Desk Makeover | Italian Villa Look

italian villa desk front

If you like things that are crusty and imperfect, today’s technique is for you!  I was inspired to make this smooth Pennsylvania House desk look like a cracking plaster wall in Italy.  There were a lots of steps, so buckle up while I take you on this journey!  Here is what the original finish looked like.

desk before

If you’d like to see a demonstration of these steps, I did a Facebook Live video here.  And here are all the products I used to achieve this look.


(Note: These are affiliate links from which I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

Adding Appliques

The oval moulds were cast out of modeling material, using the Redesign with Prima Sicily frames (the largest one).  You press the material into the mould and scrape off any excess so the back is flat.  I let it dry in the mould for about 3-4 hours, and then used E6000 to stick it on.  The bond isn’t immediate, so I used painter’s tape to secure it in place.

The modeling material will crack and become much more brittle as it dries, so it’s perfect for this look but would not work well for a piece you wanted to be more refined or precise.  For that, I’d suggest resin, but I haven’t tried resin yet, so take that with a grain of salt!

desk back

I also used a WoodUBend applique (#2172 circular applique) that I cut in half.  That is the portion you see here.

desk woodubend applique

To be honest, the WoodUBend appliques are ridiculously easier to use than my homemade moulds were.  You heat it with a hair dryer, apply wood glue, stick it on your surface and heat it some more.  It forms an immediate bond to the surface, and it’s not going anywhere.  It doesn’t lose any of its details and if you by chance stick it down in the wrong place, you can reheat it to remove it as well.

By the way, if you want a handy reference tool for all of Dixie Belle’s products (dry times, application methods, top coats, etc.), you can download my free guide here:

Sea Spray Texture

Next up was adding that plaster wall texture I was going for.  I mixed up 2 different paint colors (Rebel Yellow and Mud Puddles) with the Sea Spray Texture Additive.  I didn’t measure, but I’d say I used about twice as much paint as sea spray. 

I scraped these on randomly with a plastic putty knife, primarily around the edges and feet.  This is definitely the ugly stage.  After this step dries, it’s time to paint.

desk in process

Painting Fluff

For the first coat of Fluff, a warm white, I added Sea Spray again.  This time I thinned it out with water, so it was more of a paint consistency.  Using a chip brush, I painted the whole desk except the top going right over the yellow and brown areas.

You can use this coat to fill in any gaps around the moulds, or you can use white Dixie Mud if the gaps are large.  The second coat of Fluff was just straight paint.  Ahhh, past the ugly stage.

Sand Back Texture

Using a low grit sand paper on my orbital sander, I sanded back the paint over the textured areas.  This revealed the yellow and brown, and some of the original finish.  This is where the magic happens!  You can see that you could vary the colors and amount of texture to achieve a million different looks.

desk side

Apply a Color Wash

To add to the aged character and bring out the texture even more, I thinned some Mud Puddles with water, brushed it on and wiped it back.  I worked in small sections, and if it got too heavy anywhere I used my mister bottle to wet it again and wipe it back more.  I really let it stick into the grooves of the oval appliques.

desk knee hole

Finishing Touches

The center of the oval moulds was calling out for a detail, so I added small sections of décor transfers (Lovely Ledger and Classic Pots).  The black designs were a little too crisp and new, so I applied white wax over the transfers.  This also served to seal it, so I didn’t have to top coat it.

desk top

All the top needed was a light sanding and 2 coats of No Pain Gel Stain in Espresso.  Since this is one of the few oil-based products that Dixie Belle carries, I let it dry for 72 hours before sealing it with 2 coats of Satin Clear Coat.  

The rusty hardware came from Hobby Lobby, and was perfect to complete the look.  If you like this old world finish, you might enjoy this dining set makeover too.

Please Pin!

old world desk pinterest

17 thoughts on “Desk Makeover | Italian Villa Look”

  1. I absolutely love this! I have a desk just like the before-pic one I could do over. I have stripped and repainted an antique chair before. Excited to try this on my desk.


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