Add a little sass to your home with an eye-catching office suite. Thrifty materials and supplies plus less-than-stellar flea market finds can go from serviceable to stunning with no overtime required.

Painted desk and chair

Why not design your workspace to inspire creativity? Essentials can be done up in your favorite happy colors, then stamped or stenciled with jaunty patterns.

Unpainted desk

It’s time to let your office reflect the real you! Find an old but serviceable desk like this one at a thrift store, flea market or tag sale. Paint your desk in an inspiring color and add new drawer pulls.

Desk drawer and hardware

For a successful project every time, follow the three P’s for painting furniture.

Prepare: Remove hardware. Clean wood with trisodium phosphate (TSP). Rinse and let dry. Use fine-grit sandpaper, then medium-grit, to remove the old finish and ensure paint adhesion. Wipe with a tack cloth.

Prime: Spray or brush on primer. Some products are available as primer and paint in one, but it’s always a good idea to prime when painting a light color over a dark finish or a satin/flat paint over a gloss or semi-gloss finish. Always use a primer when painting raw wood.

Paint: Count on interior latex paint unless using a specialty paint or technique. Brush, spray or roll on thin coats, sanding lightly between coats for a smooth finish. 

Unpainted chair

Next, upcycle a solid wooden seat with two contrasting tones. Choose a sturdy hardwood chair with simple lines like this one. It will work with almost any style of desk.

Painted and spounced chair back

For a finishing touch, embellish the chairback with stamped-on splotches in a graduated pattern. It’s a snap using an inexpensive sponge-tipped applicator known as a spouncer.

Painted memo board

Create a focal point for a wall to help organize and store your ideas and inspirations. A uniform coating of color on corkboard and frame unites the parts of an elementary school icon.

Painted bookshelf

After giving a plain bookcase a pale coral update, choose an exotic embellishment. The back of the shelving shown here features a Moroccan motif. Here’s how to get the look.

Stenciled bookcase panel

What You’ll Need

  • Bookshelf
  • Plastic drop cloth
  • Olympic latex paints: C20-1 Crumb Cookie and A25-5 Two To Tango
  • Paintbrush
  • Stencil adhesive
  • Disposable plate
  • Martha Stewart Arabesque Stencil
  • Large stencil brush
  • Paper towels
  • Finish sealer

Remove back of bookshelf and lay flat on work surface. Apply two coats of Crumb Cookie to the panel; let dry between coats.

Spray back of stencil with adhesive. Apply stencil, lining it up with top of the panel.

Gently pat and smooth stencil to ensure all areas are well adhered.
Pour small amount of Two To Tango onto plate. Pick up a scant amount on the tips of brush bristles. Dab off excess onto stack of paper towels. Apply paint to stencil openings using an up-and-down pouncing motion. Remove stencil; let dry.

Move stencil to the repeat position and apply a row of motifs horizontally across the entire panel. Spray back of stencil with adhesive as needed. Stencil row by row to the bottom. After all panels are dry, apply two or three coats of finish sealer. Let dry.

Moroccan motif box

Storage need not look stuffy. Customize papier-mâché boxes with a stenciled Moroccan trellis design.

Group of vintage globes

A trio of vintage globes dating from the 1930s to 50s tops the painted bookcase and brings all the color notes in the space together.

The sentiments printed on this pre WWII Golden Rule globe bank from 1938 are as important now as they were then.

Photography by Chris Hennessey

© Caruth Studio