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

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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.

For more details, including tips for getting great results with chalk paint and the painting mistakes to avoid, check out the full article on my blog: http://www.thenopressurelife.com/how-to-paint-furniture/
Difficulty: Easy
  • 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. http://www.thenopressurelife.com/how-to-paint-furniture/

Suggested materials for this project:

  • Brushed Nickel Cup Pulls  (Lowe's)
  • Desk  (Habitat for Humanity ReStore)
  • Valspar Chalky Finish Paint  (Lowe's)
Laura Kiernan

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

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  • Karen Criner
    Karen Criner Winston Salem, NC
    on May 27, 2017

    What a find! All it needed was a little love and some sanding...you certainly did plenty of that. LOL! It is always easier when you find the correct drawer pull size but Murphy's Law just has to jump in there. Snort! So I just drill more holes and fill up the old ones. You did such a wonderful job and I really like the style of drawer pulls you selected.

      • Laura Kiernan
        Laura Kiernan Natick, MA
        on May 27, 2017

        Thanks so much, Karen! I do find that the drawer pull spread is often smaller in older furniture than most of the drawer pulls that are available today, so choices are definitely limited. I was lucky to find these, and they were super cheap too!

      • Sco24316099
        Sco24316099
        on Jun 1, 2017

        Roll-top dresser I can't see one or am I going blind.


          • Laura Kiernan
            Laura Kiernan Natick, MA
            on Jun 1, 2017

            Sorry, I should have said that my son "initially" fell in love with the roll-top desk. We passed on it because it wasn't in good condition. He's still begging his grandpa to build him a roll-top for this desk!