Tag Archives: secretary

Finished Ombre Secretary II

A few weeks ago I mentioned how we were redoing a second ombre secretary to match the one we finished back in December. We had a second interested buyer who helped us pick out another secretary that was in need of a face lift, and we redid it in the same style. We finished this a few weeks ago, but I stashed it behind some other things in the other room and didn’t get any good pics until I pulled it back out today for the buyer to pick it up, hence the delay for this post! Here are the before and after pictures of the FIRST secretary:

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And here’s some before pictures of the second secretary:

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So now some details about how we fixed this up – in the last post about this piece, I mentioned we were brainstorming ways to repair the bottom drawer which was missing a small chunk:


We ended up using a small piece of trim wood that Nik cut approximately to size (with our new Rigid multi-tool!) and then sanded down by hand to be flush with the drawer.


We experimented with stains to make sure we could color match the new wood since it wasn’t maple like the rest of the drawers. The final match was pretty good – you almost can’t see it on the top right corner of the drawer:


We also painted the hardware black. The metal was all a bit icky, so I cleaned all of them and sanded with some fine sand paper before spraying:

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So here’s the final hardware and repaired corner of the bottom drawer:


And after painting the body white and adding the gray trim on the front panel like we did on the last one, we sealed it all up with water based poly. Here’s the finished pictures:

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And for a side-by-side before and after picture here we go:

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We’ve been accruing new projects but thanks to the awesome snow storms Chapel Hill has been getting we haven’t had many opportunities to work on them! Nik found a new round dining table and an beautiful solid  (mahogany?) wood piano bench near the dumpster. We also bought an antique-looking dresser from the same guy that sold us this second secretary. So, these will be upcoming projects as soon as it doesn’t look like this outside of my North Carolina house:

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Secretary – Two Times a Charm!

We successfully sold our refurbished secretary a little after Christmas, but ran into an unusual problem – two people who really really wanted it! So, we sold it to the first lady who had asked about it, and offered to redo a similar piece for the second lady. After some craigslist searching, she actually found this piece in Durham, which we promptly picked up:

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And if you remember the previous secretary, you can see they’re a pretty close match!

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The guy that sold us the second secretary is a thrift store owner that has a 20,000 sq ft. warehouse literally FILLED with furniture. He’s a nice guy with tons of beautiful stuff (some of which is in “too good” condition for us to buy, fix up, resell, and make a profit). He invited us to go to the warehouse a couple weekends after purchasing the secretary to check it out, and that building was so overwhelming! We did buy one other piece from him on that trip…but that will be for another post!

So back to the secretary…our buyer loves the style we redid the other one in, so we’re pretty much trying to replicate it. So far, we sanded and stained the wood surfaces and drawers, and we got a coat of primer over the body.

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There is one issue with the bottom drawer – you can see in the corner its missing a chunk of wood. We’ve brainstormed ways to fix this, and after spending a lengthy amount of time at Home Depot, I came up with these possibilities:

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I found these little pieces of trim/scrap wood, and we can use our multi tool to carve the little triangle shape we need, an then sand it by hand to match the shape of the drawer with sand paper. I also found one other shaped trim that I didn’t take a picture of…but you get the idea. We’ll see which one works best. Its not going to be perfect, but the drawer that needs fixing is the one that has the darkest stain on it so we’re confident it will not be too noticeable.

This weekend we’ll be painting and sealing the body, drilling a small hole in the back for cords, spray painting the hardware black, figuring out that drawer situation, and hopefully wrapping this project up so our very excited buyer can pick it up!

On another note, we were hoping to finish this secretary up earlier, but I lost some time by taking an amazing trip out to Denver to visit some friends who live out there, and I can’t resist putting a few awesome pictures here! We spent some time hiking in the foothills north of Boulder overlooking the Flat Irons, then had a few great days of skiing at Winter Park Resort. Being in grad school, I forgot how great vacations are!

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Salvaged Secretary Dresser

We’ve finally finished our secretary! To remind you, we bought this at the Raleigh flea market from some guy who said he cleans out old barns for people, and he found this in one of them. It was pretty rough to start out (with lots of icky spiders inside it!):

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Our strategy was to strip and sand the drawer fronts,the top of the desk, and the very top shelf. We sanded these down as much as possible and stained these parts with 3 different shades of stain. The rest, including the cubby insert, was sanded, primed, and painted many times over since red from the wood kept leeching through. Nik added a cut piece of wood to replace a chunk that was missing out of one of the front feet. Nik then stenciled a design into the front fold up panel to add some texture. I sealed the whole thing was sealed with water-based polyurethane. Then I spray painted the old hardware (admittedly this is one thing we’re still working on…our first spray coat was done in very humid weather and they dried sticky so I’m going to redo this…but they were good enough for pictures!).

