Living Room Makeover Part 1: Desk Restoration

Painted Furniture Before and AfterThis desk has grown up with me, literally. Santa brought it to me when I was in second grade, my dad put it together in our garage. It has since been repainted once and schlepped around to four city apartments. Countless essays have been written on it, countless piles of crap cleaned up off of it.

From a distance, the desk looked bright white. But close up, it was a disaster. It was very dirty and stained from spilling coffee and diet coke on it many, many times. The underside of it was primed but not fully painted. It had dings and scratches.

Ew, gross.

I could have just bought a new desk, but this desk has history and character (the most important factors for me when choosing things for my home), so I decided to restore it.

I really wanted a high-gloss, liquor like finish and I found this very informative tutorial on Honey and Fizz via Pinterest for painting high-gloss furniture. I learned a couple of things I would have done differently along the way that I’ll explain  here. Materials and instructions after the jump!

So first, the supplies. I took this picture prior to actually painting so I’ll amended a couple of things that are pictured here.

High Gloss painting supplies

1. Clean the piece. Since my desk was pretty dirty I scrubbed it down with a water and little ammonia, then wiped it dry with paper towels.

2. Sand. I used my electric sander and rough sand paper to give the desk a good thorough sanding. You can sand by hand if you don’t have an electric sander, its just faster with the electric. Wipe down dust with a damp paper towel.

3. Fill in holes. Fill in all holes and gauges with wood filler. Let dry according to the instructions on the packaging, at least 20 minutes. Sand any excess filler gently with fine sandpaper.

3. Prime. I used spray primer since its a lot faster than the old fashioned kind, but either will work. I just did one coat since the desk was light colored.  Let dry and sand out any little imperfections.

prime furniture
After the primer

4. Paint. Dina from Honey and Fizz tutorial suggests using flat paint for “maximum adhesion.” After spending years painting with high-gloss paint only to have it not stick the way I wanted it to, I took her suggestion. It worked like a charm and I will from now on be painting all my furniture with flat paint first unless I’m spray painting. Paint two coats of flat paint sanding between coats.

flat paint for high gloss furniture
Flat paint!

5. Dina suggests using a oil based poly in this step to protect your project, I would advise against it. The oil based poly dries yellow, not clear, which is why the drawers of the desk have a slight yellow tint. Also, the finish with the poly tended to bubble leading to a less than perfect finish in some places. I say skip the poly all together or use a water based one that will dry clear.

The less than perfect poly finish.

6. Gloss. The magic thing that turns your project from flat to high gloss wonder is clear high gloss enamel! Just make sure you buy CLEAR enamel and not white enamel like I initially did, and then have to repaint a large portion of your project. Seriously, that happened. I managed to get three coats of gloss out of the two cans I bought, so thats how many layers I did. If I had more gloss, I probably would have done four or five, but I just didn’t have the patience for it. Clean up any drips quickly with a sponge brush.

Overall, I think it turned out really well!

*Editors Note: This is part of a series remaking my entire living room, more to come!

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