How To Quickly Transform A Vintage Desk Into Amazing!

Transform your vintage desk into a work of art by using chalk mineral paint, decor transfers, and GOLD leaf spray paint to add amazing details!
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I’m excited to share this vintage desk makeover project with you! This gorgeous antique drop front secretary desk is being donated to the Yellow Rose Gala in Dallas, Texas to be auctioned off to benefit MS also known as Multiple Sclerosis. This is a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, whose symptoms may include numbness, impairment of speech and muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue. I was contacted by a lovely lady in my home town that lost her mother to this disease and wanted to know if I would donate my services. Heartstrings pulled! I guess it’s the nurse in me that never quits giving because it’s a life long commitment and I love what I do.

This post contains a few affiliate links to help you find the products I use. You are not charged extra to use any of the links, but any income I make will be used for more fun projects! To see my full disclaimer, click here. 

Vintage Desk Transformation

You gotta see this vintage desk now! I painted the legs GOLD!I was given full reign to do whatever I wanted to this old gal. That’s always fun for an artist, but the one thing that kept repeating over and over in my head was the words “she is afraid she won’t recognize it.” Okay, let me explain. The delivery guy that dropped off the piece had told me about the woman that donated it. It must have some sentimental meaning if she was worried about what was going to happen the vintage desk. Bless her heart! That means I need to preserve as much as I can of the wood. Hey, I get it! I don’t paint over all wood pieces, but I will add my flare. Whitewash the wood and add a pop of GOLD!

Supplies List For This Project

Click on the products below to find them your next project.

Prepping and Cleaning The Vintage Desk

This vintage desk makeover started with removing all of the old varnish down to the raw wood.Start with prepping the wood first. Use a 160 grit sandpaper with an orbital sander and remove the old varnish down to the bare wood. This is a fairly quick process, but be sure to do this outdoors. It’s messy! Not all pieces can be sanded down this way. It works best on the vintage pieces that the varnish has turned dark and is in poor condition.

Cleaning The Wood on The Vintage Desk

I cleaned the vintage desk with a 50/50 mixture of denatured alcohol and water before adding the whitewash.To clean the wood after sanding off all the old varnish, I used a 50/50 mixture of denatured alcohol and water mixture. Simply mix the denatured alcohol and water in a spray bottle and spray over the wood. Wipe away the leftover dirt, dust, and grime with paper towels. The alcohol mixed with the water will help the wood to dry faster and doesn’t leave a residue. Plus the old nurse in me can’t ever get enough of a disinfectant, so alcohol it is.

Using A Stain Blocker Before Painting

When painting the inside of a vintage desk, you need the right paintbrush for the job.The inside of the vintage desk had been painted before so there was no way to preserve that. I used a product call BOSS (stain blocker, odor blocker and prevents bleed through) in white to paint the inside and then painted a beautiful chalk mineral paint called Buttercream. It’s a great color for vintage furniture. I can remember my Grandma painting a lot of things with a neutral color as a child on the farm. I guess you can say that’s where I get my love of painting from.

When I painted this vintage desk, I think I got more on me that the desk. But you gotta see the desk now!And let me tell ya, painting those tiny cubby holes inside the vintage desk was HARD, but thank goodness for the long handle on the

FS Paintbrush from Dixie Belle. This made it so much easier and I have a great deal more respect for all you that paint daily.

How To Make Whitewash With Dixie Belle Chalk Mineral Paint

Whitewash on a vintage desk is a great way to preserve the beauty of natural wood without covering it up with paint.Here’s the fun part! Mix Dixie Belle Chalk Mineral Paint and water… 50/50 whitewash mixture in a small bowl. Mix it well until it’s a watered-down paint. Brush the watered-down paint mixture over the clean dry wood and then wipe it back with a dry cloth or low lint cheesecloth. The residual paint from the mixture will create a soft transparent color that enhances the wood, but you’re still able to see the wood grain. You can do this process on wood with any color. Oh, the possibilities!

Adding GOLD Accents| Vintage Desk

This vintage desk makeover is getting some GOLD legs!GOLD fan right here! Anytime I think it will add that wow factor to one of my makeovers, I try to sneak it in. To make the legs appear to be dipped in gold, I used a spray paint by Krylon called Gold Leaf. Be sure to tape off the areas you don’t want to paint and cover anything around where you are spraying. It’s best if you do this outside, but sometimes the temperature and wind don’t play nice in Texas. I used two light coats on these legs allowing the first coat to dry before applying the second. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions when spray painting and wear protective equipment. Protect your eyes and lungs.

Decor Transfers For Furniture

Decor transfers are easy and create a unique look on furniture. Check out this vintage desk makeover.Have you ever used decor transfers? It’s a great way to add special details without a ton of work. Here’s how they work. They come in sheets with a backing. You simply remove the backing and place them where you want to add them. The transfers come with a wooden stick and you rub across the top of the transfer to adhere it to your piece. I customized this decor transfer by cutting out the flowers. It’s your project and you can do anything you want! CLICK HERE to learn more about transfers on furniture.

Hello, PARIS!

Adding a touch of warm gold gilding wax on this vintage desk was the perfect look with the gold dipped legs.I used warm gold gilding wax to accent the frames around the desktop.

Adding decor transfers over whitewash on this vintage desk was a total win!


This vintage desk has amazing cubby-holes and shelves in all the right places.


Saving this vintage desk was easy. Just look at all those details.


This vintage desk was totally transformed. You should see the before?


Transform your vintage desk into a work of art by using chalk mineral paint as a whitewash and GOLD leaf spray paint to add amazing details!Did she turn out amazing or what? Paris inspired with a GOLD twist. It’s the happy endings like this that fuel my love to rescue, preserve and give new life to these beauties. I hope you enjoyed this makeover and maybe gained a few tricks to add to your arsenal of finishes for your future projects.

If you’re a gold lover, I welcome you to check out this GOLD inspired project I did on a Mid Century Modern cabinet. It’s pretty cool! CLICK HERE to see it now.

Until the next project… xo, Do

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How To Quickly Transform A Vintage Desk Into Amazing!


  • Thanks, Jeannine! I appreciate you.

    xo, Do

  • Thanks, Denise! I’ll let you know what the maximum bid is. I hope they get a million. ?

  • Do, I love love what you did here. Thank you

  • Hi Do!
    I just revisited this post and I’m really curious…
    Did you ever get any feedback from the woman who donated this desk? I’m sure she’d be happy that the desk was upgraded and preserved it’s beauty. What was the winning bid?
    Inquiring minds want to know… ?

  • Hi Melanie! I did get feedback that she was pleasantly happy with the results. It was a huge hit and did well over $1000. I was very pleased! Thanks for remembering my special project. xo, Do 🙂

  • You painted over the bird’s-eye maple insets on that piece?

  • Hi Susan,

    No, I whitewashed over the birdseye maple insert. You can still see the wood grain.

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