Refurbished Secretary Desk

My brother and sister-in-law gave me this old secretary desk and I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. If you follow me on Instagram, I shared it moons ago. Then, I shared it again recently because I was tagged to share a #trashure. I’ve always seen secretary desks out and about but, if I ever saw them at thrift stores or sales, it always seemed too pricey just for me to want to have a pretty thing. Either that or it was so cheap it meant I’d have to rebuild the entire thing. They knew I’d love it, transform it, and use it. This was in overall wonderful shape with the exception of scratches and dings.

Refurbished Secretary Desk

When I got their unwanted secretary desk I also realized how lucky we are. We’ve got great family and friends who give us their unwanted items. They know full well we’ll most likely utilize it in some way. I always tell them, if I take it, you have to be OK with me flipping it, donating it, selling it, or trashing it. We’ve received so many things we truly need and sometimes we get things we’ve always wanted.

Let’s get started. I first tapped out the cubby and removed the very top decorative piece which I did not put back. Mainly because I want it in our upstairs attic office, which you can see a bit of here, so if I wanted it to fit, height wise, the piece had to go.

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Then I removed all the hardware. At first I wasn’t sure if I’d use the original drawer handles or if I’d replace them. However, as time went on I decided to replace them.

I started by cleaning it off with TSP, followed by deglosser. It’s the 1st time I used it and I must say, I was not impressed. It barely did a thing. I put it on at least 4 separate times to no avail. I read deglosser isn’t the deglosser it used to be. It seems the “recipe” changed? I’m not sure but, it just didn’t work. I also found this video and the results look amazing. So, I tried acetone. Again, nothing. I’m guessing the strength of the acetone I used was the problem.

This is after the many coats of deglosser. You can barely tell, if at all. Oh, and the dolly I made was an absolute lifesaver! In the end, sanding is always the way for me to go.

There were a lot of scratches and divots, mainly on the writing desk part, I needed to fill and I did so lovingly. I usually don’t care too much about being “perfect” but, this was different. I wanted it smooth like butter so I took my dear sweet time. Then, I sanded like crazy.

I broke out the primer which Joe used on our side table. This was my first time using it and it’s extremely thin almost like milk. It also has a very strong odor so you need good ventilation. First, I started with my brush. I found it gummed up the brush incredibly fast. I’m wondering if it’s because it wasn’t shaken well enough? For cleaning your brushes, you can use either ammonia which is extremely potent or denatured alcohol to clean the brush. Ammonia being the much cheaper option. Here’s a forum I found when looking for the best brush but, no mention of messing them up.

By the way, I found out later using TSP isn’t recommended by the primer I used. I came across this forum giving me way more information than I needed, although I didn’t find there to be any problems as a result. I’ve seen various other bloggers recommending their favorite primers but, this one is by far, the best one I’ve used. Very minimal bleed through which was remedied by another coat. Something I’ve never experienced with other primers. The bleeding has always been a huge problem for me.

I then moved on to foam rollers and the primer did the same thing. It damn near ate through them. I didn’t want to ruin my brushes though so I continued on with the foam rollers. I went through 3 I think. I did 2 coats of primer on most of it but, would touch up with a 3rd over certain areas. The side rails the pull down desk sits on offered up the most bleed through.
I’ve added another layer of primer over this stain which was just as dark as the other bleed through you see DIY_Refurbished_Painted_Furniture_Secretary_Desk_Taped_Off_Drawer_ambientwares.comDoesn’t the first coat make you feel a little uneasy? Like, how is this ever going to look good?

Even after priming, I came across small divots and filled them with wood filler. Actually, once it was all done, I still found them but, at least it was way better.

Then, duhn, duhn, duuuuhn, as I was sanding, the corner of the fold down desk decided to just fall off. It was strange. I didn’t see a crack or anything this entire time but, apparently it was there. Sooooo, I had to glue and clamp it down letting it dry. Boo

For painting the desk, I used an oops can of the lightest green ever. It practically looks white. On any flat surfaces, I used a foam roller, for all the detailed, ornate parts, I used a brush. The paint, as it dried, settled and you really can’t see any brush strokes. I’m not fond of brush strokes on most furniture pieces.

DIY_Refurbished_Painted_Furniture_Secretary_Desk_Pastel_Green_Paint_ambientwares.comHere, the spindle and the outer edge is painted in the green. You can barely tell!!

I’d also taped off the inside of the desk and the inside of the fold down desk top that would be hidden when closed since I was going to paint it a different color.

After 3 coats of green, I moved onto the inside and the desk top painting these areas with a sample sized can of yellow I found at a thrift store. Both colors were latex paints.

Then came figuring out what I wanted to do with the hardware. I quickly realized I wanted to use the drawer pulls I used on our refrigerator glass organizer. I love the original hardware but, all I could think about was the coffee tub of hardware I found at a garage sale for $.50. Yeehaw! I sanded them all over and I find these types of files to be great at getting into tight, awkward spaces, like just under the handle there’s a small lip that held onto most of the gunk from previous use.

I chose a gold spray paint color for the handles and all hardware. I’m shocked I chose it. I’m not a big fan of gold at all but, it’s all I could see when looking at the desk all painted.

And that, my friends, is it! I seriously went so slow on this. No joke from beginning to end, it took weeks. It’s hard to find the time in a day to focus on everything you want to focus on so you do what you can, when you can, right? It isn’t in the attic just yet because some serious clean up and out needs to happen but, I’ll update here once it’s settled. I’m so happy to have my very own, actual desk thanks to my family!

It’s a good thing Joe collects keys. Luckily we had one skeleton key which is superb. I don’t know if you noticed in some of the progress pictures we have another secretary desk waiting for a makeover. I find it funny how I’ve wanted one for so long and within a couple weeks, I was given 2. Although, the next one I’ll give away or try to sell.

You may have noticed I did not put the cubby back in. I don’t see myself using it at all but, I always can if I’m missing it. Or I could turn it into something else. I also still need to drill a few holes through the back for any cords.

I did not paint the sides of the drawers but, I hope to in the future.

I think I’d also like to add some cork board filling in the entire area behind the “hello” sign. We shall I love how it looks in different lights and I can’t wait to dress it up with some cute desk accessories

7 thoughts on “Refurbished Secretary Desk

  1. It turned out gorgeous Angie. All that time and effort was soooo worth it. I’d love to know what your brother and sister-in-law think of the transformation. I bet they won’t even recognize it.

    1. I know! I can’t wait to hear what they think! Thanks so much, Michelle 🙂

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