Refinishing an Old Secretary Desk with Paint

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I picked up this wooden, claw-foot, secretary desk a while back, and I’ve been trying to decide how I wanted to refinish it ever since! Well I decided to try my hand at stripping it… and long story short, that didn’t exactly work out how I planned. So I ended up refinishing this old secretary desk with paint! And I’ll share all the reasons why I decided to paint the desk in this post. I’m so happy with how it turned out though! And I can’t wait to share it with you, and tell you the unique way I plan on using this piece here at the farmhouse…

clawfoot secretary desk in fusion mineral putty
clawfoot secretary desk in fusion mineral putty
refinished old secretary desk and sitting chair
Valentine's decor on a painted secretary desk

I have always loved the idea of owning a secretary desk! The thought of having a dedicated spot to sit down and write a letter or a card for a friend or loved one really appeals to this old soul. And how fitting to have this little space set up right before Valentine’s day!

milk glass bud vases and pink roses and vintage rose greet cards
milk glass bud vases and pink roses
milk glass bud vases and pink roses

I decided to style this space with lots of flowers, a few collected milk glass vases, and the most darling, vintage style cards. The kids are going to love using the secretary desk to write out Valentines for their classmates this year!!

vintage style pink roses on greeting card
vintage style pink roses on greeting card
vintage style pink roses on greeting cards in a milkglass bowl
vintage style pink roses on greeting cards in a milkglass bowl
milk glass bud vases and pink roses

Now before I get all wrapped up in the secretary desk makeover, I want to let you know that this post is one of 6 posts in a Valentine’s themed blog hop that I’m a part of today! How fun is that?! Please go and check out these ladies’ posts because they are so full of inspo and ideas!! And if you love what they’re sharing, give them a follow too! I’ll link each post in the blog hop below so you can click through to see all the Valentine’s Day inspo…

Robyn of Robyn’s French Nest – How to Decorate with Neutral Colors for Valentine’s Day

Heidi of Eleanor Rose Home – Salt Dough Valentine Garland

Stacey of Green Valley Gable – A Cheerful bird-inspired Valentine’s Day Porch & Entry

Amanda of Girl About Columbus – How to Bring Valentine’s Day Into Your Home

Pam of Junk Tales – The Best Vintage Items to Decorate with for Valentine’s Day

I hope you enjoy all the Valentine’s Day inspo and ideas as you blog hop today!! Ok, now back to the details of refinishing this old secretary desk… I have to show you what it looked like before! Excuse the terrible quality of this before photo y’all! But you get the gist, and this is mainly so you can see the original color. I picked this piece up at our local Habitat Restore, and I happened to have a 50% off coupon at the time. (If you’re not already you need to sign up for emails! They send you coupons around your birthday!!) So even though the tag said $75, I scored this piece for just under $40. One of the first things I did was pick out new knobs to replace the old ones!

old wooden clawfoot secretary desk with original hardware

My original plan was for refinishing the secretary desk was to strip it down to the natural wood. When I started stripping the top of the dresser, I uncovered about 5 different layers of paint. And I knew it was going to take way more time than I was willing to invest into this piece. At least for now! I may have pressed on had I waited till warmer weather before I attempted this DIY. But considering I am working inside, paint seemed like the easier fix for the time being! So I cleaned up the paint stripper and started painting. And at some point in between all those layers, there was a sticky residue, like adhesive maybe? I ended up having to prime the top of the dresser before I painted that because it kept gumming up.

refinishing and old secretary desk with fusion mineral paint

I know in photos it’s kindof hard to tell a huge difference between the color I chose and the original color. But I promise, though it’s subtle, it has made all the difference for this space! Number 1, the piece feels so much cleaner now! I had wiped it down, but there’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to make an old piece feel brand new!! And number 2, the original grayish color was pulling blue and purple in our home. I chose to paint the desk with Fusion Mineral Paint in the color Putty. In our home this color pulls more greige, taupe and even a little green depending on the room and the lighting. It’s much more warm, and gives the same effect I was hoping to get from the warmth of the wood had I been able to strip this piece as planned.

