My Vintage Tanker Desk Makeover

During my recent vacation, I planned to finally paint my wooden tanker desk. Problem was, I couldn't figure out what color to paint it. I've been updating my living room from turquoise and red to a neutral color scheme of black and white.vintage MCM wood tanker desk paint furniture makeover teal turquoise home office

I like that it's one of those colors that looks different in light.  In the daylight it appears bluer but at night in artificial light, it's more like a true teal/green-blue. Continue reading to learn more about this spiffy makeover and how I came across such a wonderful find.

I wavered between painting it in gray/white or turquoise/teal (my favorite color). While a neutral shade would’ve been practical, I thought “what the hey” and decided to go with color. I even went a step further and chose a different color than turquoise: green. I bought “Garden View,” in the Behr Premium Plus Ultra line; I wanted to eliminate extra work with a paint that included primer. This line of paint seems to have worked well so far.

Garden View interior paint Behr Premium Plus Ultra line

Unfortunately, this color appeared much brighter when I started painting. Thankfully, I began this project with the desk drawers. I knew I wouldn’t be happy with seeing that color close up, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Plan B: new color. To save money, I used some leftover paint and only bought an additional quart of a color I’d previously used when I created some Moroccan-influenced wall art. It’s calledPacific Sea Teal” and is in the same line of Behr paint that includes primer:

Behr Pacific Sea Teal

Even though I decided to paint my desk such a vivid teal, I’m okay with it being that one pop (albeit a large pop) of color in the living room. Everything else I’ve kept neutral. When I was considering a color, I weighed if the color would match ell with others if /when I change up my color scheme again. Perhaps I’m biased, but I couldn’t think of one color this teal wouldn’t look great with.

Before After DIY painted Vintage Wood Tanker Desk paint makeover to teal and silver home office workspace MCM The Decor Guru


DIY painted Vintage Wood Tanker Desk paint makeover to teal and silver home office workspace MCM The Decor Guru

The other part of the desk’s makeover involved new drawer handles and re-doing the legs:

DY painted Vintage Wood Tanker Desk paint makeover to teal and silver home office workspace MCM The Decor Guru

To make over the metal bottoms of the legs, I used painters tape to mask off the wooden parts, and then applied Rub n Buff in Silver Leaf. (That stuff is a miracle, I swear. ) Once the Rub n Buff was dry and I was satisfied with the coverage, I sealed the metal with Minwax Polycrylic protective finish. I also used this water-based finish on the rest of the desk after painting.

DY painted Vintage Wood Tanker Desk paint makeover to teal and silver home office workspace MCM The Decor Guru

I’ve not yet perfected my painting furniture techniques, so I won’t be posting a tutorial. However, has some great information I’ve referenced for my pieces. You can find this information here.

All in all, I’m very happy with it. I still have this nagging thought in my head that I should’ve painted it in a neutral shade. But at least I know I’ll always love this color since it’s my favorite. It’s also one of those shades that just makes ya happy. And hey, if I get the itching for another furniture painting project, I can just repaint this.

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Victoria Lavender Sunny in Tucson: Mid Century Cafe

25 Comments on My Vintage Tanker Desk Makeover

  1. I love the color! I don’t think I would like the desk as much if you painted it a neutral color. Great job.

  2. I think it looks beautiful. I love painting furniture blue!

  3. This looks great! What a wonderful color.

  4. Marvelous! You were quite thorough and did a great job. Nice looking piece too. Thanks so much for being the first to post with me and share your MCM fun!
    Victoria Lavender

  5. Your desk came out looking great. The finish is so sleek and shiny I thought it was a metal desk at first! I didn’t used to be a fan of painted furniture but seeing great projects like yours is starting to convert me – I have a very beaten up old side table I’m thinking of painting…we’ll see. Thanks for sharing this

  6. It looked classier before. Now it looks like a DIY shabby chic hunk of junk.

  7. Stephanie // 05/24/2013 at 1:45 AM // Reply

    Love the desk, love the new colour! Really pops in the room! Wish I had room enough for such a lovely mid century piece of furniture! Bravo!

  8. Hey, I have a very similar desk. And it definitely needs a redo. The top is worn in the area where a person spends time at. Love the colour. Don’t know if I would be brave enough to go with a pop of colour but it could be doable in my white and oak kitchen!

  9. dawn conover // 10/30/2013 at 8:46 PM // Reply

    I just bought the exact same desk today and looking for colors to paint it. Thanks for posting, really helpful!

  10. Wow, that is stunning! LOVE the color!!!! Great job! HOW ON EARTH DID YOU MOVE THAT THING???? Doesn’t it weigh 300 lbs? I’m just shopping for one now. Thanks for the great tips, I like the way you finished the legs. Thinking of putting round “gliders” on mine (when I get it:) so that I can move the desk for cleaning etc. Do you recommend this? Where did you get the new handles? So glad I found your blog. Thanks for sharing:)

    • Thanks! I just pushed it (without the drawers & contents). I think the legs already had plastic on the bottom so it glided pretty easily. There’s probably some moving tips online for heavy furniture; I can’t think of any offhand. I don’t think mine is 300 lbs. thankfully! Maybe 100? It’s definitely sturdy, which I love. The handles were from Home Depot. Thanks for commenting & coming through!

  11. Greg Gullion // 01/31/2015 at 11:19 AM // Reply

    Really nice job with the desk! It looks amazing!

  12. La Tanya // 10/05/2016 at 9:32 PM // Reply

    Beautiful job! Did you paint the entire drawers teal or just the actual drawer front? I purchased a 1950’s wood teacher’s desk that I’m refinishing and can’t decide whether to paint the drawer fronts only. 🤔 By the way this is my first time painting furniture with drawers!

    • Lucky you! I love how sturdy these desks are. I painted everything, including the inside of the drawers. Good luck! It’s a lot of work, but very rewarding in the end. Not painting the inside would make things a little easier. And really, who’s gonna see the inside?

      Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Carrie Stice // 07/22/2018 at 9:00 AM // Reply

    Hi! I’m a teacher and have tried painting bookshelves in my classroom but the paint peels and such. Is it best to use a paint or spray? Any suggestions would be well appreciated! Have you ever painted cheaper furniture that’s made of plywood?

    • Yes, I have painted cheap furniture too. What I’ve found to be the most helpful is preparation. A lot of times that means a good primer before painting. I’m currently using Zinser BIN oil-based primer for some painting projects. It stinks but it really works. It will help the paint stick to the surface, especially laminate. Good luck!

  14. thediynuts // 01/22/2019 at 2:00 PM // Reply

    Hi. I also redid an old desk to become an awesome teal desk. However, ours was a large metal desk. We had to use glass and fabric to create a unique top. People could see it at I love that we had a similar color scheme idea!

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