Hello dear friends! I’m back today with some of my favorite furniture flipping friends, and I’m bringing one very dated secretary desk makeover! Be sure to keep an eye out for their project pieces at the bottom!
This secretary desk belongs to my sister’s MIL, Becky:
I don’t often agree to paint pieces for others as I don’t enjoy trying to bring other people’s visions to life. I like to have the freedom to do what I want. However, Becky was very open to what I wanted to do as long as it was mostly white.
That I can work with! I’ve included a few affiliate links so you can find the products I love.
Updating a Secretary Desk
Before I could get to the painting part of this makeover, I had a couple of things I needed to do first, and the first thing I did was ditch the shelving on top! It made this piece way too tall and heavy. I did keep it though and hope to do something with it eventually! (UPDATE!! I did…see it HERE!)
I knew I wanted to replace the dated hardware, and so that was the next thing to go.
I filled the holes with Dixie Mud in brown:
It was a nice sunny day the day I worked on this, so I let them bake in the sun for a couple of hours until they were good and dry. I then sanded them smooth with my rotary sander using 220 grit sandpaper.
I did have to add a little more mud on a couple of the holes, but then they were good to go!
Next, I gave this secretary a good wipe-down with White Lightning.
I planned to use chalk paint for this piece which does not normally require a primer. However, sometimes when you sand the original sealer on a finish (as I did on the drawers), you can get some bleed-through in those places. To save myself that possible headache, I went ahead and gave it a coat of BOSS in white all over:
You don’t want to rush BOSS…plenty of dry time is key! I often let it dry overnight, but leaving it out in the sunshine speeds up the process, and it was ready for painting in just a few hours.
Time for paint! I followed the BOSS with Fluff:
Fluff has excellent coverage! I like to describe it as more of a vintage white. My favorite brush for painting is an angled brush.
After the paint was dry, I sanded lightly all over with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around an old foam sanding sponge.
Here is a video tutorial on my techniques for painting furniture:
I sent Becky a couple of options, but I knew I wanted to add decoupage paper to the front piece that folds down. She chose this one:
This paper is decoupage paper by Roycycled Papers and it’s called Homer Hardware Decoupage Craft Paper. The Esty shop I purchased it from no longer has it in stock, but I linked to a shop that does.
It’s a nice large size and was perfect for this piece.
I used my rotary cutting set to cut it to the size I needed. (This is the set I have…it includes the mat, the rotary cutter, and straight edge.)
Here’s what I used to apply the paper:
I applied Satin Clear Coat a bit liberally to the front and then immediately applied the paper. I followed up with a top coat of the clear coat and left it to dry.
I have had excellent luck with this paper in the past, but some of the wrinkles in this one didn’t want to come all the way out. Luckily, with the rugged design on this paper, I was able to sand across the surface once it was dry which distressed it some, and it looks like it was always meant to be that way!
After sealing the rest of the body with Satin Clear Coat, this piece was done!
Here is how this hard-working piece looks now:
The decoupage paper really adds something to this finished piece!
Here you can see the effect sanding had on it:
It looks time-worn and wonderful! I did apply another coat of Clear Coat in Satin after sanding.
The knobs were replaced with these larger pulls I found at Hobby Lobby:
And I used these ones that I’ve used many times before, also from Hobby Lobby, on the three bottom drawers:
I thought the handsome look of the outside worked well with the original wood finish:
I did paint the two drawers and changed out the tiny knobs for these fun cup pulls I found at HomeGoods a while back:
This piece was in excellent condition, so it was nice to be able to preserve some of that. The drawers were also in pristine condition, so I was able to leave those as is also.
My sister’s MIL hasn’t seen the finished piece, but I hope she likes it!
Don’t forget my friends are also sharing fun furniture makeovers today!!
I can’t wait to check those out myself!
And here’s another secretary desk I used decoupage paper on that was in much more dire need of rejuvenation!
Remember this one? You can see how it turned out HERE!
And I get to cross another piece off this list!
See the first few here if you missed any…
$5 Buffet Lamps Updated with Decoupage Paper
Update a Thrift Store Box with Fabric
I’ll be back on Tuesday with this bar table one of my sweet neighbors sent my way!
UPDATE: See how Summery and fresh this fun table looks now HERE!