Here is the final product:

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And here are some closeups on the hardware, the keyhole on the front, and the inside hinges:

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Sorry to overload you with pictures, but I think this piece has a lot of interesting details to show! So, with all the stripping, sanding, the different stains we used, the new sheet of backing we put on, and the primer/paint/polyurethane and spray paint, I think we’re about $75-80 into this piece including the $50 we paid for it, so we’ll see what we get out of it!

Nik is working on a new eclectic project that he dug out of the dumpster – as a teaser, its a big old chair, and there will be lots of belts involved with the final product. I need to get some pictures of his progress from his phone, but I’ll post about that next week! Also, we’re going to my parents for Thanksgiving and they’ve decided to put us to work this weekend (not a bad idea with all the calories that will need to be burned off) redoing 2 little pieces of furniture they picked up last week from an unfinished wood store. So there will be a lot to look forward to next week!

Almost finished…

As I’ve done in the past, I’m going to make a post to put pressure on us to finish a project…namely this secretary that has been dragging on for weeks (months perhaps?). We made great progress with it, and now we’re at the point that it just needs to be sealed up and posted on craigslist, but somehow its those finishing touches that we seem to love to procrastinate on.

Last post, I left you with the body that had just gotten the first coat or two of off-white paint, and the ombre style drawers that each had a different stain:

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Since then we’ve put about 5 more coats of paint on the body and the cubby compartments, and we got excited and put the whole thing together to see what it would look like with the ombre drawers:

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First reaction?? I love the drawers, and I love it without the flip-down desk part attached, but with that flap of wood there, I can’t help but think there is TOO much white! Ideas to fix this situation were repaint the whole thing with a creamier less-stark-white color (ugh lots of work), or try to affix a painted wood applique that would simply break up some of the monotonous white (kind of like this, as an example), or simply paint some sort of alternate-color pattern onto the flap. The last option is what we tried first since it was the easiest, and I think it will work!

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Just that subtle gray stripe breaks up the monotony of the white, so I think it did the trick. Nik also shaped a replacement foot for the front left foot that was missing a chunk of wood, and that looks perfect, so we added that and gave it a few coats of paint. We’re currently working on applying 3 coats of water-based polyurethane (again, we used the water based since it dries clear and we’re working with a very light colored paint), and then we need to attach the hardware and the backing and this will be good to go! I’m setting a deadline for this…so by this time next week, I plan to have a finished product to show you!

Weathered table and More

The past week or so has been spent painting and painting and painting the outside of that secretary. I’m halfway convinced that thing is made out of real living flesh, because as soon as you paint a coat of paint (mind you, this is good quality paint-and-primer-in-one paint that “should” cover in 1-2 coats) the red color of the wood starts bleeding through the paint and you’re back at square one. Nik thinks we’ve put on 4-5 coats of paint OVER the coat of primer, and we’re still seeing a red tinge. One more coat it is… Anyway, again here is what is looked like before and after primer:

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And with a coat (or several) of paint:


We’re also painting the front desk cover and the cubby compartments white but I don’t have a picture of those. Oh, and I also skipped telling you that we learned about something new called underlayment. This is 5/16″ thin plywood that is what usually makes up the bottom of a drawer, and in the case of this secretary, the back panel. The very bottom drawer and the back of this piece were disintegrating and warped, so we popped out the old wood and got two pieces of underlayment cut to size at Home Depot. The whole 4’x8′ sheet was only $12. The drawer piece slid right into place, and the back piece will be nailed on simple as that. This was an unexpectedly easy fix for this old piece of furniture! So, we’re getting close, just another coat or two of paint and then touching up the stained part (after all that painting its impossible that none of it got outside the lines!). We’ll be using water-based poly to seal up the entire piece then we’ll attach the cubbies and the front panel. I think we’re going to try to clean up the old hardware and put those handles back on because they’re pretty unique but we’ll see how that goes. On another note, we’ve made some headway with a new project that Nik (literally) dug out of the large furniture dumpster in our neighborhood. He found a large circular pine table and 4 legs to go with it (no leaf unfortunately).

