Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Old-School Metal Desk Re-do (Tutorial and Afters)

I mentioned a while back that I was working on a desk I picked up at a garage sale (for $2) for our 5 year old who is going into Kindergarten this fall.  (How did that happen!!!!) 
I was almost done with it…and then disaster struck.  When I sprayed the protective clear coat on at the end, the white paint on top bubbled up and peeled away.  Lesson learned---always, always use primer on a laminate surface.  :)
However, I am done with it now!! 
To refresh your memory, this is what I started out with:
IMG_6544 It was kind of rusty, rather dirty, and was a little beat up, but it is going to be for a 5 year old who cannot for the life of her keep her room clean for more than 10 minutes…so I didn’t want to get something for her that I would freak out about if she colored all over it or scratched with her pencils. 
First I wiped it down with a clean rag to get all of the dust/grime off (and had to scrape away some gum and dried up glue too).  Then I taped off the top.  Now, this is where I start to go wrong.  I should have just primed the whole thing except for the blond wood stripe…but I am here to help you learn from my mistakes people!
I primed the base of the desk with Rustoleum white flat spray primer, then recoated after it was dry.  Then I spray painted the base with Rustoleum white gloss paint and again recoated.  Nothing most of you haven’t already done!
I took the tape/newspaper off the top and I noticed that the edges of the laminate top had some gouging in them so I filled them with wood filler and sanded when dry.
I grabbed my blue painters tape and eyeballed some lines across the desk.  I wanted some stripes but I didn’t want stripes all over the top of the desk, so this was my compromise.
Then it was time to paint the edge.  I got a sample size can of Pomegranate Pucker (I think!  I forgot the paint chip at the paint store and they didn’t put a sticker on top!) and I just brushed it on the edge, being careful not to get any on the underside of the desk top where I had already painted it white. 
The next couple of steps I don’t have any pictures of, but this is where I started to realize that I made more work for myself.  In order to paint the top white I had to re-tape the edges that I had recently painted.  I had run out of primer and I was mad at myself for not just priming the whole thing (sans stripes) white to begin with! 
So, I spray painted the whole top white.  Then, I decided I wanted a pop of gold to be the third “color” in the palette so I grabbed a can of old metallic bronze that I had sitting around (since our wedding!) and sprayed the area between the painter’s tape on top with that.  I did a couple of coats. 
While I was at it, I decided the feet of the desk needed a little prettifying so I taped off and painted the bottom of each leg with the same metallic paint. 
Looking better! 
I then covered the gold stripes on top with more tape and sprayed the whole top again with white. 
IMG_6670(I was doing this on a rather sunny day under a tree so the dappled shade makes strange shadows on the desk top!)
I couldn’t wait any longer so I went ahead and peeled off all the tape to reveal the stripes/slight plaid pattern below!
Much better, don’t you think? 
And this is where I messed up bigtime.  I sprayed the clear-coat on top and the white paint bubbled up in the lower right corner of the desk.  I was so frustrated, I took a break from it for about a week.  Finally I got some more spray paint (I got Rustoleum paint+primer this time!) and sanded and re-taped it and re-sprayed it.  Lots of lessons learned in this re-do!  Finally I put another coat of clear polycrylic on it and this time it worked great!  I really like how the natural “wood” of the desk top shows through in a couple of the stripes and the metallic adds a little drama to it. 
The metallic paint has a shimmer to it that is really hard to capture in the photos.    This photo probably shows it best:
I decided the desk needed something to hide the tantalizing crayons/paper/art projects inside from curious younger brothers, so I found a piece of fabric in my stash that was a similar coral color and I cut it to a size that would fit in the opening, then hot glued the edges under 3 sides (2 short and 1 long). 
IMG_6757 I wanted a little pleat in the center so I pinned that, flipped the whole desk over, and hammered push-pins in to secure the fabric flap to the bottom of the desk top.  I was originally going to staple it but I couldn’t fit the stapler in that small of a space. 
I still need to find a chair for it (I’ve been scouring garage sales and thrift stores but so far nothing) but I’m calling this project done!
Here it is in her room, ready for schoolwork, homework or art projects or whatever creative thing she might think up!  (Which might be coloring directly on it…who knows!)
Shhhh…don’t tell the toddler what’s hiding inside!
I’m getting a little nostalgic here now…
All done!! 
  Now on to the next project…have I shown you the tufted chair I picked up at the thrift store???  ; )

Linking up at The DIY'ers, and  Not Just a Housewife


  1. It looks great! What a great idea to add a pattern, and I love how you kept some of the natural color. Way to keep going even with bumps in the road. :)

  2. Thanks for this post! I just picked up the exact same desk for free on my street and wanted to refinish it for my 4 yo daughter. I already had an idea of how I was going to do it, but it really helps to get someone else's experience!


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