Classic Make-Up Desk

This project started as a request from a young girls mother as her daughter was getting a little older and had a new found interest in make-up. As a birthday gift she asked for me to build this make-up desk and stool which was my first attempt at upholstery, and as far as I know it is still in one piece so not too shabby. This was also my official entry into making drawers. I had made a few in the past, but nothing for a paying customer so be kind with the comments and hopefully passing along some of my mistakes helps others avoid them in their own adventures in dovetails and other joinery.

So as I have written in other post all of my projects start with some brainstorming and a lot of sketches, and in this case, multiple text of images of make-up desk ideas from the customer. I always welcome input as it’s kind of a requirement for the job, but also allows me to get a better understanding of what they’re envisioning and ultimately allows me to build something they helped in creating and will love. Now as with this project and many others I did take creative liberties, such as with how the mirror was incorporated into the desk top and also with the little hidden compartment. These items were built upon the original idea the customer came to me with and in the end we both felt they added to the design without taking away from what they wanted.

So onto the build. Fairly basic box with three drawers and a hinged top that opens to reveal a mirror with storage beneath. The dimensions were taken from the space this desk would occupy so really no thought for that. The height was determined from a little research into typical desk height taking into consideration this was for a child, but also with the thought they would use it into adulthood. Outside of that it was a matter of material choice which was primarily oak for the face frame, top, and drawers. The legs were made from pine and the hardware was provided by the customer. It’s difficult to tell from the pictures but the knobs were a beautiful porcelain with painted flowers on them. I thought they fit this piece perfectly.

Early in the build. Doing test fit for drawers and hardware before making top

So the most difficult part of the build, the drawers. So without a lot of experience this can be rather daunting. When dovetails are done correctly they provide for a fantastic joint that will last a lifetime and beyond, look gorgeous, and bring with them bragging rights….but when done wrong, well all of that goes away and your left frustrated and humbled. And, no, I will not compare a good dovetail joint to a good woman… least not here. So I did try some of the jigs out there eventually finding luck with the Porter Cable dovetail jig. I also found with good practice the jig took nearly as long to set up and cut the joint then to lay out the joint and cut with a handsaw. So in the end the joints you see here were done with the jig, but if your not doing a large number of drawers free hand is nearly as quick and can give you more freedom with design as far as layout of the joint.

The bottom of the drawers were lined with the same fabric that covers the stool. Being the desk was to be used for make-up and children can be messy and for those without just take my word for it. So taking this into consideration I lined a thin sheet of plywood then laid that into the bottom of the drawer with just enough of a snug fit to keep it in place. This allowed for the drawer to be relined in the eventuality of a spill, which ultimately will happen as every parent out there can attest. After the basic drawer was together it was just a matter of adding the face and the hardware.

Final run through before finish which was with a bright white semi-gloss

Now I have already discussed the knobs and they were stunning, we all agreed, but the drawer slides I regret to this day. This was my first build with drawers for a customer and wanting to make a piece to last a lifetime I never thought much about the slides as adding, or taking away from, the aesthetics of the final product, I only thought of functionality. This is where I went wrong and should have designed the drawer to accept bottom mounted slides. So from this build forward I now approach product design with functionality first, because most pieces are needed to serve a purpose, then aesthetics a very close second. Always envisioning how the product will function while maintaining form and appeal for the customer. There will always be a balance and some compromise, but that is where patience, determination, and creativity come into play.

Finished and waiting for delivery in the studio / the kitchen (eggs and spatula in mirror)

So that is the story of the make-up desk and stool. They hopefully are still being enjoyed today and for many years to come. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and the stunning photos that accompanied. I always appreciate feedback and please feel free to share some of your stories and look forward to sharing more of mine.

My first attempt at upholstery and have to say, a real stunning job….OK, little embellished.

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