Whether your old desk is a family heirloom with sentimental value or you recently got it on the cheap at a thrift store, there are several things you can do to update its look. Updating an old desk is a fun project; plus, it's more cost effective and environmentally friendly than buying a new one.
Perhaps the most obvious (and the most dramatic) way to update an old desk is to apply a fresh coat of paint. Even garish, particleboard computer desks from the '90s can be turned into modern wonders with a sleek coat of enamel. Painting the drawers a different color than the frame will give your desk some personality and make it more visually appealing. If your desk is made of natural wood, you should sand or strip the old paint or varnish before applying a new coat.
Old handles or pulls can make a desk look dated, but updating these fixtures is quick and easy. Pick whatever handles you like, though they will be easier to install if their hole pattern matches the old handles. If their hole pattern is different, you can fill in the old holes with wood filler or caulk and drill new ones, but you should only do so if you plan on painting your desk.
Adding a glass or Plexiglas top to your old desk will provide you with a great writing surface and a creative way to display photos and mementos. You may be able to find old glass tabletops at thrift stores that will fit your desk. If not, have a piece of glass cut to fit the exact measurements of your desk. A more permanent option is to paint over photos and mementos with a few coats of varnish.