Thanks, I Made It Myself: The Ugly Desk Makeover

When I was 15 my dad took me to the furniture store so I could get my very own desk. I chose the finest particleboard corner desk my $50 budget would allow, and for the next 13 years, I sat at that desk to to write high school essays, and then college papers, and then blog entries, and then my book. When we moved to Nashville and sold all our furniture, I finally said goodbye to my trusty corner desk, and when we signed the lease on our new house, I decided that my real, grown-up home office deserved a real, grown-up desk.

My vision for my new desk was exactly the opposite of my small, flimsy, wood-like corner desk: I wanted something big, modern, and streamlined. When I found a massive gray and metal industrial-style table on Craigslist for $40 I impulsively bought it, mostly because the people were willing to deliver. But after it had been unloaded and I’d handed them a couple $20s, I had a terrible realization: this desk was really ugly.

I’d imagined using this type of table as a desk would make my office look cool and modern; instead it made it look cold and uninviting, like a recently abandoned high school biology lab. A DIY makeover was clearly in order. What this drab desk needed was a fresh coat of paint, and the brighter the better.

I’m so happy with how it came out, so I thought I’d share my super easy step-by-step process. First, check out the requisite “before” photo of the depressing light gray desk, ready to host a frog dissection:

Desk Before

And now, the how-to:

Step 1: Google “Best colors for creativity.” Read a few articles that say blue is best and a few that insist green is best. Settle on teal because it’s a combo of the two and it’s the color you secretly had in mind anyway.

Step 2: Go to Sherwin-Williams and try to set a record for being their most clueless customer ever. When the clerk asks you what your desk is made of, say, “I have no idea. Something hard?” Learn that as long as you use primer, you can paint pretty much any surface with good results. Buy a quart of paint in a color called “Tantalizing Teal.” Wonder if Courtney Stodden is moonlighting as a Sherwin-Williams paint-naming specialist.

Step 3: Round up your supplies. Here’s what I used:

 The playlist is very important. You should never paint anything without having a dance party.

Step 4: Lay down the dropcloth, crank up the volume on “Heartbreaker,” and get to priming. Make sure to get good, even coverage over the entire surface. Here’s a picture of Nick taking a turn (Sherwin-Williams tinted the primer the same shade as the paint, which is why it already looks teal-ish):

Step 5: Let the primer dry completely (I waited all night just to be safe, but a couple hours should be fine).

Step 6: Apply two coats of paint with a fresh roller. Let dry overnight.

And voila, the drab gray dissection table has become a bright, happy, creativity-inspiring desk:

Desk Makeover

The color is even more vibrant in real life; for some reason my camera doesn’t really capture it.

Things I would have done differently: 

1. Bought less paint. I went to Sherwin-Williams because I knew they’d have a good color selection and would be able to answer my endless questions. Unfortunately they don’t sell paint in smaller containers, so I ended up with a quart, which I used about half of. Now I’m on the hunt for more stuff to paint teal to use up my leftover paint!

2. Been more methodical with my rolling technique. Using the roller to paint in straight lines is like painting 101, but of course I got a little overexcited while rocking out to “Touch My Body” and rolled that thing in every direction. In certain lights you can see the uneven lines. My perfectionist side might force me to do one more very careful coat to cover that up.

Still, overall I’m really happy with the finished product, and I hope this ridiculously easy tutorial will inspire you to attempt a makeover of your own–it’s so much more satisfying (not to mention cheaper and eco-friendly) than throwing something out and buying new. Good luck!

Email me at [email protected] Follow me on Twitter @winona_rose.