Sometimes, the most satisfying makeovers begin with a really ugly piece – one that has years of neglect and sadness lingering in every crevice, with little hope until someone with fierce determination and impressive skills comes along.
Other times, we need to catch a break.
This is a lesson I’ve learned – a garage full of “deals” that need tons of work and have been piling up over the years is not better than a few key pieces here and there that need minimal work. It’s good to have a (small) stash of furniture, but you’re only wasting money and precious garage space if you groan every time you glance in their direction and just. keep. putting. them. off. forever.
So give yourself a break. Pay a little more for a piece that won’t make you want to scream and pull your hair out. This leather top desk was a little more than I would normally pay, but thankfully it didn’t have many challenges.
The biggest issues were some deep scratches and gouges in the wood top and some fading and scratches on the leather.
Someone did a good job of protecting the drawers with paper inside.
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Repair and Prep the Leather Top Desk for Painting
First I sanded out the scratches and filled the gouges with wood filler.
I was concerned about bleed-through so I primed it (everything: wood and leather) with two coats of Zinsser BIN shellac primer. This was my first time using it, and I was really impressed. It’s also supposed to block odors (although it is pretty stinky while you’re using it).
Because it’s shellac, you need to use the right type of paint brush and you’ll need to clean the brush properly afterward. I used diluted ammonia – just a little of it mixed in a cup of warm water, swish the brush around for a few minutes, and then rinse it well and let dry.
Tip: I like to keep big cardboard boxes to break them down and put under my projects, especially if I’m painting in the house. Gotta protect the floors!
Paint the French Provincial Leather Top Desk
Next the desk was painted in about 2.5 coats of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Pure White. The primer really helped keep the white paint nice and bright. Learn all my best tips for How to Chalk Paint Furniture here.
Over the next couple days I applied two coats of Fusion Mineral Paint’s Tough Coat matte poly topcoat. I have used it on a few pieces now – it’s a liquid that you can apply with a cloth or brush. Update: Now I only use Annie Sloan’s soft wax as a topcoat over paint – it’s the only topcoat I’ve found that is truly non-yellowing.
Here are the drawers out of the way, all piled up under the kitchen table. 😉
Next was the fun part: Getting everything ready for decoupage.
How to Decoupage Paper onto Desk Drawers
I got several sheets of my favorite scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby (see it in this project HERE and also HERE), measured, and cut it to size with my paper cutter. This cutter makes projects like this a breeze because you have to have perfectly straight lines, and you can cut paper for all the drawers really quickly. Here’s a link to where you can learn more and buy this paper cutter online (it’s a #1 best seller on Amazon!).
I glued the paper over the drawer fronts with matte Mod Podge and a foam brush. Mod Podge dries really fast so work quickly – and you only have 1-2 chances to reposition the paper if you mess up the first time.
And here’s how she looks now…
Advice please! I was really debating whether to paint the pulls or leave them as-is. They’re dark bronze and they kind of match the script on the paper. But are they too dark?
Let me know if you think I should dry brush them with white paint – I’d leave some of the dark showing through.
This decoupage desk makeover is similar to one I did several years ago (see it Here or at the bottom of this post).
The primer and paint covered the leather top inserts really well.
The entire desk has a modern vintage look now. (So fresh and so clean)This decoupage desk will be available at the Hunt and Gather Market next month in Crown Point, Indiana. Come visit me if you’re in the area!
Today is Furniture Fixer Uppers day with my friends!
Below are the Before photos – click the links underneath to see the Afters and learn how they did the makeover.1. Confessions of a Serial DIYer
2. Just the Woods
3. The Interior Frugalista
4. Petticoat Junktion
* You might also like this similar project: French Decoupage Desk Makeover *
The desk is so cool. I like the dark pills. Nice contrast.
this came out gorgeous! So sweet and feminine.
kandice recently posted…How to Save the Leather Top on a Vintage Desk
Thanks Kandice! xo
Larissa ~ Prodigal Pieces says
Absolutely gorgeous, Jen! Love the decoupaged drawers.
Thank you Larissa!
[email protected] of Serial Do-it-Yourselfer says
This is gorgeous, Jen!!! I like the pulls as is…adds the perfect contrast and makes the pretty details on them stand out! Love love love this makeover! XOXO
[email protected] of Serial Do-it-Yourselfer recently posted…Simple Sofa Slipcover
Thanks so much Christy! I’m going to leave the pulls dark – seems to be pretty unanimous. 🙂 xo
Barb MacAskill says
I wouldn’t change anything about this breathtaking piece! The dark pulls look perfect as is! TFS!
Thank you Barb! I’m going to leave the pulls dark. 🙂
Marie|The Interior Frugalista says
Jen, this desk is gorgeous! I think the pulls look fine dark, they add a nice contrast. The script papered drawer fronts are stunning. Beautiful makeover ♥
Thanks so much Marie! xo
Leave the pulls dark lovely piece
Laura Smith says
Jen, The pulls are perfect as is, they give it a pop! I am so glad you used that paper on the front and showcased it! LOVE LOVE LOVE!
Thanks so much, Laura! I’m glad you like the desk! 🙂
The desk makeover is gorgeous! I’ve been thinking of using paper on drawer fronts, but feel unsure. So, you attached the paper with modge podge, and then? Did you modge podge over the paper too! If yes, how many coats?
