It’s A Hot Mess….
“We’re not bringing that home…the leg is broken off!” … “it’s too heavy….too big…” … “it’s ugly”…
These are actual words that were spoken as we stopped to retrieve this sad desk. There were also others that will not be repeated here…
All were quite true, except for the part about not bringing it home. It desperately needed to come home with us!
The very first thing we did was use Bondo, epoxy adhesive and some creative carving to reattach the broken leg. Since it’s a weight-bearing part, glue or putty would not have been strong enough, and there were also a few chunks missing which required re-creating the profile by carving into the dried Bondo surface. After carving, sanding and painting, it is hard to tell unless you know which leg it is and look very closely!
Decor trends go through phases; faux-painted furniture was all the rage in the 1960’s, and you can find lots of pieces painted from that time frame in mustard or avocado with this faux wood grained antiquing finish.
Say what you will about them, I credit these sometimes heinous finishes for protecting lots of beautiful wood for decades! Paint doesn’t harm wood furniture; in fact, it can preserve it nicely as you will see on this particular desk.
This desk had one potentially fatal issue; Mildew or mold infestation can be a serious and sometimes unfixable problem with older furniture stored in damp places. No one wants strange odors lingering in their furniture and they certainly do not want spore contamination to spread from furniture to the items stored in it. Fortunately, the paint on this desk actually protected the wood from mold/mildew that had started growing on the painted surface; the mildew had not infiltrated the interior, and once the paint was chemically stripped, the wood beneath was beautiful and free of any mold infection. A light wash inside and out of the entire piece with an anti-mildew agent ensured any sneaky spores wouldn’t take hold elsewhere. Probably unnecessary in this case but better safe than sorry. (Using a mask and gloves is important anytime mildew issues are addressed).
As you can see here, we started sanding off the painted finish to get a peek at what was underneath before deciding to use a mild chemical stripper on the rest of it.
I don’t know about you, but I was THRILLED by what I found underneath this corner – look at that wood!!! Sanding can take a LONG time, and can be physically demanding both on the person sanding and the veneer (as was the case here). Chemically stripping off old paint can be an easy – but messy – first step with just minimal sanding required after to even out the finish.
We did find a few cigarette burns in the surface (another sign of past trends) that were gently sanded out; creative wood stain application camouflaged the remaining scars. A couple of coats of polyurethane on top, and this desk is well-protected for another few decades!
Did I mention in previous posts that I’m a sucker for Fusion’s Midnight Blue paint? Well, here’s more evidence!
While moving this desk into our spare bedroom/home office, we realized how the leg was initially broken off….this heavy desk is huge and required some creative angling to make it through the undersized doorways in our older home! But it was SO worth it, and she will not be moving again unless we do!
All of the products used to refinish this desk are available at our shops, Vintage Matters at 7060 Ridge Road Sodus, NY and Lakeside Restoration 1833 Monroe Ave Rochester, NY – or enjoy at our online store at https://lakeside-restoration.myshopify.com/
I just started working on a commissioned desk and found I was ridiculously excited about it! Folks are heading back to school, back to college, furnishing new offices…It is desk-season, after all! So, I couldn’t help but take a little stroll down my memory lane of desk projects.
I have a soft spot for a good desk; always have.
After all, I have spent many, many years behind a desk studying, reading, writing, working… and now, refinishing and reinventing them! Did I mention – I really love a good desk!
What did I ask for when I turned 18? You guessed it; a good desk! One to get me through college, graduate school & beyond…of course I still have it – it’s a good desk! We have at least 7 desks currently active at home…
After I refinished the desk below, my daughter announced she wanted it for her room. A proud Momma moment if I’ve ever had one! It’s a Beaut! And, of course, she has it in her room.
Big desks, little desks, white desks, black desks, smooth desks, distressed desks, writing desks, executive desks, secretary desks, children’s desks, even coastal desks!!
This is just a small sampling and doesn’t include some really bizarre, historic, and unique desks yet to be chronicled!
Do you have a favorite type of furniture to hoard…ahem, Collect? Refinish?
