My Found Desk Gets A High Gloss Makeover

Remember the desk I found curbside for free that I recently placed in my studioffice?

It was a very pretty desk with great lines, but I didn’t like the color.  I envisioned it in high gloss white and over the past week I transformed it into that vision with paint.  I still have many other projects to do in this room, but I wanted to show you how the desk turned out.


The room is coming together one step at a time. I brought the ottoman I made from my bedroom into the room to see how it looks. It will probably go back up to my bedroom, but I wanted to play and see how some extra seating would look.  I need to make or find something in the same scale as the ottoman that will fit under the desk when not in use.

The desk has one large drawer and I posted about how I lined the desk drawer and made organizers out of small boxes for it.

How to line a desk drawerFurniture makeovers - before and after

This is how the desk looked:


It had a beautiful aged and painted design. Very nice, but not quite my style.  The legs were pretty beaten up and white where the finish had worn in spots

Before and After Furniture transformations

To create the durable super extra high gloss furniture paint finsih I used Glidden Oil Base Trim and Door paint that I bought at The Home Depot. It is $19 a quart, but goes a very long way.

I know, I know… you are saying – “Yuck – no way am I painting with oil”

That used to be me. Once you see how this paint covers and shines, you may change your thinking.  It is incredibly shiny and dries to a super hard finish. I needed two coats. It took 24 hours to dry and did smell, but the wait was worth it – no brush marks at all!  It is as smooth as glass as the paint self levels.

Glidden Trim and Door Extra high Gloss Paint

It is gel paint – thick!  A paint stirring stick stands upright in it.  It only needs to be stirred gently– no shaking.  I used Bright White, but I think it comes in Antique White, Red, Black, and Navy.

Glidden Trim and Door Extra High Gloss Paint

To prep the desk for painting. I lightly sanded the entire desk with medium grit sandpaper, then cleaned it with a tack cloth to remove all the dust.  I used my trusty 2” angled Purdy paint brush and simply brushed the paint on.  Since the paint is thick  – I needed to push the brush into the strokes with a bit more pressure than normal to get it to spread out, but it went on quickly.  I let it dry for 2 days before I added a second coat.

Once it was dry I gave it more of my personality by adding my stuff.

Pretty Desk top ideas

 You can see how shiny it is – the glass vase has a reflection.

Desk decorating ideas

I am thrilled with the desk – I am over the moon happy as I have never had my very own desk before. Growing up, I shared a room with my 2 sisters and we shared a desk.  In college I had a desk in my dorm room, but it was dark brown and attached to the wall with built in shelves.  It didn’t feel like a desk and I never used it.  I had a work bench for a while and then I made the Partners Desk that I shared with my family.   This desk is my very own – pretty and what I always imagined a desk should look like.

On one side I have all my pens and pencils, my second brain –my Rolodex, Pottery Barn clock, and flowers.

How to accessorize a desk

 On the other end I keep all my colorful markers in a thrift store find, photos of my daughters when they were little, and a few favorite objects.

How to organize magic markers

I still have more to do in the room – area rug, windows, table skirt, new chair cover, a few more furniture transformations, a mini photo studio and craft wall.   I will continue to post about the progress and projects as I complete them.

Home Office Transformation

Home Office Decorating Ideas

I will be busy, but I am enjoying creating a room that will not only look pretty, but be easy to work and create in also.

Home Office Decorating Ideas


  1. Renee says

    Hey Diane, great job on the desk! I’m actually interested in your rolodex though. Did you make it or purchase it? It’s fabulous! Whatever info you can provide would be great. Thanks!

  2. Jodi says

    Hi! I’ve been admiring your work on this desk for a while now, and I’m wondering how the finish has held up for you? I’d love to see a pic of the top now….just so I know what to expect when I paint my cabinet like this. Thank you!

    • says

      Hi Jodi – The paint finish on the desk is perfect. I would use the paint again in a heartbeat. One of the nice features of it, since it is so shiny and durable – it is easy to clean. I have gotten a few pen ink stains on the top and the area right on the edge where my arms lay when I am typing on my computer. I simply wipe it with a rag and dish detergent and it is gone. For the ink stains I have used Comet and water. Stains gone and the finish stays shiny. A few readers have asked about yellowing. There is none. Yellowing can occur in dark rooms, but since the room the desk is in is quite bright I have not had this happen. You can see a recent photo of the desk in this post:

  3. Terese says

    The desk looks beautiful! I’m thinking of trying it for my $75 craigslist find dining table. I know you had said we do not need an additional protective finish because it would cake on, but would this table generally be okay as a dining table surface? Easy to clean if food gets on it? Also, do you think buffing with steel wool in between coats would make it glossier?Is it even necessary with this paint? (I saw that tip in a flea market book that shows how to makeover flea market finds). I am going to try it on the dining table leaf first before I try it on the entire table. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Terese –

      You don’t need anything over the paint, it is super shiny and easy to clean. I have even gotten ink on it and used detergent mixed with Comet to remove the stain. As far as using steel wool in between coats. It can’t hurt, but the paint does self-level, you may not need it. Try it out on a scrap piece of wood to get the hang of using it before trying it on the table leaf. It is unique paint, very different and super thick when you spread it, but magically – it comes out smooth and shiny like glass. When dry it does not have that latex look or feel – which gives it a pro look.

