I stumbled across a large vintage drop-front desk for $80 dollars in my local thrift store, and instantly thought of the Swedish slant front desks I am used to posting on my Swedish blog. I knew, this piece would be fabulous, once I was done with it.
I really love heavily distressed white furniture, so the first thing I did when this piece got to my house, was took a belt sander across the surface with a really rough sandpaper. I was hoping to create some artificial deep distressing that occurs when you leave wood outside in the rain and in the elements over time.
After roughing up the wood, I used a finer paper, and tried my best to remove the previous stain. My goal was to get down to the natural pine wood which the desk was made out of. The heavier sandpaper allowed me to create some really rough areas, which were somewhat smoothed out with the finer sandpaper such as on the drawers and the sides of the desk.
The doors originally came with a chicken wired front. To get the Swedish look, I got rid of the chicken wire, and decided to work with wood instead. The cabinet doors were taken down and taken apart. On the doors, two pieces of framing held the chicken wire together, so my idea was to take thin wood and sandwich them between the door frames.
I stumbled into some challenges along the way…… I handled it with mostly bad words…. The hinges wouldn’t remove from the desk. The screws were so old, I stripped them in the process. It took everything I had to remove the doors. It would have been difficult to finish the doors if I left them on the desk. The framing on the doors also contained deep carving of flowers, which also dated the secretary. The carvings were also filled in with wood putty and painted.
While taking the doors down, I damaged one of the original hinges. Finding another set was one of hardest tasks of the process, along with re-hanging the doors. It was hell for the most part!
I needed to find a vintage set that would work on the doors without having to do more adjustments to the desk or the doors themselves. I ordered one set off the internet, which didn’t work, so I had to look on ebay daily in hopes of finding a vintage set that worked. It taught me to HOLD ON to the hardware until the job was completed. After damaging the one set, I threw the whole set out, because many of them were damaged in the process. So, all in all, I learned my lesson well.
Hanging the doors like I mentioned was terrible. My husband had to hold the doors in place, and I had the task of screwing the bolts in place. It was utter madness. The doors weighed a ton, and were also slightly damaged when I originally tried to take the bolts off. Who knew taking off doors, and setting them back into place would be such a headache. If I only knew in advance!
The desk also needed feet. Home Depot sells this attractive square tapered bun foot, which I used in my garage, but I went with something with an angled foot which looked nicer on the desk in my opinion. I found a set of 4 on ebay. These legs, above, were also ones I had considered. 5″ Natural Tapered Corner Leg, Set of 2. I might buy them for another future project. They dress up the sides and front of a piece quite nicely with the curved wood which attaches to the leg.
The drawers you see on the front of the chest, also weren’t flush with the frame. So each drawer needed to be cut down on each side, so essentially the rectangular box needed to be smaller to slide through and create a flush look.
The hardware also needed to be changed out. I wanted to go with a round pull, something that was similar to the effect of the Louis XVI hardware that is often seen on classic Swedish antique furniture. The old hardware holes were filled with wood filler, and new hardware was added. Below, I list a great source to buy these 12 of these pulls for just $2 dollars each. All in all, the desk turned out great, and still happens to be one of my best finds. It sits in our basement, and works as a second desk that I work on in the summer time.
Drop Leaf Before
Louis XVI Style Matte Black Cabinet Ring Pulls 12 Pulls For $24 Dollars
Drop Desk Makeover
Drop Desk Makeover
Hollywood Regency Birds Faux Finish
I also worked on updating some of the little decorative accents around our house this summer. I owned one of these Hollywood Regency Birds, and two more were given to me from my grandmother this year. They sat on our tables polished up in their original brass condition. This summer I wanted them to blend in more with our furniture, so I painted them.
You can buy various versions of these birds on ebay from $20 dollars up to about $80 dollars for a set of peacocks. I tend to like the more detailed ones, as when you apply your layers of paint, the details tend to pop. They also look updated when painted a gray, white, even a light green. They are an inexpensive accessory that can add an understated touch to your dresser, or end tables.
Brass Duck Faux Paint Finish
You would be amazed what unique decorative accents show up, when you type in “hollywood regency brass” on ebay. I have found a number of detailed brass accessories that can be chemically darkened, or aged with paint, and used as decorative pieces around your home. Ebay has been the one place, I look for really unique pieces. This duck as bought at an auction and was part of a lamp. He is now painted, and sits on our end table.