Is it Desks?!
Even if it isn’t desks, I’d love to hear and see what your favorite flavor of furniture is for collecting or restoring!
Also, please let us know if you’d like to know more about any of these pieces and the process that went into finishing them for future blog posts!
I picked this up from a college student moving out of her apartment – she bought this with plans to paint it but it never even made it into her apartment! This sweet compact secretary sat in her breezeway collecting mail and dust and now her lease was up and she needed to move on.
I really liked the texture of the wood on this piece and wanted to make sure it was accentuated. FUSION Homestead Blue has such great coverage that one thin coat was all I needed so it didn’t flatten out the grain. While you could see the wood texture close up, the color was a bit too uniform for what I was trying to do, so I used FUSION’s antiquing glaze with a little extra Chocolate paint mixed in to darken it up. Finally, I added a tiny bit of strategic distressing so it didn’t look too new and further accentuated some areas with a bit of black wax. While I didn’t need to use wax for sealing because FUSION has a built-in topcoat, I wanted some extra depth. I LOVE how easy this wax is to use and how forgiving the black wax is.
The interior was papered with some illegible script and a few of the organizers were painted inside with Soapstone to add some interest.
With the new finish, the original hardware really stands out and makes more of a statement than before.
It’s not easy being green, and this green was not easy to look at. Underneath multiple layers of thick paint this desk had great details, beautiful brass pulls and dovetail joints throughout. Way, way, way, WAY underneath…
My initial plan was to strip the layers of paint on the top and drawer fronts to uncover all that great wood detail. It required multiple applications of Citristrip to get through the layers and many hours of scraping out the details with various improvised “tools”. I’m sure I needed multiple applications of stripper due to both the endless layers of finish and the questionable autumn temperatures in our overstuffed, unheated garage. You know the one – you’ve been there too!
Finally, under that last layer of paint I found beautiful wood grain…pocked with sections of grey wood putty filling various gouges and flaws. Ugh. So disappointed!
Time to revisit the plan.
I gave the top a layered paint and stain treatment (because I still had my heart set on that original wood grain top). The rest I painted in contrasting grey and slate blue and sealed it with multiple coats of Polycrylic for durability. I really like the way it turned out.
The insides of the drawers were not in the best of shape so I painted those in a lighter grey tone.
Here’s what I came up with in the end.
The cat seemed to like it!
Before and After
What we started with.
This vintage desk had definitely seen some rough use over the years. I seem to have lost the photos, but here’s the gist; Many layers of chipped and sloppily applied rough, dingy, white latex paint covered the surface and the interior was randomly sticky with various substances. It’s last use had been as a teenagers’s vanity so nail polish leaks, lotion explosions, melted gum…those of you with tweens or teens know what I’m talking about!
I thought it would be great to strip the top down to bare wood, stain it and paint the body a deep, rich color accented with bright new hardware. Well, sanding revealed the top was laminate…do I hear a collective groan?
At least now I had a better understanding about why the top seemed to have been coated with multiple layers of chalky, course primer; I suppose nothing else would stick. Luckily, I was trying out Fusion Mineral Paint – which claims to stick to practically anything – even laminate! Well this looked like a great opportunity to try it out.
I lightly sanded the body of the desk and started painting with Coal Black while I more thoroughly sanded the top so I could apply Ultra Grip per directions for painting laminate surfaces. The new hardware was a bit wider than the original, so new holes were drilled and old ones filled.A couple of coats of deep, rich Coal Black and this desk took on a whole new look. Considering I was painting black over bright white, I was impressed by how thoroughly Fusion covered the surface. I lightly distressed the edges after the first coat and then painted over those areas with the second coat so the final look would suggest a hint of distress without being overt.
Painting the drawer interiors was also a must – I used some leftover ashy grey latex for that task. I think the deep, rich Coal Black color, the smooth finish, and the new hardware brings this piece into a classically modern place and will lead to an energetic new life as a gorgeous centerpiece.
I would welcome getting down to work at this desk!