Reader How-To: Andrew's Desk Makeover

Reader How-To: Andrew's Desk Makeover

Janel Laban
Feb 25, 2009


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Last year, Andrew sent in a good question about refinishing this little desk that he found at a local antique store. He's followed up with a great step by step how-to...

...on the creative and colorful makeover.

Citrus Strip
Paint stripping tool
Fine grain sandpaper
Medium size paintbrush
Screen Ink
Squeegee (for applying ink)
Hot glue gun (to apply fabric)
Small-Bit Drill (to apply hardware)
Lacquer spray
Drop cloth


1. The process began by first removing the existing hardware and the chipped detail on the middle drawer.

2. Then, I stripped the topcoat paint using a truly amazing product called Citrus Strip. This biodegradable, non-toxic paint stripper sprays on bright orange, and after only 30 minutes, has turned the paint into a goopy, orange mush that is super-easy to clear away with a stripping tool.

3. Once the paint was stripped, revealing a deep walnut wood, I sanded down all the surfaces of the wood, removing any excess paint or Citrus strip still remaining.

4. The drawer frame and legs had become warped and slightly disjointed. To re-set the drawer frame, I wrapped the wood in wet towels, and then used heavy weights to effectively warp the wood back to its original shape. Using Gorilla Glue, I was able to re-joint the dovetails on the legs and main frame. Once the glue was dried, I sanded the excess down to create a seamless surface.

5. I wiped down the surface and began to paint with a flat acrylic latex wall paint, Benjamin Moore color Slate Blue. This is a bright, sky color, which looked great in a sample, but once applied to the entire surface of the desk appeared much to bright and pastel for my taste. So after careful consideration at the paint store, I returned with Benjamin Moore Philipsburg Blue (available in Color Sample size) and began to apply this color with light brush strokes across the entire surface. Another original idea I had was to paint the beveled edges of the desk with a metallic silver. After applying the trim, I decided it wasn't "popping out" as much as I had hoped, so I began to add more and more metallic silver to the entire surface. Before I knew it, the desk was entirely covered in metallic paint. So, using a fine grain sand paper, I began to sand down the surface, which revealed all three layers of paint, and leaving me with the entirely accidental final "pearlized" finish.

6. I had fallen in love with the image of the two gentleman in club chairs after discovering a great little book called "How to be Plump." The book is filled with many great Victorian etchings, and deals with our once-customary preference for being plump and eating well-rounded meals. The image on the top surface was then applied using basic silkscreening techniques (burning the image to a screen, applying ink, and screening directly onto the surface.) I also mixed some of the metallic paint in with the ink to achieve a matching pearl effect.

7. The office supply rack on the top-center of the desk is an old spice rack I found at a thrift store for about three dollars. I repainted the surface in black and slate blue. The drawer pulls are made from old typewriter keys. Each of the spice jars contains office supplies like paper clips, rubber bands, pens, and push pins.

8. The drawer hardware was purchased at Anthropology for about $20 (nearly the cost of the desk itself!) I also lined all the drawers with a blue, black, and gray plaid fabric I purchased from a fabric store.

9. The entire desk was finished with a lacquer spray to achieve it's reflective shine.

Desk $20
Citrus Strip $11
Paint $25
Screen $18
Photo Emulsion FREE (supplied by local art center) Screen Ink $24 "How to be Plump" $3 Hardware $18 Fabric $2 per yard Lacquer $10


TOTAL TIME SPENT: About two weeks

Thanks for sharing your project, Andrew!

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