This post is sponsored by the Behr Paint Company. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I can’t even begin to tell you guys how excited I am to be one of the three 2020 BEHRBox Challenge designers! For this exciting partnership, the Behr team sent me a box of goodies, including Back to Nature, the BEHR 2020 Color of the Year. They asked me to bring a project to life with the box and the color palette as inspiration.
P.S. People wonder what I do with all my projects when they’re done. It’s important to me to make an impact on the community through Shrimp Salad Circus, so I try to donate things when I can. This desk will go to a family getting settled into a new home!
Vote for your favorite project for a chance to win $1,000!
I’ve been working with Behr for years and have basically painted every room in our house with their BEHR MARQUEE ® Interior Paint. Here are some of the projects I’ve done for them:
- How to Make a Tiny Bathroom Look Bigger With Paint
- DIY Guest Welcome Box
- Quick and Easy Colorful Photo Backdrops
The Big Reveal: Vintage Roll Top Desk Makeover
I know you guys love a good before-and-after as much as I do, and this one’s a doozy if I do say so myself!
This roll top desk is from 1950 (or maybe even earlier!) and was in decent shape but needed a lot of TLC. I saw a ton of potential in it, and I’m so glad I brought it home.
BEHR 2020 Color of the Year Mood Board and Inspiration
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
A project always has to start somewhere, and for me it was the piece of furniture. I picked up this vintage roll top desk from a secondhand shop and spent a few days getting a feel for the direction I wanted to take it.
The BEHR 2020 Color Trends palette was inspired by natural elements, seasonal changes, and exploration. I wanted my roll top desk makeover to feel fresh, modern, and earthy, so the palette was absolutely perfect! I put together a mood board with my favorite elements, and my pops of color emerged along the way.
I used several colors from the BEHR 2020 Color Trends palette:
- Back to Nature S340-4: Pretty, fresh green
- Graphic Charcoal N500-6: Bold, modern grey
- Bubble Shell S160-3: Happy, floral pink
- Painter’s White PPU18-08: Soft, barely-grey white
As I was pulling together my different inspiration elements, I saw a lot of fun surprise details emerging, like pops of brass, textile accents, and a pattern peeking through in a few different places.
How to Refinish a Roll Top Desk: It’s Makeover Time!
Of course we have to start with all the not-so-awesome before photos to show you what I was working with!
1. Start by unscrewing and removing the back panel. If yours has nails, you may need to very gently pry the back off. Set the back panel aside for later.
2. With the back panel off, you can gently slide the roll top (tambour) out.
My desk has had some amateur repairs done, so I unscrewed and removed this wooden brace.
The tambour is a sheet of half-round wooden dowels glued onto a piece of cloth.
As you can see above, the cloth on my tambour is very old and disintegrating.
3. Sand the tambour slowly and carefully. I used an electric sander to expedite the process, but you have to be extra careful with it compared to manual sanding.
I started with the tambour flat and went across the top of each dowel. That’s the easy part!
Next, I folded the dowels onto each other and sanded around them, getting into the spaces between, as you can see in the photo above.
4. Disassemble any parts that you’ll need separated, and take out the drawers.
As you can see above, my desk used to have a drawer in the leg compartment. The drawer was missing when I bought it, so I used a mallet and some pulling to remove the base of the drawer. Later on you’ll see how I still included that piece but without a drawer.
5. If your drawer have glued-on handles, remove them carefully by wedging a chisel or scraper under an edge and pounding gently with a mallet. You may need to chisel away a bit of excess glue as well.
6. Sand the drawers until smooth. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper and then a finer one.
You can see a before and after shot of the drawers above. I was able to sand off all the glue and varnish. There’s a bit of the handle outline left behind. It could probably be removed with more sanding, but since I knew I was going to paint over it, I just needed it to be flat and smooth.
7. Sand the rest of the desk and parts. Again, use a coarse sandpaper first, and then switch to a finer one.
Note: It’s really important to make sure you don’t inhale the dust from the varnish and wood. Please be sure to use some kind of breathing protection.
Here’s what the desk looks like completely sanded.
8. Remove all the sanding dust from the desk. You can use a scrub brush first to get into the corners. Finish with a lint-free cloth.
Now for a little something extra, I decided to line the sides and tambour in a fun fabric. I held a vote on my Instagram Stories to choose the fabric, and I was so happy that this one won. The pops of pink are just about a perfect match for Bubble Shell S160-3 – another color from the BEHR 2020 Color Trends palette.
The sides of a roll top desk are a unique shape, and getting the fabric just right is super important.
10. Lay a large piece of butcher paper over one of the sides.
11. Rub the side of a piece of chalk or crayon around the edges. You want to see the edges of the track because you’re going to use it as a guide to cut around.
12. Trace the shape onto the fabric with a disappearing marker.
13. Cut the fabric carefully with a pair of scissors. Lay it over the wooden piece to check the shape, and trim it if necessary.
14. Brush matte medium onto the wood, and lay the fabric onto it. Use a brayer (a hard roller) to get a really strong attachment and remove any bubbles or wrinkles.
Brush matte medium back over the top of fabric to seal it down.
15. Dry brush a light coat of paint over the tambour. You want the coat to be super thin so that the slats are still able to slide smoothly along the track.
16. Brush matte medium onto the back of the tambour, and attach the fabric over the existing backing fabric.
Note: Because the fabric backing on my tambour disintegrated, I had to start from scratch, which is a huge pain. It would have been way easier to just affix the pretty fabric on top of the existing backing. If you run into a similar situation, there are websites where you can buy a whole new tambour. DO IT!
17. Affix fabric onto the drawer bottoms using the same method as you did for the sides.
18. Drill a hole in the center of each drawer, and add a cute little knob. I held an Instagram Stories vote for the knobs as well, but the winning knob style ending up looking way too big on these tiny drawers.
19. If you’re like me and don’t know when to stop, then it’s time to pile on the little extras!
- I used my Cricut to cut a couple stencils from vinyl to coordinate with the fabric (pictured, above). I painted them in white so that they’d be a cute accent without overpowering the design.
- I taped off the bottoms of the legs and painted them with liquid gilding to match the brass knobs.
- I found an adorable engraving that a kid made way back in 1952 and knew I wanted to preserve it. Before I sanded this panel, I used a wood burner to carve it in deeper. After sanding and painting, I went over the carving with liquid gilding.
- I added a brass letter holder basket to one side of the desk to maximize the usable space and balance the piece out.