Turn a 70s Desk Organizer Into a Stunning Planter

Sarit N.
by Sarit N.
I wanted something to spruce up my desk at work, so when my husband's grandmother handed me this beauty, I knew I couldn't pass it up.
My current desk at my office is a little bit of a wreck right now. The company has expanded, and until we move offices in a few months (and get stunning new desks), I'm stuck with an old one. So I've been looking for ways to personalize it and make it pretty. Lucky me, my husband's grandmother recently moved close by, and while going through her many things, she found this old, yet beautiful desk organizer. When she offered it to me, I couldn't pass it up.
Now while this thing is beautiful, it looks like it belongs on the set of Mad Men. I mean, honestly, that wood color has 70s written all over it! I also didn't need all three holes for my pens. And that bottom thing meant for paper clips? Who uses those anymore? So I asked around, and my friend suggested I turn it into a succulent planter! With help from the lovely people at Hometalk, I knew I had a project to do.
You can see that the top is scratched up.
The first thing was getting rid of some of the wood. I agree that the wood is beautiful, but it just wasn't my taste. I wanted to preserve the wood while giving it a new life, so I taped down parts of it, and painted others. (See that red line? Ya, that wasn't working for me.) I had to carefully tape down the areas I wanted to preserve, being careful that I got the lines exactly right. Now I know a lot of people are screaming right now "how could you do that to wood?!" Trust me, it looks awesome.
I lightly sanded down the areas that were going to be painted. This was a little difficult, because I had to make sure I didn't ruin the painter's tape. In hindsight, I might have done it the other way, but I didn't want to take a chance that I would ruin the wood that was going to show.
In order to keep the holes protected (I wanted to be able to see the layers of wood, even if the top part was covered), I stuck newspaper into each of the holes.
Shout out to my friend, Tikva, who took this picture.
And then I spray painted. I chose spray paint because it's quick and provides an even coating with ease. I would have loved to paint it by hand (and I was originally going to use chalk paint), but I just don't have that time on my hands.
Once it was fully covered, I peeled off the tape and let it dry overnight. Let me tell you, this was probably the hardest part. Note to self: when you use painter's tape, make sure you don't use tons of layers and small pieces that are impossible to take off with wet paint.
This is what it looked like all painted. Already stunning, right? I was much happier with this (even my coworker, who was appalled that I painted some of the wood, said it looked good), but those empty holes still bothered me.
Here's a close up. I'm really proud of those straight lines. I told you it looks awesome.
Now I was off to buy a succulent! I actually went to three different places to find the best price, and in the end I went back to the first place I looked at. Full disclosure: I used to hate succulents , because I thought they didn't look like real plants (*cue gasp*). But the waxy look and the fact that they're so easy to take care of has grown on me. I absolutely love them now.
Isn't he cute?
And this is the little guy I chose. He was so cute, I was tempted to leave him on my desk just like this.
I wanted to protect the wood in the hole, so I cut a plastic cup to fit the size. (Thank you people at Hometalk for the great idea!) Then I added rocks to help with the draining, since succulents don't need a lot of water.
I added similar rocks to the small paper clip hole at the bottom. Now I have a stunning plant on my desk that I can take care of, and it's still a great holder for my pens and pencils.
Another close up, just because I love it so much. I haven't showed it to grandma yet, but I think she'll love what I did with it.
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  • Pamela Pamela on Nov 26, 2016
    So where did you look for succulents, and who had the best price?

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  • Toni Johnson Toni Johnson on Dec 16, 2016
    Very pretty, and I too have just recently become a fan of succulents. Great idea, thanks for sharing

  • Cecilia W. Wong Cecilia W. Wong on Nov 17, 2018

    Great job you Did! I have lots of these succulents , but they stayed in my yard, on the ground, and in big pots. I never thought of bringing them in the house. Now, after seeing your project, they will find a place on my desk at work. I've been buying potted 3-4 " blooming plants . And I'm not up to date to replaced them when it dies. These succelents will stay the entire school year on my desk. And they get babies too if planted on the grounds. THANKS