Back to School. Sort of.

Around these parts, today marks the week-and-a-day countdown for most school-age kids for their return to class and start a new year of learning. Now we’ve got another year or so before we have to start thinking about school years. But there’s plenty of parents out there that will tell you your kids will teach you more than you could ever teach them. And four years into this parenting gig, I can definitely understand where they’re coming from.

Learning to let go in the decorating department will not be easy. After all, I was the five-months-pregnant-crazy person standing on scaffolding hand-painting clouds and stenciling glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling of our baby’s room. But with our kiddo’s guidance, I took my first tentative step recently.

The risks were pretty minimal, given that the object we were working with was completely free:

You’re wondering why it was free, aren’t you?

Our kiddo, who is starting to pick up on the routines of his parents, realized he was without a desk. And we decided to find a way to create his own desk space somewhere in our house. Once we acquired the perfect size of desk for our boy, we tried out a few places in our house before settling on a place in his room.

Yet, oozing with country charm as it was, the desk has seen quite a bit of action in its’ day. Like a 7-year-old, inspired by a Jackson Pollack exhibit, decided to try their own hand at emulating the artist’s brush style.

Drips of red paint could be easily seen on the seat and legs of the desk.

There’s also the tastes of the new owner to consider. As he’s made it known to us – and you may have noticed on his birthday cake this year – purple is his signature color. After a trip to the local home improvement store, we invested a whopping $15 to dramatically change the desk to reflect its new home and potential.

Step one: disassemble the desk and spray a primer coat on all parts.

And, while purple would be featured in this desk, it wouldn’t be the only color. We started applying a few light coats to all the pieces in the colors we wanted: oil-rubbed bronze on the base parts, and purple for the desk top, seat, and seat back.

This was the point where real panic set in that the desk was going to look like a rejected prop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I don’t think I’ve ever worked with spray paint before. I can remember my Mom using it to spruce up a couple of table lamps once when I was a kid, but I have always kind of worked around a prejudice that spray paint is really for marking up a project in the works, or for projects you don’t really care about that much. In the case of this project my thinking was a fast, easy way to apply a color that would feel fairly low-risk. We’ve got a big enough yard to set up a space where I wouldn’t worry about color drifting onto something I did not want to show the color (or could not be mowed). And when the just-right weather came along, the last excuse was gone. And when all was set and dried, put back together, it’s hard to believe it was the same desk we started with.

Those hands? That’s the new owner of the desk wanting me to put the camera down and get that desk into his room, pronto.

And once we got it in his room, it was the perfect starting point for our little guy to express his own sense of style.

The perfect little study nook.

When I did a little searching on Etsy and E-Bay, I was finding comparable desks commanding prices starting $150 and northwards of that.

The oil rubbed bronze finish blended nicely with a bookcase that was already in his room.

And we spent approximately 10 percent of that. We even had fun working with what some people may call a “minus”: the hole in the desk that used to house an inkwell. It was just a gaping hole in the surface, but after inserting a Dixie cup we trimmed down to the right height, we had a great crayon holder for more color and inspiration.

A perfect assortment within reach of the user.

What’s most important, though, is that the user loves it. I mean, loves it. He’ll spend time making a new picture while I’m getting ready for work in the morning, and often break away from other to-dos I’m working on from the upstairs to do a little more work at his desk. And then there’s the dramatic reenactments of scenes from his favorite movies. It’s a very versatile piece.

Can’t get dressed yet. Working hard.

So, my prejudices around spray paint have been broken down; I’ve already got another project in mind for a fresh coat of something bright and cheerful. It won’t be purple, though. Don’t tell the creative director.

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