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1950’s Steelcase Desk & Return

Here it is in its rough condition, I have wanted one of these desks with a return forever and it has taken awhile to find one. We actually had to drive to Nevada!

Here it is from the back before resto!

Well another day in the salt mines friends. It took all day to get this Steelcase desk and return done. I am sooo glad to get this project done because my garage is getting too full (I haven’t forgotten about you Frank and your table). Anyways, this desk had to be sanded to give the old paint tooth so the new paint would grab. After sanding the desk it was very important to get all the dust off of this piece so the paint could achieve as flawless as a finish that is possible. I then used a Valspar gloss medium grey. The real art of spray painting any piece is a clean surface and numerous light coats.

I started by refinishing the return first. The pictures below show you the prep and paint.

I taped off the top and the feet to prevent over spray.

After painting the top and bottom it had to catch some rays to dry.

Next the desk had to be prepped and painted.

Here is the desk after light sand and being taped off.

Here is the desk afer numerous light coats of the medium grey spray paint. I now have to wait for it to dry.

I think the medium grey is the closest I have seen to the grey used by Steelcase originally.

The refinish looks great!

The return looks soo cool!!!

This desk will last another 50+ years! It will serve us well.

14 responses »

  1. Didn’t think you forgot me :o) …..I am unforgettable


  2. You did this in ONE day?! You some kinda wizard or something with a magic wand? I want your secrets! Looks incredible & I STILL want a day of watching you spray & I’m going to haunt you till I get it! HAH!


    • hepcatrestorations

      Well let me tell you, with the amount of painting I do I keep Valspar in business. I have done it soo much that it becomes less difficult each time. As with anything practice, practice, practice!


  3. Love the desk, great job! Are the returns rare/ hard to find? Did you have to pay more to get one?


    • Hepcat Restorations

      Thanks! Yes, the returns are difficult to find and you have to pay more for them. We live in Sac and had to drive to Nevada to find a desk with a return. The only other steel desk with a return that I have seen was at a local antique shop (if you’re local, you know which one)….they were asking about $1,500…which is crazy. That’s way overpriced and just ridiculous. But, this place is known more for being a museum than an antique store and the owner doesn’t really price to sell anything. I could go on, but I’ll stop with this rant.


  4. This is so awesome I can’t stand it. I have a great 50s Steelcase desk in my office at work (I work at a university and they keep this stuff sitting in storage and hand it out to new employees, most of whom hate these desks and would prefer some generic new blah-blah desk), and I’ve been wanting to change the color on it for years. I’ve read a zillion blog posts where people suggest sanding all the way down to the metal, then powder coating the thing. Well, that’s never going to happen with my desk, so I’ve just been sucking it up and dealing with the ugly beige color.

    But, holy smokes, your post here gives me hope! I’m pretty handy and I’ve painted bikes in the past, though with rattle cans, but my question is about the paint specifically — do you use just regular Valspar house paint and shoot it through a paint gun? If so, are those things you can rent from hardware or paint stores? Is this something I should consider trying on my own?

    Thanks again for a great site! I’m a newbie, but I’ll be sticking around now!!



  5. Years after the fact, I chime in with an absurd question. How in the world did you get the bottom file drawer out to paint?


  6. I have the same desk and was wondering how your return fits on the right side over the large drawer? When I got the desk the return was on the left side and fit perfectly and I switched it to the right side and now I can’t open the center small drawer. Any ideas?



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