Secretary Desk Makeover – And One Mistake I’ll Never Make Again

I’ve told you refreshing your home is easy. But. We all make mistakes. And we learn from our mistakes, right? When quarantine hit, I spied this secretary desk on Craigslist for $45.

It was cute and I had seen lots of secretary desk makeovers and I wanted to make over one too. I met the seller, mask wearing and distancing ourselves, and I asked him if he would take $5 less than he was asking. He responded, “No. It still has the key. I don’t find many that still have the key.” So I paid the $45 and took it home. It was painted green and the paint had a texture to it. I have never figured out what was done to the paint to get it to look that way.

See the texture of the paint?

No problem I said. And there was when I learned a valuable lesson. If you don’t know what you’re working with, back away. This desk has been my nemesis and has heard me say not so nice words. I began using sandpaper thinking I could smooth out the paint and finish. The paint wasn’t budging, so I got the electric sander. There must have been oil in the paint, because the sandpaper gummed up and I had to replace it constantly with fresh sandpaper. Next up, paint remover. Such a mess.

It took forever to remove and was still so gummy. I eventually got the paint removed from the top where I could see raw wood.

I think it was then I decided to stop trying to remove the paint and do the best with the sander. I was finally able to prime the desk and begin painting. The top and interior were painted with Behr Graphic Charcoal. The outside is Behr Back to Nature. And the inside of the drawers are Behr Bubble Shell.

I was going to stencil the desk drawers but wasn’t happy with the end result.

Not working for me.

I then found some fabric in my stash with all of my paint colors, so I lined the drawers with fabric.

This is very easy to do. You simply cut the fabric to the size you need. Then brush Mod Podge on the area you are covering and lay the fabric in place. The directions are on the Mod Podge bottle. I also applied fabric to the insides of the desk. When I finished painting and lining the drawers, it looked so cute. But I found my next problem. The paint had added a layer so that the drawers and cabinet front wouldn’t close. The drawers became too tight. And the fabric added too much of a layer for the door to smoothly close. I had to remove the fabric on the sides and repaint those areas. Out came more sandpaper. After what seemed like forever sanding and then repainting the sanded areas, the drawers were finally closing easily. The door closed easily. Then, next issue. When I opened the cabinet front and allowed it to rest open, the gray paint above the big drawer rubbed against the green cabinet door, leaving green marks on grey and grey marks on green. Would this desk ever just let me be happy?? More sanding. More repainting. My hubby said, “Let’s add a bumper somewhere so the door doesn’t rub against the wood” or something to that effect. That actually worked, and I was happy. I could actually see the finish line and sprayed some spray protectant all over the desk to help protect against scratches. The desk had other plans. Once dry, I found that the spray left some swirls in one area. So you guessed it. More repainting. I felt the desk might benefit from some decoration on the front when the door is closed, as this area was marked with small indentations when I bought it. I applied this transfer to the front and immediately didn’t like it.

Word to those interested: Transfers are easy to apply and difficult to remove. After a day of removal (and repainting again), it was looking good. I changed out the drawer pulls and added these pulls from Hobby Lobby. I liked the little knobs on the small drawers and kept them.

I bought this desk and owned it for a year. It taught me many lessons. It did turn out cute though, don’t you think? And I love the colors. And it still has the key! But next time – I’ll pass on the previously painted items.

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