    • says

      Hi Anne – The high gloss gel paint from Glidden only comes in a handful of colors. If you have the BM paint # for the pink paint, then I would search for the brand with the highest gloss paint finish you can find and get the color mixed using that. If none are glossy enough you could also add a high gloss water based polyurethane finish on top of a satin finish paint to provide the sheen. If you don’t mind using an oil based paint, most oil-base in a gloss finish are also pretty shiny and durable on their own.

  4. shelley says

    How long did it dry before putting stuff on?do you have and special tips for doing this to a mirror? Looks great!

    • says

      Hi Shelley – I waited about 5 days before I put anything on the desk. If the weather is right, it should dry in 24 hours. It can take up to a week or longer to cure. Do you want to paint a mirror or the frame around the mirror? On the mirror surface, you may want to use a thin coat of gripping primer first, let it dry – then paint. Glidden makes one called Gripper. For the frame – sand it to rough up the surface, clean off the sanding grit and then paint.

  5. Gloria says

    I have a question–I want to use this on a desk, too. I am so impressed It looks wonderful. But how long did it have to wait before you could actually start using it as a desk–putting your lamp, laptop, etc. on it?

  6. Kelly says

    I LOVE your beautiful desk and have been thinking of transforming an old dresser and vanity into this high-gloss look. The pieces were refinished some time ago with a stain/varnish of some type, not sure. Once I do some sanding would I need to apply a matte base primer before applying the oil paint for better adhesion? I have known others to use oil based paint for this type of project only to have it chip. Should I assume they did not sand/prep beforehand??
    Thanks for your advice!

    • says

      Hi Kelly – When working with older stained pieces, it is always best to sand at least a little bit and seal them before painting. The stain and wood tannins will bleed through the wood if you don’t use a stain blocking primer. I would use Kilz Original primer on the pieces first. It is their oil-based forumla, but dries in 30 minutes. Apply two light coats, let the first dry before applying the second. Sand in between coats to smooth. Then apply the gloss paint.

  7. Felicia says

    Gorgeous! This is exactly what I was looking for. I want some super shiny white floating 24″ shelves (I know, a little specific) and couldn’t find them anywhere! DIY to the rescue. I am so excited to try this (and a little nervous after reading some of the comments, eek). I have written down all your tips, and will do my best! The worst part is waiting on the drying time to put them up and admire!!

    • Felicia says

      So I just finished up my first coat on my shelves. It was pretty easy… only issue I had was that a little bit of fuzzies got in the finish, it seems that they are falling from thin air. Maybe it’s normal but whatever, I think it’ll look fine in the end. Should’ve researched how to clean oil based paint off paintbrushes before hand (now I’m thinking I should’ve just left my paintbrushes dirty and kept them wrapped when I do my second coat tomorrow, hmm) but anyways I used paint thinner (should’ve gotten the gallon like my dad said lol). Lots of lessons learned.

      I’m hoping the paint levels itself when it’s not done on a vertical too..?? ie my shelf sides. It’s very thick so I don’t want any “drips.”

  8. Beth says

    Hi Diane, I was wondering if you think with a good oil based primer I could paint laminate with that paint? Thanks, you are one of my favorite bloggers , as we have much in common. Have a good day . Beth

    • says

      Thanks Beth – Yes, you will be able to use the paint over an oil primer on laminate. I would sand the surface first – just a bit to rough it up. I would use Kilz Original primer. That is my go to for jobs like this. One light coat – let it dry – sand to smooth out any drips – then add another light coat of primer. After it is dry – check for smoothness – sand areas if necessary and use a tack cloth to clean. Then apply the paint. I would practice on a scrap piece of wood with the paint so you get the hang of using it. This will allow you to see how it goes on and completely self levels.

  9. Chris says

    Hey there Diane,

    I just painted a desk with the black version of this paint. I carefully prepped and did long smooth strokes. It appears that my brush marks are still visible though. They didn’t seem to “self level”. Its definitely glossy and shiny but I see lines horizontally across the desk top where I took every stroke. I haven’t added a second coat yet. I was wondering, can I sand the first coat smooth and then apply a 2nd coat? Or should I not sand?

    • says

      Hi Chris –

      Yes – you can sand any brush strokes to smooth. Clean it off and then reocat. What kind of brush are you using? A Purdy or Wooster? They are the best and you will see no or very little brush strokes.

      • Chris says

        Thanks for your quick reply!

        Yes, I bought a brand new 2″ Wooster for this job. I think I may have needed to apply more pressure than I did to the brush. It’s a smooth finish. It just has light grooves. But I’ll sand down the brush marks and apply a 2nd coat. Hopefully it’ll smooth out. Thanks again!

