DIY HOME DECOR ON A BUDGET
With this furniture makeover, I’m showing you how to get the look of expensive burl wood for less than $20 and in under 20 minutes. Plus I’m divulging my tips for getting a chalk paint finish without buying those expensive chalk paints.
Remember that desk I used to tie my antique-loving style in with Christine’s modern aesthetic for our new home office? If you missed it, you can see the full home office reveal here: Shared Home Office: Blending Decor Styles For A Space That Works Harmoniously.
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That desk is a real rags-to-riches, trash-to-treasure, Cinderella-style love story. I’ve had this desk for years and have tried, many times, to breathe new life into her via paint. You see, I found her at a thrift store and she’d been pretty badly beaten. A true vintage piece with gorgeous linens and sturdy dover-tail drawers, years of neglect had taken its toll on her facade.
Her finish was only worsened when we moved from NC back to TN two years ago and the moving company packed our truck with reckless abandon. When we unloaded our belongings into our new home, I never even brought the desk inside from the garage. I actually worried that this was going to be the final nail in the coffin, so I left this desk out there for almost two years and opted to purchase a new desk for my daily work station.
While this modern desk was absolutely functional, the sleek contemporary lines didn’t ever really feel like they fit in with my personality. Sure, I love a good modern piece but I need some character to raise the comfort-level a notch.
So when I was considering options for my office makeover, it occurred to me that if I give my poor little antique buddy one more shot, I might be able to make it the desk of my dreams.
The first task? Clean it up and give it a good new paint job.
Step One: Preparing Vintage Furniture for New Paint
Since this piece had been stored in the garage, it was covered in accumulated dust, spider webs, and dirt. To clean it up, I began by taking a plastic-bristle brush to each horizontal edge to remove loose dirt. This also removed any chipping paint from the piece.
Next, I used a rough grit sanding block to smooth out any edges. Once complete, I filled all holes and gouges in the wood with a wood putty and allowed to dry.
Then I used a fine grit sandpaper and an orbital sander to smooth the entire surface.
This process leaves behind a lot of dust, so I vacuumed the whole surface.
Then, to be extra cautious, I wiped the piece down with a damp cloth, saturated with white vinegar to remove any leftover surface stains.
Now my piece was ready to be primed.
Step Two: Prime It.
To insure proper paint adhesion, I opted to prime the desk with a primer I’d had tinted dark. This was leftover from my bathroom cabinet project (seen in this post: One Day Kid’s Bathroom Makeover), but you can always take a can of primer to your hardware store’s paint desk and ask them to tint it to any shade before you buy it. While it won’t be as dark as your paint, it will cut down on the number of required coats when you are painting a dark color.
I used a disposable paint brush because I find removing primer from bristles to be exceptionally challenging, so I opt to just buy a cheap brush that I don’t mind throwing away.
I brushed the primer onto the molding first, being cautious to avoid pooling. Then I smoothed over the entire piece.
I allowed my primer to fully cure for 3 hours, then painted the desk.
Step Three: Paint It
For this paint technique to work, I used flat (or matte) black paint, sourced from my local home improvement store and tinted to my desired color.
Chalk paint is, in essence, just matte paint. Only for some reason, it costs so much more than a quart of standard paint. So I’ve been playing with finishes to see if I could achieve the desired effect without spending more than I have to.
The secret? Apply a wax finish over matte paint to get a factory finish.
Step Four: Apply Finish
I used an old dry cloth, dipped in DecoArt creme wax finish and gently applied a tiny amount over the entire surface of this desk. The result? The exact same factory finish for a lot less.
FAUX BURL WOOD TECHNIQUE USING CONTACT PAPER
That’s right! Instead of splurging on expensive burl wood veneer (which I may still do down the line), I used burl-printed contact paper to get a faux burl furniture look. The reasoning? Well, I didn’t really know if Christine and I would like this look, so I didn’t want to commit the time and money (a lot of money) to the project until I was certain. I thought about it and it made sense to spend $15 on contact paper, versus $300 on veneer, to try it out!
The only reason I may still use a veneer on this desk in the future is that this shade of burl isn’t exactly what I wanted. I really wanted a blonde burl, but just couldn’t find it. For now, this looks great with her MidCentury chair. So we’re both quite happy.
Step Five: Apply Burl Wood Contact Paper
Just like wallpaper installation, you want to start with a clean surface and apply a straight line just a little at a time. I started by applying the very top edge of the paper and SLOWLY unrolling the paper backing from the sticky side, smoothing with a wallpaper tool as I went.
Once the entire space was covered, I used a straight edge knife to trim off the excess.
Then I simply peeled off the excess paper and smoothed again, taking care to work out any air bubbles.
I completed the step on 3 of the sides, but you can apply this as much or as little to achieve your desired effect.
So that’s how I turned a trashed thrift store find into a real treasure, for under $20. This project was completed as part of the monthly At Home DIY Challenges. This series challenges DIY bloggers to complete a new project each month and celebrate one another’s victories together.
Here’s the full list of this month’s participants:
You can see any and all of their projects by following the links in the thumbnails below:
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