Oct 202014

I have realized have not posted the finished vintage secretary desk my client wanted  updated with paint a few months ago. 

She initially told me I could to do whatever I wanted to it!  ” I trust you!”  Yikes! 

Many of you reading this might think this would be fun and a time to be super creative and step out of the box but I didn’t feel that way.  Then when it was dropped off, I saw it was a super cute and unique piece and had to double check if she really wanted me to paint it.

Updated Vintage Secretary desk

Super cute desk with windows and cubbies.

This vintage desk was in excellent shape and the top had cubbyholes  covered with cute little doors with windows.  I loved the hardware too.

Updated Vintage Secretary desk details

Such a unique desk

Being a chicken and not wanting to go mad with this piece, I used Photoshop, to create some crude mock ups of various colours. Here is the post.  In the end, she chose grey but a paler shade.  Whew …  knowing the colour was a relief. 

Updated Vintage Secretary desk mock up

Photoshop mock up in Grey

She also said she did not want a distressed look.  With all the detail on the piece I would have been inclined to go that route.

I used my favourite go to paint Sherwin Williams Pro Classic.  (NO affiliation)  I selected Essential Grey which is supposed to be similar to one of the Annie Sloan colours

I wanted to leave the top wood with a dark stain.  I like the look of wood and paint together.  I had planned on using a stain and poly combo to do the top so I proceeded to paint the body of the desk first.  WRONG!  When I started on the top, I realized my plan was flawed and I really needed to strip it down.  The top being veneer meant I did not want to do too much sanding. 

Updated Vintage Secretary desk

My plan to do the top last was not a good idea. LIVE AND LEARN.

Stripping the top was a bit problematic as some of the solution got on the paint and … well you know.  I had to do some repairs to the paint.  SO ANNOYING but totally my fault.  After the top was stripped of its original finish, a nice grain was was revealed.

Updated Vintage Secretary desk

Stripping the top revealed a nice grain.

I cleaned up the hardware and used a COPPER coloured spray paint.  Something a little different but it tied into the final stained colour of the top.

Although I loved the dark wood, the final updated version is so much more fresh and bright.

Updated Vintage Secretary desk

Fresh and bright

I love the copper coloured hardware and the walnut stained top.  Even without distressing or glazing, the details still pop.

Updated Vintage Secretary desk

Copper coloured hardware ties into the walnut stained top.

To keep it bright, I painted the cubbyholes a creamy white.  With the white interior, you can now see the pattern on the glass doors.

Updated Vintage Secretary desk

I love the patterned glass on the doors.

Updated Vintage Secretary desk

So much brighter

Updated Vintage Secretary desk


Updated Vintage Secretary desk




In the end, I think both the client and I are happy we collaborated on this.  You see, I was considering  painting it RED or ROYAL BLUE with a dark glaze and some distressing.  Regardless, I LOVE this final outcome.

Stay tuned to see how I transformed the chair the client uses with this desk!

Has a client ever given you a blank canvas and told you to go to town on a piece?

Did you?

Were they happy? 

I would love to hear from you.
Comments make my day!


  32 Responses to “Updated Vintage Secretary Desk”

  1. Hi — This is really a brighter, fresher look! Good for you to step out of the box, but keeping it simple for your client. A question — how did you get the wood writing portion so glossy? It’s really quite impressive. Thanks so much for sharing – MMR

    • Hi Margaret. Thanks for dropping by and the compliment. The wood top is not super glossy. I used Varathane Diamond finish Water Soluble top coat in Satin. Three coats with a light sanding with steel wool in between.

  2. Wow this is amazing, I am looking for something just like this for my lounge, its amazing x

  3. Beautiful transformation!!

  4. Stunning!! Thanks for linking this up on Trash 2 Treasure Tuesday! 🙂

  5. What a fabulous piece and the transformation is stunning. Thanks tons for linking to Inspire Me.

  6. Wow this looks so nice, a definite improvement from the original

  7. Joan,
    I love the transformation of this antique desk!!!
    “Mr. Ed” and I did a piece for our friend (client)
    similar to the Italian Sewing Machine Cabinet on Silent Sunday #2.
    It was an heirloom piece of her Father’s three generations.
    She chose Sherwin~Williams Paper White as the base with Dark Walnut top.
    It was truly a successful venture.
    A joy knowing we helped preserve her table for another generation or two for this family!

  8. This is so pretty! Wow!

    Thanks for joining the Link Up this week!

  9. I love how this turned out! You have a great eye for updating furniture, I would have NEVER thought to use grey but it looks awesome! Glad to connect on #SoMe2

  10. Nice makeover – like how you kept the top stained.

  11. Amazing transformation! I love the mix of stained wood and paint too! Thank you so much for sharing at The Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop!!!

  12. I love how it turned out! Those knobs make the piece! It is so unique, love it! Thanks for linking up to #SoMe2

  13. This is simply beautiful! You did an amazing job at making this a unique piece that catches the eye. Great job! I’m hopping over from the Junkin Joe party. Have a great weekend! Christie

  14. Wow! That is a difficult task: do whatever you want to? You did well, though. It turned out beautiful, to say the least….. 🙂
    xox, Crystelle

  15. This turned out beautifully! So glad you shared it with us at Work it Wednesday!!

  16. This really is beautiful. (It would have been fab red though but very very different! This is just so classy. I not done any furniture painting in the past but I really love this wood/paint effect and have a few old bits round the house that I think would look great. Your lovely work is very inspirational!

  17. […] Two Toned Vintage Secretary Desk via Nicer Than New […]

  18. […] week, I shared the Vintage Secretary Desk I completed for a client.  I love the way it turned out with the grey paint and the […]

  19. Hi Joan!

    Thank you for sharing this with us at Retro RePin! I chose to feature it during this week’s party beginning tonight at 8pm. I hope you will stop by and link up again! Have a wonderful week~ Robin @ Redo It Yourself Inspirations

  20. […] Updated Vintage Secretary Desk @ Nicer Than New […]

  21. […] over at Nicer Than New has a makeover that you are going to love!  Not saying it wasn’t beautiful to […]

  22. What a pretty piece! I love the grey with the restained wood top, the color combination is really pretty. Thank you for linking this before and after up to Best of the Nest!

  23. Such a beautiful piece! I love the gray color you ended up going with – and the copper handles look so good! Thank you for sharing at Talented Tuesday!

  24. […] couldn’t help it but I was drawn in to reading and gushing over this post too!  The updated vintage secretary desk is over at Nicer Than New.  I love how Photoshop was used to explore restoration colours; what a […]

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