Thrift Store Desk Makeover With A Turquoise Whitewashed Finish

Do you ever have a project that just sort of magically turns out perfectly? Yeah, me neither.

This turquoise whitewashed desk was one of the first pieces of furniture I ever painted, and it was definitely a trial-and-error sort of process. But in the end, it turned out oh-so-wonderfully. I painted this piece over two years ago and it still gives me a swoon-y feeling every day when I see it!

When we first moved into our apartment and I began my thrifting adventures, I found this old desk for $19.99. There was nothing special about it but the cheap price tag, and I could immediately picture it made over and sitting in my room as a vanity table/desk. After mulling over the idea for a night, I went back, hoping it would still be there, and it was! So home with me it came!

When I first brought it home it sat in my bedroom for a couple weeks while I finished up my painted coffee table. Then it sat for a bit longer as I tried to think of what I wanted to do with it. The last time I went home for a visit, I did some shopping with my Nana, and while we were in JoAnn Fabrics I told her about my new chalk paint obsession. We wandered over to the craft paint area and found some very reasonably-priced chalk paints.

I still didn’t know what color or style I wanted to go with on the desk, but I said I was thinking something a little bolder, rather than a plain white or grey. I ended up choosing a nice turquoise chalk paint called Cascade from FolkArt Home Décor.

The desk still sat for about a week, awaiting its fate. I thought and thought (and even dreamt) about how I wanted it to look, looked at tons of photos on Pinterest, and read a lot of blog posts and tutorials on painting. 

I finally decided to just go for it, with a vague image in my mind of how I wanted it to look. I’d say it was a success, wouldn’t you? Here’s how I got this look.

How to get a whitewashed turquoise finish with chalk paint

Supplies needed:

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1. Prep

I started out by removing the hardware and taking the drawers out. I also originally removed this panel from the front of the top drawer because I wanted all the drawers to be the same, but when I took it off, I realized it had been attached with a bunch of weird staples, so there were about 20 prongs sticking out the front. I let it sit for a day or two while I painted the other drawers and tried to figure out how to pull those staples out. Eventually I just popped the panel back on and decided to keep it as is!

2. Paint

Next, I painted the whole piece, drawers and all, using a flat brush on the flat surfaces and a tapered brush on the drawers and trim. Here it is after the first coat.

The next day, I painted a second coat on the whole thing. Once that dried, I went back over in just a few spots that still looked a little bare and touched those up. So the whole thing took about 2 coats – not even one full bottle of paint!

3. Whitewash

After letting the paint dry for a full day, I went back the next morning with the idea to whitewash the whole thing, because the turquoise was pretty in-your-face. I looked up a bunch of photos of whitewashed turquoise furniture, to see if it would look good, and read a lot about different techniques for making a wash using chalk paint. In the end, I ended sort of winging it based on everything I had read. I poured a small amount of white paint into an old plastic container, and mixing in some water. I probably used a ratio of about two parts water to one part chalk paint, but I really just estimated, adding water until it had a really watery consistency, like an egg wash.

Using my 2-inch brush, I went over the whole thing, section by section, with the wash. For more detailed instructions on whitewashing, check out my tutorial on How To Whitewash Furniture With Chalk Paint.

Here it is after the whitewash.

whitewashed turquoise chalk paint desk

As you can see, the whitewash really toned down the turquoise and gave it a nice, almost beachy look.

4. Distress

Next, I took sandpaper and very lightly distressed the corners and a few areas around the desk, to give it a little more of an aged look.

5. Seal and finish

When I was happy with the overall look, I waxed the whole thing with clear wax. I used a cloth to apply the wax rather than a brush, and I really liked using a cloth because I felt like I could actually feel the wax that I was applying. To this day, I still don’t quite have a wax preference and I seem to try a new one each time. 

The next morning I applied a second coat of wax. Then I waited a full 24 hours for it to dry and then installed the hardware.

Speaking of hardware, this whole time I had been debating about what kind of hardware I wanted to buy. I didn’t know if I wanted old/rustic or gold or new/modern or glass… Really I had no idea.  Even after it was all painted I still didn’t know the exact look I was going for. I went to Hobby Lobby to take a look, and these ones jumped right out at me. 

The screws I used to install the pulls were a really bright brass color, so I dabbed some brown craft paint (“raw umber” to be exact) onto them after I had put them in – it matched perfectly!

Finally, I buffed the whole thing until it had a nice sheen. I really love how the wax makes it look so “finished” and nice.

And here is the finished piece!

Dani the Doodle likes it too.

And just as a reminder that you can turn anything into something beautiful with some paint, new hardware, and a little love, here is a before and after:

Thrift store desk makeover with chalk paint before and after

A few tips that I learned from this project

This was one of the first pieces of furniture I ever painted, and it was a huge learning experience. Here are a few things that I learned the hard way…

  • Paint all the drawers at once: painting the rest of the piece before that top drawer made my whole process go a lot less smoothly than it would have if I had just painted all the drawers at once.
  • You can make a wash by adding water to any color of chalk paint! This is what I did to get a faux weathered wood look on my kitchen table top.
  • You can always start over if you need to. That pesky panel on the top drawer turned out to be a huge pain. I think because of the shape of it, I just had a really hard time getting an even finish on the paint. Then when I applied the wash, it was even worse. I ended up sanding it down quite a bit and repainting and rewashing the whole drawer. I’m still not completely happy with it — I think it looks slightly different from the rest of the piece. Maybe I’ll go back and add more whitewash to the front eventually… but probably not 😉

What do you think? This project turned out to be VERY rewarding. Over two years later, I’m still in love! Thanks for stopping by today!



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11 thoughts on “Thrift Store Desk Makeover With A Turquoise Whitewashed Finish”

    1. Thank you!! I used Martha Stewart brand wax, but really only because that’s what I happened to pick up! I’ve read a lot of posts talking about using Minwax, and I love the Folk Art brand paint so I think I may try their wax next. You just apply the wax according to the instructions, and then buff it with a clean, lint-free cloth. I love there beautiful sheen the wax gives. The only down side is that you do need to reapply wax periodically. I haven’t re-waxed this desk yet, but I can tell it’s starting to need it. Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Did you use white chalk paint or what type of white paint did you use to make the whitewash? I have a mirror that I want to refinish. I just painted the bedroom set in Swiss Coffee and this will compliment my coastal room well.

    1. Hi Jenny! Did you end up finishing the mirror? I used white chalk paint and watered it down to a really watery consistency to make the whitewash. I brushed it on and then wiped it off right away with a clean cloth. I’d love to see how your mirror turned out!

  2. Hi
    I love it! Was it Annie Sloane Provence Chalk Paint. I’d like to do his in our Fl. apt. Can I do it on a metal dining table and whitewash as well? Thank you

    1. Thank you, Paula! I actually have never used Annie Sloan paint. The chalk paint I typically use is FolkArt Home Décor chalk paint – this color was Cascade. I love this paint – it’s very affordable and you can get it right at Joann Fabrics or other craft stores. I’m sure this would be successful on a metal table, too – you could do a base coat or two and then go back and do a white wash over the top. Let me know how it turns out!

      1. Thanks so. U h for your reply! I’m a bit nervous because I’ve never done this and it’s a meal dining set. But I’m giving it a go. Thanks again. You’re a great inspiration!

          1. It’s funny, we completed it just tonight reupholstering the chairs. We love it! We used Home Depot’s chalk paint with a liquid paint on wax. How can I post pictures?

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