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May 4, 2017

Refinishing a 1950s Heywood Wakefield M926 Vanity Desk

By Sara In AZ


Do you ever sit around and dream about those “holy grail” items you’d love to own more than anything in the world, but they are usually priced so high you are pretty sure that your “holy grail” item will always remain a dream? For some people it might be a certain car, for others a special house……for me it was the Heywood Wakefield Vanity Desk!

Obviously, it’s no secret that I love H-W….my house is brimming with it…..but I am also super thrifty so I won’t buy a piece if the price is too high. I had long wanted a H-W desk that we could use in our office. I came across a Heywood Wakefield Kneehole Desk  at an estate sale a very long time ago only to get beat out by another buyer.

While I really, really liked the Kneehole desk –  in my heart of hearts I wasn’t sorry I lost out  to the other guy as I was holding out hope that one day I’d come across my dream desk….the Heywood Wakefield Vanity Desk!

Honestly though, it was a long shot. The Vanity Desks do not come up for sale often and when they do it’s usually around $1500. Ugh. There was no way I could justify paying that much for a desk….even if it was my “dream” desk.

I was in no rush though, I continued to watch the listings on Craigslist in case something of interest ever popped up……….and then one day out of the blue this desk came up for sale!!!!!!!


I was actually kind of blown away when I saw this up for sale! The seller was asking $375 for the desk and I was thrilled I had finally found something kinda within my price range. I think I saw this ad within hours of the listing and of course I called asap!

Here is where the story kind of takes a weird turn! Like I said above, I called on the desk right away……I’ll never forget her name…..Jessica. I wasn’t really expecting her to to answer when I called as usually these kind of calls go to voice mail and then they call you back. But she did answer! Jessica told me that she had already received tons of messages about the desk but my call was actually the first one she had taken. I’m totally not surprised that she received tons of messages as $375 was a steal for that desk…I am sure all the dealers around town were salivating at the thought of getting the vanity desk for such a great price!!! Jessica went onto explain that she was super busy….she was getting ready to move out of town and was trying to tie up loose ends and get rid of things she could not take with her. Furniture was one of those things she had to get rid of!

I went on to explain to her that I adore H-W furniture and I collect it only for myself – not to resale and she’d make my dreams come true if she sold me this awesome desk! Even though I knew $375 was a great deal I sheepishly asked her if there was any wiggle room in the price….could she possibly sell it for $300? After hemming and hawing about it she said she would be willing to sell it to me for $325. She told me that it was her grandmother’s desk and she would love see it go to a great new home….to someone who would really appreciate it rather than to a dealer. Score one for the little guy!  I quickly told her that we wanted to buy it and we’d be over the next day to pick it up! That was when everything almost fell apart.

Jessica told me I’d have to come over that very day to pick the desk up….that very same day. Normally that would not be a problem at all……except for the stars were aligning against me on this specific  day! That exact day Mike was going to be gone until very late at night with our SUV……Mike’s parents were out of town with their SUV…..my Mom was out of town with her SUV….and I was left with a little tiny car. Ugggghhhhhhhh. I seriously had no way of getting the darn desk home! I told her I hated to see this fall apart just because I couldn’t get over there that same day….I was beside myself!!!! One second I had my dream desk within reach and the next second it’s was falling through my hands like sand.

Jessica said she had to run errands all over town that day and then say her goodbye’s to family members….for some reason, as we were talking, it came up where  Mike and I were living at the time. The next thing I know Jessica is saying she is visiting with family very close by to where we used to live and she’d be happy to drop the desk off to me. Ummmmmmm, hello – completely blown away!!!! I think the Heywood Wakefield Desk Gods must have certainly been shining down on me that day!!! And don’t even try to tell me there are no Heywood Wakefield Desk Gods….because I know for sure there MUST be!

Under normal circumstances maybe I’d be kinda skeeved out to have a complete stranger from Craigslist come over to my house to drop something off while I was home alone…..but I thought if I’m gonna get murdered trying to buy my magical H-W Vanity Desk at least I will die trying to make my dream come true! Smile

So  I told Jessica to come on by! I was in the backyard (refinishing the coffee table you saw last week) so I told her to just come on back when she got there and I would help her unload the desk. In the back of my mind I was half expecting her to never show up – sure that she would take  a better offer from one of the many other people that called! But show up she did, and here is the little beauty that she dropped off…………

And I am happy to report I was not murdered in the process!  Winking smile

I was beside myself!!!!!

