Thomas J. Story

When we saw this discarded vanity, we thought, Can one person’s trash really be another’s treasure? The answer is absolutely––meet our smashing new desk

When we found a desk by the curb, we saw past the scuff marks and tarnished, tan paint and took it on as a makeover project. The result: a showstopper piece for your home office.

How to tell if you've got a keeper:

  • Look for quality: If the legs seem uneven, it’s likely the whole piece of furniture is warped, so take a pass.
  • Stick to pieces made from solid wood; you’ll run into trouble trying to sand a veneer.
  • If there are drawers, do they slide smoothly in their tracks? If not, walk on by.

Getting started:

  • Remove the hardware and sand the surface.
  • Fill in large gashes with wood putty.

Shopping list: Our secret weapons

  • Start with a vibrant color splash (we used Charlotte’s Locks paint by Farrow & Ball; 1 pt., $30; farrow-ball.com).
  • A Preval spray gun makes painting furniture easy ($10; preval.com).
  • A Mona Lisa Gold Leaf Kit (from Flax; $11; 415/552-2355) adds gilded drama to the dull drawer pulls.
  • DecoColor Liquid Gold Opaque Paint Marker defines small details ($2.50; amazon.com). 
  • Extra credit: Tuck a collection of photos under a glass top (when ordering glass, ask for clear spacers).

Once your materials are in hand:

  • Prime and paint with the spray gun. Do 2 coats!
  • Use a paint marker to add gold trim; gold-leaf the drawer pulls, then reattach them.
  • Add the glass top (with some fun pics underneath). Voilà!

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