To Paint or Not to Paint-Chalk Paint Tutorial

My finished piece

I have been wanting to give new life to an old piece of furniture that I got from my grandma years ago. It’s surface had marks and mars from being moved several times and the usual wear of age. Normally I have a very hard time painting over wood furniture, preferring to keep the beauty of the wood, but this piece had a cherry wood finish that really didn’t go with anything else in our house and I wanted to actually use it in our bedroom.


I’ve been pinning ideas for a Secretary Desk redo on Pinterest for the last couple of years but a little bit of hesitancy kept me from starting. Enter ‘Stay at Home’ orders and it just seemed like a good time to complete this project. As I was posting pictures of the process I got several questions so thought I’d write it up as a tutorial showing the products, shortcuts and tricks I learned and used while completing this.

I wanted to use some Annie Sloan Chalk Paint that I already had on hand. Paris Grey is a lovely light gray color. You will also need clear wax and I ordered some Rust-Oleum Chalked spray paint which I’ll explain later.

You will also need some natural bristle brushes. These are made for chalk paint and wax, but you can even use inexpensive chip type brushes, just be sure they have natural bristles. Keep in mind that nicer brushes shed less.


One of the most awesome things about chalk paint is that you don’t need to sand the piece before painting!!! (Unless it has loose paint or imperfections you don’t like) But you do need to clean it thoroughly. First I removed all of the hardware and surrounded the area with plastic drop cloths. Then I used TSP cleaner, which can be found at any hardware store, to clean it. Let it dry after cleaning it.


One of the things I puzzled over when deciding how to paint this was the inside of the desk. All those cubbies that not only need to be painted with two coats of paint but waxed and buffed! I decided to look for a spray product that I could used instead. This is where I used the Rust-Oleum Chalked spray paint. It worked like a charm!!!! Just be sure to shake it well, ventilate your work area and surround the area with wall and floor coverings. I did two light coats of a charcoal color.

I really love the look of the contrasting interior and the spray paint made quick work of what would have been the hardest part of this project! No need to wax the spray paint either.

I putt the doors and shelf on a table to work on them separately. I like to tackle all of the harder things first and then end with the easier parts. There was no easy way to remove the glass on the doors so I had to paint them with the glass intact.

I used a small brush for that and was careful. The chalk paint easily scrapes off of the glass if you do get some on there. It dries fast, so by the time I got one side of all of these painted the first piece was ready to be painted on the flip side.


After the shelves and doors I did the drawers and the outside of the desk. First coat done! Then I did it all again for the second coat, painting in the opposite direction to help with brushstrokes. Let dry, I like to let it sit overnight.

Next I lightly sanded everything, taking off more paint on the edges to distress it a bit. You can take off as much as you like, I did a light distressing on this piece. After you are done sanding, wipe everything down to remove the dust.

You are now ready to wax. This takes a bit of elbow grease. You can apply it with a brush or rag. You want to do a light coat and small area at a time, wiping off excess wax as you go. When the wax is dry (doesn’t feel sticky) you will buff it to a sheen. You can also add dark wax after the first coat of clear wax has been done. You add this to crevices to help age the piece. I haven’t done this yet as I kind of like how it is now. I may change my mind and add it later.

A quick note about cleaning the chalk paint brushes, let them stand on end to dry. You don’t want the water sitting in the ferrule as it can rust.

Along with adding a lovely sheen, the wax can darken the paint just a tad. To buff I like to just use an old soft tee shirt and buff until it glides across the waxed paint.

While the wax cures (that can take hours to days depending on the weather and it isn’t fully cured for about a month) it’s time to tackle the hardware. I wanted to clean it up so I used Bar Keepers Friend to polishe the brass hardware. It worked great! Again, some elbow grease but totally worth it. The hinges were another story. They were apparently installed before the piece was stained and had a coat of stain over the brass. After doing some research I came across a trick that worked amazingly! I put the hinges into a small crockpot of water and let it simmer all night. In the morning I used tongs to pull out he hinges and the stain/paint fell off!

Then I just polished them up like I did the other hardware.

The fun part is putting it all back together and adding some special items to the shelves. Since this came from my grandma I added things of hers to the shelves. Some of her Milk Glass collection, her old school text books, her music box and a photo of her holding me as a baby. I want it to have a clean uncluttered look so that’s it for the shelves.  I want to actually be able to work on my laptop in the bedroom so I only added a plant, a clock and a little dish with the keys to the desk. Plenty of room to work. My grandma kept wrapping paper in the drawers so I’m keeping the tradition with gift wrapping supplies. I culled my stash awhile back, going with simple craft paper bags, twine, tags, and neutral tissues. It ends the hunt for occasion specific wrap and I love the homemade look and feel of the craft paper.

I hope you enjoyed viewing my latest project. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It makes me smile when I enter my bedroom and provides a nod to the past in a fresh new way.

23 responses

  1. This is lovely! I have a similar piece and like you, had concerns about the interior nooks and crannies. I will definitely try the spray product. Thanks!

  2. What a lovely job! I’ve just done this to my secretary and hutch and used chalk paint for the first time. Your site gave me to courage to finally do it.

  3. Graag wil ik in
    aanmerking komen voor de workshop online lessen die je per week gratis aanbied
    Het is zeer zeker voor mij een anvulling op mij leerproces om een eigenstijl te ontwikkelen en de techniek te leren die je gebruikt
    Vriendelijke groet Marian van Eldik
    Op pinterest heb ik ook wat werk van mij staan

  4. This is so perfect Pam! Of course it’s lovely because that’s just the way you are Be well and safe.
    ~ Peace ~

  5. That turned out beautiful! I have a desk I bought with intention of painting with chalk paint. I still haven’t done it. Fear of failure or maybe not wanting to tackle such a big project…. inspired by your project.

  6. The colors are perfect!! It’s classy. So calming. I love it. Thanks for the tutorial:) Hope all is well in your world, at this weird time we’re living, now❤️

  7. Beautifully done! The light exterior with the darker finish inside is fabulous. It’s such a reward to bring new life it to a treasured piece. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint makes it easier to do. I have enjoyed painting everything from brass lamps that were out of date, furniture, to all the cabinets in my house with her lovely paint.

      • Using the wax after you paint makes a very durable surface. I painted my cupboards about 6 years ago and they still look great.

  8. I have never considered placing the books with the pages facing out. I like that the books show up and don’t get lost in the dark.

  9. Beautifully done. Like your color choices. Thank you for sharing your step by step procedure. Very inspirational.

  10. Its absolutely stunning, great idea and you have honoured a beautiful, elegant piece of furniture, I love it.

  11. Looks absolutely beautiful. Love the contrasting shades. Thanks for sharing. Twila Van Osdel

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