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Mid Century Modern Desk Makeover

This week’s piece is a little different from what I normally do because it was for a client who inherited her grandmother’s mid century modern desk and wanted it to have an update to something that was more her style, but keeping the piece in its original state. She sent me an inspiration photo that you’ll see below and it was a soft, geometric pattern with blues and golds that she liked from a cell phone case. I loved this idea and was excited to recreate it for her. So let’s get started on this mid century modern desk makeover.

Supply List: What you’ll need for the mid century modern desk makeover

* This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to purchase from one of these links, I could make a commission at no charge to you. Keep in mind, this is everything that I used, but if you don’t need to fix the knobs or do some of the other prep work that I did, you won’t need these items.

Step 1: Stripping the Wood Before

This piece was in great shape but the top had some pretty deep scratches and general wear and tear after years of use that needed to be stripped off. Here’s the before:

Mid Century Modern Desk Makeover

The before – the top needed to be stripped with a sander.

A close up of the top pre-sanding:

Desktop pre-sanding

Using my sander and an 80 grit paper, I went up and down following the grain of the wood. It’s important to not focus the sander on the areas that need the most work, and just let it do its job.

Started with an 80 grit paper.

When I had finished the entire top with the 80 grit, I changed out the paper to a 120 grit and went back over the entire top, again following the grain of the wood. You do not want to do circles here, just a smooth up and down motion with your sander.

Mid Century Modern Desk Makeover

Here is the top after I had finished with the 120 grit paper.

And to get it extra smooth and beautiful, I then replaced the 120 grit paper with a 220 grit and went back over again – this it the third time following the grain of the wood.

The top of the desk with the 220 grit (you can see the different in the top left of the photo where I started)

After I had finished sanding, there were still two areas that I was wanting to work on. One was a big water stain and the other was a black stain that wasn’t coming off.

I used a damp cloth to make the areas more visible that I needed to focus on.

I used Oxalic acid on the black spot. I put some of the powder on the spot, adding water and using a tongue depressor mixed it around over the problem area. I let it sit for 5 minutes and then wiped it off with a microfiber cloth. There was a bit of the spot still remaining so I mixed another bit over top of it and let it sit another 5 minutes. It was completely gone when I wiped it away after the second time. The acid didn’t remove the water stain so I kept at it with the sander until I get it how I wanted to it to look. Not completely gone but MUCH better. This is why the prep work that you do is so important before you get started painting. You don’t want to cut corners or have a client be upset that old stains and spots were painted over. So far the mid century modern desk makeover is going beautifully!

Mid Century Modern Desk Makeover

The Oxalic acid takes the black spot right out of the wood after it sits for 10 minutes.

Totally gone!!

After a good cleaning with White Lightening, the wood needed some conditioning so I put on a coat of Big Mama’s Butta (which smells amazing if you’ve never used it before) and you can see the wood being rejuvenated right before your eyes.

Mid Century Modern Desk Makeover

Conditioning the wood with Big Mama’s Butta

Step 2: Painting the base color

We knew that we wanted to leave the legs their natural wood state so before I got started painting I taped off the legs and then applied a coat of Bunker Hill Blue. But soon after, my client sent an inspiration photo of a geometric pattern so I went back and lighted up the drawers to Haint Blue chalk mineral paint. Remember the whole idea with this makeover was to keep the mid century modern vibe but also add a pop of color and a pattern that really fit my client’s personality.

The inspiration photo of colors and pattern.

Step 3: Planning out the Geometric Pattern

After the Haint Blue paint had dried on the drawers, I opened the photo and used it to help map out where the lines would go and how large the squares would be on them using my Speed Square and pencil.

Mapping out the lines on the drawers.

Since gold was a major part of the design, I mixed my water based Gold Gemstone Mousse with Gator Hyde to seal in the gold. I then got to work outlining with the gold and filling it in where I wanted some solid gold squares.

Mixing the Gemstone Mousse in gold with Gator Hyde to seal it in.

After 2-3 layers of paint were dry, I needed to tape off all the individual squares with very thin tape and I used my Speed Square to help keep the lines straight. The tape is covering only the gold and if you went a bit too wide with your gold outlining that’s totally fine because you’ll paint over those bits when you fill in the squares.

Mid Century Modern Desk Makeover

Starting to tape off all the gold outlines with very thin tape.

After it was completely taped off, I applied a coat of Satin Clear Coat going up and down and then side to side so it could get into all the nooks and crannies of the tape. Once that was dry, I painted a thin layer of Haint Blue to remove any of that excess gold where I painted too wide.

The excess gold was removed after I painted a coat of Haint Blue overtop

Haint Blue overtop of the tape and covering the excess gold

Step 5: Adding Paint Colors to the Individual Squares

I was still using the cell phone case as inspiration for this mid century modern desk makeover, but mixed my own paint colors to create a similar look and style. Some of the squares were solid, some of them cloudy, some of them blended and some gold. I took my time and used the colors to create some visual interest all over the drawer fronts from top to bottom.

Adding the paint colors to the individual squares

Step 6: Removing the Tape and Adding Satin Clear Coat

When the paint was completely dry, I carefully removed all of the tape that had been separating each square, peeling upwards.

Mid Century Modern Desk Makeover

Removed the tape from each square of color

Applied another coat of Satin Clear Coat

Step 7: Rejuvenate the Legs of the Desk

When the drawers were done, I needed to do a little work on the legs of the desk where there were dry spots or light scratches. To do this I used Steel Wool and gently went up and down the desk leg with hemp seed oil to rejuvenate the wood. After applying the hemp seed oil, I used a clean microfiber cloth to wipe off the excess.

Steel wool and hemp seed oil to rejuvenate the legs.

In the video, you can really see the wood come back to life with the hemp seed oil.

Step 8: The Final Step Tying It All Together, A Mid Century Modern Desk Makeover

I was really happy with how the desk looked but when I got the idea to add gold to the bottom of the legs, I knew that would completely tie the piece together and make it look finished. I used the Gemstone Mousse in gold, measured 3 inches up from the bottom and then taped off where I wanted to stop. I LOVE how this looks!

Painting the legs with gold Gemstone Mousse

How To Video on YouTube

I always recommend watching the how to video that I upload to YouTube every week because I talk through the process with you so you can see what I’m doing, how I do it and how long it takes. Click the link below to see the video!



Mid Century Modern Desk Makeover

Stunning finished desk makeover!

If you want to see more BellaRenovare makeovers, you can search the archives but you may love this video too: https://bellarenovare.com/2018/12/how-to-transform-your-furniture-by-painting-fabric/

Happy Creating!

CrysDawna BellaRenovare Furniture Artist

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