Purchasing this secretary desk with a hutch was an easy decision after finding it while perusing on Marketplace. I knew it’d be perfect for a secretary desk redo project!
I love to redo furniture, and in doing so, I try to remember to take a few pics during the process and share them with you. Hopefully, some part of this project will inspire you, teach you something new or just be a wee bit entertaining.
Besides this DIY blog, I have a small shop in Wisconsin, Redo Your Furniture (aia Frame and Frills) where I sell all the products used on this secretary desk redo project. My shop is also online, so I’ll create a ‘shopping list’ for you with links to my site, at the end of this post for each product.
In the Marketplace ad for this tall secretary desk, it was clear this would be a super fun piece to redo. It had great lines, was vintage Thomasville, was from a non-smoking house, and nothing was broken.
I always start by cleaning!
Once the piece of furniture was in the shop workroom, I started by cleaning it with TSP Alternative. Our TSP Alternative is a no rinse formula and a super good cleaner. It cuts through dirt, grease and grime.
Nest step, Repairing…
During transit, the backing board popped off the hutch.
Even though nothing on this piece was actually broken, (I only had to remove the staples and reattach the back).I wanted to highlight this step, because many pieces I get do have some sort of damage that needs to be addressed.
Once I gently pounded the staples back down, I could easily grab ahold of the head and finish pulling them out of the board.
Re-evaluation was needed…
The backboard of this hutch had a coating of some sort on it. It seemed to be just in this one section. As soon as I put the paint on it, the ‘lacing’ effect of the paint showed how it wasn’t adhering to the board. This lacing could be the result of some sort of resist layer on the wood, such as wax, oil, silicone caulk, or a factory coating such as a flammable resistant coating. It could also be because the ‘wood’ isn’t wood, but a plastic or laminate. When this lacing happens, it’s recommended to quickly clean the paint off, scrub the piece with Odorless Solvent to dissolve the resist, rewash with TSP Alternative, and then possibly coat with Ultra Grip, a bonding agent.
I had actually primed this backer board with Ultra Grip because I knew it wasn’t real wood, but had missed the entire lower section of this board. (When I’m working on a project in the shop, sometimes I get interrupted and can lose my place in my project) For this one, as soon as I realize it, I just wiped the paint off that section, primed it with Ultra Grip and after it cured 12 hours, continued with my painting.
Actually, since the rest of the desk seemed so shiny I went ahead and wiped a thin coat of Ultra Grip on it too… It won’t hurt and will ensure great adhesion for the paint.
One of the beautiful transfers I stock in the shop was my inspiration for this piece. Postal Birds has beautiful artwork of many different birds to choose from, plus other postal and office script type designs perfect for a vintage desk redo. My overall design would be a loosely interpreted old French writing desk. Pretty much of all my redo designs are ‘loosely interpreted’ styles. LOL
I wanted to highlight the details of the desk with a 2-tone effect. Fusion Mineral Paint ‘Midnight Blue’ and ‘French Eggshell’ were the color choices to go with the birds for this 2-tone look.
Since the wood of the desk is pine, I felt that to be sure the knots and tannins of the wood didn’t bleed through, it would be best to paint the areas with Bin shellac based primer in the areas that would be finished in the lighter color French Eggshell. It might not have been totally necessary because the desk was already finished with a varnish type finish and was probably sealed enough, but I didn’t want to take the chance of bleed through.
Bin primer is stinky and not my favorite thing to use, but it is necessary on woods that could have bleed through. There is basically no curing time needed for Bin though, so as soon as it was dry, I could paint the French Eggshell color over it.
Time for some details.
After the 2 coats of French Eggshell dried overnight, I could tape on it and divide up those little side panels for a bit of added design.
Instead of measuring both sides of the desk front, and risk getting my measurements off, I just simply stretched a piece of tape across the entire front and used it as a guide for the tape placement creating the checkerboard pattern.
Here’s a tip… To get the tape to really stick and not allow the paint to bleed under, (I’m going to be doing a checkerboard pattern on the desk front here) this tape has a special quality… it seals when it gets wet. So I dip my finger in water and wipe it all long the edge of the tape.
After the water had dried, I started painting my checkerboard pattern.
Using my little flat One Series brush, I painted 2 coats of Midnight Blue.
Here’s another tip… when the paint is still wet I peeled the tape off. This helps prevent the top layer of paint drying on the tape and peeling up a bit.
Detailing the details with metallic…
Instead of taping off the lines to get an exact line of the metallic edges, I purposely wanted it to look very hand-painted and imperfect. That’s something I’m realy good at… the ‘imperfect’ look.
Okay, so maybe a few were a little too imperfect, I went back and cleaned up the lines with a bit of French Eggshell and Midnight Blue, using one of my skinny flat artist brushes.
Next, I added a little stenciled leaf pattern.
After it was all dry, I lightly sanded it to distress just alittle.
On the 6 drawers that are inside the drop front, I added the same little leaf stencil flaring out from where the knobs would go.
Next up, a little more aging…
I love using a simple wash made of a mix 50/50 water and our Chocolate paint color. Fusion Mineral paint is so highly pigmented, (part of the reason it doesn’t take as much paint for full coverage) that it’s perfect for this watered wash mix.
It does dry really quickly, so I have learned to only do a very small area at a time.
It’s a super easy technique, brush on and wipe back with a clean rag or paper towel.
The 3 shelves received a similar treatment with the French Eggshell, Midnight Blue, Bronze detailing and finished with the Chocolate wash.
After all the paint was finished, including the Chocolate wash, I let it dry overnight before applying the transfers, and sealed/top coated them with Tough Coat matte.
For more detailed info on applying transfers, here is a video post I made ‘3 Tips Applying Transfers’.
Hardware, a detail not to be overlooked!
The hardware of a piece can really add a lot of style and character. The previous hardware was very early American looking… not the look I wanted for this secretary desk redo. But, new hardware can be pricey… To compensate, I winded up with 3 mismatched patterned hardware styles.
I redid the finish on all the hardware, uniting it by having the same finish on all.
For more details on how I redid the hardware, here is a post I wrote showing these and a few other hardware makeovers.
Now the fun part, putting all the pieces back together…
Oh the drawers with their new stencil detail look so sweet nestled in their cubbies…
And the large drawers… Oh Shoot!
I measured all the drawers for harware… No, actually I measured one drawer for all the hardware. Big mistake… they had a smaller handle on the top drawer, only that one drawer, and I didn’t catch that difference until I went to put on the hardware.
Fill the holes, sand, repaint, drill new properly spaced holes.
Finally, here’s the finished piece…
What do you think? Can you see a the old French writing desk style in her new look?
I love how the Chocolate wash highlights all the dents and divots in the wood, adding the aged effect I was after.
I am continually amazed how a fresh coat of paint and a few added details can completely transform a piece of furniture. I seriously love my job!!
Below is the shopping list for repeating a look similar to this secretary desk. If you are local to the shop, feel free to stop by and see it in person… it is available for sale, and for viewing, (until it is sold that is).
The products I used for this secretary desk redo are available in my shop online or in person:
Have questions? Please contact me, I’d love to help you be successful with your project!
Thanks so much for stopping by! Please feel free to follow and share this blog with your friends, as well as on Facebook, Pinterest, Flipboard, Bloglovin, YouTube and Instagram! I appreciate you reading along.
You can also find me at my shop, Frame and Frills, stocked with amazing DIY products like Fusion Mineral Paint, Stencils, Mint by Michelle decoupage papers, ReDesign with Prima Rub-on Transfers and several pieces of re-done furniture in the shop. You can shop in person or online.
Here are more posts with furniture flips: