Roll-Top Desk Makeover: Business on the Outside, Party on the Inside!

How’s this for an analogy?  I believe I have created the mullet haircut of furniture transformations. Now, hear me out: what sets a mullet apart is its element of surprise, right?  “Business in the front, party in the back,” as the saying goes. And similarly, with my new and improved roll-top desk, we’ve got business on the outside, party on the inside!

Roll-Top Desk Makeover!  Business on the outside, party on the inside.  I love how bright and beachy this color palette is!  Bound to inspire...especially when opening up a drawer to see the pop of turquoise!

Want to know how this beachy keen wonder came to be?  Well, who am I kidding?  We all know, I’m going to tell the story no matter what you say (wink), so you might as well grab some lemonade and get comfy, dear reader!

The Backstory

I have had my heart set on acquiring a roll-top desk for some time now.  I mean, when it comes to the roll-top, what’s not to love?

  • You’ve got teeny tiny drawers to help organize all your teeny tiny office supplies…
  • An expansive workspace for writing, creating, and mess-making…
  • Guests coming over?  No problem!  Simply roll-down that top and your desk is instantly clean.

(I know…now, you want one, too.) I had just begun to scour Craigslist in search of the perfect piece when one fell into our hands.  My in-laws were doing some downsizing and asked if we wanted their old roll-top.  Did we ever!

Roll-Top Desk...the "before!"

It’s a gorgeous piece made out of solid oak, with quality hardware, and not a dent or scratch to be seen.  In fact, to be honest, it felt a little criminal to even contemplate painting such a beaut.

Roll-Top Desk...the "before!"  Roll-Top Desk...the "before!"

However, the bottom line was that the stained oak with gold hardware, though beautiful, just wasn’t our style.  And while I eventually envision this piece in a room of her own someday, right now, she has to fit into the corner of our Rustic Nautical Master Bedroom.  So, it was time to dream up a bright n’ beachy color palette to jive with the rest of the space….

The Color Palette

I decided on a combination of Behr’s silver screen gray and ultra pure white for the exterior of the desk, which would match our bedding, but are still great neutrals for different design schemes down the pike.

Roll Top Desk Makeover: the beachy color palette that inspired it all!

Then, I consulted my partner in crime (handy-man and hubby, Mark) about a wild idea for incorporating an element of surprise into the color palette. You see, I had once seen an incredible furniture project done by Liz Marie where the drawers of white desk were painted green…and I’ve always wanted to try the same.

Thankfully, Mark enthusiastically supported this idea!  So, we chose gem turquoise for our interior drawer color and set to work. Here’s a closer look at that pop of color when you open a drawer…or three!

Roll Top Desk Makeover.  The best part?  The element of surprise on the inside of the drawers: gem turquoise!

Roll Top Desk Makeover.  The best part?  The element of surprise on the inside of the drawers: gem turquoise!

The “party on the inside” is definitely one of our favorite elements of the finished desk…but I’ll be up front and say that it was a significant time investment.  Instead of just one side of the drawers to prime, paint 2 coats, and seal…we now had five sides.  And a gazillion drawers.

I remember after our first work day (which was 8 hours), I was feeling pretty discouraged.  I had cleaned the desk, removed all the hardware, and primed the main body of the desk…but I hadn’t even touched the drawers.  I felt in over my head. Thankfully, Mark offered to take the drawers off my hands so I could focus on the exterior.  It was a huge weight of my shoulders, and his drawers turned out great!  Big projects like these are always better with a buddy.

Roll Top Desk Makeover.  The best part?  The element of surprise on the inside of the drawers: gem turquoise!

Stencil Details

Now, I know I did say “business on the outside,” but I did sort of bend that mantra when I incorporated a little scallop stenciling on the sides and center corkboard.  I couldn’t help myself!  Those side panels were just beginning for some flair…and flair they did get!  (Thanks to Royal Design Studios’ Scallops Allover Stencil.)  I’ll be sharing a post next week with behind-the-scenes shots from that stenciling process, so you can see how do-able it really is.  Stay tuned!

