Dark Gray Refinished Desk and Bookcase

In: Home Decor Tutorials, Mom's Riverside Bedroom
Pin for later! Bookcase and Desk makeover using simple refinishing techniques with tools and paint you already have!

The very first two projects in Mom’s Riverside Bedroom Makeover had to be a refinished desk and bookcase.  Since I basically hijacked her room with my Dewalt drill and ripped apart her old desk, then Shanghaied my brother to come help me carry the thing downstairs, to only leave the sad, carnage of desk parts in her living room.

I know, it was a real bummer day for Mom.  

As far as books go, she has her entire antique book collection stacked up in a crate like thing where she can’t even admire or read them.  Furthermore, I can’t even see which ones I want to “borrow” for my house!  It’s just not right and must be fixed.

So it’s only right that I create some sort of semblance of normalcy for her.  Plus, she needs a nice place to stalk Facebook, play slot machine games on her computer, and somewhere to display her lovely collection.  Yes, that’s my mother.

Going with the color palate from my last post (here), I decided on using the dark charcoal gray color to ground the space.  We’re going to have light walls, light ceiling, light trim, something needs to be dark or we’ll all float away.  Hey, I didn’t make the rules.

So, since my new favorite color is Magpie from Valspar-

  • side note, I bought a quart of Magpie at my local Farm & Fleet because it’s right down the road from my house.  Now that I look on the Valspar website, I cannot seem to find the color by that name.  Next time I’m there, I’ll ensure that it is indeed a Valspar color.  I do buy valspar paint + primer though for sure.

My Magpie is basically the same as the Urbane Bronze color on my Inspiration board.  I happened upon a small desk at my local thrift store and new that it was the perfect size.  The pulls are not so great, but they can be buffed, painted or changed all together.  As long as the price was right.  $6.99!

Shut the Front Door!

Did you just fall off of your chair by slapping yourself on the forehead in disbelief?  I know, I did too!  So, I scooped that baby up right away.  Once I got all the yucky spider webs and stuff off of the back, it wasn’t so bad.  See?


old oak desk

I knew right away what bookcase I was going to use.  I just happen to have the very same one that was my mom’s when we were growing up.  She gave it to me when I moved to my apartment in college and now, I’m giving it back.  New and improved of course.  Imagine hauling this thing up and down the stairs to two different upstairs apartments.  

dark wood bookcase being painted gray

Sorry, I had already started painting it then I was all like, “duh, I have a blog and need to take pictures.” I’m getting better, I swear.

Alright, so my method of refinishing these types of furniture is simple.  Nothing too fancy here since they are both in pretty good condition free of dings, peeling, etc.


  • 220, 280, and 320 grit sandpapers.
  • tack cloth
  • Shur-Line 1 coat, teflon coated, small paint roller
  • Quart of Paint + Primer.  I prefer Valspar semi-gloss.  Used many different kinds and for furniture this hasn’t failed me.
  • Polyurethane- If using a dark color, I would go with an oil based because it doesn’t matter if it yellows over time (oil tends to be more durable, but dries slower), if your using a light color, go with water  based (not as durable, you should do a coat or two extra, but dries faster).  I always use Satin finish.  Just a preference of mine.  Especially on antiqued/distressed pieces.
  • Foam brush for polyurethane.


  1. Remove all of the hardware.
  2. Sand the entire surface with a 220 grit sand paper to rough it up.
  3. clean entire surface with a tack cloth to remove dust.  You don’t want that in your paint.
  4. Give the entire piece one coat of paint and decide if another is needed.
  5. Once painting is finished and dry, take 280 sandpaper and sand all of the edges for distressing.  Use a light hand.  I do all of the edges and details where I want heavy distressing.
  6. Switch to your 320 and give the entire piece a soft sanding to remove most of the shine.
  7. Give the piece a once over with the tack cloth to remove dust.
  8. Very important- move piece to a place where there is little air movement where dust, pet hair, bugs, or anything else could possibly land in your polyurethane.
  9. Do not shake the can, mix with a stir stick!  You do not want air bubbles in the poly.
  10. Using your foam brush in long strokes from end to end, apply the polyurethane in a thin layer. I only did the desk top this time as I knew the rest of it was not in imminent danger of being scratched.
  11. Once fully dry, probably overnight, give the entire area a soft sanding with the 22o and wipe with tack cloth.  You’ll know if it isn’t totally dry yet when you start to sand, it will gum up a bit instead of being a fine dust.
  12. Apply another coat of poly in the same manner.  Going from one end to the other in long strokes.
  13. Allow to dry again for 6-8 hours.



This is what the $6.99 desk looks like now:

dark gray desk makeover

old desk before, dark gray desk after

This is the new and improved bookcase:

Dark gray bookcase makeover

dark wood bookcase before and dark gray bookcase after

Two new pieces of furniture for a grand total of $6.99.  I can’t wait to show you how it will all fit together in the end when Mom has a brand new room!




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  • Cecilia Bramhall

    wow, those turned out great! The desk transformation is incredible!

    • http://onblissstreet.com Erica

      Thank you so much Cecilia! I have a few more refinishing projects coming up in this series that I can’t wait to share!

  • http://www.slightlycoastal.com Slightly Coastal

    That turned out so fantastic! I love the grey color. Terrific!

    • http://onblissstreet.com Erica

      Thank you! The color in the can seems so dark, but on the furniture it’s gorgeous! Thank you for reading!