Vintage Desk Makeover With Chalk Mineral Paint, Gel Stain, and Prima Transfers

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Vintage Desk Makeover With Gel Stain Paint and Prima transfer

I want to share my latest project, a vintage desk makeover with chalk mineral paint, gel stain, and a gorgeous Redesign With Prima transfer. I’m so happy with how this vintage desk turned out. The finished makeover product was pretty close to how I had envisioned it! And let me say this is somewhat a rarity for me. I often start a project and change my plans before the project gets completed. But with this one, I actually followed through, for the most part anyway, with my original vision for this piece.

And if you are new here and would like to learn more about Dixie Belle Paint products like the ones used in the project, you can check out: How To Use Dixie Belle Paint.

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Vintage Desk Makeover: Original Appearance

First things first. I’ll start by telling you where I found this beauty and what she looked like in her original condition. I found this desk at my local Habitat Restore. I love buying used furniture goods from Habitat Restores. Honestly their mission just really speaks to my heart. However, sometimes their prices can be a bit higher on some furniture items, but I feel like the mission is so worthy of any extra costs!

Original Condition of Vintage Desk Brown Desk

Quick Review of Steps Used in the Vintage Desk Makeover

Okay, so now that I’ve told you what supplies and products I use, next I’ll tell you the steps in this vintage desk makeover project. This is a quick summary for those that don’t want to read through the whole post.

  1. Repair any defects, scratches, veneer issues
  2. Sanded top with orbital sander and Body with hand sanding
  3. Cleaned with Dixie Belle White Lightening
  4. Primed the desk base and drawers with Zinsser BIN Shellac-Based Primer in White
  5. Painted desk base and drawer fronts with Dixie Belle Chalk Mineral Paint in Cotton
  6. Applied Redesign With Prima transfer in Postal Birds
  7. Topcoated base and drawers with Dixie Belle Clearcoat in Satin
  8. Applied Dixie Belle Best Dang Waxes in Brown and Black to age and add character
  9. Stained desktop with General Finishes Java Gel Stain
  10. Gator Hide to seal the Java Gel Stain
  11. Applied Dixie Belle Howdy-Do Hemp Oil to stained top for shine/more protection
  12. Painted drawer sides with Dixie Belle Chalk Mineral Paint in Bunker Hill Blue
  13. Applied Dixie Belle Big Mama’s Butta in Orange Grove to painted sides and inside drawers
  14. Put down Peel and Stick Wallpaper to line bottom of drawer
Before and After Vintage Desk Makeover

Vintage Desk Makeover Prep


So now that you know the supplies and a quick list of the steps, let’s talk about the prep. All good projects start with some prep. As much as we’d like to think that chalk style paints require less prep, some prep is needed for a good outcome.

This vintage desk was a dark reddish mahogany color and quite heavy but seemed sturdy and well made. So to start this projects, the first thing I did when I got this desk home was sand the top with my orbital sander. Next I also gave the body of the desk a good hand sanding with a 120 grit sandpaper. There were a few areas with loose veneer and some spots of missing veneer and scratches. I did some repair to those areas using the Dixie Belle Dixie Mud in Brown. Dixie Mud makes a great filler for scratches and jagged veneer. And I also had to use wood glue on the veneer in a few places.

Patch and Repair Defects

After the Dixie Mud was dry I sanded again to even out those areas where the Dixie Mud was applied. Those areas need to be sanded as smooth as possible to blend into the finish. And, you don’t want lines to show when you paint. Then after everything was sanded I cleaned this whole piece with Dixie Belle White Lightening mixed with hot water. Dixie Belle White Lightening is my absolute favorite cleaner for furniture! It truly is amazing stuff. After you finish cleaning with White Lightening spray your piece with clear water and wipe thoroughly with a clean cloth to get rid of any cleaner residue.