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Mary Kaiser says
Wow it turned out so beautiful. I love the white and the inside that you left alone except on the mini drawers looks so amazing! I love the paper you used, it is so nice! Your sisters MIL will love it! Have a great Memorial Day weekend–woo hoo I get three days off of work instead of two!
Thank you so much, Mary! I hope she loves it! Enjoy your extra day off woo hoo!! XOXO
Denise Cox says
I think as much as anything else, I love the knob/drawer pulls. I’ve always admired those drawer pulls. And… I REALLY like the cute detail with the inside drawers and THEIR drawer pulls. Only YOU could think of adding such a clever touch… 😊!!!!!
BTW, where did you get that lovely, white pitcher? I finally gave up looking for one ( tried for several months summer before last). Guess I was too picky… 😁.
Thank you, Denise! The hardware can add so much! I usually find all my pitchers at thrift stores, but this is one that I think I bought…either Hobby Lobby or HomeGoods/TJ Maxx! XOXO
Denise - Salvaged Inspirations says
I love the texture the sanding added to the decoupage and what you did with the inside. I’ll bet Becky is thrilled! XOXO
Thank you so much, Denise! She hasn’t seen it yet, but I hope she loves it! Have a fantastic weekend, my friend! XOXO
Janice Holt says
If I was to have somebody redo a piece for me, I would choose you if I lived close enough. Love how the secretary turned out and it looks like the decoupage paper was painted on it. I also loved the little box you done Tues (especially the color inside) but didn’t have time to comment since me and my husband are redoing a vintage metal glider, rocker, and chair. He painted them with car primer, paint, and a clear coat. What a job but well worth the work. Have a great Memorial Day week-end.
Thank you, Janice! Oh it sounds like you have a brand new set now!! Enjoy! XOXO
Oh Christy, this is such a beautiful makeover! I KNOW your sister’s MIL will LOVE it!! Truly! That paper is just perfect! Can you imagine trying to stencil something like that? Love the contrast inside with the wood. Thank you for sharing this beauty!
Have a wonderful weekend!
Thank you so much, Christina! I hope she loves it! These papers make it so easy to add that special touch for sure. Enjoy your weekend too! XOXO
Lori Oswald says
Wow Christy! What a great idea to remove the top… and the paper choice was perfect! You continue to inspire me week after week!! Have a great weekend!
Aww thank you so much, Lori! XOXO
Cecilia from Georgia says
The secretary is beautiful and such a good solid piece! I really like the natural wood inside; it pops when opening the light colored door. Actually, I love the one you did lasts Nov with the clock and roses, better. I know it’s a totally different look you were going for and both are lovely. Have a safe and grand Memorial weekend!
Thank you, Cecilia! The vintage one I did previously is my favorite of the two also. It would not have gone with Becky’s Decor though. And I’m glad I got to use this cool paper on something! Have a fantastic long weekend! XOXO
Sue Mellette says
Christy, another winner! I agree with you, the top of this piece was way too heavy . The chest is so much prettier now. I love the white and even the transfer you used. The new knobs and drawer pulls bring this piece to the 21st century! Naturally, I am always interested and intrigued to see what you have done with a drawer or in this case, the inside of the secretary. Love the touch of white and the drawer pulls you used. It is a nice surprise and the wood inside is lovely. I am sure your sister’s mil will love this piece and enjoy it for years to come. Have a wonderful weekend.
Thank you so much, Sue! Of course you know I love to add contrasting colors in line drawers, etc., but this piece was in such good shape that it really didn’t need all that. I hope she likes it too! Have a wonderful weekend, my friend! XOXO
Cheryl Atkinson says
Hi Christy! I like Becky’s style. I have this same Roycycled paper. I’m just waiting for the perfect piece to come along. I would have never guessed it went so well with white but it works. Love it!
Thank you, Cheryl! My first thought for this piece was to paint it in caviar, but she said she thought that would be too dark and wanted white. I’m glad this paper worked so well with it… Allowed me to add a little bit of black after all. Keeping you in my thoughts, my friend! XOXO
What a fabulous update! Glad you left the top shelves off, they looked out of proportion to the lovely secretary below. Let’s see a picture of Becky with her finished piece! She’s a lucky gal to have a treasure where you’ve used your talent to perform some transformation magic.
Aww thank you, Deanna! I agree the top was too heavy for it. I hope she enjoys it! XOXO
Toby Peplow says
Both of these secretaries are freaking AMAZING!! Gives me so much inspiration! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!
