by Wiley

One auspicious morning, I saw this beautiful desk (along with a “FREE!” sign) out on my neighbor’s curb.

I was sure someone would snag the desk before the day was done, but when I got home that evening, it was still there!

With my Mag-Lite in tow, I went to investigate. The desk was missing a slide-out tray but seemed awesome otherwise; it had plenty of storage space and was built to last. Feeling a bit like a creeper skulking around the neighborhood at midnight with my flashlight, I stealthily removed the drawers and carried them to my garage. It took six trips.

I left a note letting my neighbors know I’d take the rest of the desk home once I rounded up the troops. The next evening, Walt and Fiona and I lugged it into the backyard.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to just clean it and use it immediately, or repaint it. My least favorite part of furniture makeovers is sanding and priming, and I wasn’t sure if I was willing to do the prep work to repaint the desk. Then I read a Design*Sponge tutorial about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I learned that chalk paint (which is different from chalkboard paint—paint that you use to create a blackboard-like surface) can be applied to just about any wooden surface without having to strip, sand, or prime the wood beforehand. It leaves a velvety finish and is good for projects where you want a shabby chic/vintage/antique look.

I decided to give it a go. Even though Annie Sloan products are expensive (1 liter of paint: $38; 500 mL of wax: $28) and the brand is hard to find, I thought the money would be worth the time I’d save not sanding and priming.

In all, I worked on the desk for two days (one day to clean, one day to paint). It really could have taken just one day, but I drove to San Jose twice because the store was out of wax the first time I went. I hope this tutorial will inspire you if you’re considering a furniture makeover of your own!



  • furniture cleaner
  • steel wool scouring pad (0000)

The desk was originally covered in a thick layer of grime. After vacuuming the desk, I scrubbed it with a cleaner then hosed it down and let it try in the sun. (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you soak your furniture in water. But since it was a very hot day, I knew the wood would dry quickly.)



  • screwdriver
  • knobs
  • screws
  • spray paint

After removing the knobs, I spray painted the hardware in a navy blue color. Easy-peasy!


  • paintbrush
  • primer
  • interior paint

At this point, I decided I wanted to compare the “prime then paint” process with the “chalk paint only” process. Since I already had some primer and paint samples from past projects (and since I didn’t want to use too much of the costlier chalk paint), I decided to prime and paint the inside of the drawers.

I painted the drawers with a coat of primer…

…then topped that off with two coats of a light aqua-colored Benjamin Moore interior paint.

Priming and painting took several hours—and the primer/paint smell was strong, even though I was working in an open garage. About mid-way through the process, I wished I’d just stuck with chalk painting the whole thing!



  • paintbrush
  • chalk paint
  • clear wax
  • rags

Now on to the fun stuff!

I painted the desk’s exterior in “Coco,” a gray/brown color to complement my dresser. The paint applied thickly, dried quickly (in just half an hour), and did not smell nearly as much as the primer and traditional interior paint. It also provided great coverage, so I ended up just painting one coat (with plenty of paint left over for future projects). Overall, I think the chalk paint is definitely worth considering if you’re contemplating a furniture makeover.

After buffing the table with clear wax, my buddies and I managed to get the behemoth desk into my room. (The whole process involved a lot of guesstimating, experimenting, maneuvering, and door removal-ing.) Then we celebrated with beers, brats, and giant pretzels at a local German beer garden.

All in all, a great weekend!