With a few style tricks, we turned a cast-off piece of furniture into a colorful beauty
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

Miranda Jones

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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