Breathtaking Shabby-Chic Desk in 10 Steps!

How can you start out with a 1930's DARK roll-top desk and turn it into a lovely, shabby chic heaven?  First, let's look at the before:

1930 roll top desk

Now let's do the work!

Step 1: Preparing

There is no sanding down before chalk painting, but you should clean the desk thoroughly with furniture polish.  Take out all the drawers, deep-clean the inside of the drawers and the tracks in which the drawers lay.  

Then, remove all the KNOBS that you see above and LABEL them so that you can easily return them to their rightful positions, like so:

vintage desk labeled drawer knobs

Step 2: Apply THREE Coats of Chalk Paint

Now it's time to PAINT!  On this desk I decided to use a local chalk paint dealer and a color called "Nannie," which is a glorified word for off-white.  Make sure NOT TO DRIP--dripping is the enemy.  The way around this is to use an expensive brush (dang thing cost me $12) and to layer several thin coats of paint on, waiting for the piece to dry in the meantime, as opposed to one thick layer.  The entire time it took me to do this step was 3 days.

Layer one:


Layer two:

desk drawers chalk paint coat two
roll top desk back chalk paint layer three

Layer three, except for the inside (that's still coat two):

roll top desk chalk paint coat three

Step 3: Clear Wax

It's boring but you have to do it.  Layer clear wax all over the dang thing and wait a day for it to dry.

Step 4: Distressing!

This is the scary part.  You basically take a rough sand paper and scour over all your hard work, hoping it'll look cool when you're done.  I've seen a ton of botched jobs at this and I was definitely holding my breath.

Just remember that the trick is to ONLY sand what would normally appear worn in real life--so it's anything that juts out like a corner or a protruding angle or decal.  Here's an example:

distressing chalk paint drawer

Step 5: Dark Oak Wax

ONLY put the wax where you sanded off the furniture.  It gives a nice deep, almost dirty and DEFINITELY vintage look.  Here's what it looks like with the dark wax:

distressed vintage roll top desk

Step 6: Clean the Floor!

The sheet moved around while I was painting and the floor wound up painted as well!  But it's no problem (first because this is the basement, but also) because acetone gets chalk paint RIGHT off.  Just make sure to do it before the paint has settled a bit too far into the grooves of your flooring.

Step 7: Wipe down one last time to make sure everything is uniform

Step 8: Give it time to dry.

Step 9: DECORATE and set up your new masterpiece and LASTLY


instagram chalk paint dresser

The end.  If you decide to chalk paint, let me know if you need any help or more details on products used here!

Dena AtassiComment