Furniture Feature – Laura’s Custom Secretary

When my client Laura contacted me about redesigning an antique secretary she had purchased from Craigslist, she hinted that it would be really cool if I could document the process as part of my Furniture Feature Series. ¬†Well, how could I not after that? ūüėČ

Note: ¬†I usually always go over a piece with my orbital sander first, for a number of reasons (i.e. to even out any knicks or scratches, to give the new paint some tooth, to remove any excess dirt or grime from years of use, etc). ¬†When Laura acquired this piece, someone had already painted it a dark green. ¬†Now, I’m no dummy. ¬†I know the dangers of sanding and messing with paint that could potentially be lead-based. ¬†Especially with the obvious age of the secretary. ¬†I could have gone through the trouble of conducting a test with those kits that they sell. ¬†But that would have been an added expense for my client and more time involved for me. ¬†Besides, the paint wasn’t chipping or flaking anywhere and appeared to be a solid foundation for a facelift. ¬† Just wanted to throw that out there for any of you who may consider working on an older piece of painted furniture. ¬†Google lead-based paint dangers before you start!

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Laura’s Secretary – BEFORE

Laura's Secretary - BEFORE

Laura’s Secretary – BEFORE

She opted for a dark red exterior with heavy black glaze and a solid grey interior for both the hutch and desk areas.  The first step was to remove the stops that held the decorative wood and glass in the doors so that they could be painted.  It was a very tedious and delicate process because, while prying lightly on the stops, I had to be careful to not put too much strain on the old wood or the glass itself.  Luckily, they all came out (and went back in) successfully.

Inside of doors

Inside of doors

Inside of doors

Inside of doors

Since I couldn’t give the piece an overall sanding, I chose a paint and primer in one for the red base coat in a satin finish. ¬†Three coats of the red covered the dark green very nicely. ¬†Then came the black coffee glaze. ¬†This is something that I’ve perfected over many many trials. ¬†However, it never comes out exactly the same on each piece because….well….I’m not a robot or a machine. ¬†It is applied with a brush and then “wiped off” with a paper towel, rag, or staining sponge. ¬†Each one will give a different effect. ¬†Sometimes I swirl it around, other times I wipe it in a straight line.

Here’s some examples of different effects, both using the same glaze and paint colors. ¬†The left side is a linear effect, the right side is more mottled and swirled.

Blue and Black Coffee Glaze

Blue and Black Coffee Glaze

Green & Black Coffee Glaze

Green & Black Coffee Glaze

Silver/Grey & Black Coffee Glaze

Silver/Grey & Black Coffee Glaze

Oftentimes, the style and age of furniture will determine the best technique for the glaze.  For example, you may not want the modern, linear technique for an antique piece.  Which is exactly the conclusion Laura came to with her secretary.  She opted for a mottled swirl effect (I wish I had better terminology for it, but it gets the point across!).

The below picture shows the two drawers side by side.  The right one has been glazed, the left has not.  You can see the difference it makes and how it darkens and deepens the color of the red.  Again, this helps age it a bit and look less like a fresh coat of paint on an antique piece of furniture.

Side by side - left no glaze, right glaze

Side by side – left no glaze, right glaze

The purpose of the furniture series is to highlight my thoughts, trials, and tribulations. ¬†Case in point: ¬†Laura picked out a medium grey for the inside of the secretary. ¬†When it came time to purchase the paint, I stupidly forgot the paperwork at home. ¬†I knew what the red one was called and I thought I knew what the grey one was called, so I purchased them both and headed back to my workshop. ¬† I painted the interior of the top hutch with the grey, but the whole time I kept thinking that it didn’t look right with the red. ¬†When I finally decided to look at my paperwork, I realized I had the entirely wrong grey.

Grey is grey, you think? Nope. ¬†There’s blue-grey, green-grey, brown-grey, grey-grey. ¬†I knew this, but seriously thought I could wing it. ¬†Fail.

The contrast on this below pic is kind of off, but you can see the huge difference once I started painting over the first grey (which is on the left).

Left is Bad - Right is Good

Left is Bad – Right is Good

And here you can see what I meant when I said it just didn’t look right with the red. ¬†It was too…I don’t know. ¬†Hard to explain, but I knew almost immediately that it wasn’t right.

Left is Bad - Right is Good

Left is Bad – Right is Good

Anyways…after that problem was solved, I was on to another issue. ¬†The interior of the desk area had the top cubbies (where papers and pens and “stuff” goes) that need painted as well. ¬†Upon first inspection of the piece, I noticed screws in the top that I took to mean that the cubbies could come out and be painted separately.

You guessed it.  That was not the case.  The screws came out, but the glue still held it in place.  Bah!

Interior Cubbies - During

Interior Cubbies – During

This left me having to use several different sizes of brushes and getting paint on my elbows trying to get back in all the nooks and crannies. ¬†This was like the english muffin of desks. ¬†That’s right.

After that, it was smooth sailing.  I lightly distressed the edges, enough to show age but not enough to disrupt any underlying lead-based paint.  I reattached the original hardware on the drawers, cleaned it up, and called it a wrap.

Laura's Secretary - AFTER

Laura’s Secretary – AFTER

Laura's Secretary - AFTER

Laura’s Secretary – AFTER

Laura's Secretary - AFTER

Laura’s Secretary – AFTER

Laura's Secretary - AFTER

Laura’s Secretary – AFTER

Laura's Secretary - AFTER

Laura’s Secretary – AFTER

Laura's Secretary - AFTER

Laura’s Secretary – AFTER

And for good measure, here’s a side by side of the Before and After.

Before & After

Before & After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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