When my husband’s parents moved into a new house, they asked us if we wanted any of their old furniture. We took a desk from my husband’s room growing up, which had been in his family for a long time. It sat in our house for a year before I got the motivation to finally give it a makeover. The hardest part of the update was deciding on what color to paint the desk. I had already decided that staining it wasn’t going to happen. Though I almost always prefer to avoid painting over solid wood, it would have taken a lot to stain it and make it look good.
This vintage desk had two main issues besides needing a coat of paint: it had a broken drawer slide on the bottom and the drawer that goes over your knees was too low.
The top left drawer and surrounding wood made it so that any chair height would position you too low to sit comfortably and type or write.
- Sandpaper (coarse and fine)/Electric sander
- Wood putty
- Top coat (polyurethane or polycrylic)
- New hardware
Tools Needed for Removing Drawer
- Screwdriver (Flat and Phillips)
I knew that I wanted to paint the desk, replace to knobs, remove the top left drawer, and fix the bottom right drawer slide. Fortunately, by removing the top left drawer, I was able to use the parts of the drawer slide that I needed to fix the bottom right drawer slide. To remove the top left drawer and surrounding wood, we were able to just tap it with a mallet and it popped right out. Prior to that, we thought we would need to use a saw to cut it out. We use wire cutters to remove the nails that were left after removing the wood.
The process for the desk makeover took me three weekends. I could have completed this project sooner, but it was hot and humid in Oklahoma and the paint and top coat needed longer to fully dry. After gathering and purchasing my materials, I completed the project by the steps below.
Step 1 – Prep and sand the desk
Remove any hardware and drawers. Fill any holes with wood putty. Sand the desk and wipe it down with a damp rag. This took longer than I had anticipated and I used a lot of elbow grease. If your spouse or friend offers to help, don’t turn them down! I took this desk on as my project, and it was hard work. No matter how much I sanded with coarse and fine grit sandpaper, I couldn’t get it sanded as much as I wanted to – another reason that staining wasn’t in the cards.
Step 2 – Paint
Apply the first layer of paint and allow to fully dry. I wanted a medium/dark gray color, and we had it mixed using tintable Valspar Furniture Paint. This paint is awesome! You can choose any of the hundreds of Valspar colors, so it very easy to get exactly the color you are looking for.
Note: It says that it does not require sanding or priming, and it leaves no brush marks; however, with the deep scratches and different texture on this particular desk, I chose to sand first. Luckily, I did because I could tell the paint wasn’t sticking as good in the areas I didn’t sand as much.
Step 3 – Apply another coat of paint
Next, lightly sand with fine sandpaper, apply another layer of paint, and allow to fully dry. Repeat as much as necessary. I ended up using three coats so I wouldn’t say the paint was full coverage like chalk paint.
Step 4 – Apply topcoat
Apply a clear top coat for protection and allow to fully dry. I don’t think that this was necessary with this paint, but I wanted a glossy finish and extra protection knowing that the desk would see heavy use. I chose to use a clear gloss polyurethane/polycrylic top coat from Minwax that I had lying around. Polyurethane tends to yellow, so I prefer polycrylic on lighter pieces.
Step 5 – Attach hardware to the desk
Finally, attach hardware and put the drawers back in. Your desk is now ready to use!
The makeover gave the desk an extended life, which is why I love updating furniture. We took something that was in my husband’s family for over a decade and gave it a new look that modernized it. Additionally, we saved money by spending less than $75 on this redo instead of purchasing a brand new solid wood desk. I did purchase a chair to go with it from TJ Maxx, but it is a little too tall. Therefore, we will need to cut it down before we can use it with this desk (hopefully I can update this post with the result).
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