Painted Two-Toned Desk + Tips on Painting Furniture

I’m just about finished with the updates for my son’s bedroom makeover.  It hasn’t been a huge overhaul, but with rearranging the furniture, adding colorful stripes on the wall, and hanging new DIY pallet shelves, this space has received a welcome refresher.  In the midst of moving around the beds and dresser, I realized  my little man is at the age where he really needs a desk to work at and hold all his creative supplies.

If you remember back quite a long time ago, I purchased a beauty of a desk off Craigslist.  It lived in my family room ever since (over 6 months), but wasn’t “right”.  Then pufff… I had an idea – it would be perfect for my son’s room.

And this is the evolution of the Craigslist Desk…

It started off as a stained executive desk typical of the 1940s and is in really great condition.  The only thing it needed was a little makeover to update it and bring it back to life to mesh with today’s decor style.

In knowing that the desk would live in my son’s room, I wanted to do it right.  With my lack of patience, I sometimes skip steps or rush, but with this desk makeover I took my time so the result would be something he could live with for many years.

Supplies: Onto the makeover – here’s my arsenal of supplies…

1. Fill Holes & Sand: I started off removing the hardware, which I decided to replace with simple knobs.  Then I filled all of the scratches, holes, and nicks with wood filler.   And the last step before painting was to sand the overall desk surface with my orbital sander using a 120 grit sandpaper (medium coarse), then a 220 grit sandpaper (very fine coarse).

2. When the sanding was complete, I cleaned off the entire surface with a damp rag before I started priming.

3. Primer: Once the desk was completely dust-free, I added one coat of primer with my favorite Kilz Primer which blocks the stain and allows for a well-prepared surface to paint.

4. Secret Agent: With every painting job, I always add my favorite “formula” to eliminate brushstrokes – Floetrol.  It always works like a charm to achieve a clean, brushstroke-free surface! (And I wasn’t even paid to say that – I truly just love it ;)

Desk Colors:

  • Desk Top & Frame – Dutch Boy High Seas
  • Drawer Fronts – Dutch Boy Hurricane Cliffs

5. Paint: After the one coat of primer, I added the first coat of paint, which I used both a brush and roller.  On the top and flat surfaces of the desk, I used a 5″ wide small roller and for the difficult crevices and edges, I used my favorite 1.5″ wide Purdy brush.  *Sometimes, I used the brush first and went over it with the roller.  The roller makes for a smooth surface to avoid brushstrokes.

6. Then onto painting the drawers.  I wanted this desk to be a little playful and not just one color, so I decided to use a lighter color blue on the drawer fronts.

7. Polyurethane: The last painting step was to add a coat of polyurethane – truly the most important part in finishing any piece of furniture!  I usually use water-based clear satin polyurethane, but since I knew this desk would be getting lots of use in the years to come, I decided to use an oil-based polyurethane, which really is more durable (hands-down).

8. Hardware: Once the painting was complete, I drilled one hole in each drawer front for the new knobs, which were originally natural that I spray painted white.  The knobs went in and the desk was complete.

To add a little unexpected fun to the desk, I added a drawer liner that has a geometric pattern with green, blue, and turquoise colors.  My son was quite surprised when he opened the drawers to find this hidden treasure!

And once again here is the before and after…

And these are just a few important tips to remember when painting furniture:

 Do you like painting furniture? Have you painted anything lately?

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    • Jenna says

      Hi Lanay, Just like I did with the paint, I used a combination of a roller and a brush for the polyurethane. On the flat surfaces (desk top) I used a roller and on the difficult crevices and edges, I used a brush. When you apply the poly it often bubbles, but as it dries the bubbles go away. Using a roller will usually eliminate the brush strokes. Let me know if you have any more questions! -Jenna

  1. says

    Very nice Jenna. I really like the look of the two-toned colors and the inside of the drawers are an awesome extra touch. Your son must love it. I’m looking forward to seeing his whole room. Have a great weekend!

    ~ Catie

  2. Christa says

    Any tips on applying poly? I have a desk and bed that needs it, but I’ve been putting it off because I’m too intimidated. I’ve read that it’s difficult to work with and can streak easily.

    • Jenna says

      HI Christa, I know adding poly can be intimidating, but it’s really not! I used a combination of a roller and a brush for the polyurethane. On the flat surfaces (desk top) I used a roller and on the difficult crevices and edges, I used a brush. When you apply the poly it often bubbles, but as it dries the bubbles go away. Using a roller will usually eliminate the brush strokes. Let me know if you have any more questions! -Jenna

    • Jenna says

      Do you Megan? So funny. I got mine at TJ Maxx. Where did you pick them up? I was so surprised to find them there and I’m sure if I looked, I would have never found them. -Jenna

      • says

        Mine is from T.J. Maxx too! TWINS! I got so excited when I saw it I bought it, even though I didn’t know what I was going to do with it.

    • Jenna says

      hehe Erin, I love inspiring and sharing so others can do it themselves. Floetrol is an amazing paint product! It definitely has changed the way I paint. -Jenna

  3. says

    The only problem with floetrol is that if you ever want to do a touch up on the paint say a year later the and use the original paint without floetrol the paint will not match. It slightly changes the paint sheen.

    • Jenna says

      That is true Vicki, floetrol is difficult to “patch up”, but since it’s mostly used on furniture style pieces versus the walls, they usually don’t need as much “touching up” since polyurethane is needed as a top coat. Great point though! -Jenna

  4. Emily says

    What Kilz primer do you use? I can’t read the can because of all the paint :) I’m about to start refurbishing a coffee table and I have no clue what primer I should use. So many options! Thanks for the awesome tutorial, by the way.

    • Jenna says

      The primer I used is Kilz Premium with a color blocker and that color/stain blocker is a must for painting furniture!

  5. Elissa says

    I just stumbled across this desk…I have an old wooden desk just like this one in dire need of a makeover! Thanks for the inspiration – this is exactly what I needed! Love your blog!


  6. says

    This so adorable! I already loved the desk in its original state but you did a great job at turning it into a fun and unique kids desk :)

    I recently painted my bedside table which my grandfather made for me almost 17 years ago, it went from bright orange to snow white to fit into my new bedroom. I really enjoyed painting it, all wrapped up in thoughts and memories about my wonderful grandpa :)

  7. Michelle says

    What finish did you use for the Dutch Boy colors? Eggshell, Flat or semi-gloss? Does it matter? Preference?

    • Jenna says

      When painting furniture, I use a semi-gloss finish 99% of the time! It does matter because flat or eggshell won’t hold up as well over time (similar to walls). -Jenna

  8. Laura says

    I’ve read about flotrol, and after reading this post, I am convinced I have to use it next time. Do you add it to the primer too?

    • Jenna says

      You shouldn’t need to because with Primers you will only need to apply a light coat and it’s often recommended to sand after priming (with furniture) so you have a clean palette to start your paint.

    • Jenna says

      I snagged the fun geometric paper at TJ Maxx. Homegoods and TJs are a great resource for contact and wrapping paper!


  1. […] SAS Interiors painted this desk for her sons room.  What I love most about the desk are the inside of the drawers.  While visiting her tutorial I also learned about a new product that eliminates brush strokes while painting furniture.  THAT makes me a happy happy girl. […]