Scallop Stencil Details on a Roll-Top Desk Makeover!  It really takes things up a notch...or ten!

Scallop Stencil Details on a Roll-Top Desk Makeover!  It really takes things up a notch...or ten!

New Hardware

It’s amazing how something so simple as swapping out old hardware for new can dramatically update a piece!  We found some satin nickel handles for the drawers at Home Depot that we were keen on.  Then, we simply bought some spray paint to match, so we could transform all of the gold hardware into satin nickel, too!

Roll-Top Desk Makeover!  Such a dramatic before & after.  Amazing what fresh paint and a little vision can do!

And I used some *sketch pens in my Silhouette machine to create some labels that almost look handwritten.

Roll-Top Desk Makeover!  Such a dramatic before & after.  Amazing what fresh paint and a little vision can do!

And yes, I have an entire drawer devoted to washi tape!

Roll Top Desk Makeover: Drawer labels made with Silhouette sketch pens, to give it that handwritten look!


I think some of the most fun I had working on this mega-transformation was shopping for special pieces to help organize and decorate the desk!  You see, I wanted it to be that perfect blend of beautiful and functional.  Look out for a post next week where I’ll share exactly where I found all of these treasures and why I chose to bring them home with me!

Roll-Top Desk Makeover!  Such a dramatic before & after.  Amazing what fresh paint and a little vision can do!

Roll-Top Desk Makeover!  Such a dramatic before & after.  Amazing what fresh paint and a little vision can do!

Roll-Top Desk Makeover!  Such a dramatic before & after.  Amazing what fresh paint and a little vision can do!

The Winning Chair

I did put some serious research into desk chairs before settling on the Avenue Six Vista Task Chair on Amazon.  While it wasn’t initially my #1 pick for style, I was sold on the genuine and positive reviews.  Plus, I was drawn by the fact that I could tuck it completely under the desk since it was armless. Boy, am I glad I chose this one!

Avenue Six Vista Task Chair: Comfort and function all wrapped up in one!

Not only is it one of the most comfortable chairs I have ever sat in, but it looks even better in person than it did on Amazon.  The cushion has a luxurious feel to it, and I’m determined to keep it white as long as possible.  No Kool Aid chugging sessions in this chair (you know…because that’s something I do sometimes).

Avenue Six Vista Task Chair: Comfort and function all wrapped up in one!

We even left out the center drawer when re-assembling the desk so I could sit at a most comfortable height without my knees bumping into the bottom of the drawer.  Gotta keep things ergonomic!

Back to Balance

I also think having a designated workspace for my blogging and writing will continue to help me in my quest for balance.  Up until now, I haven’t had a space of my own for my work.  So, I think this new desk o’ mine might help me have more set work hours…which will be a whole lot healthier than simply having one never-ending work day in the living room.  It’ll be so much easier to leave it all behind, too, when I need a break…considering I can just shut that roll-top!

Roll-Top Desk Makeover: Dramatic Before & After.  Love the idea of being able to hide my mess by lowering the roll-top!  Insta-tidy!

Plus, how can you feel anything less than empowered after locking up a desk that declares, “winners only”?

Roll-Top Desk Makeover: Dramatic Before & After.  Love the idea of being able to hide my mess by lowering the roll-top!  Insta-tidy!

Stay Tuned!

Oh my goodness, friends.  This is just the tip of the iceberg!  I have so many more things to share with you about this whole process of transforming the roll-top desk…so many more things that they merit multiple posts.  Click on the thumbnails below to hop around and explore them all as they go live!  It’s going to be a grand old time.

[catablog_gallery id=”10460″ [catablog template=”gallery”]

And on that note, have a terrific Tuesday.  And remember: the mullet is officially back, my friends.

Roll-Top Desk Makeover!  Such a dramatic before & after.  Amazing what fresh paint and a little vision can do!

{Linking up here.}

*Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase after clicking through, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Thanks for helping to support this site!