Dixie Belle White LIghtening clear


One thing I noticed when cleaning with White Lightening was that there was a lot of red and pinkish stain color coming off on my cleaning rag. And if you don’t know what this means, well, let me tell you that it means trouble if you plan to paint this piece white or light colored! This pinkish red stain color on your rag means that your piece is a “bleeder”. You MUST prime it first with a couple of coats of a good stain blocking primer. If you don’t prime you will end up with bleed through of red color into your white or light finish. And no painter wants that!


Okay, so now let’s talk about primer. For the next step in this vintage desk makeover I prepped with 3 coats of thinly applied Zinsser BIN Shellac Based Primer in White. I have two go-to primers for furniture stain-blocking. They are the Zinsser BIN Shellac Based Primer in White and Dixie Belle Boss. Boss comes in clear, gray, and white.

Both primers are great, but since I had a container of the Shellac Based Primer on hand and opted to use that for this vintage desk makeover. It works great and goes on nice an thinly and honestly it’s very quick to apply. So, I applied this primer with a 4 inch foam roller. I like to pour a decent amount of the primer on a paper plate and use my roller to apply. You can even use the roller tip to get into grooves and corners. However I did use a small paint brush for some of the detailed areas where the roller had difficulty reaching.

Can of Zinsser BIN Primer in White

Choosing A Primer

Now I want to share a few important tips about using shellac based primers. They are oil based so a bit stinky. You need to use in a ventilated area and protect your eyes and hands. I used this in my garage. And you can’t rinse the applicators out with water. They can be cleaned with a paint thinner but I just find it easier to dispose of the foam roller and the paint brush after my project is done.

Also it is important to let these applicators dry out in a safe area before throwing away. Oil based products are flammable so use caution with where you place them after use and don’t use these products around any heat sources or open flames. If you are uncertain about the safety aspect or must use a primer indoors, go with the Dixie Belle Boss as it is a safer water-based product with no toxic fumes..

Lastly, one thing I do appreciate though about Zinsser BIN Shellac Based Primer is it’s super quick dry time, like 15-30 minutes. So I can prime all two to three coats in one evening. Then I let it sit overnight before proceeding with paint. To really block that bleed through of stain you want your primer coats to be thoroughly dry before applying paint.


So now let’s move on to the fun part! For this vintage desk makeover I opted for Dixie Belle Chalk Mineral Paint in Cotton. A trick I learned was to apply a piece of painter’s tape around the top edge of the paint container over the outer threads.. This keeps the paint from dripping all over the edge. As I’m notorious for very messy threads on the containers and it makes them so hard to open. Many painters love the Fifo bottles for storing and dispensing paint. I purchased some Fifo bottles from Amazon, but haven’t tried them yet! Guess that’s another project for me to do.

Taping off desk to paint. Drawers set to the side

I applied two coats of the DB paint in cotton for this vintage desk makeover. When you prime with white it really improves coverage with the white paint. I mostly used a Cling On S50 to apply the paint. And I used my new Cling On S30, a smaller version of the S50, to get into the fine detailed areas. Both of these are amazing brushes and you can find them from my favorite Etsy seller here with fast and free shipping! After I applied two coats of the paint I let it sit to dry thoroughly overnight. Typically I would go ahead and apply my clear topcoat or wax. However, my next step was to apply transfers to this desk. The transfers stick much better to paint than topcoat. And it is best to let the paint dry overnight before proceeding with the transfer application.

Painting the desk white with Cling On S50 and Dixie Belle Cotton

Furniture Transfer Application

I have a whole post here that you might find helpful on how to use Redesign With Prima transfers. I’ll also add in some videos here on how I added the transfer to this desk. This transfer is by Redesign With Prima and it is called Postal Birds. I just love this sweet transfer. If you are a bird fan and like a vintage look this transfer is for you. Redesign With Prima transfers go on very nicely. They really are quite easy to use. Here is a link to another post featuring a makeover where I used a transfer on a vintage two-drawer table. This was a darker colored paint and a darker transfer.