“Confessions of a serial diyer–making Tuesdays and Thursdays GREAT again!!” LOL!!
Oh ha ha! I appreciate that so much, Toby! Thank you! These sure are fun pieces to work on! Have an amazing weekend, my friend! XOXO
Marcie Lovett says
Well, that was fun, Christy! No doubt Becky is going to enjoy sitting at that freshened-up desk now. Good call to take off the top – together they scream Tired Early American, now it whispers Chic Updated Country. I’ve seen people hang the shelves above the desk, which breaks it up enough to allow two different treatments. I’d want to get rid of that scrolly trim, not being a big Early American fan 😉 Looking forward to seeing what you do with it.
I’m so glad you enjoy this one, Marcie! That’s a good idea to hang it above and yes, I agree the scrolly trim has to go LOL! The top will be fun to play with! Have a great weekend! XOXO
Love it 😍
Thank you, Donna! XOXO
Love this piece Christy! Going to try to find something to use that paper on. And the little details like the inside drawers and hardware just make it!
Thank you, Susan! This was such cool paper, I had to get it! And fresh hardware goes a long way for sure! XOXO
Donna Nance says
This is a fabulous makeover! Leaving the original wood on the inside makes everything just pop. Your sister’s MIL will love it! The desk looks like old Ethan Allen or Tell City Furniture. I have some “80’s orange” pieces but have yet to change any of them out. Enjoy your holiday weekend!
Thank you so much, Donna! It is an Ethan Allen piece…good eye! Enjoy your long weekend too! XOXO
The secretary turned out great. I am sure Becky will enjoy it! White always freshens the look of any piece, and makes it easy to place in any room.
Question: Have you ever turned a dresser into a secretary?
I hope you and your enjoy your long weekend.
Thank you, Niki! I agree…white paint can fix just about anything! I have not turned a dresser into a secretary before, but maybe I’ll get the chance one day! XOXO
Ahhh…so much better. You might say this chest was “top heavy”…
“busty”. I know she will like it now. Good save. I see so many of these at the thrift shops all the time.
Have a good Memorial weekend…we must honor those who gave all. xoxo
Yes, she was a busty girl lol! Thank you, Addie! Enjoy your weekend too! XOXO
One of my favorites ever, and I have been following you for YEARS! Just a quick question: What do you do with the blue applicator sponge in between uses? Can it be put in a baggie and then the frig like you can a paintbrush for a short time?
Oh yay! I’m so glad you like it, Norma!! And absolutely…I wrap it in Saran Wrap and I can use it several times before washing! Thank you for following along with me all these years!! XOXO
Sandi Allen says
Oh my goodness! What a beautiful transformation! The color & the decoupage transfer look beautiful together. Love this idea
Thank you so much, Sandi!! I’m glad this paper worked so well with the white! XOXO
I bought the same secretary at an estate sale. It’s an Ethan Allen piece so I knew it was good quality. I love how yours turned out. That decoupage paper is perfect!
I ended up keeping mine because I loved it so much.
Thank you, Lizzy! I LOVE the grain sack stripe detail you added to yours!! It even makes the top half totally work! I would have been tempted to keep that one too! XOXO
Thank you! I’m so glad you liked it. XOXO
Yes! You’re welcome! 🙂
Jen @ Girl in the Garage says
This is so pretty Christy! Love the extra oomph the paper adds! xo
Thank so much, my friend! XOXO
Looks SO much better 😀 Also, it’s great the decoupage paper fit perfectly across. It was meant to be. I also liked that you kept the inside timber and just did little accent drawers in Fluff. I bet she’ll be so pleased 🙂 Have a great weekend!
Thank you, Petra! I sent her the post yesterday afternoon, and she loved it! Enjoy your weekend too!! XOXO
Once again I have enjoyed the transformation of a piece of furniture. Outstanding job.
I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, June! Thank you! XOXO
JANET SCHEN says
My heart goes out to you for the loss of your grandmother. Her flowers are beautiful. ~~ The secretary desk is fabulous. Love the decoupage! Great transformation.
Thank you, Janet! And I will pass your heartfelt message onto Jen. Have a great weekend! XOXO
That is amazing! A fabulous transformation!
As it happened I saw a piece just like that today at my Goodwill for $14.99.
Alas, my house is full of furniture…….
Thank you, Ansje! Oh darn…that was a steal of a deal!! XOXO