Vintage Desk Makeover – Painted Furniture

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Upcycling Furniture Gives otherwise discarded pieces new life. See how this vintage desk got a new look with some coats of stain and paint.
vintage desk makeover

Upcycling Gives Vintage Furniture new life and Purpose

If you have ever noticed a piece of furniture or decor that was a little “down and out” but knew that it had potential if you gave it some love? Upcycling old, vintage, outdated or worn out pieces of furniture and decor can be a great way to preserve what we have, and maybe even save a little money too. Sometimes all it takes is a little paint and stain (and a little bit of elbow grease). That’s just what I did with this vintage desk makeover.

When I rescued this vintage desk from a Facebook Marketplace sale. I was looking for a unique desk to place in an open space in my entryway, near my living room. Here’s what my living room looks like:

colorful-living-room
As you can see, my living room is quite colorful, with some mid-century modern and also traditional styles (what they would call transitional).
This is my entryway, from the living room desk chair purchased secondhand. To the left of here is the open space where I planned to place my desk.

On the Hunt for a Desk

Since my entryway / living room is such a mix of styles, I wasn’t quite sure the best desk that would fit in the space. First of all, it couldn’t be too large, as the width available for the desk was limited by the swing of the front door. I wasn’t sure of a style either, as I had a mix of traditional and mid-mod style in the room. And budget-wise, I really didn’t have a ton of money to spend on a piece. So I started checking out Facebook Marketplace, where I had been successful selling my own furniture in the past. That’s when I came across this desk for $50 on a post, and fell in love. So I bought it.

vintage desk with drawers in need of a makeover
Isn’t she a beaut? I loved the vintage feel of this desk, and the elegant drawer handles. The storage drawers were just what I needed for my entryway.

A word of caution when buying secondhand

When you are buying furniture from a third party, you should keep a few things in mind. First, try to find out all the details about the piece’s history, such as who owned it, how much wear it has, whether the drawers work, and if it is damaged. I didn’t ask enough questions about this desk, but the price was right and I loved the style, so I basically bought it sight unseen. In retrospect, I should have asked more questions, because the desk was damaged a bit on the top and pretty scratched up. The worst part was that the owners were very heavy smokers, and the entire desk and its drawers had to be aired out for several weeks before I could do anything with them. Using baking soda, dryer sheets and other methods, I finally got the smoke smell out.

Another consideration when you are buying furniture secondhand is to be careful to meet in a safe location to purchase the item. Try to bring someone else with you to help you load the furniture in and out of your car and home. In this case, I had just enough room to fit the desk in the back of my new car, and I had a neighbor help me load it in the house that afternoon.

Live With The Piece For A Little Bit Before Giving it a Makeover

I loved the desk as it was, but because it wasn’t quite the right color to match the rest of my furniture, and it was also a little damaged, I knew that I needed to give it a little more love. But for at least a year, I lived with it unchanged in this spot. It fit perfectly in my entryway. I used it to store seasonal decorations and little things that you tend to set down as you leave or enter the home. I had planned to use this secondhand green chair in the space, but unfortunately it was too wide to fit under the desk. Again, lesson learned that I need to measure everything!

This area in my entryway is where the girls put their coats, shoes and book bags as they come in the front door. It has a nice view of our front yard.
At first, I styled the desk and left it as it was, with a few real and faux plants and accessories. But I still had plans to change the look of this desk.

Let’s add some color to this Vintage Desk

So after about a year or so, I was finally ready to do something with the desk. It needed color. After all, this room has a lot of color already, and the desk needed to be refurbished. I scoured Pinterest for ideas, and came across a few colors that suited me. I didn’t want to necessarily go too bold with the color, and was trying to match the colors in my living room rug, which were jewel tones of plum, navy, aqua, orange, yellow and blue. So really any color would do, but not every color would do the desk justice.

Painting and Staining the Desk

Initially, I thought I could tackle the process of painting and staining the desk. After all, I’ve done many staining projects around our house, including our staircases and balusters. But I was afraid to ruin the desk if I made a mistake when painting it. So I elicited the help of a local artisan who was more experienced in repainting and staining furniture. She was also able to help me select the right colors and finishes to achieve the look I wanted. We ended up going with a Peacock blue mineral chalk paint by Dixie Belle, with a black wax glazed finish, and a walnut-stained top to match the existing living room furniture.