cottage style painted secretary desk
valentine's day decor and card writing station using an old secretary desk

I am a huge fan of Fusion Mineral Paint, especially for refinishing furniture! It adheres extremely well, and in most cases you don’t need to prime or sand your pieces before painting. It has no VOC’s so you can paint indoors without worrying about toxic fumes or strong smells. And they have a ton of color options to choose from! Putty has become one of my favorite neutrals lately, but I also love Raw Silk, Picket Fence, Champlain, and Goddess Ashwaganda… all the neutrals of course! Click here for more info about Fusion Mineral Paint and why I love it for furniture and paint projects.

If started to glaze over at me talking about VOC’s and priming vs sanding and don’t even get me started on choosing a color… don’t go just yet! I got ya girl!! I actually created a beginner’s guide to furniture painting, and I want to send it to you totally free. Painting should be fun, so let me walk you through it.

valentine's day decor and card writing station using an old secretary desk

Ok what about the drawers though? What would we even keep in them? I’ve been sitting on this question for a while… They offer such great storage, but I don’t need to hoard that much paper and envelopes! Well I got the idea that I could store gift wrapping supplies in the drawers! Minus the rolls of wrapping because they just don’t fit. But gift bags, tissue paper, tape, ribbon, etc… These drawers are the perfect solution to wrangle all my gift wrapping supplies!

wooden clawfoot secretary desk in fusion mineral putty
valentine's day decor and card writing station using an old secretary desk

Of course the top part of the secretary desk is stocked with greeting cards, envelopes, and stamps. And today it’s all styled up for a marathon of Valentine card addressing! I may have gone a bit overboard here, but when I was in the flower section of the grocery store I had this very vision in mind. It’s brought me so much joy, and I hope it does the same for you!


Secretary Desk – Habitat for Humanity’s Restore

Wooden Drawer Knobs – Lowes

Paint color – Putty by Fusion Mineral

My Favorite Brushes – Staalmeester

pretty pink roses in vintage milk glass vases
valentine's day decor on an old secretary desk
refinished old secretary desk with fusion mineral putty and wooden sitting chair

I love refinishing furniture and giving new life to an old piece, And refinishing this old secretary desk with a fresh coat of paint did just that!! I really appreciate the storage and the utility all the drawers offer. And I love how it now looks in our home! Especially all styled for Valentines day!! Be sure to hop on over to see all the Valentine’s day inspo on each of the blogs in today’s blog hop! Thanks for stopping by the blog today, and as always, thank you so much for following along…

Love, Brittany

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  1. I am in love with how this turned out and how you styled it! I could seriously sit there all day and be happy writing my little heart out. Thank you for sharing it at Farmhouse Friday. I am featuring it tomorrow! Hope you link up again soon.

    1. Oh my goodness, thank you so much Cindy! I appreciate that so much and I’m so glad you liked it. I will definitely be stopping by again and will share the post too! 🙂 How exciting!!

  2. Brittany, I love this piece so much. And you styled it beautifully, too. I’d love for you share it on the Sundays on Silverado link party! I’m a big fan of furniture refinishing and makeovers.

    Niky @ The House on Silverado

  3. Your desk looks lovely! And I love all the photos, too! Nice to ‘meet’ you through Cindy’s party (Farmhouse Fridays) and congrats on your feature! We’d love for you to come and link-up at Tuesday Turn About! We have lots of DIYers and furniture refinishers joining the party, too! We close tonight at midnight CST. Hope you see you there!

  4. Brittany, what a lovely makeover! You chose the perfect paint color for this piece, and it has new life! I love it. Thanks so much for sharing. I’d love to share this in my weekly roundup post!

  5. I love it! Beautifully done.

    The color works great with your board and batten and wall color. Do you per chance remember the color of your paint colors in this room? They are so calming!

    1. Hi Sandy! So glad you love it too!! 🙂 The white is bit of sugar by behr, and the gray part is greige by behr. We had them mix the greige at 50% so it’s a little bit lighter than the color on the swatch. Hope that helps!!

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