Redesign With Prima transfer Postal Birds

The Redesign With Prima Postal Birds transfer comes in three large sheets. You can apply them as a whole pattern using all three sheets placed one on above the other. But with the shape of this desk, I opted to cut the transfer using various sections in certain areas of the desk. This placement is something you want to somewhat plan out before you start placing the transfers down. Once you remove the clear sheet with the transfer on it from it’s white backing and place the transfer sheet down, they do seem to stick fairly well. Then you burnish them onto the furniture by rubbing with the stick or tool that comes with the transfer. Redesign with Prima makes a transfer tool that you can get here but I haven’t tried that yet. I tend to just use the tool that comes with the transfer.


Once your transfers are all placed down where you want them, next you apply the topcoat. I like to seal transfers with Dixie Belle Clear Coat in Satin or Flat or even Gator Hide. These all work well. I applied two coats of topcoat using a decent brush. Often for topcoats I use either a Dixie Belle Synthetic brush, like the mini angle, the Cling-On S50 as above, or even a Dixie Belle Premium Chip Brush. Topcoats are thin and go on hazy, but dry clear. The trick with topcoats is to apply THIN LAYERS. And don’t apply too much. A little goes a long way and you don’t want to get so much on that you have drips and runs.

Dixie Belle Clear Coat In Satin

Wax for Aging

This desk and this transfer called for an aged appearance. One way I like to add aging to my furniture pieces is to use a dark wax applied strategically along edges and embellishments. I used an Annie Sloan wax brush to apply Best Dang Waxes in Black and Brown to the edges of the drawers and other areas of the desk. The dark waxes provided the aged look I was after for this vintage desk makeover. I usually apply wax with the brush and rub off excess with the lint-free cloth and then buff with a separate clean lint-free cloth. Using both black wax and brown wax worked well for this specific piece.

See the dark wax over white paint provides an aged look
See the dark wax over white paint to give an aging look
My pretty kitty posing for a picture

Gel Stain Desktop

For the top of the desk I chose General Finishes Java Gel. Java Gel is my favorite darker gel stain product. I am a big fan of this stuff. It’s like espresso colored stain in a nice “not too thick” form that goes on so beautifully. First, before applying the Java Gel I cleaned the desktop with 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Then I let that dry thoroughly.

Second, apply the Java Gel Stain using a foam craft brush along a small section vertically down the length of the desktop. Third, I use a stain applicator pad I rub the gel into the wood and at the same time wiping away excess along the same pattern I apply the gel, going in the direction of the grain of the wood. Next, I continue to work in small sections keeping a wet edge. Avoid going back over already-finished sections to prevent streaking.

General Finishes Java Gel Stain

Gel stain provides amazing coverage over both raw wood and already finished surfaces. Especially if you go with a darker stain like the General Finishes Java Gel. This stain provides amazing richness and depth of color to your surface. It is truly my favorite stain to use. If you’d like to know a bit more about gel stain, check out my two other posts on this topic. In this post I review a project where I makeover my farmhouse style table with gel stain and chalk mineral paint on the base and chairs. And in this post I review the basics of how to use gel stain.

Topcoat The Gel Stain

After the gel stain was dry I applied three coats of Dixie Belle Gator Hide topcoat. I apply Gator Hide using the Dixie Belle Blue Sponge. Others prefer to apply with a roller or a brush. You can try all these methods to see what works best for you. I do buff lightly between each coat with a quadruple zero steel wood pad. This steel wool buffing helps reduce streaking. Gator Hide provides great protection and leaves a somewhat matte, satiny finish. However, I sometimes want just a little more shine on the surface, rather than a matte or satin finish.

So here’s a trick I tried to make this desktop really shine. I’ve had this Dixie Belle Howdy-Do Hemp Oil for some time and hadn’t used it. The Howdy-Do Hemp Oil was applied to the desktop with lint-free cloth and then excess bugged away with another lint-free cloth. I applied two coats of Howdy-Do Hemp Oil, letting the product dry well before applying the next coat. And the shine on this desktop now is just remarkable! I love it! Needless to say I’ll be using Howdy-Do Hemp Oil more often to furniture tops. I often want the shine without using a glossy topcoat.