        • Chris says

          Just an update…

          I added a second coat to the desk and it’s perfect! Deep black, shiny and smooth. Thanks for the info Diane. It helped so much.

  10. Lala says

    Hello Diane,

    I know you used two coats on your desk, but did you use the entire can for the two coats? I purchased this same color this past weekend and I will be painting my desk this weekend. I need to know if I need two cans of this paint or not. I think this quart size is so small but that’s the only size it comes in. Also, I know you said that you lightly sanded your table, was this the reason for the two coats? I sanded my table completely raw, so I’m wondering if I’ll need two coats. If so, I don’t mind, I just don’t won’t to have to purchase another can.


    • says

      Hi Lala – I only needed one can of paint. It goes a long way. Since you sanded to the bare wood, you may want to use a primer first so the paint does not soak into the wood too much. I would use Kilz original primer. It is oil-based and dries in 30 minutes. It is also white and may help lessen the need for 2 coats of paint. After you get the first coat of paint on, it has to dry over night. You can access then if you have enough paint left for a second coat. If you desk is the same size, I don’t think you will need more paint. The reason for 2 coats is to make sure the coverage is even.

  11. Kristy says

    Did you put a protective coat on post painting? Like a poly? I am wanting this finish for a piano!

    • says

      If you are going to use the High gloss gel paint from Glidden that I used on my desk, then there is no need to put a poly over this paint. It would ruin the tough high gloss finish. The finish is glass after it is cured.

  12. Julia says

    Hi, Diane! I found this post when searching for tips on painting my dining table. I was wondering how the Glidden paint has held up. Our dining table gets a lot of wear and tear, so I want the paint to be as durable as possible.

    I previously painted it was spray paint but it has developed small chips here and there. Would I need to use a special primer between the spray paint and the oil-based paint?

    • says

      Hi Julia – It has worn well. There are a few little chips along the top of the drawer, but the finish is high gloss and looks like it has just been painted everywhere else. I have found it does yellow if you place something on the surface and never move it. I have a pencil caddy that spins on the corner of my desk. I noticed recently that it did slightly yellow a bit under the caddy. Everywhere else is super white-white still. Oil paint needs light to not yellow.

      Have you ever considered painting it with DIY chalk paint. When you use chalk paint you do not have to distress or age it. When I use the Calcium Carbonate and Plaster recipe – it creates the most durable finish I have ever painted. I love the High Gloss oil, but it is an oil paint and is different because it is so thick. If you are after high shine – go with the Glidden. If you want super durable – use the chalk paint and then use a super thin coat of soft wax over it and buff it to a subtle shine or a non-yellowing polyurethane – Miniwax Polycrylic is a good one.

  13. Julia says

    Thanks for your reply, Diane! I didn’t know about oil paint potentially yellowing. That’s valuable info :) I will definitely consider the chalk paint. Usually I have seen this used with the distressed finish, but I bet it would look really nice without that, and more my style. I didn’t realize you could use a poly coat over chalk paint. That would probably be best for me since I need to wipe my table regularly. Thanks again for the wonderful information! I really appreciate it!

  14. Ashley says

    Hi Diane,

    I absolutely LOVE how your desk turned out! I decided to paint a thrift store find the exact paint color and it looks beautiful. Do you remember how long it took the smell to go away? I’m pregnant so I’m a little concerned about the fumes. The bureau was painted about a week ago and it still smells pretty potent.

    Thanks for your wonderful website! I love getting inspired by your projects!

    • says

      Hi Ashley –

      The smell went away after a few weeks. The drier the air, the faster it will cure and not smell anymore. If you live in a humid area, it may take longer to fully dry. I placed my desk in a room we didn’t use and I closed the door until it was fully dry.

  15. Shannon says

    I’ve wanted to do a high gloss piece for some time now. So… it’s time… now:) One quick question: Does the desk have brush marks? I’m going for almost a lacquer effect and most of what I’ve seen says to use spray paint to avoid them. Thoughts?

    • says

      Hi Shannon – If you use the Glidden Oil Based Gel Door and Trim paint you will not have brush marks – not a one. It is self-leveling paint. It comes in 5 – 6 basic colors and is sold at the Home Depot. The finish is super high gloss and wears great.

      It is a different kind of paint and does take about 24 hours to dry, but if you have the time to wait you will be rewarded with a high lacquered finish. The paint is super thick – really thick. It is spreadable once you get the hang of it. Do not stir the can, but dip the paint stirrer in a few times to make sure it is mixed. Read the can and follow the directions. Do not over work, brush on one area and move on. Having a high quality brush makes all the difference in brush strokes showing up, too. Buy a Purdy – I like the angled ones.

  16. Tina says

    Hi – I just wanted to thank you for your tutorial! I am doing a home office makeover and since I could not find the desk I wanted I built one instead! I used 2 doors I got at a construction recycling store, cost $55, and used the paint you recommended and it turned out BEAUTIFULLY! SO HAPPY! As you said the painting was super easy because it’s so thick, goes on smoothly and NO lines. Thanks!!

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