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Turn an Old Desk into a Rustic Potting Bench

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

I am a huge renovation fan. Despite this fact, when my daughters decided they were done with their old art desk I was prepared just to get rid of it. Luckily, my younger daughter was able to convince me that it would be a good addition to the greenhouse I was building.

The revamping of this desk into a rustic potting bench was a fun diy building project.

Turn an old desk into a rustic potting bench.

Desk into a potting bench

Supplies to convert an old desk into a rustic potting bench

Old desk

3/4″ old pallet boards

drawer pulls and knobs

adhesive laminate

oil-based exterior paint

Thompson’s Waterseal



razor blade

measuring tape

miter saw

table saw

wood glue

pneumatic finishing nailer

1 1/2 inch finishing nails

Rustic Potting Bench Directions

Remove the hardware from the old desk to turn it into a rustic potting bench.

remove hardware

Begin making the potting bench by removing all previous hardware. (I like to keep these because you never know what project you will come across in the future that they will look good on.)

Paint the old desk and turn it into a rustic potting bench.


The next step is to give the whole desk a good coat of paint. Because I am going for the rustic look, I don’t worry about making it perfect.

Sand the edges of the painted old desk that is being turned into a rustic potting bench.

sand edges

After the paint has dried sufficiently, use a sander to remove the paint from the corners and edges. The more edges there are to a piece the better it will look with this technique. This is part of what gives it the rustic feel and really makes the designs stand out. be aware that this will expose small portions of any previous colors. I have at times used this to my advantage by doing a color then, the white over it for a little more character when I sand.

Pallet Board Top

Next, is my favorite part. The pallet board top. Pallet boards are great. They have so much character and you can often find them for free. The downside is that you have to pull the pallet apart to get them. I highly recommend a pallet buster for this. My husband can pull apart a pallet in less than 3 minutes. It’s amazing.

I wanted my pallet boards to fit just inside the border on the top of my desk. So I cut them to be 2 inches shorter than the length and width of my desk. Mine had varied thicknesses but it would be much easier if they all matched which is why I recommended a 3/4″ pallet board in the supplies list.

Angle the edge pieces for the top of the rustic potting bench.

angle edge pieces

I also cut any boards that were on the edge of the desk to a 45-degree angle. This really helped with the transition from desktop to boards. Otherwise, it was just too abrupt a change.

Sand the pallet boards for the top of your rustic potting bench,

sand pallet boards

After all the cuts were made, I sanded all of the edges and the top surface. The key with pallet boards is to remove all the splinters but leave the character. The more aged the pallet is, the better it will look but you can make a new pallet board look old if you need to with stain. Take a look at our video on how to do that if you need to.

Attach the prepared pallet boards to the top of the refinished desk that has been turned into a rustic potting bench.

attach boards

I then used wood glue and finishing nails to attach the boards to the top of the desk.

Waterproof the wood attached to the top of your rustic potting bench.

waterproof the wood

The final step for the top was using Thompson’s Waterseal to waterproof the pallet boards. The water will bead up on the surface if you have applied enough. This works best with dry porous wood so it is usually perfect for pallet boards.

Finishing work

Add the new hardware to your rustic potting bench.

new hardware

Next, is the fun part: installing the new hardware. This is where you get to really personalize the piece. There are so many fun, unique pulls and knobs. I recommend spending a little more to get the pieces that match what you want. This is really where so much of the character comes from.

Add laminate to the drawers of your old desk to keep them clean.

add laminate

Optionally, you can add laminate self-adhesive flooring to the bottom of the drawers. I chose to do this to make it easier to clean later.

Finished Rustic Potting Bench

Convert an old desk into a rustic potting bench.

Rustic Potting bench

That is all there is to it. This is a relatively easy remodel but has worked so great in my greenhouse. I love all the drawers for storing my gardening supplies and the space underneath the desk has been perfect for storing larger items. And, I love how it looks in my greenhouse. It matches the feel perfectly.

For our building a greenhouse videos check out our Youtube Channel:

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