Lovely comments so far...

  1. says

    AMAZING!!! I don’t know what I was imagining when you first told me you had this project in the works, but it has far exceeded whatever I was picturing. We had a rolltop desk at our old house in CT and I just let it sit in one of our guest rooms and collect dust— now I wish we hadn’t given it away when we moved! Can’t wait for the rest of the posts in this series. xo

  2. says

    This is gorgeous! I’m just working on decorating my home office now, and you have me super inspired. I can’t wait to read about the desk styling, as that is the part I struggle with the most!

  3. says

    I adore this, Lauren! Great job! But please share how you painted the actual roll top or whatever you call it. I have a teeny, tiny roll top desk that belonged to my husband’s grandfather, but I haven’t been sure about spraying the roll top. Do you spray it closed and then spray the inside or what? Thanks!

  4. says

    IT’S SO PRETTY I’M GONNA DIE AAAAAARGH! (on that note: how awesome would it be to have Minions?!) As always, fabulous work from you & Mark here, and it’s totally made the DIY bug bite me even more than I already had it. Like, right now, I’m planning on all the things I want to do with my room when I move back home next week (wall stripes! new bed! DIY clothing rack! a comfy reading corner!), and I haven’t even packed up everything yet..! This post did not help matters haha and my eagle eye spied a familiar print on your board, which made me even happier :)

  5. says

    Wow Lauren! My grandpa has a roll-top desk collecting dust in his living room. I may put the feelers out now to see if he’s ready to, ahem, down-size a bit :) Love the pops of teal. Nice.

  6. says

    Eeeeek! This is SO beautiful. Like, magazine-worthy perfection. I am in love with every single element. Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of roll-top desks…they just look too clunky and big…until now! It is chic, modern, gorgeous, and oh-so-functional. If it were mine, I think I’d just sit there in that comfy chair and stare at it. I’ve looked at the pictures like 5 times now, I just can’t get enough! And such a great job on the styling, can’t wait to see more about that. GREAT WORK!!!

  7. says

    Brava Lauren!! She’s so beautiful! Does she have a name? I am so looking forward to the rest of your posts on the big transformation. You did an amazing job, as always. Wow!

  8. Kathy says

    Hi Lauren,
    I love your spirit of “can do”, but especially that you love to share what you have learned, what you have done AND how to do it, too! Grateful to you. Your desk looks terrific, girl!

  9. says

    You’re so incredibly fabulous! Everything you and Mark do is just heavenly. I am in love with this desk, girl! It’s stunning. It’s obvious that you both took a lot of extra time to get it just right. I love the attention to detail – the gorgeous blue inside, the scalloped stencil, and the little pieces of you all over it. Great job Lauren! That’s just par for the course with you :)

  10. Mom L says

    W O W. What a transformation!! How would you like to do another one just like it? (jk!) 😉 It turned out more beautiful than I imagined! Love love the teal interior. Its fun to imagine you and/or Mark setting there doing your ‘business’, knowing that there is a party waiting inside. Proud of you both! That was a true team effort.

  11. says

    This is so beautiful! I love the pop of colour, especially against the crisp and clean white! I’ve wanted a roll-top desk for awhile, and now I want one even more!!

  12. says

    This is a “peach” of a project! All of the work that it must have taken was well worth it! That surprise turquoise inside is so great, and I love that it has “teeny tiny drawers for your teeny tiny office supplies” :)

  13. says

    GIRL! This is incredible. What a labor of love but SO worth all the time and energy you (and your hubs) put into it :) I love the pop of color on the inside and the fact that you can lock it up with such a cute little phrase! It was definitely meant to be that this fell into your hands!

  14. Kristen Elkins says

    I love this, Lauren! You and Mark are a great team and do impeccable work! I think I shall use your “party on the inside” as creative inspiration when the day comes for me to make over our 1960s dresser that we’re going to convert to an entertainment center. I look forward to your upcoming related posts. Your writing style is affable and fun; I’m enjoying your blog!

