In this post: This simple and easy DIY paint project helped add modern style to an antique secretary desk with hutch that has special meaning.⇒
I’m what you might call an instinctual painter.
I’m certainly not a classicist.
Oh sure I have delusions of doing things the “right” way, but the truth is, I can barely be bothered to put a drop cloth down. I’ve been known to sneak up on a piece, ostensibly just to test a color out, and before you know it. I’ve painted half the piece and I’m still wearing my going-out-to-dinner clothes.
What can I say? Inspiration hits when it hits.
DIY Painted Desk with Hutch
Such was the case with a wonderful old wood desk that’s been in my family for years. In fact, it’s the desk my dad used to do his homework at as a child.
I could never get rid of this piece.
The piece was already significantly altered when it came to me. It was probably once a classic secretary desk, with a dark wood stain, elegant dimensions and Chippendale or Queen Anne detailing. But the ornate pediment on top had long since fallen off, and my dad had painted it at least once or twice to go with my mom’s French style.
While I inherited dads penchant for painting, along with this charming piece of furniture, my painting style is a bit different and the materials at my disposal are a good bit upgraded.
Specifically, I love the flat velvety look of chalk paint with it’s dry finish, whether antiqued or painted in a single color. I use both techniques and I decided for this desk makeover to go a bit modern and paint it in a flat color.
How to Get the Look
That said, unlike with most projects, I wasn’t really sure which flat color to use. I was also considering a two-tone effect, with a second color on the inside shelves.
As I prepped the piece in my barely-can-be-bothered lazy way, I also tested a few colors on the corners.
To be fair, I do use a drop cloth, even if it’s a simple trash bag. I also take the time to remove the hardware and empty the drawers. (Don’t laugh. This hasn’t always been the case and I’ve sometimes painted items with the drawers filled!)
Then I stepped away and let the test strips dry while I changed out of the clothes I preferred not to ruin.
When I came back to the piece after a little break, I decided the two tone effect would be a fresh approach and one I hadn’t used before, but instead of highlighting the inside of the cabinet, I decided to do the drawer fronts in a different color.
I still wasn’t sure whether the drawers would be lighter or darker, but since I had more paint in the darker shade, I decided to use that as the main color and then decide after it dried whether to paint the lighter color on top. In the end I went with lighter drawers and used the darker shade everywhere else.
My paint of choice is Pure & Original’s Classico Chalk Based Paint and I used Old Linen for the darker shade and Bone for the lighter one.
I love that with chalk paint you don’t need to sand the piece, nor use a coat of primer. I do wipe the piece down to clear away any dust and debris, but then dive right in with the first coat of paint and feel confident it will cover any visible imperfections. You can always use wood filler for deep nicks and scratches and be sure the paint will cover and yield a smooth surface.
I use 2 coats of flat color to ensure complete opaque coverage. (In the image above the darker color has two coats and the drawers only had one at this point.)
While a roller would be quicker, I use a medium size brush from Pure & Original, as I like the control that a brush offers and I don’t mind the slight texture that brush strokes leave behind.
*Pure & Original is a sponsor of mine which means they supplied the paint, but all opinions and love of the product are genuine and my own. Classico chalk paint is also an excellent choice for painting your walls, for a sumptuous velvety finish.
After applying the second coat of paint, I applied clear Classico Italian Wax from Pure & Original on the entire piece and let it dry overnight. Once dry, I buffed it gently with a lint-free cloth for a subtle satin sheen and the final result is a lovely protective and durable finish.
The one thing left to address was the hardware. I had bought new drawer pulls and knobs for the piece to give it a more updated look. I really disliked the Chippendale backplates and wanted something simpler. The new pulls I ordered were a nicer shape, but came in too dark, so I decided to paint them, too. I wanted a nice golden tone, and while I like antiqued metal, they were nearly black.
I tried two options – Rub ‘n Buff and gold leaf paint, and ultimately went with the Rub ‘n Buff for it’s more natural look and added depth. It made all the difference in the new hardware.
I also added new keyhole covers which needed new holes as they were a different size than the originals. I very much prefer the proportions of the updated trim.
Styling the Finished Piece
The final step was putting it all together and styling the hutch and desk top. Since my goal was an updated look, I left the teacups behind (see the old look above) and opted for more organic pieces paired with antique white ironstone. I love a mix of antique with modern and I think the net result marries the two beautifully.
My process is curious at best, but I have a sense of where I’m going instinctually, and this helps keeps me pointed in the right direction. I love that the piece is now not only more modern, but different than any of the other pieces I’ve painted.
I’m certainly not a classicist.
To get the look, click on the items below for direct links to the products. Where actual items were no longer available, I’ve provided similar options. If an item is out of stock but may be restocked, I left it on the list.
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