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Our Refurbish Teal Metal Desk Makeover

We get asked all the time about our unique tanker desk in our home office. We love telling people that it is an upcycled desk that we bought for $30.

teal painted metal tanker desk on floral rug.

We love DIY projects!! Let us show you how we were able to create a budget-friendly home office with this DIY teal metal desk makeover. This teal desk cost us under $100 to buy and makeover. You may even be lucky enough to be “gifted” one of these desks. Therefore, the only things needed would be: spray paint, a glass top, and fabric.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read our full privacy policy.

Depending on the type of desk you are trying to redo, this list of 15 ways you can upcycle any desk may help. We know not everyone has an old metal tanker desk just lying around!

Desk refurbishing ideas

  • Repaint wooden desks with chalk paint (or even this DIY chalk paint recipe to save $)
  • Use spray paint on metal desks
  • Add contact paper to drawers like this file cabinet makeover
  • Add a new top to an existing desk
  • Add new hardware
  • Repurpose an old door for a top
  • Use frog tape to paint a geometric design
  • Cover the top with marble contact paper (this contact paper is durable enough).
  • Add cheap frames to drawers and paint to create faux molding and details
  • Use wooden crates to add DIY storage above your desk
  • Paint the top with chalkboard paint
  • Create a desk out of filing cabinets and a piece of wood.
  • Add hairpin legs or new feet to an existing tabletop or desk
  • Add gold leaf designs on top.
  • Add beadboard to create texture.

Why refurbish or upcycle?

Okay, honestly I would be so sad if I had just bought some generic desk. My metal tanker desk has a large workspace, drawers with file cabinets, and plenty of storage. I know why these desks were so common. You can easily store everything that you need right at your fingertips.

The biggest con (as we have said before) is that this desk is heavy. Just make sure you are able to get it into the room you are planning to use as your home office. If you are stuck for space, check out our corner desk build that we did in our basement. It was such a great use of space!

Our DIY Metal Desk Idea

I am the first one to always find a thrill in finding something that can be repurposed. Learning how to turn an old metal desk into a dream desk was not only budget-friendly but looked awesome! In addition, it is good for the environment when we can repurpose furniture instead of buying new pieces! Who doesn’t love that?!

This post from Good Housekeeping gives other ideas for your next upcycled project! Ahhh…future projects await!!! My husband and I found this old metal desk and our local Re-Store (a store that sells used home decor items and profits go toward Habitat for Humanity) for $25.

Tips For Getting Cheap Items

Don’t have a restore or good thrift store near you? Check out your local Buy-Sell-Trade Groups. Here we provide tips on how to score free or cheap items in Facebook groups and other places in this post.

Upcycled Desk Problems

  • The top of the desk was really beaten up and scratched. Even after spray painting, the top looked HORRIBLE!
  • This tanker desk is REALLY heavy. Luckily we own a truck and have some strong friends. If you find a desk like this then you will most likely need two people to lift it.

Refinishing Our Desk

We had to come up with something that could go on top of the desk and still have that retro feeling after we spray painted it a nice teal green color. My husband and I thought about a wood top, but that just didn’t seem to work. Together we ended up finding this awesome blue and teal fabric at our local fabric store.

blue laptop case on metal desk with fabric and glass.
I love this blue and teal fabric design.

While it would have been nice to only have the fabric, that just wasn’t a practical desktop to use. First, we went to our local glass shop and had a piece of glass cut and edges beveled to the same size as the top of our desk.

beveled glass on top of teal painted metal desk.

Next, we carefully placed the glass on top of the fabric. Using double-sided tape in the corners of the fabric really helped so that it would not slip when placing the glass on. This really added to our office space to make it truly unique on a budget.

fabric on metal desk with glass on top.
The glass top on a redone metal desk.

How to paint a metal desk?

We used spray paint with the primer built-in. Make sure that you have a safe place to work and do not try to rush the process. Pull out drawers as far as your can or completely take them out if your desk allows. You will need 2-3 coats of spray paint for an even look. Holding the spray paint can 10-16″ from the desk and try to sweep across the desk evenly.

What is the best teal spray paint?

For this desk makeover, we used Rustoleum Gloss Seaside. If you want a darker shade of teal you could try the same paint in Satin Lagoons. We went with this teal spray paint because it was meant to stick to metals and plastics. We have not had a single scratch on this desk yet. That is pretty impressive seeing that we painted this desk over 8 years ago.

Other teal spray paints to consider

Read More: Are Green Cabinets The Next Kitchen Color Trend?

Tips For Painting A Metal Desk

  • Before spray painting, tape the metal ring around the desk. In addition, drawers need to be removed. It took 2 solid coats of color spray paint meant for glossy surfaces like this spray paint.
  • Pull out all drawers and writing surfaces before using spray paint. Make sure the desk is completely dry before pushing back drawers and other parts.
  • Make sure to spray from a variety of angles. You need to fully coat all parts evenly go back and forth.
  • Don’t rush, this will take some time. Using spray paint with a “squeeze-friendly” handle may help.
  • If the valve on your spray paint ever clogs, take it off and clean the clog with mineral spirits.
  • Some handles were missing when we purchased this old desk, so we found some new ones at our local hardware store that we knew would work.