Here’s the before pictures:

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And then he sanded it down (ignore the blue paint, we were testing out some exterior paint on it but we sanded that off too):


And we used the classic grey from the middle drawer in the secretary to stain this. We were going to use dark walnut and then I had the idea to use the classic grey and I love how it turned out!

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Apparently our deck is an almost identical color so I’m sorry that it looks like it is camouflaged with the ground…Now we’re priming and painting the table skirt (under the round top) and the legs a cream color.


The legs are plain and ugly, but hey, this table was free. Hopefully someone can overlook that and consider it a lovely weathered “country” table. And for one more thing to leave you with, I finally finished my pistachio shell art and I love how it came out! I never knew I could be so crafty (of course using the creativity and detailed guide of someone else).


Progress on the Ombre Secretary

Its been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ll update you on the progress we’ve made on the antique secretary we bought at the Raleigh flea market:

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This piece was in rough shape, but Nik had the idea of doing an ombre pattern on the drawers with several different shades of stain. We stripped then sanded and sanded and sanded these drawers down and finally got them to have less of an awful red tinge. We also stripped and sanded the writing surface (inside the cabinet, and also the interior side of the flip down part) and the very top of the cabinet.

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The three stains we selected are Minwax weathered oak, classic gray, and jacobean.


And we stained the writing surface and top of the secretary, as well as the bottom drawer in the jacobean, then progressed to the lightest color on the top drawer. Here’s a few views of how the drawers came out, and again the image on the right is the order they’ll be in on the piece:

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I really like how the middle drawer came out, but we’re thinking the lightest one should have a little more gray in it to blend better. We’re going to see how the rest of the cabinet comes out with the paint, and then decide if it needs to be re-tinted with stain. The body looks like this:


Right now, the plan is to prime and paint the rest of the cabinet (including the compartments that insert into the top of the secretary) and we’ve got a clearance can of paint that is a cream color. Our goal is to get this painted by the end of this weekend so we can wrap this piece up.

Pistachios and New Projects

After my previous lengthy, descriptive post, I promised I’d make a post with updates on our ongoing and new projects. I’ll start off with a fun crafty project that is totally not furniture-related. Nik and I LOVE pistachios, and find ourselves going through a Sam’s Club-sized bag every month or two. On one of the blogs I read, Addicted2decorating.com, she posted about an idea to use up all the shells left over from pistachios.

I love this, and had all the tools to get started – tons of empty shells (which I rinsed a few times with water), glue gun, and downtime in the evenings when I like to do mindless things to relax. I’ll still need to figure out a frame or shadowbox to use, and get some dye to make them colored.


The first one I tried to make ended pretty terribly (its the one that’s laying on its side in the picture above because instead of making the petals on the same plane, each layer added height to the flower and it ended up more like a pine cone). I decided this was a stupid activity and was about to give up, but then Nik tried one with more success and renewed my motivation to keep going. Each one got easier to make, and now I probably have about 10 flowers of varying sizes. I’ll get some dye and a frame this weekend and finish this up.

Next, I posted about the ugly little side table we picked up from a yard sale a couple weeks ago:


Since then, we’ve strippped, stained, and sealed the top of this.


And then we primed the body – we’re trying to figure out which of these handles left over from other projects to use on the drawer – any preferences? I’m leaning towards the round ones…

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We were planning on going with cream paint that we were thinking of antiquing with stain, but then we got this awesome clearance color for 50 cents at home depot that I absolutely love. Unfortunately it didn’t have the color label on it, so it was probably a color match reject from someone else.


So now I’m debating antiquing over that color or just leaving it pretty as it is. I might do some practice antiquing on junk wood painted with the color, to see how I like it and that will help me make a decision.

Finally, we went to the flea market with some friends on Saturday, and we bought a new piece to work on that is a really really old secretary/dresser. This piece is in rough shape and will need a lot of sanding and cleaning up and possibly some repair to the back panel to get it in working condition.

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I’m clearly dedicated to this piece, because I battled these awful spiderwebs and eggs to get it onto my porch. Gross.


Nik’s idea for this piece (assuming the wood drawers actually yield decent quality wood when we strip them) is to do an ombre pattern with stain on the drawers, kind of like this dresser. I like the gray tones in that, so we’re going to check out the options for gray stains, which we’ve never tried before. Rustoleum and Minwax both make a variety of gray stains, so we’ll have to pick some out to try. The rest of the body might be painted, we’re not sure just yet.

That’s it for right now. I’m looking forward to a weekend with great weather so we can actually wrap up these projects in progress!