a painter's tool.

I was very careful not to scratch the wood surface, but the tool allowed for me to press and smooth the liming wax down into the grain of the table top. 

I also used the tool for any flat surfaces on the edges and legs, and used a soft cotton cloth to apply the wax to curvier areas and nooks.  I let the wax sit for 15-20 minutes, then used steel wool {the finest grade of #0000} to buff the wax.  I definitely believe that the scraping process was a necessary step.  The wood was not super grainy to begin with and it allowed the wax to find a few grooves to settle in.

I then let the wax cure for a few days prior to brushing on a protective finish.  I opted to go with a water-based poly because I had it on hand and really love the product.  You could also use a furniture wax to finish things off as well.  I applied a few coats, following the dry times in-between.

And now I am back to working in my office!

The liming wax really did unify the entire piece.  The legs and top now match perfectly as if the entire piece was built out of the same types of wood.

With the lack of natural light in the office, I have an aversion to anything with too much orange - red undertone, as the overhead lighting only enhances that.  The liming wax definitely brought in that beautiful weathered, gray washed look I was after.  Although not spot on to the finish of the World Market inspiration, I am quite happy with the result of the staining and waxing process.

As far as how I set up and organize my space, although I have a whole lot of surface to play with now, I opted to keep things fairly basic and simple {because I know I have zero problems creating paper piles and leaving out project materials}.  

I added some clear acrylic paper trays to hold my current notebooks, magazines and any documents that require my immediate attention.  I always have a small dish on my desk as I strip myself of my jewelry whenever I work - totally speeds up my typing and feels freeing.  During the spring, fall and winter seasons when my yard no longer blooms florals, I find myself falling into the habit of snagging a $4 Trader Joe's bouquet each time I grocery shop.  It is always a pleasure to have a fresh element on your desktop while you work.  And of course, my planner is always by my side,

I receive a lot of questions regarding the acrylic desk organizer I use for my favorite office supplies, it was found in the bathroom department at Target.

Every angle offers a slightly different look depending on how the light hits.  I sort of love that about it, it keeps it fresh and fun.

As you may recall, the room was not going in the right direction and I forced myself to take a step back.  I tapped what was working and took out what wasn't, and things are coming together quite nicely so far.  Here is a little before and after peek at how the room has evolved over the past few months with some small changes.

Although I am never officially done with any space so "revealing" it seems a little odd to say, I have a few more finishing touches to add before calling it "done for now".  I will hopefully get those wrapped up within the next few weeks and do a full tour of the room.  But for now, I am thrilled to have my workspace back and to be sitting in my new fabulous chair each day.

If I took anything away from this process it was that I really love learning how to use new products and techniques, and I am happy that I didn't I didn't quit when things didn't look so great {multiple times}.  It may not be perfect but it was a labor of love and it has character and fits me and my space so I am beyond happy that we stuck with it.  OK, I will stop the cheese fest... for now...

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