Spray Painted Tanker Desk for the Win!

I love using different spray paints to transform old pieces of furniture or household items like I did in these terra-cotta pots and a FREE playhouse for my little kids!

A lot of my DIY projects just use materials and paints I have bought for other projects. This makes some of my repurposed or upcycled projects almost FREE when I go to do them.

Read More: 23 DIY Desks For Your Home Office We love #4!!!!!!!!!!

teal painted metal tanker desk with glass top on floral carpet.

Decorate & Add Fun Office Accessories

I was able to score some amazing desk accessories from my local Homegoods Store. However, here is a similar caddy if you are an avid online shopper and just need to get your DIY teal desk organized.

I also used ceramic pots I had made in college for pen storage. Any ceramic container would work! You could even marble your own ceramic mug or containers for storage using your leftover spray paint!

Also, adding a fun rug under your colorful tanker desk is sure to make your room stand out and be unique! I just love it when I am able to create a very unique space for my home while staying within a budget!

We recently also just redid a cheap compressed wood file cabinet that was behind this desk. I just love that we could add to our home office so cheaply! You have to check it out.

It was really fun to turn an old dining room into a fun home office space. Thank you for visiting our site and learning how you can create the home office and art studio of your dreams with a DIY teal metal desk makeover.

green desk chair and teal metal desk with artwork on the wall.

We would love to hear from you on any of your DIY projects and how your DIY home decor projects have turned out. We cannot wait to hear about your home projects and ideas.

Related Posts

painted laptop case with abstract design sitting on DIY desk.

Follow us on Pinterest, Youtube or Facebook for more DIY inspiration!

We hope we inspired your next upcycled desk project and DIY home office!

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Brett Smith

Monday 17th of January 2022

Did you do any sanding to the painted surface before painting it?


Monday 17th of January 2022

Hi Brett. No, we just cleaned the desk really well and used a deglosser to prep the paint surface. Good luck with your spray painted desk.


Tuesday 20th of July 2021

I’m painting a metal desk now. We primed it with spray primer and now going to spray color. I read where the paint runs easily and to paint surfaces laying flat but that is impossible. How did y’all keep the paint from running? Thanks!


Tuesday 20th of July 2021

@Erin, thank you, but I live in deep East Texas. We are always humid. Lol ???? I’m sanding now and hoping the sun will stay out to dry as soon as I paint. Hubby primed it for me and also primed the handles. Is it possible to get the primer off or should I paint the handles? Thank you!!!


Tuesday 20th of July 2021

Hi Dee. Light multiple coats of spray paint will be your friend. You just have to be careful to not overspray in one area as that is when you get drips. Also, if you are spray painting outside make sure that it is not too humid out. I feel that we run into problems with drips on projects when the weather is not ideal (too hot and humid). Good luck with your desk makeover!


Wednesday 19th of August 2020

Wondering if you painted the insides of the drawers or just the faces. We will hopefully be redoing a tanker desk soon!


Thursday 20th of August 2020

We did spray the inside of the metal desk drawers. I really made it nice and clean. Just make sure your spray paint completely dries before putting it all back together. Good luck with your project!


Friday 31st of July 2020

Hi! I came across your blog while I was looking for a way to redo my army tanker desk top. I redid the whole think a few years ago and it looked great. The original laminate top was/is in perfect condition, but now I have a HUGE bubble in the middle. I assume the adhesive has dried out. I have tried an iron, but to no avail. May I ask how you got the original laminate off? I'm assuming I'll have to start from scratch on the top and I think your glass top may be the answer. Can you give me some info on how you started with your top? thank you so much. I just LOVE my desk. I have mine in my craft room. Got mine at a restore for $20. Can't beat it.


Friday 31st of July 2020

Hi Rosalind. I did not have a laminate on top of my tanker desk. It was only scratched metal that would have been too bumpy to work on. If you plan on covering the top as we did with glass or Plexi, I wonder if you could just scrap the bubbled part off? I also love my large metal desk and would be very sad if I had to replace it. I hope you find a good solution for your desk.

S Taylor

Saturday 29th of February 2020

Were you able to make the drawers quieter? I recently inherited a metal desk at work and it is so loud!


Sunday 1st of March 2020

Hi Taylor. I was very lucky with my metal desk. The metal drawers seemed to slide very easily, so mine are on smooth tracks and not very loud. We even did remove them all to spray paint. Maybe check the tracks to see if things are gliding well or even add little cabinet stoppers to see if that helps with the metal desk drawers banging together. Good luck with your metal tanker desk makeover!

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