Wednesday, April 3, 2013

$35 Desk Makeover - My First DIY Project

**Warning: Lots of low-quality camera phone pictures in this post. Proceed at your own risk.**

I just completed my first DIY paint job! When we moved to the new place, I started hunting Craigslist for a desk that I could transform.

Here are all the crafts I needed a home for!

After just a few days, I saw an ad from a girl who was trying to sell a beautiful wood desk for just $35! I contacted her and we set the pick up for the next day. Luckily, my friend John, who has a SUV, was available to help out and we headed off to Columbia Heights to get the desk.

Here is what it looked like right when I brought it home.

I loved the shape, but it needed work. It had a fair amount of visible damage, like dings and scratches. The color would not work in our apartment and the hardware looked toxic to touch.

I looked up our local paint store and headed over there for some consulting advice. Your local hardware store is absolutely the best resource for doing anything at home. I am always amazed by how knowledgeable the staff is and how willing they are to talk you through your questions.

I asked about what supplies I would need and what kind of paint would be the best for the job. I ended up buying (1) A beginners painting kit with two rollers and two trays; (2) a quart of water based primer which the clerk tinted grey; and (3) a quart of latex paint in billiard green.  This cost me about $30 after they applied a 30% off promotion they were running.

Back at the house, I got to work.

Step 1: Clean

To prep the desk, I removed all the hardware with a simple flathead screwdriver. Then, I wiped down the entire surface with a soft washcloth to get any dust and debris out of the way. Then, I got to work with my Magic Eraser. It took me two Magic Erasers to get everything clean! I think this may have been the hardest part of the process.

Wait until the desk is completely dry before moving on!

Step 2: Sand

I already had a low/medium grit sand block at home so I just used that to lightly sand the entire desk so the surface would be roughed up. This helps the primer to stick to the wood helping to create a stronger barrier for the paint. For places on the desk where there were lots of dings and dents, I just gave them some extra sanding.

Step 3: Prime

I poured a little primer in the tray and gave the whole desk a nice even coat. I have read that primer can appear very uneven when you apply it and that is not a big deal. Since I hadn’t bought mini rollers, I used painting sponges I had from an art project to do the corners and the edges but was getting a really bad result with those. I think it is better to give the primer two coats but it was late and we wanted to watch a movie, so I just decided to do one and hope for the best.

Let the primer dry overnight!

Step 4: Paint! Or where things took a turn for the worse.

The next morning, the desk looked beautiful. I considered not painting it but knew it wouldn’t last as long without the paint. I went to work on the first coat of paint.

Do you ever have that feeling when you are working on something? Something that you have already put three or four hours into? That feeling like, oh no, I have messed this up and I have no idea how to fix it? With each roll I could see the paint wasn’t going on evenly. There were big smudges and some places were really dark while others were really light. It looked like a third graders project. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong because I had done the exact same thing for the primer and it went on perfectly.

 I forged ahead and hoped it would dry evenly. An hour later, I could see that it was not going to change.

It was time to go back to the paint store.

The clerk recommended that I get a better roller than the one that comes with the paint set. I bought a roller that had shorter hairs and was better for getting a completely smooth application.

The other problem I was having was that I was dipping my roller right into the paint. Don’t do that! You should roll the roller into the paint, starting the roll at the top of the tray and gently gliding into the paint. This helps the roller be evenly coated in the paint so when it goes on to your surface you will get an even application.

You also want to make sure you are applying even pressure throughout the whole surface to get a consistent color.

As soon as I got home, I got to work. With the new roller and tips, the second coat went on beautifully. The new mini-rollers I bought were amazing! It was so easy to use them and they wasted a lot less paint. I ended up only using the mini roller for all the drawers and the whole front of the desk.

One of the few times when I've used my head lamp. Our family room has dim lighting and I wanted to make sure I could see what I was doing when painting the insides of the desk.

Step 5: Apply hardware

I had planned to order new hardware for the desk. Instead of waiting 7-10 days for it to ship from Home Depot, I decided to see if I could make the old hardware work. I looked up some tutorials on how to clean brass. A cup of lemon water, a big helping of salt and two hours later, I had all the hardware shining like my wedding jewelry.

The top piece had been cleaned once and the lower piece shows how it really began to shine after another scrub down.
After I reapplied the hardware, I just stared at my desk for a few minutes. In one of those rare moments in life, my vision for the desk was completely realized in real life. It was exactly how I imagined it would look and all for less than $80!

Here is the desk in all its glory.
With a few of my things on it now. I'm going to put some of my literary quotes in the frames.

I might be biased, but what a beauty!
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