Vintage Desk Makeover

Vintage Desk Makeover – How to Go From Subtle to Showy

It’s been a while since I painted furniture just to paint.  It’s how I got into this whole DIY business and I forgot how much I enjoy just painting.  If you’re thinking about trying it, just start.  It’s only paint.  Maybe don’t start with Grandma’s precious heirlooms, but search the thrift stores, online yard sales, or even ask your friends if they’ve got anything that’s going to the donation pile.  Paint is one of the most affordable tools in your crafting stash.  It can work wonders on old outdated pieces, and it’s not hard to learn.   I’ve seen a lot of amazing green furniture makeovers lately, and I picked up some hunter green paint for a vintage desk makeover.

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Table MakeoverVintage Desk Makeover - Update an older piece with striking two tone colors. This DIY project cost $4 in paint! #createandfind #diyprojects #deskmakeover #furnituremakeover

This desk came to me from a work friend.  She’s had it for years, but it was just sitting unused in their bonus room.  I added it to my daughter’s room for a bit, but then she decided she didn’t need a desk so back to the garage it went.  I loaned it to a neighbor to help stage their home for selling, and then back to the garage it went.  So I decided it’s time.  I found the most amazing green color in a tiny Rustoleum can for less than $4.  Sold!

vintage desk makeover hunter green rustoleum

And I know there are differing opinions on painting solid wood furniture.  I have plenty of gorgeous wood in my house that will never see a paintbrush.  So if you are a die-hard “don’t touch that wood with paint” fan, you might want to look away now.  Or your feelings are going to get hurt in the form of green paint.  This piece was in fantastic shape and it’s even on casters, but it felt a little outdated even for me.  However, I did love the dark wood tones so I decided to keep some of them.  The wood needed a little spiffing up, but not much.  Nothing was peeling or chipping.  Something like this is the perfect starter piece if you’re just starting out.

Vintage Desk Makeover

Again – warning to look away if you think it’s a shame to paint pretty wood.  Here’s what it looked like before:

vintage desk makeover before pics


[one_half]vintage desk makeover before pics[/one_half][one_half_last]vintage desk makeover before[/one_half_last]

vintage desk makeover before pics
Supplies Needed for this Vintage Desk Makeover

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    • Rustoleum Ultra Cover Latex Paint – 1/2 pint in Hunter Green Gloss– This is the exact one I used from Wal-Mart and it’s less than $4 for a 1/2 pint. I still have some left after doing two coats on the desk
    • Restor-A-Finish Dark Walnut – I’ve had this same 16 ounce can for almost 2 years.  I cannot rave enough about this product.  If you need a touch up on a stained piece, this is it!  It dries fast and evenly and works like a champ.  Worth every penny and more of the $9 it cost.  
    • 2-inch good quality brush like this one
    • Paint pail and liners – I use these for every project.  No kidding – it’s a lifesaver
    • Old lint-free rags/cloths for applying the Restor-A-Finish
    • A good cleaner – you need to make sure your piece is free of oils and residues before you start, especially if you aren’t priming.  

Helpful hints if you’re just starting out:

  • Clean your piece thoroughly.  There’s nothing worse than finally starting to paint and realizing that your paint is just not sticking.  Especially if you buy an older piece like this desk – there could be years of Pledge or oils built up that need to come off so your paint will stick.
  • Gloss paint is harder to paint with.  It’s not exactly self-leveling and shows brush strokes more.  I rarely paint with gloss for those reasons.  It’s also not as easy to touch up.  Flat paint and even satin sometimes can be touched up fairly easy – a gloss will show your touch up lines.  However, gloss looks phenomenal on certain pieces, so sometimes it’s worth the extra effort.  I do have a few areas on this one that you can tell where I should’ve left it alone instead of going back over an area with the brush.
  • If your piece has a slick feel to it you will likely need to prime and/or sand first.  If it feels pretty roughed up to start with, you might skip priming.  However, for high traffic pieces like a dining table or a dresser top, unless you are using chalk paint, you may want to prime it to ensure your paint sticks to the surface better.  This desk didn’t feel slick and parts of the wood were particularly dried out so I skipped the priming step of this.  It was also a dark color over a dark stain, so I didn’t feel the need for the extra step.  If I was painting this one white, I probably would’ve primed it or else it would have required more coats of paint.
  • Let the paint cure when you’re done.  Be patient.  Leave it alone and let it cure.  I feel like a total fraud even writing these words because I’m the most impatient person on the planet and I have a hard time with this one.  It’s so fun to see and style your newly painted piece, but I’ve learned the hard way on this one.
  • I didn’t seal this one with anything, but if you are using a sealer like Polycrylic or polyurethane, remember that oil-based polyurethane can yellow over time.  It’s not the best choice in the long run for light-colored pieces unless you like the yellow-tinged look later on.  Use a water-based product for those light colors.

And after two coats of glossy hunter green, here’s my vintage desk makeover!

vintage desk makeover


vintage desk makeover

vintage desk makeover

Tips for Removing Scratches

Here’s the power of Restor-A-Finish!  I used it on the feet of this dresser and on the top surface.  There were tons of scratches and places where the stain had been rubbed off over the years.  You just take a rag, wipe on the Restor-A-Finish and that’s it.  It doesn’t completely remove the scratches, but it’s the best product I’ve used that works like this.  Unless you want to sand down to bare wood and stain again, this is a fantastic choice.  Using Restor-A-Finish for removing scratches

Using Restor-A-Finish for removing scratches


vintage desk makeover hunter green

I’ll admit I don’t use many colors when I’m painting – I tend to stick with neutrals.  However, this desk just didn’t seem like a neutral to me and the glossy green makes that gorgeous wood pop even more.  It’s definitely making me want to branch out of my comfort zone and add some more color to my house.
I’d love to see some of your painted projects! Or show me some fun colors you’ve used lately – I’m always looking for inspiration.

Pin for later!

vintage desk makeover hunter green


16 thoughts on “Vintage Desk Makeover – How to Go From Subtle to Showy”

  1. Dear Melissa,
    Wow, a great transformation and an awesome tutorial. This post is full of excellent detailed advice, just the hand-holding necessary for someone to feel confident taking on a project like this. We are so glad you linked to our Friday Friends Parade Linky Party because we know our followers are going to love this post! (Just like we do!) Hope you’ll link up every week. With gratitude, Julie & Jodie

  2. Melissa,

    What a great desk and I love how you transformed it so beautiful. It is wonderful that you found a home for it and also gave it a gorgeous coat of paint, wow! Thanks so much for joining our Friday Friends Parade Linky Party!

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