You just never know how a piece of furniture will look when it’s repainted. This dated corner desk was no exception. I purchased it on a whim while browsing my local thrift store and I was nervous about it the whole drive home. Honestly, I wasn’t sure about this purchase until I was about halfway through refinishing it. I’ll share more about this further down.
With Summer quickly approaching, I’m trying to design a small corner office in our house, where I can work on my blog. My boys like to hang out in our home office that’s located on the main floor, so I can’t work in there while they’re home for the summer. The other day I stumbled across this vintage corner desk at a local Thrift Store.
I walked by it and then came back for a second look later, but it was in VERY rough condition. I could see the potential, but it was going to take a lot of work to make it beautiful again. Against my better judgement, I purchased it.
Once I had it home, I gave it a close examination. It had broken veneer on the top, the leg and the desk area. The finish was crackled all over. No wonder, everyone else passed this desk up!
I have to admit, it was more work than I had anticipated, but now that it’s finished, even I’m surprised how nice the corner desk makeover turned out.
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SCRAPE AND DISASSEMBLE BACKING
I started off with gloves and a metal putty knife. I had to scrape of the peeling veneer on the back of the desk. The trick was to go slow and make sure the putty knife stayed under the veneer. If I went too quickly, the veneer would split and it was difficult to get underneath it again.
Next, I placed a metal putty knife between the back of the desk and the plywood. Then I pried the backing nails up just enough to grab them with a mini pry bar. The small shelves pulled out from the back. I also removed all the hardware from the drawers. All of the nails and hardware were placed in a zip-lock bag for reassembly.
PLAN YOUR FINISH
This desk was covered in a thin veneer with a cheap solid wood under it. I came up with a plan to paint the areas with broken veneer and use clear wax on the top desk areas for a natural wood finish. Then I would paint the edges of the desktop with a contrasting color (black) to hide the unsightly cheap wood and give it a high design finish.
First, I glued any of the areas where the veneer was coming loose. Then I placed boards on those areas and clamped them down, letting them dry overnight.
I filled the broken veneer areas with Bondo Wood Filler. This stuff sets up and dries really quickly. You’ll want to work in small batches and wear gloves. Place about 2 plastic spoonfuls of Bondo on a paper plate and add a pea size amount of hardener to it. Use a plastic spatula and mix it well. Then fill the damaged area with the Bondo. I let it set up for a few minutes and removed the excess when the consistency was like cheese. Once it was completely dry, I sanded it smooth. Honestly, this was my first time using Bondo and with a little practice it worked really well.
SAND AND STRIP THE OLD FINISH
First, I sanded the old finish off with 80 grit sandpaper. This worked well for most of the desk. Then I moved to 180 and finished it with 320. Don’t forget to wear a dust mask!
Because of the leather insert and the tight space, the second level of the desk surface was too difficult to sand. This part of the desk needed to be stripped with CitriStrip. I applied it with an old brush and after about 20-30 minutes I scraped it into a cardboard box with a plastic scraper. It took a few applications to completely remove the finish. After the wood was dry, I hand sanded it one last time. This time starting with 180 grit and finishing 320.
Since my plan was to paint the leather insert, I also sanded it with 180 grit sandpaper by hand. This was just to rough up the surface.
Finally I vacuumed and wiped down the entire desk.
PRIME AND PAINT
My favorite primer is Bulls Eye 123 primer for all surfaces. I primed any area that was to be painted, including the leather insert.
Next, I painted all of the white areas with Behr Snowy Pine in a Satin Finish. Since this piece had a lot of large flat surfaces, I applied the paint with a foam roller. I did two coats of paint sanding lightly in between coats. Using blue painters tape I taped off the leather insert and then rolled it with paint. I actually did 3 coats of paint on the insert and sanded it by hand using 320 grit paper. This gave the insert a smooth finish.
The back and underneath inside of the desk was painted in Fusion Mineral Paint, Cathedral Taupe. I was using up left over paint and I wanted this area to be a slightly darker color.
Next, I rolled the edge band of the desktop. To get a clean edge, I loaded the roller and then off loaded it on a folded paper towel. Then I applied the paint to the edge with the bottom part of the roller (see picture).
Finally, using a clean roller I repeated the process on the inside edge of the round part of the desk. The color is Fusion Mineral Paint, Coal Black.
APPLY FURNITURE WAX TO BOTH DESKTOPS
Since I am the only person who will be using this desk, I know it won’t take a lot of abuse. If this piece was going to have heavy use, I would apply General Finishes High Performance Top Coat in Satin. Keep in mind that the top coat may cause the natural wood to darken and it may possibly bring out the red tannin’s in the wood.
To avoid having the natural wood turn a deeper reddish color, I chose to use Fusion Mineral Paint’s Clear Furniture Wax. I quickly worked the wax into the wood with a blue shop towel. Then wiped the extra off with a clean blue shop towel in the direction of the grain of the wood.
Fusion Mineral Paint has a good tutorial on how to apply furniture wax.
PAINT THE HARDWARE
I keep this process moving by working it into the rest of the project. So, while another part of the project is drying or setting up, I spray paint a coat on the hardware. Then I come back later and turn the hardware and coat it again, until it is fully covered. Work in thin coats to avoid drips.
I arranged the backing to the desk so the nail holes were lined up. Then, I re-nailed the backing on the desk and added the pulls back on the drawers.
Now the exciting part…I get to take it in the house and arrange my corner office space. When I measured the desk in the store, it seemed like it would fit through my garage entry door. I refinished it in my garage and didn’t think to measure the door to see if it would fit. 🙂 You can imagine my surprise when it was just a little too big.
Thankfully, it did fit through my front door. Lesson learned…always measure your doorway!
Honestly, this desk took longer than I expected, but I picked up a few new skills in the process. The results were stunning and I now have a new beautiful desk to enjoy.
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Thanks for stopping by to check out my corner desk makeover! I hope you picked up some tips and inspiration for your own project.