  15. says

    Wonderful job! I once had a roll top that was my moms. It was falling apart and we didn’t have the room, so we finally let it go. But this is making me miss it!

  16. says

    What a terrific makeover! I admit, I squealed a bit when I saw the thumbnail of the made over desk on my blog reader.;). Love, love, love the sneaky turquoise on the drawers. I’d be tempted to leave a drawer opened slightly all the time. Y’all did a fabulous job on the desk. Can’t wait to hear the details of the process.

  17. says

    This project shouts “Lauren” all over it! It’s so you! Love it my friend and your blue will be stunning in your nautical room. I bet sitting at this desk will really turn up the creative juices!

  18. says

    Wow, mind totally blown. My mom totally had one of these bad boys growing up!

    I can’t even begin to count the ways in which I love this piece. Ok maybe I will. 1. white and teal = pure genius 2. your styling is out of this world gorgeous 3. pure dedication for all those tiny pieces 3. all the storage possibilities 4. peek-a-boo drawers are my favorite 5. the stenciling is such a subtle yet fabulous addition…. I could keep going and going. It’s totally one of those pieces I’d pet if I saw it in person!!

    Way to go girl, totally inspired. Off to go pin this to a bagillion boards!!

  19. says

    Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh!!!! Guuuuuuuuuurrrrlllll!
    This desk is amazeballs! Seriously. An incredible transformation through and through. And you were totally right… now I’m wanting a roll-top desk of my own!
    I cannot wait to see the other posts to come featuring this beauty. In the meantime, I’ll just pine away over your sweet little drawer dedicated to your washi tape collection. Le sigh.

  20. says

    Lauren, we are officially craft soul mates. Did you know that I have a quilting table that we painted the interior parts of the drawers peakcock teal? The outside is a mix of a hex pattern and chalboard paint, so not as drastic a difference as yours, but still. Crafting soulmates I tell you.

  21. says

    Lauren, it is just gorgeous! I definitely see what you mean now about surface area, and I’m sure it was a lot of work but it was totally worth it! Those stencils on the sides are also a great touch! The colors are also especially beautiful!

  22. says

    What a wonderful transformation, Lauren! I just love the stenciling! You will enjoy this desk for many years to come, I’m sure! Bravo!!

  23. Darling says

    Business on the outside and party on the inside!!!! Your creativity never ceases to amaze me!!!! I love it.

  24. says

    Although I am an “old grandma”, raised in MA, and a lover of all things old and oak…LOL, I must say that this transformation is amazing. Not only does it look fabulous, but it screams your name and who you are…………a definite WINNER! Thank you for sharing this…………:)

  25. says

    Oh. My. WORD. I loooovvvvvvve this project so much. It is gorgeous, Lauren! You and the Hubs did such a fantastic job. I remember how crazy all the little drawers and hardware were on our card catalog makeover (and i STILL want to pick a different color someday). Pinned this, of course! xo

  26. Jessica says

    Lauren, this is amazing! I’m feeling quite sad that my parents’ roll-top desk from the ’80s has moved on to a new life and is no longer available to be transformed. You did such a great job, from the painting to the hardware to the stylin’ of it. I’m inspired. Now that we’ve moved to a bigger home I have several empty rooms just begging for furniture transformations. Thanks for the inspiration. And I love the mullet analogy!
    p.s. I saw your July goal. Good for you! I know it will be awesome.

  27. says

    Lauren ~ Your desk is over-the-top fantastic!! (or may be I should say over-the-roll-top fantastic!) You guys did a fabulous job bringing an already beautiful piece to a very happy piece ~ love the white and turquoise. And I love that it was a family heirloom too!

