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Freshly painted desk with flower bucket, paint tools and PPE on top.


Give an old desk new character with a lightly textured finish using water-based milk paint. Milk paint has a high-adhesion formula that doesn’t require primer and is fast-drying. Complete the update by replacing the old handles with stylish new brass knobs.

Safety tip: Always wear the appropriate safety equipment (safety glasses, ear muffs and a mask, for example) and always follow the instructions for the product or equipment.


1Sand and clean the desk

Set out a drop sheet and position the desk on offcuts, ensuring it's stable. Sand all over using a random orbital sander with 180-grit abrasive discs, removing paint or varnish and smoothing out bumps. Clean with sugar soap wipes.

A person using a Ryobi orbital sander to sand down an old timber desk.

2Apply the first coat

Stir the milk paint well. Using an angled paintbrush, apply one coat along the direction of the wood grain, working from the desktop down to the legs. Leave to dry for at least 30 minutes.

 A woman brushes Rust-Oleum milk paint onto a timber desk using a paintbrush.

3Apply the second coat, creating texture

Apply the second coat by moving the brush across the wood grain to create a cross-hatched finish. Leave to dry for about an hour. 

Green Bunnings hammer
Tip: Wash out the brush and pat dry with a cloth.
A woman applying a second coat of Rust-Oleum milk paint on a timber desk.

4Finish with a topcoat

Stir the protective topcoat. Apply with smooth strokes, working from the desktop down to the legs. Leave to dry.

A woman applies a topcoat over charcoal coloured milk paint.

5Add the final touch

Install the drawer knobs, securing with the supplied fasteners through the existing holes.

A black milk paint desk with brass drawer knobs in a home office.

6Keep in mind...

  • When using a power sander, be sure to wear a mask and eye and ear protection. Always sand and paint in a well-ventilated area.
  • Choose new handles to fit the existing holes. Depending on the thickness of the drawer fronts, you may need a shifting spanner and pliers to shorten the snap-off screws.

7Want more upcycling inspiration?

Learn how to give your bedside drawers a cool new coastal look with this how-to guide.


Photo Credit: James Moffatt and Michelle Holden

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.