Saturday, September 13, 2014

Making An Old Secretary Beautiful Again With Paint and Silver Leaf

A couple of years ago I bought an old secretary style desk at an estate sale. And - in my typical style - I put it in the garage to rest a little bit. 

Or, a lot bit.

A whole lot bit.

Last spring, when I organized the garage I moved it to the front of the line of projects to be done.

But somehow it still didn't get any attention.

Until a few weeks ago when I decided enough was enough!

So I took it apart and started cleaning it up.

It was a bit of a mess.


Whenever you have a piece of furniture with glass doors there will be strips of molding holding the glass into place. If you gently take this molding out with a tiny screwdriver you can remove the glass and make it a lot easier on yourself. Especially if there is fretwork in front of the glass. You do NOT want to be painting around this stuff with the glass inside the door. 

Then take that glass and put it away somewhere safe. Because nothing makes you madder than having to replace glass when you had perfectly good glass to work with.

After I took it all apart I cleaned it with mineral spirits.

My plan was Chalk Paint in Paris Grey on the outside and Chalk Paint in Old White on the inside.

I started on the inside first. 

Can you say bleed through? It was definitely the worst on the back panel. I find that sometimes the cheaper woods and "filler" wood panels are the biggest problem when it comes to bleed through. 

So I went to the store and got some Zinsser Clear Shellac and shellacked that sucker.

And looking at it shellacked, I could tell why furniture owners of the 50's were so enamored with shellac. 

Wow! It looked a lot better with shellac on it.

The shellac did it's job. It stopped the bleed through.

Could I just say that it is NOT fun to paint in those little mail cubicles inside the desk?

If I ever do another desk like this I will remove the wood backing from the piece so that I can access the cubicles from the front and back. I feel sure that it would be A LOT easier that way.

Once I got the inside done, painting the grey was a piece of cake.

Then I used Caramal Colors Antiquing Glaze over the whole piece.

The whole piece was waxed with Annie Sloan Clear Wax. 

I distressed it and meant to use a little Annie Sloan Dark Wax, but I couldn't find mine!

I took it to Vera's Daughter to sell and it ended up in the window before I could get my pictures taken!

I just realized that I forgot to mention the best part - that I decided to silver leaf the fretwork from the glass doors.

It was a great decision.

Nice huh??

Very nice.

I'm a fan of the painted hardware.

And I love the crackling that I got.

I got a lot of good crackle on the inside as well. I decided to go for a pretty "dirty" distressed look on the inside so there wouldn't be issues with having to keep it clean.

I couldn't find the finial that goes here, but I have since and I need to get it to the store and put it in place.

I think she's beautiful from top of her head to the tips of her toes.

She's available.

You want her, don't ya?

Sharing here:

Miss Mustard Seed
Knick of Time
The Dedicated House
Between Naps On The Porch
Mod Vintage Life
Distressed Donna Down Home
The Dedicated House


Jean @ said...

Nicely done! And I hate painting the inside of cabinets. Ugh.

Danni@SiloHillFarm said...

Oh she is beautiful and I love taht silverleafing! I have an old desk and the cubby holes are what I am not looking forward to painting! Hope mine turns out half as good as yours girl!

Vickie @ Ranger 911 said...

Karen, you did a fabulous job transforming your secretary! I think the silver leafing on the fretwork makes it look like leaded glass. It sure is the star of the window display!

Rita C. said...

Karen, she IS beautiful! Truly. And yes, I think the silver leafing on the fretwork makes it. My sister finished a small desk this past spring with cubbies like yours, and also commented on the frustration of reaching those. I hope you get an appreciative buyer and good return for your time and labor spent on making it beautiful. I would certainly appreciate it.

Maureen S. Donahue said...

I really like the two tone but please reconsider your painted hardware thing. You are robbing that girl of sparkly jewelry! Think of how great silver leaf would have been.

Jann Olson said...

Nicely done indeed! She is gorgeous and I love the silver leafing! Don't think she'll stay in that window for long. I can see a big, 'sold' sign on her.

~ Dixie said...

I would love to have a secretary. Well done, indeed!

Kirby Carespodi said...

GORGEOUS!! Makes me second-guess that I passed one up this summer. A FREE one. Dangit.

Sarah Krouse said...

What an amazing transformation! I can't wait to silverleaf a piece of furniture now - it's exquisite!!!

Donna Wilkes said...

The silver leaf added to the fretwork - brilliant idea! Love the colors and the tips along the way. She is a beauty.

Candy said...

I have an old secretary that's almost identical to this one that I've been trying to decide whether or not I should paint. I think maybe you've just helped me to decide. YES, she will get a new look soon. Love yours. Thanks for sharing.

Donna Wilkes said...

Thanks for bringing this beauty over to Make It Monday!

Marie Blackburn said...

Wow Karen she is gorgeous! Great idea silver leafing the fretwork, it really adds so much to this piece. I hear ya about painting the envelope slats (or whatever you call them) such a pain and I'm going to remember your tip next time to remove the backing to access both sides - smart! I'm sure she won't stay in the store window long!
Marie@The Interior Frugalista

Etcetorize said...

Gorgeous! I can't imagine how hard it would've been to get inside all those little cubbies. How can you bear to let it go? Thanks so much for sharing at the Make it Monday Party! Hope to see you again next week :)

Shannon said...

Great job Karen! I love secretary desks. You did a beautiful job on this.

Shannon ~

Patra Philips said...

I'm fairly new to painting furniture and you are very inspirational! Lovely LOVELY job.

Debbie said...

Beautiful! I have a secretary desk just like this one.
My grandmother bought it in 1933. Maybe I will get the urge to re- finish it. Yours is lovely!

grannieannie44 said...

so very, very pretty and I can appreciate your efforts. I too have tackled a secretary with cubbies and I also didn't take the back off. It was such a chore on the back!!! But it is almost as beautiful as yours. Silverleafing my fretwork might just put it in the same category as yours. Thanks for the fabulous idea. One question... what colour glaze did you go with?

michele said...

she is indeed beautiful and is sure to find a special home! bravo.

stop by when you have a moment:



happilyeverafteretc said...

She is just gorgeous! I am wracking my brain for a piece to use your silver leaf idea on but can't think of anything... maybe it's time for a shopping trip!

Darrielle Tennenbaum said...

Gorgeous! Gorgeous! I thought I was the only one that stuck furniture in the back and left it there for a long bit--LOL!

Kathryn Ferguson Griffin said...

Karen, it's stunning! Thank you for sharing. You are one of the features at the Make it Pretty Monday party. Here is the link to this week's party. Hope to see you at the bash! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

Sandra and Hennie Cronje said...

Karen what a beauty she turned out.
Yes I want her. Wonderful what you have done.
Thanks for sharing
Hugs from South Africa

Cindy DIYbeautify said...

It's simply stunning! A real piece of work to paint though!


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