How to Do a Bold & Colorful DIY Vintage Desk Makeover on a Budget

Grab your pencils; school is in session! I’m working on making over a kids’ bedroom and I’m flipping some furniture, starting with this DIY vintage desk makeover. We’ll turn an old classroom desk and a basic IKEA stool into the new cool kids on the block. Keep watching for some colorful desk makeover ideas.

Tools and materials

  • Dawn dish soap
  • Sponge
  • Water
  • Spackle
  • Scraper
  • Sander
  • Sandpaper
  • Wire brush
  • Goggles
  • Mask
  • Painter’s tape
  • Primers
  • Paint
  • Painting tools
  • Spray paint
  • Respirator
  • Polycrylic sealer

Old desk

This vintage public school desk belonged to a friend and has been sitting in storage for a while. Do you know how I know it’s authentic? There’s chewing gum still on it. Ew. The top is in good condition, but the metal base could use a little love.

vintage desk makeover, Old vintage desk before the makeover
Old vintage desk before the makeover

Old stool

In contrast to the old desk that’s been out of use for many years, this IKEA stool has seen plenty of use. We’ve got dings, we’ve got scratches, we’ve got crayon marks. Let’s give it a little rehab.

vintage desk makeover, Old IKEA stool before the makeover
Old IKEA stool before the makeover

1. Clean

Grab a little Dawn dish soap and scrub the furniture down. Then, give it a clean-water wipe-down.

vintage desk makeover, Cleaning down the stool
Cleaning down the stool

2. Fill in the dings

The stool has a lot of dings and dents, we need to fill those in.

Tip: Use spackle instead of wood filler

We could use wood filler for this, but sometimes it sticks or pops out. A top tip is to use spackle instead, especially if you’re only filling bits in for cosmetic purposes. Apply the spackle, wait for it to dry, then scrape off the excess.

vintage desk makeover, Using spackle to fill in dents
Using spackle to fill in dents

3. Sand & scrub

Sand the wooden surfaces down to make them smooth. You can use sandpaper or an electric sander for this.

vintage desk makeover, Using an electric sander on the stool
Using an electric sander on the stool

For the metal frame of the old desk, we want to get rid of the rust. So, go over it with a wire brush, then sandpaper. Finish with a thorough wipe-down.

Note: always wear a mask and goggles; we don’t want to inhale bits of metal or get them in our eyes.

vintage desk makeover, Using a wire brush on the metal desk frame
Using a wire brush on the metal desk frame

4. Prime

Tape off the pieces you don’t want to paint. If you’re a purist and you don’t want me painting a vintage desk, please know I left the original pencil marks to maintain the original character and intent of the piece.

vintage desk makeover, Applying painter s tape around the desk
Applying painter's tape around the desk

Apply primer first (I needed a separate metal primer for the metal frame of the desk). Always apply from the top down, so you don’t go over anything twice.

vintage desk makeover, Applying primer to the stool
Applying primer to the stool

Moment of hell: I didn’t feel like I was being too heavy-handed or spraying too close with my metal primer, but I ended up with a lot of paint sagging and drips. So, I had to wait for it to dry thoroughly, sand it back down, then reapply the primer. Which sucks.

vintage desk makeover, Paint primer sagging and dripping
Paint primer sagging and dripping

5. Paint

Our pieces are primed and it’s time for some DIY desk painting. You might think because we’re doing a child’s room that we’re going to stick to primary colors. Over my dead body. We are going beyond bold, aggressively pink neon.

I’m using 94 spray paint. Their tagline is “Because Color is Life” and I couldn’t agree more. This one is for my hardcore graffiti artists out there. The shade is Fuschia Fleur. We’re going to shake her up and send our pieces to a rave.

Don’t forget to wear your respirator.

vintage desk makeover, Spray painting the stool pink
Spray-painting the stool pink

Go for thin, simple coats.

Another moment of hell: I wore my good jeans because I thought I wouldn’t be at risk of spray-painting my legs. But, the wind and the aerosol particles in the air mean my good pants are now pink pants.

vintage desk makeover, Getting spray paint on jeans
Getting spray paint on jeans

For the bottom of the desk, I wanted to add some extra bling. So we’re going to do what we do every day on this channel: paint things gold.

vintage desk makeover, Spray painting the desk legs gold
Spray-painting the desk legs gold

6. Seal

Finally, top off the paint job with a clear polycrylic sealer. (It’s boring to watch, so I didn’t include visuals here.)

DIY vintage desk makeover

Well kids, thanks for coming to school with me today. This is one of the cutest furniture flips I’ve ever done. I hope it inspired you to come up with some colorful desk painting ideas or desk makeover ideas of your own.

P.S. Update on the pink pants: the Internet told me that the best way to get spray paint off clothes is with Dawn degreaser, so I used that and scrubbed the hell out of my jeans. I'll let you know if it works.

What do you think of this DIY vintage desk makeover? Let me know in the comments below.

Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  1 question
  • Bryan's Workshop Bryan's Workshop on May 12, 2023
    Awesome!! I just finished a pink desk too. Not for me, I'm way too tough. It's for my teenage daughter. Hey, do you think pink desks talk to eachother? Like, our desks are talking right now using some kind of pink desk language...I'll let myself out..

Join the conversation