Thrift Store Desk Transformation: How to Go From BLAH to BOLD!

10 Materials

On a recent visit to our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, my son and I were as lucky as leprechauns when we found a solid wood desk for $40, perfectly sized for his bedroom.

But after several furniture painting failures filled with lots of cursing and wasted time, I didn’t want to repeat past mistakes. Here are the basic steps to use to transform thrift store furniture into a show-stopping piece.

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thrift store desk transformation how to go from blah to bold
It's much easier to find junk at thrift stores than the real diamonds in the rough. My seven-year-old fell in love with a $75 roll-top dresser, but upon closer inspection, we saw that it was made with cheap laminate and veneer that was quite damaged in spots that would be impossible to hide and difficult to fix.

When purchasing second-hand furniture, look for solid wood construction and dovetail drawers, since it will be much easier to paint and repair a well-loved quality piece.
thrift store desk transformation how to go from blah to bold
Next, clean the furniture thoroughly to remove dust and dirt. I found that a tack cloth, which you can purchase at a hardware store, works much better than a dusting cloth.

Although chalk paint doesn't require much prep work, give your piece a light sanding, at least. My son’s new desk was clearly well-used by its previous owner, judging by all of the scratches and the robot carefully etched (with a pen!) right on top. The old hardware also left grooves and marks behind. So, I used three sanding blocks (rough, medium, and fine grit) to smooth the surfaces before wiping the desk with tack cloth one last time.
thrift store desk transformation how to go from blah to bold
Prior to painting, be sure to tape off any parts of the desk that you don't want to paint.

Chalk paint dries quite quickly, so it's best to work in small sections. I applied two coats to achieve an even finish. After the paint completely dried I applied a coat of sealing wax to add a subtle shine.
thrift store desk transformation how to go from blah to bold
New hardware completes the look! Be sure to measure the distance between the original screw holes before buying new hardware to ensure the right fit.
thrift store desk transformation how to go from blah to bold
This $40 thrift store desk is now a gorgeous shade of clover green, and looks perfect in my son's bedroom!

What painting mistakes have you made in the past, and what are your best painting tips now? To get all the details on how to paint furniture even if you hate painting, be sure to head over to my blog.
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Laura Kiernan - The No Pressure Life

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 5 questions
  • Kathy
    on Jun 1, 2017

    What is that color? Love it.

  • Sta2927646
    on Jun 5, 2017

    I have a rolltop desk that is a orange/honey color that was popular on the late 70's. My father in law made it from a kit I believe. Its impossible to find anything that matches and I would like to paint it black. My husband would kill me if I ruined it. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated.

  • Pat
    on Jan 26, 2019

    I’m confused — you said in answer to an earlier question that one reason you like chalk paint is because no sanding is required before painting. But in this project you said you sanded it 3 times before painting with chalk paint.

    So you actually do need to sand when using chalk paint, right?

    Beautiful job on the desk!

    • Pat
      on Jan 27, 2019

      Thank you for replying! It just seems like everyone says chalk paint is so wonderful because you don’t have to sand — and then all sand before using the chalk paint! I have very little experience painting — so I’m just trying to understand. Thank you again for answering so promptly!

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