Dixie Belle Paint Company offers a variety of colors, and the mineral paint requires no sanding or priming prior to painting. I probably could have done the job myself! Oh well. Who has the time, right?
This is the black wax that my artisan used to finish and seal the peacock blue paint on the desk. It comes in a variety of colors for a gilded finish.
This Minwax is a great brand of stain, and I’ve used it on many projects. You can also find it at any hardware store.

Finishing the Vintage Desk Makeover

I was excited to see the final transformation of my vintage desk. The process took a few weeks, as the lady painting the desk had to strip the top of the desk, sand it and cure it, and then stain and poly it. Then, she had to paint the base and the drawers. Next, she applied the black wax to seal the desk. Finally, she spray painted the original hardware drawer pulls black. I’ll show you the pictures of the process, and then the final result.

This was how the desk looked as the base was being painted. As you can see, the top was already stained and finished.
vintage desk makeover - painting process
Here are the drawers with the first coat of peacock blue mineral paint. I was a little worried about the boldness of the bright blue color at first, but this was before the black wax had been applied.
I love the cool details on these drawer pulls. They were worth saving and in great shape. So we just spray painted them black!

The Finished Vintage Desk Makeover reveal

I was so excited to pick up the desk when it was done being painted and stained. The suspense was killing me! And now, to reveal the final makeover of this vintage desk in all of its blue peacock glory:

Vintage Desk Makeover  - Dixie Belle peacock mineral paint
Here is the finished desk. I just love the color I chose, and how it works with the rug and the entry and living room. Blue is one of my favorite colors. It does look like different shades of blue, depending on the light. This picture was snapped on a dark, winter afternoon.

It was worth saving and restoring this vintage piece

What is even more interesting to me about this desk is that I really don’t know who used it prior to me. Perhaps it was a writing desk in someone’s home for years. Was it used to pay bills? To study or do homework? I may never know. Today, it sits and looks pretty in my entryway. We use it for storage of odds and ends and to keep the clutter at bay. I am still looking for a vintage wooden chair to fit underneath the desk — perhaps another painting project? Keep posted on my blog for details. For now, here it is styled in my entryway:

vintage desk makeover - Dixie Belle Peacock
I love the vintage feel this desk brings to my living room. This corner is perfect for setting our things down as we are leaving the house, or putting our shoes and coat on. I added a few pieces to style the area, and change the decor out often for the seasons.

My Thrift Store Challenge

Well, I’m happy with how my vintage desk makeover turned out. I hope I’ve inspired you to take a second look at your old, outcast furniture and decor. Perhaps you can give them a second chance and a makeover too. Some of my decor-loving friends on Instagram have joined together to present our thrift store makeovers. Check out what they found at the links below, and read how they transformed them and styled them in their home.

Click on the links below to view each thrift store makeover in detail, and see how these talented ladies styled the items in their homes.
Susan Young

Susan Young

Susan is a Midwest mom of two and lover of all things colorful in the home. She works with homeowners to find their unique style and color palette while keeping their budgets and lifestyles in mind. Follow her on social media, where she shares her latest colorful projects and inspirations.

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12 thoughts on “Vintage Desk Makeover – Painted Furniture”

  1. I love it and yes it is a beaut!! You got a great score and I totally agree with you about living with the piece for a little while before you do anything with it! That’s what I do and sometimes I end up doing nothing to it!
    Love the colour you chose , it blends into your home so well.
    Great choice of furniture Susan well done.
    Teresa!

  2. Love the blue you chose for this desk! I totally agree about letting a piece live in a space for a little while before deciding on how you want to refinish it. This turned out so pretty and is perfect in the space.

    1. Katie, I was not the one who did the painting, but from my understanding she lightly sanded all surfaces, and then used the mineral paint and a black wax on the base of the desk. Then the top was sanded thoroughly and stain applied with a top sealer using a brush or rag. I don’t notice any brush strokes but I know you can use a roller or a brush on mineral paint, depending on your preferences. Mineral paint should have a built-in top coat, unless it’s a rough use piece of furniture, and then I think you can add one. Hope that helps.

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