My two favorite base paints to use, are Rustoleum’s Fossil, and their Dark Taupe. Their Dark Taupe has been my go-to color for years, and almost all my furniture has been painted in that color. The product is also oil based, so it will stick to your surfaces better than water based paints. The table above which the duck sits on, was painted in the dark taupe, and an additional layer of buttery yellow ochre paint in oil was wiped on, and then removed quickly. The result, isn’t a brown, but rather a gray finish. These colors work nicely as base coats, which other colors can be added on top, and then distressed, or sanded down.
I also use Rustoleum Oil Paint in white for a top coat for many of my pieces. Their flat white, or satins, I tend to mix with other oil based paints. So if I want an off white, a creamy yellow, a light green or so on, I often to go the professional paint stores, and buy the saturated color, and mix it in with this product.
For my top coats, such as what I used on my birds above, I tend to favor their satin based oil paint,( looks identical to the picture above) rather than the flat, because the final finish looks nicer. I found using a flat top coat, doesn’t appear as silky. Although the flat worked quite nicely on my birds above, and has for so many of my other projects.
The flat white, (pictured above) I also use as a primer, for many projects. The oil grips almost every surface well, and in a spray, it often gets my projects started, and ready for an additional coat, without having to apply by hand a first coat that often turns out to be semi-transparent. Nothing is more frustrating than painting something white that turns into 6 coats of paint. I use this paint as a short cut…spray it on, and with one or two more coats, I get amazing coverage for most of my white based projects such as dining tables, chairs and so on.
The next project I am working on is a series of picture frames on my wall. I bought about 80 frames last year, many of which for just 50 cents! So I am deciding on whether to go with botanical prints, or red drawings for a classic look. I am up in the air, over both. Hopefully I can add more of my projects over the coming months to my blog.
A lamp painted in a deep burnt orange, with a top coat of beige paint and wet distressed to show detail. The shade was re-covered in natural linen. This lamp was found at a hidden consignment shop for $10 dollars! The shade cost $13…..
Lamps can really be decorative, and often they are underestimated in most interior designs. I find collecting the neoclassical vintage lamps allows you to add a decorate element along with a custom color into a room with a few little tweeks.
Over the last two years I have updated 16 lamps around our home. Call me crazy, but they really make my rooms look like they have a designer feel for less.
Neoclassical lamps are my favorite design to buy. They often feature a design scheme that includes a column, and some sort of urn, and additional decorative details that you can work with. I usually try to incorporate gold or silver in some areas of the lamp, and a color around the base of the lamp to break up the look.
And then there is the lampshade itself….. shades can be updated by replacing the fabric, or dyed a different color. There are so many ways to update plain lamp shades. The best part of these updates is they easily can be incorporated into your design scheme. I tend to like the natural fabric shades that are either square, or drum shaped. They are also the easiest to re-cover without any advanced expertise.
I have purchased a few of my lamps on ebay, often looking under the key words “Neoclassical Lamps“, or “Hollywood regency lamps” and that search term usually pulls up some stylish looking pairs of lamps that are better than what you can find at your local Target store.
This pair of lamps were purchased from ebay. The lamp shades were re-covered in the same fabric that outfits my living room chairs. The fabric was purchased at Ikea and is heavy weight. Black paint adds a nice contrast against the navy color scheme.
This pair of lamps were originally painted gray, until this year I stripped off the paint to reveal the beautiful wood. They sit in their all natural state, and nicely work with the wood framing on our trim and doors. A simple white drum shade balances the wood and brass.
These lamps were fashioned out of several other lamps I found along the way. The lamp parts were stacked, and assembled together. New clear wiring updates them, and today they sit behind our tv nicely. The lampshades are square in shape, and made over with a white and blue chinoiserie fabric which contrasts the gold leaf .
These lamps are neoclassical in style. The bottom was gold leafed, and the column was painted brown, and layered with a orchre oil paint which produces a beautiful gray finish. The shade was re-covered in natural linen.
You can see how lovely the natural linen is.
A close up of the paint finish.
A beige wash was added over the green to blend the colors together.
Plaster rosettes were added to the base of the lamp.
These pretty lamps were given a new paint color for the column, and the eagles were gold leafed. The over-sized rectangular shade works well on this set because of the wings of the eagles also flare out quite far. The shades were re-covered in a a natural linen flax upholstery drapery cloth.
These two lamps were found at second hand stores, and putting them side by side, you would never know they were not a pair. I purchased new shades for them, and matched up the colors, so they would look like a set. The blue paint matches the walls in one of our rooms.
Urns Created Into Lamps
Close Up Of Wooden Top Which Disguises The Inside Of The Urn
This pair of lamps were originally decorative urns. I drilled holes in the bottom of the urn, and side of the base to allow the cords to run through. A wooden base was added to the top, and found at Michael’s Crafts. The urns, originally black were painted a orange, then white, and heavily distressed.