How to Paint Campaign Furniture

The thrifting gods have smiled upon me once again and delivered a ridiculously cheap piece of campaign furniture!  I’d say this desk is not quite as nice as the campaign chest I picked up before, but it turned out a lot better due to the painting technique I used.  So, I thought I’d share!

I found this desk at the local thrift store.  It was marked $35 and included a chair (which clearly did not belong to it) and a hutch in very bad shape.  I really only wanted the desk, so they gave it to me for $15… SCORE!

I painted this piece completely differently than my campaign dresser because I learned from my mistakes on that piece.  I also took some product recommendations from Kate’s post on how to paint furniture.  {FYI, Kate’s site is a source of endless inspiration and knowledge… check it out if you haven’t before!}

My first step was to remove the hardware.  The handles were easy and just involved unscrewing them from the inside of the drawers.  The corner brackets were a bit more difficult.  I used a flat-head screwdriver and pried them off a little at a time until they could be pulled straight off.  I taped the finishing nails to each bracket for safekeeping since I knew I would need to reuse them.  This was the biggest time saving tip that I learned from last time, because I didn’t try to remove the hardware on the last piece for fear of messing it up, but really it was quite easy!  I then used a bit of Barkeeper’s Friend to polish them up.

The next step was to remove the drawers and lightly sand all of the pieces.  I used a bit of wood filler for some large defects, and sanded it smooth once it dried.  I used two coats of Zinsser’s “Cover Stain” spray on oil-based primer, followed by two coats of Rustoleum’s spray on semi-gloss white.  This combo provided a fantastic finish and in a quarter of the time that I spent on the dresser.  {Hindsight is 20/20…}

Here is the finished product!

I lined the drawers with some polka dot wrapping paper and mod podge.  It wasn’t exactly my first choice, but I went to Target and JoAnn’s, and could not find any decent wrapping paper.  This was the best option I saw and it came from Kroger.  {When did good wrapping paper become so hard to find?! And why is it $4 for an average to below average quality roll?!} I do think it’s cute, though!

It’s currently residing in the great room towards the entry way.   Eddie’s crate used to be here, so this is definitely a step up!

Here you can see the location with a bit more perspective.  I have been searching for a chair, and I really wanted a Louis Ghost Chair but unfortunately the armrests are a bit too high to allow the chair to tuck under the desk.  Now I don’t know what chair to get; any suggestions?

The best part is that my laptop fits perfectly in the wide drawer, and there is space behind to tuck the cord through the back and plug it in to the outlet right behind the desk.  It’s a much better spot for it than putting it on top of the entertainment center like I have been!

Cost Breakdown:

  • Desk – $15
  • Barkeeper’s Friend – $0 {already owned}
  • Primer – $6
  • Spray Paint – $3
  • Wrapping Paper – $4 {and I have at least half a roll to use for gifts}
  • Mod Podge – $0 {already owned}

Total Cost: ~$28

Not too shabby!

{P.S. The Big Lebowski poster is not staying; the mister put it there… who knew he liked to accessorize?}

This entry was posted in Decor, DIY, Tutorials. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to How to Paint Campaign Furniture

  1. Your desk turned out amazing! I’ve been on the lookout for some campaign furniture for awhile now and once I find the perfect piece, I’ll be using your tutorial to spruce it up. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’ve been stalking campaign furniture for a while but haven’t found a piece at the right price yet. Love the polka dot paper in the drawers for a fun punch!

  3. Lisa says:

    Thanks so much for the tips. I’m in the middle of re-finishing a campaign bookcase. Love how your desk turned out.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Yay! I finally found a post about refinishing campaign furniture that uses spray paint! You’re inspired me–I’m doing the same!

  5. Wow how beautiful, I absolutely love love love your white + gold/brass combo, and I’ll remember Barkeeper’s Friend next time too, thank you for sharing!

  6. Ally says:

    Love this! It was so cool to see your desk, and that Centsational Girl found the exact same desk. How awesome! I love yours in white and hers in green. I’m keeping my eye out for one of these babies. I LOVE these desks! (And WHAT? Totally keep the Big Lebowski poster there. It’s super cool!) 🙂

  7. Brandy says:

    I’ve been looking for campaign furniture as well. I have found a CL posting with 2 dressers for $165. I feel like that’s high, am I crazy?

    • The trick is that if someone lists it as a “campaign” dresser, they know it’s value! I found mine for steals by finding them in thrift stores, and the ones I found on craigslist I did not search “campaign,” I searched “wood brass dresser” or something to that effect. Hope that helps!

  8. Alex says:

    Wow unbelievable how amazing that dresser now looks like. Great job, really nice. Thanks for the great tips.

  9. heidi says:

    I was excited to see your desk. We just bought one at Bargain Hunters of Ks. for $30. My 11 year old saw it and really wanted it. Her desk is already white but it’s been colored on and scratched up. It is solid though. We look forward to fixing it up – thanks for the good instructions, your’s looks great!

  10. Pingback: Tuesday Home Tour: Upcoming Projects

  11. Cellest says:

    I have the same desk, the top hutch, a long dresser, and a bottom and top cabinet piece. If I decided to sell them, in your experienced opinion, how much would be a fair price to ask?

    • It depends on the demand in your area. I bought a long dresser, two night stands, and a tall dresser for $100 total and asked $100 for the tall dresser to recoup my costs. I think $100 is still a deal for a piece in good condition.


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