  28. says

    Wow…. I hope you are very proud of yourself, because you should be…. All that hard work payed off and some!! I love your desk! I bet it is a pleasure to sit at it to get some work done!! Hope your Fourth was fantastic…. :)
    XoX, Crystelle
    Crystelle Boutique

  29. says

    this turned out GORGEOUS!! we have an oak rolltop desk that was from my bedroom growing up – I hide it because I can’t stand the oak and gold – and I was too afraid to paint it but you’ve inspired me!! – my only concern is the roll top part, mine is different than yours and I’m not sure how I could access my roll top part to get good paint coverage

  30. says

    I love the inside color!!
    And the whole business on the outside/party on the inside idea. I thought of something like this when I redid my nightstand, but until now, more than a year later I couldn’t decide on a color or fabric pattern. So much about this……

    And all these drawers! It makes me realize how badly I need a new desk with more storage space. I love how you can put beside everything here in yours. My desk is overflowing with things because one drawer is definitely not enough!

    Love, Midsommarflicka

  31. says

    Wow what an amazing job, I love the blue color you chose. I’ve featured your project on my Friday Favorites post today. Have a great weekend!


  32. says

    Lauren this looks beautiful!! Everyone is going to be running out to find a desk like this now and give it a makeover. Everything looks perfect about this desk from painting to styling. Seriously looks like it should be in a magazine. This really inspires me to give my desk a makeover now!! Hope you had a wonderful week!!

  33. Marmie says

    This is just SMASHING and goes so well with your style! Looking forward to seeing this bipolar (haha) desk soon!!!

  34. says

    Gorgeous! My current work space is my bed….which I know is a TERRIBLE place to work but really the only quiet spot for me in my current living situation. I think it might be time to clear the cobwebs out of the basement and claim a working space for myself :)

    ~Meaghan from DIYfaerie

  35. Swissmiss says

    Greetings from Belgium!

    Thanks so much for posting this roll-top desk make-over, Lauren. I have been looking for my own desk space, and have always liked roll-top desks. However, for the last couple of years, if I had any take-home work from the office, I would just set up in our open kitchen. Now, thanks to you, I have a new project for a new roll-top desk. I’m not exactly handy, but you have so beautifully explained how you transformed your roll-top desk that even I should be able to achieve similar results. I hope! Since I’m based in Europe, we don’t seem to have as many handyman type of places as exist in the US. However, I think I should be able to order off the websites you indicated and have them shipped to Belgium. Thank you again, and please keep those ideas coming.

    Best regards,

    • says

      The wooden handles were just screwed on, thankfully, so could easily swap them out for some satin nickel handles from Home Depot that we were keen on. You can see them pictured above in the section entitled “NEW HARDWARE.” Thanks for stopping by!

  36. Jessica Deal says

    Hey i LOVE this and actually have started on my project to redo my almost identical rolltop! I searched for awhile for a color i wanted and this fits perfectly! I have one question. How did you paint in between the small divider on the left side of the desk? My desk has several of those that are vertical and they do not remove and i’m not sure how to get in there? Was going to try a small roller perhaps but I only have an inch to work with! Thanks again! I’ve ordered my stencil and can’t wait to put it all back together :)

  37. Chelsea Lloyd says

    Hi Lauren! I absolutely loved your idea! I had an old roll top desk that I was getting ready to sell because it didn’t match my other stuff, I ended up doing this and making myself a vanity! I’d love to send you a picture so you can see what you inspired me to do!
    Thank you! !

  38. Lindy says

    Hi there, I just found your roll top blog on Pinterest, although I actually found you two weeks ago when I became a total Annie Sloan Chalk Paint fan! Anyway, I can see this took an amazing amount of time and effort, and it is perfectly done. The pop of fabulous color inside is indeed a party. I have to ask… it’s been almost a year. Have you done anything more decorative on the front? For so much work it seems you have left it without a visual pop on the front. Some more of the gorgeous stenciling perhaps? I could not find an update, and I so want to see the “pop” when the roll top is closed after all your hard work. ????? A fan in Northern California.

  39. Carol Young says

    I have this desk!! I’ve moved it with us every time we’ve moved and have almost given it up numerous times. I’m so glad I didn’t! I wanted to ask how you primed it before painting it. Did you sand it at all?


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