You can see the shine on this desktop
Another picture to capture the shine on the vintage desk makeover

Update The Hardware

And lastly, for this vintage desk makeover, I struggled with what to do with the hardware. The original hardware was dull and definitely needed to be at least cleaned up. So, I started by wiping it down with 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water and then follow with rinse with clean water. Once dry, I spray painted with Rust-Oleum Universal Spray Paint and Primer in One in the color Burnished Amber (Forged Hammered). And to make the hardware pop, I then applied Finnabair Art Alchemy Antique Brilliance Décor Wax in Mystic Turquoise. This created a really cool look for this hardware. I gave the wax a good 24 hours to dry thoroughly. Next, I put the hardware back on the drawers.

Original Hardware Spray Painted
Spray Painted Hardware glammed up by Mystic Turquoise Wax

Painting the Drawer Sides and Lining Drawers

I often don’t paint the drawer sides, but for this desk I decided to go ahead and paint the drawer sides. These were painted with Dixie Belle Bunker Hill Blue. The inside of the drawer was shined up with Dixie Belle Big Mama’s Butta in Orange Grove. I even applied this over the dried painted drawer sides. The bottom of the drawers got lined with peel and stick wallpaper from Amazon. This is the peel and stick wallpaper I used. After I cut the sheet to a bit larger than the drawer bottom and then placed it down, I then smoothed out any air bubbles. I trimmed away excess with an Exacto Knife. Oh, and a quick tip is to make sure your Exacto knife blade is very sharp and new so it doesn’t drag and tear your wallpaper. This peel and stick wallpaper seemed very fragile and tore easy.

Here you can see the painted drawer sides
Trimming the Peel and Stick Wallpaper Lined Drawers Using an Exacto Knife


In summary, I am very happy with he outcome of the vintage desk makeover! This Redesign With Prima transfer just makes me very happy! If that’s not enough, add that Java Gel desktop and you got me! And the addition of the dark wax really provided the aged look I was after.

Final project finished vintage desk makeover
Vintage desk Makeover Using Redesign With Prima Postal Birds
Vintage Desk Makeover Using Redesign With Prima Postal Birds
Vintage desk makeover
vintage desk makeover

I’d love to see what you’ve been working on. If you want to find some basic info on how to chalk paint furniture check out this post. And for help with gel stain go here. Lastly for basic step by step on how to apply transfers check out this post.

And as usual if you have any questions for me, just send me a DM on Instagram. Are we friends on Instagram? If not you can go follow me here for more tips and info and to see all my projects. I do also post on Facebook. However, another place I hang out is Pinterest which you can check out here.


    1. That sounds great Linda! Furniture makeovers are fun and they can be quite addictive! So get ready. Most importantly just have fun and try it out. It may not be perfect the first time, but that’s okay!
      Good luck to you and let me know if I can help!

  1. Hi! I just refinished a small writing desk and got the exact same Postal Birds transfer! No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the transfer to stick. My refinishing involved primer, Rustoleum chalked paint in Chiffon Cream and a top coat of satin poly. Was the poly the problem? I sanded after the poly dried but it didn’t seam to matter. Do I need to sand down to wood and do it over just into the chalk paint? Help!!

    1. Hi Marisa,
      I’m sorry to hear that you had trouble with the transfers. I have found recently that the transfers take a lot more work/rubbing down with the applicator tool to get them stuck down. I suspect that it was the poly that made it hard to stick though. I always apply a transfer directly on the paint before the poly or wax. Usually you paint your last coat and then let it dry overnight. Then you can apply the transfer and do the poly topcoat or wax last overtop of the transfer. I wonder though why it wouldn’t stick after you sanded it down? It may take a little more sanding. You could try just painting a new coat of paint and letting that dry overnight. Then do the transfer over that. See if that works. I hope it works out for you as it is such a cute transfer!
      Good luck and thanks so much for checking out my blog post!

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