Hi Sheryl, thank you! I usually use thick paper when I decoupage so I don’t have any issues with bubbles or wrinkles (unless I want a more distressed look). I applied a thin layer of Mod Podge directly onto the drawers and then carefully laid the paper on top starting on one end and slowly pressing down until the entire paper was flat on the wood. Then I gently rubbed back and forth with my hands over the top for a few minutes. I didn’t apply Mod Podge on top of the paper this time – but I think I did before on the black desk from a few years ago that I also shared a photo of in the post. If you put MP over the top, use matte and only apply 1-2 thin coats. Too much Mod Podge may cause the paper to rip. Hope that helps!
Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge – I appreciate it. ?
Leave the pulls as they are! It is all gorgeous together!
Thank you so much, Angie!
when you decoupage the drawers how do you get them to not have bubbles and wrinkles? help please! btw it is a beautiful piece!
Thank you Wendy! I try to use thick paper when I decoupage and then I don’t have any issues with bubbles or wrinkles. I apply a thin layer of Mod Podge directly onto the furniture and then carefully lay the paper on top starting on one end and slowly pressing down until the entire paper is flat on the wood. Then I gently rub back and forth for a few minutes. Hope that helps. 🙂
I would leave them dark. It looks beautiful
Hi, the makover is absolutely stunning. The dark pulls are a nice contrast. However, you can’t go wrong either way.
Thanks so much, Melva! 🙂
The desk is beautiful! The dark pulls are pretty and do provide contrast but I personally would prefer them softened a little with the white drybrushing. They seem a little harsh for the soft lines of the piece.
Thank you Connie!
This is a beautiful makeover. I love the pulls dark! They look so nice against the decoupaged paper. 🙂
Thank you Debbie! I’m going to leave the pulls dark. 🙂
Marcie Lovett says
Great bones before, beautiful now! I vote for keeping the drawer pulls dark, although you might consider dry brushing the one on the center drawer that didn’t didn’t get decoupaged.
Thank you Marcie!
Nancy Kriner says
Leave as is Don’t paint pulls.
Melissa Davis says
Love it ! I am going to use your inspiration on a jewelry box .
Thanks Melissa! I’d love to see it when you’re finished. 🙂 You can upload a photo on my Facebook page if you’d like.
I love the drawer pulls – the piece is beautiful!!!
Thank you so much Linda!
Rose L. says
I absolutely love this!!! You did a wonderful transformation!
Rose L. recently posted…RENAISSANCE FAIRE IN CANBY, OR
Thank you Rose!
I say leave the handles as they are. If they were white or light it would be too much blending.
It turned out really nice.
Thanks so much Jolinda! I’m going to leave them dark. 🙂
Dee B says
That is so nice I am drooling! Thank you.
Haha! That’s so sweet, thank you Dee! 🙂
Tracy Shudo says
Love Love the way it is now, don’t change a thing. And along with other persons question, did you use modpoge to just attach paper or did you do coats over it after to seal it? Thanks PS I like the white one a little better than the darker one.
Thank you Tracy! I did not apply Mod Podge over the top of the paper. (I believe I did on the black desk that I did a few years ago though.) You can do it either way, but I’d suggest to use matte Mod Podge if you do and only apply 1-2 thin layers.
Sharon Hankins says
I do love the pulls, but would love to see them dry brushed with a bit of white to make them not so stark and standing out. Love your work!
Sharon Hankins recently posted…How to Improve Your Furniture Flipping Business!
Thank you Sharon! 🙂
The pulls are perfect as they are! Great piece!
Thanks so much, Kim!
I love the dark pulls! Beautiful work!
Thank you Susan! They’re going to stay dark. 🙂
I really like the pulls are they are.
Thanks Bonnie! I’m going to leave the pulls dark. 🙂
Love the desk! Love all your ideas.
Thank you Chris!
This is one gorgeous piece! I love the white and especially the script on the drawer fronts! The handles you painted black look terrific! Fantastic job, GITG!!! Stupendous!
Thanks so much, Barb!
Terri Hughes says
Absolutely beautiful….I would leave the drawer pulls dark. They make the desk stand out even more. I love it!
Thanks Terri! I think I’m going to leave the pulls dark. 🙂
Debra Mccoy says
Absolutely love it. And the paper choice is awesome. Writing paper on a desk, no Brainer huh! Love the dark pulls. Ready to try on a dresser I’ve put off too long.
Thanks so much Debra! 🙂
can appreciate all of the time and effort you put into this piece and it paid off handsomely–but eyes were pulled directly to the pulls. dark grey would be my choice.
I love this piece! So pretty. I think the dark pulls pop, love them too. My question is, how does the paint on the leather top hold up? How do you keep it from cracking?
Thanks Patty! Since this piece is newly finished I can’t say how it’ll hold up long-term, but Annie Sloan Chalk Paint works great when painting over fabric (with a little water sprayed on- no water on the leather though). I have some blogging friends who have used Chalk Paint over leather chairs and they’ve held up just fine. Also the Tough Coat topcoat that I used is really strong to help protect it.
What a beautiful makeover.
OMG, this desk is rockin hot. I love it!
Hahaha, thanks so much Ivory! 🙂
Deborah Hunter says
I love, love, love it! I would definitely not paint the pulls. Maybe it’s me, but I think that I would probably have papered the middle drawer as well (like you did for the black one). Right now it kind of stands out a bit. It looks whiter than the body of the dresser.