Even though it was in horrible shape and I knew I’d have to refinish it, I loved it to bits!

I mean yeah, it’s not pretty is it folks……..

……….I definitely had my work cut out for me!

So, even though I have refinished a boat-load of other H-W pieces I was literally terrified to touch this desk! I kid you not!!!!! I knew it had to be refinished though……………..

…..so off to sanding land we go!


Removing all the drawer pulls……


….and legs.


Here the desk is starting to get sanded along the top.


Moving onto sanding the legs and drawers/drawer pulls.


And here is the desk…all sanded down and just waiting for the stain!


Now we are onto the staining.

If you would like to see an in-depth look at my staining process please see the post Refinishing Our Heywood Wakefield M328 Desk Bookcase…….The Definitive Post on Refinishing! – that post will give you all the in’s and out’s of my refinishing process.

I always use the same Wheat ‘Heywood’ stain I get off of a seller on E-Bay. There is a seller on there, needful useful things, who mixes stain to match Champagne and Wheat finishes of Heywood Wakefield blonde furniture. It is a stain and topcoat all in one so you do not have to worry about a lot of steps. I have always had really good luck with his stains, and he will mix custom colors for you if you need that as well. Here is a link to his E-Bay store needful_useful_things . He is a really great seller who is super nice to deal with and is really customer service orientated as well! Check him out!!!


I decided to not completely dismantle the entire desk  piece by piece…so I taped off areas I did not want stain to get onto.


The bottom half of the desk is now finished, it’s now time to flip it over and stain the top.


I had to let the desk dry fully, for about a week,  so that I could tape off the sections that were already stained…as I did not want anymore stain getting on the sections that were already completed.


Now we are applying the stain to the desk top……I was trying to be very careful, but you can see the stain over-run on the blue tape – this was why I wanted to tape the ‘completed’ sections off!


And whew…we are DONE!!!!


Here is the finished desk…….


….and here is the vanity desk in our office at the retro ranch! We use it everyday!


Whatever forces aligned that day to bring my dream desk into my hands – thank you……it must have been kismet! And thank you to the Heywood Wakefield Desk Gods too!

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7 Responses to Refinishing a 1950s Heywood Wakefield M926 Vanity Desk

  1. Janet Reply

    May 4, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    Wow, would I love to have them come do my Heywood Wakefield tables!!

  2. Beth Reply

    May 5, 2017 at 1:36 am

    Another fabulous job, Sara. All I have to do is find an affordable piece of HW.

  3. Susan from Boston Reply

    May 5, 2017 at 9:41 am


  4. Beth Reply

    May 5, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Right after I wrote my comment above, I checked Craigslist and found a HW vanity. I’d love to get your opinion about the piece and if you think it’s too much for a beginner to tackle. Hope to hear from you.


  5. Lyn Dono Reply

    May 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Another awesome refinishing project. Jessica must have been amazed by your work on the coffee table. She had to know she was leaving her Grandmother’s desk in good hands!

  6. Nancy Carper Reply

    December 3, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Love your info in staining–I’m redoing an entire bedroom piece that used to be Sabke! Yuck! Has been poorly refinished once and is now blotchy. Can you give me recommendations or a link to sanding process?? So far it’s not working out too well. Would gladly send you pics. Guy helping insists on using a mouse and even wants to use 40grit! I said “No!” I look forward to a reply as I’m up to my neck with HW pieces!!! I’ve never had this prob before!!!! Thanks again!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      December 5, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      Hi Nancy, Yes, I can feel your pain….I have definitely been there!

      You are in luck, I have already posted about my refinishing process in detail…here is a link.


      I will say that the darker stains are a HUGE pain to fully get out. Our dining room set had a sable like stain and it felt like I was NEVER going to get all of that stain to come out. It was horrible, I felt like I was sanding for hours…and literally I was! I have never used 40 grit when sanding any HW….it seems like it might be a little aggressive…the lowest I’ve gone is 60.

      Take a look at my post, let me know if you have any other questions!

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