Painted Furniture

Not your grandmother’s secretary


We all have them. Pieces of furniture either passed down from family members or picked up years ago when we needed furniture quick and on a budget. Or, a special piece found at an antique shop that you fell in love with and had to have. We live with these pieces because they are functional and quality. Sometimes though, you get sick of looking at their brown wood. You start to imagine something brighter and shinier but you don’t want to let go of the piece that has served you so well for so long. Here is an example of such a piece. It’s a beautiful, old, functional secretary. It’s a workhorse in the dining room but it needed a little love. Here’s the step by step of how it became “not your grandmother’s secretary”.


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If you’ve read my furniture prep page you know there’s no getting around this step.  Remove all hardware and sand every surface.  I use a palm sander with a 220 grit disk and a sanding sponge for the areas I can’t get to with the palm sander.

palm sander prep



Another necessary evil.  Not fun but worth doing.  This secretary had to be painted inside and out, front and back.  Taking the piece apart makes the painting process quicker and easier.

Remove pulls Remove hardware


Sometimes, when painting a piece of wood furniture white, bleed through happens.  I primed the piece and saw the dreaded pink bleed through when it dried.  In cases like this you need to put a stain blocker on to prevent further bleeding through.  I use a shellac product. Usually, one coat will be enough to stop the bleed through.

Bleed through Shellac



This is the fun part.  All the prep work is done.  Time to put on the pretty color.  I used Rust-Oleum Aged Gray on this piece.  It’s a great, inexpensive chalk style paint.  Apply two coats for complete coverage.


When using a chalk style paint you need to put on a clear top coat to seal it.  I like to use General Finishes top coat to seal a piece when I’m using chalk or milk paints.  Their top coats come in flat satin or gloss.  Satin is usually my go-to but lately I’ve been leaning toward the gloss.  I used General Finishes gloss top coat for this piece.

high performance top coat


I soaked the hinges in vinegar and scrubbed them with a toothbrush before putting the secretary back together.  It’s the little things that make a big difference.  The original wood knobs were swapped out for more modern brass and white ones.  And there you have it.  A new, improved, updated “not your grandmother’s secretary”.

not your grandmother's secretary secretary

Happy painting!



8 thoughts on “Not your grandmother’s secretary

  1. What an amazing transformation!
    It turned out beautiful and you’ve got me thinking about a couple pieces of mine that need a lift!

  2. Love it!! Reminds me of my aunt’s hutch that you painted gray. I still love it everytime I look at it. This secretary would be a great pairing with my hutch, if only I had the space!

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