Antique Secretary Desk
Many of you know that I love all things French. I love the timeless feel of classic/traditional styles of furniture and decor. A problem that I have been trying to solve lately is that I do not have anywhere to “work” from. Work meaning couponing, paying bills, writing letters/thank you notes, planning menus, and making grocery lists. I’ve been using the kitchen table, but it’s just not working well at all. For one thing, Nathan can and will climb up on one of the chairs and help himself to whatever I’m trying to do. I end up spending most of my time trying to get him to leave things alone instead of getting work done. The result is that I end up having several projects left on the table which then has to be put away for every meal. It’s just not working.
What I need is a desk, which presents the same problem as the table concept above. Plus, I need to stay in the living room area with Nathan and a desk would look silly even if we did have the room for one (we do not).
The solution? A secretary desk! They are space-savvy, decorative, do not look out of place in the living room, and they can be closed up and locked away from curious, thieving toddler fingers. I looked online for them but they are usually all antiques and way out of my price range. I realized that my only hope is to buy a sturdy antique with cosmetic issues and then refinish it. Like many people, I felt so intimidated with the whole refinishing furniture project and had no idea what it involves.
So for a few months now, whenever I got a chance I started to read up on the process of refinishing wood furniture. After reading quite a bit, I realized that the project itself is very simple as long as you do three steps correctly: proper surface prep (finish removal/sanding, priming) followed by painting/staining with plenty of dry time between coats; and finally applying a top coat to protect the furniture finish from scratches and peeling (also allowing a few days for it to finish curing). Most people with furniture re-do disasters make mistakes with not prepping the surface enough, chosing the wrong paints, not letting it dry between coats, and forgetting the top coat. For those who are interested in restoring antiques the right way, I found this GREAT online guide with great details on the processes involved: http://www.restoration-advice.org/Pages/polishing.html#Deep-Dents
[Also, please note that there is a big difference between restoring furniture verses refinishing it. To restore furniture, you’ll need to understand the original finishing process and materials used and repeat the process over again either for the whole piece or just the damaged sections. You can help restore its value by restoring it, and the value should continue to appreciate over time. Refinishing it is when you also strip the furniture, but you do not stay faithful to the original finish process or materials. Refinishing an antique generally causes its value to drop or for it to cease to appreciate (gain value) over time].
With my new knowledge, I decided to look on craigslist. After a few months I finally found what looks to be a very good candidate. It is a solid mahogany antique secretary desk with original hardware and even has the original key for the lock. The wood is beautiful, but badly in need of refinishing and also it is missing the finial (a decorative piece on top). A picture of it is above.
I’ve also been looking online for how I want to finish it if I do not end up just staining it again:
One idea is to add a few wood apliques and do it white like this one:
Another idea is to do it a blue color and hand paint vines with modge-podged decorative birds added onto the branches:
Or I can paint it cream, or glaze, or paint it a french blue color, or add two-tone details either with gold leaf accents or by adding wood apliques painted a lighter color wedgewood jasperare style: