A Masculine Desk Makeover

A few weeks ago I showed you the before and after of this desk:


This desk went upstairs into the office and quickly became “my desk”. Some people think it’s a little weird to have 2 separate desks, but that way my husband and I can both work at the same time and he doesn’t have to deal with my craft supplies everywhere and I don’t have to deal with all his notes, lists and paper clutter.

So while I got this beautiful, new (to us) desk he was stuck with this little black, wobbly, writing table that I bought from WalMart yearsss ago… and a black metal folding chair. Poor guy. So I went into action and quickly found this thrift store desk that was in desperate need of a makeover. I got this guy for $18.99! (It had a production date stamped on the bottom of the middle drawer, which I always love finding- September 1945. And I know it was destined for Ben – the mad/math scientist- because someone had worked out math problems in pencil inside the drawers… weird, but fun!)


(The guys at the thrift store DID NOT think it was going to fit into the back of my Toyota… but Cherry- that’s my car- can fit a surprising amount of junk in her trunk. If anyone is in the market for a new car, after 2 years I am still completely obsessed with my Matrix. Just a random side note.)

So this desk was scratched up, dated and I think it had been left outside or something? It was caked with a green pollen-y substance- gross! My husband really liked the natural wood accent on my desk, so I was really hoping to do natural wood drawer fronts on his- but this green stuff was just not coming off. So I had to improvise. Here is the before and after (yay!)- then I will tell you what I did to achieve this look (oh, and ignore the fact that I took these in the garage.):


ben desk top

Ben, my husband, is like the #1 fan of all of my furniture makeovers and decorating ideas, but the only thing he was worried about is that they do tend to be a little on the feminine side. So I tried really hard to make this a man-friendly piece (but still look good in our office). I showed this to a friend while we were all out at dinner and the first thing she said was “Oh, how masculine!” and I was like “YESSSSSS! Mission accomplished!”- Thanks Rachael!

So here is what I did:

1.) Take out all the drawers.

2.) Unscrew all the handles. (Keep them and the screws in a safe place- lost screws are the worst!)

3.) CLEAN IT OUT! Seriously, I vacuumed it inside and out, top and bottom, and then wiped it down with a rag and cleaner. You NEVER KNOW what these things have had in them. (old Goldfish crackers, pennies, chewing gum, SPIDERS, BED BUGS AND TERMITES… OH MY!) Seriously, inspect and clean, people!

4.) Prime the whole thing with a “sticks to all surfaces” primer. I like this stuff ($20 at WalMart- lasts forever):


5.) I usually let it sit overnight and come back the next day, but it does dry pretty quickly.

6.) I painted the whole desk Behr, Blackbird- I think. :\ (Tip 1: Don’t throw away your color samples. Tip 2: I have wasted too much time and paint on cheap WalMart “economy” brushes. I try to spend as little money as possible- but I seriously recommend a little better brushes. What you spend in brushes, you will save in time, paint, sanity and quality.)

But you all probably knew how to do all that. Which brings me to the drawer fronts:

7.) I was going for a faux leather-y look. It didn’t turn out so leather-y but it looked good nonetheless. I painted the drawer fronts a caramel type color (again, don’t throw away your color samples) and let it dry. (Note: Last time I had a real problem with drawers sticking after I painted them, so this time I took the time to tape off all the drawer edges so I didn’t get any paint/primer on the sides. It helped cut back on the sticking a little. ) Some people use a glaze for these kind of effects but that was too expensive for me!

8.) I used a balled up plastic grocery bag to layer on a darker brown color. (This was Glidden- Leather Brown.) I would just ball up the bag and put it a little paint on the wrinkliest parts and then lightly dab until I liked the level of coverage. Note: My hands got REALLY messy, so wear gloves if that’s not your thing.

9.) I distressed it all up with my B&D mouse sander.

10.) Protect it all with some polyurethane. (Note: Most poly is shinier than I like. If I only need light protection I use Rustoleum’s matte finish spray. The top of this needed something heavier, though.)

11.) Put the handles back on.

12.) Enjoy!

Note about the paint: Take advantage of the stores that offer the little sample sizes. I go to Home Depot and get their Behr samples. (I always use a flat finish.) I have never needed a quart or gallon for one furniture piece. This desk took 2 samples of blue (just under $3/each), 1 sample of caramel color of 1 sample of Leather Brown. That’s $12 in samples instead of like $40 in quarts. Even though it’s a Behr sample, they can color match any brand of paint. It’s a really great little deal.

So, what do you think? How do you give a makeover piece a masculine flair, without it looking too much like a college frat house hand-me-down?

2 thoughts on “A Masculine Desk Makeover

  1. Wow! I’m impressed girl!!! I’ve started checking out antique/thrift stores. I’m less intimidated to paint/stain after reading your post. Looking forward to seeing future projects!

  2. Thanks, Jen! There is definitely no reason to be intimidated! And that’s exactly what I’m going for here- no expensive/specialty products or tools (nothing you can’t get at Wally Word or Home Depot/Lowe’s for a really reasonable price) and nothing you have to be a master painter/craftsman to do.

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