Refreshing an Old Wooden Desk with Milk Paint

Our Very First Milk Paint Project

This simple desk showed promise.

This simple desk showed promise.

About six months ago we acquired a small wooden desk to use for the computer in our living room. I knew immediately that I wanted to paint it and I was desperate to try out some milk paint that I had recently discovered. It took several days to choose what color I wanted to go with, but after some input from Ron and a close friend I decided on a green color reminiscent of 1950s kitchen appliances.

After receiving the paint and reading (and rereading) the directions I began the process of transforming the desk. Milk paint comes in powder form and you just mix the desired amount with water. It only lasts a few days after being mixed up so you can’t mix the entire package if you are only planning to use a bit. It takes a bit of trial and error to know how much you’ll need for a project, but it is super fun to work with and goes a long way. I only used about a quarter cup of paint for this project.

I knew that I wanted some chipping and flaking to happen on the piece so I didn’t do anything to it to prepare it beforehand. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think about it — the paint had clumps in it and I could see areas where the various pigments would streak with each brush stroke. It’s definitely nothing like latex paint and it took some time to figure it out. Ron reminded me to relax and let it do what it was going to do because, after all, I wanted an antiqued look and not a perfectly painted piece. I think that’s the beauty of milk paint  it’s really supposed to look old and worn and vintage. You can buy a bonding agent to apply to a piece before painting if you don’t want any distressing to happen, but I prefer to let it look like it has a story to tell and has been around for a while. 

In between coats (computer time doesn't end just because Mom is using the desk)

In between coats (computer time doesn't end just because Mom is using the desk)

The flaking and chipping it did naturally

The flaking and chipping it did naturally

I applied three coats of paint to the body of the desk, allowing approximately 30 minutes of drying time between each coat. After it was completely dry I took a small putty knife and lightly rubbed it across the surface to remove any pieces of paint that didn’t want to stick. All of the areas that had the little clumps of paint on it flaked off, as well as the paint on the edges and corners of the piece. 

When I was satisfied with the amount of distressing I finished the entire thing off with a coat of hemp oil. Hemp oil is good for reviving and restoring tired, old wood and for use as a sealer after painting. We prefer it to furniture wax because it’s natural, easy to use, and provides a matte finish. 

I’m really excited with how well this piece turned out and how well it’s held up considering the kids have used it daily for almost six months now. And with the distressing already done to it I don’t have to worry about nicks or scratches it just adds to the character!

The finished product with Ron's favorite old chair.

The finished product with Ron's favorite old chair.