DIY Kid’s Desk Makeover

I’m always on the lookout for free and cheap stuff, particularly large pieces.  My toddler “J” has a ton of toys but not so many furniture items.

I was out walking the dog a few weeks ago and stumbled upon a kids’ plastic desk on the side of the street for free.  It would never have occurred to me to have purchased a young toddler a desk, but as soon as I saw it, I was sure it would be a useful piece.  We have a small table and chairs, but the chairs are a little high for “J” (who is not particularly tall for his age), and it’s hard for him to pull himself close to the table once he sits on a chair.  The desk is a perfect solution!  I also thought that the tilted desktop would be helpful for reading and drawing.  Sure enough, he LOVES it!

The desk was pretty ugly when I picked it up: it was dirty, not the prettiest in “style,” and had some stickers still have stuck on it.  I instantly went to work fixing it up.

I didn’t take the greatest pictures of it, but you can see it beforehand here:



It’s in the bathtub because I was starting to wash off the dirt.  Not the most appealing piece ,but it was structurally sound and had a decent overall design.


  1. Wash off the desk.
  2. Sand the desk so that paint will adhere better.  This also removed the stickers that were on it, which I was very happy about.
  3. Take the desk apart — I found that it was really easy to take off the side panels, so I decided to paint them a different color.
  4. Spray paint with paint that’s meant for plastic — I did two coats.
  5. Put the desk back together when it’s dry.  All done!  The paint says that it adheres to plastic best when it has a chance to dry for about a week, so I didn’t give it to “J” right away.

Here’s the final version!




This was my first experiment painting plastic and using spray paint, and I think it turned out well.  The paint does scratch off a little, so it’s probably not going to hold up for years, but so far, we’ve had no problems.

A few tips I’ve learned from the process:

  1. Make sure you keep the spray can at a distance from what you are painting, and don’t hover over any spots too long.  I had a few problems with runny paint that would have been prevented by this.
  2. Spraying over runny paint drips actually works to fix them.  I was shocked at how well it fixed the problems and made the drips disappear.
  3. Be careful using a finishing coat.  I wanted to spray a clear coat on at the end to help seal it, but it just created a strange murky tint to it.  It was easy to spray more paint over the top when I realized I didn’t like this, but I would be wary of using a clear coat again as a result of this.  It’s possible that it didn’t work well because I sprayed it too soon after painting and/or because I did it in the garage when it was fairly cold out, and the paints usually suggest a somewhat warm ambient temperature.
  4. Consider using a primer first.  All the things I read online seemed to suggest that you don’t really need a primer, but since doing this, I’ve started working on another project painting plastic, and I’ve found that using primer has made a big difference in how well it’s adhering and how it looks.

Happy DIYing and upcycling!


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