Fresh Look for a French Country Secretary

Thank goodness for paint. Many pieces of furniture destined for the landfill have been saved by those of us who love to rescue such things, thanks to the miracle of paint. And once rescued, our treasures can be painted and re-painted as our homes change, our color pallets change or we move to a different home altogether. Such is the case in this post where my second-hand secretary got a new lease on life for the second time.

I paid $45 for this beauty at my local Habitat Restore several years ago. It was a little tattered, and the fretwork was so damaged that it couldn’t be saved. It also had a few pieces that needed to be re-glued, but ohhhhh how I loved this piece of furniture!

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

It was a clear choice for me to paint it black after I originally brought it home since it was going to live next to my black kitchen table. I loved how sophisticated and formal it looked. Here’s the piece after I painted it black. It was beautiful!

 French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

Now we fast forward. I moved to a different home where I wanted to create a more relaxed atmosphere, and after several months of indecision, and switching to a curb-find kitchen table that I painted white, I decided the time had come for the secretary to become white too. If I hated it, I could always paint it black again. Right?

I love stripes when it comes to interior design. Stripes on walls, stripes on furniture and stripes on upholstery just make my heart sing! So my makeover had to involve stripes. I love the calmness of French Country design, and I wanted something subtle for this piece of furniture.  My goal was to remove it from its just-another-painted-secretary status.

I painted it White Duck by Sherwin Williams, but I wanted to leave the interior black for contrast for my white dishes. There was a chance this piece might end up in my bedroom at some point, and my bedroom furniture is also White Duck. That made the main color choice an easy one.

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

Now for the stripes. Grain sack stripes are my new-found love, so I searched the internet for dimensions that would be appropriate, although there are different styles of this type of stripe. I had zero luck finding measurements, so I played around with some printer paper and tape to come up with stripes that felt right to me.  So for those of you who would like a guide, I ended up using a 2″ stripe down the center, a 3/4″ space on both sides of the large stripe, and then I decided on 1/2″ stripes on the outer edges. Here are my samples—neither of which I used, but you get the idea.

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

I wanted to add some stenciling in addition to the stripes, and since I didn’t want to experiment with a design directly on the secretary, I made a mock-up out of cardboard. First I cut the cardboard to the size of the area of the desk I was wanting to paint, and then I painted it White Duck. I then drew the lines for my stripes.

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

I needed three different shades of a similar color for my design, so I chose light, medium and dark colors from my SW Color-to-go samples. If I had used only one color for all three areas, some of the areas would have disappeared where parts of the design overlapped. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

I painted the stripes on my cardboard with the medium shade (SW Agreeable Gray) without taping them off, but when I painted the actual furniture, I used green frog tape to get nice, straight lines with no bleed-through. I must admit when my skeptical self first heard about frog tape, I thought it was just a gimmick to get people to spend more money since it’s pretty pricey. But after using it, I highly recommend it because it’s much better for striping than regular blue painter’s tape.

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

I then started stenciling. I only wanted to use certain parts of the stencils, so I put tape over the parts I didn’t want transferred. I used the lightest shade for the vines (SW Worldly Gray).

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

So here’s what I had after adding my first stencil.

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

And for the second stencil that I purchased at Michael’s, I used the darkest color (SW Anew Gray). This step makes it more obvious why I couldn’t use just one color for this project. You can see in the next photo, how my stencil overlaps my stripes. If I had stenciled the letters in the same color as the stripes, the letters would have disappeared.

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

After I finished, I taped the cardboard sample to the desk to see if everything looked the way I wanted it to. Yep. Good to go!

French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

Now I was ready! I repeated all these steps again, but on the actual piece of furniture this time.

 French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

 French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

I loved this piece painted black, but it’s more appropriately painted white in the less formal style of my current home.

 French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

 French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

Unfortunately, the decorative painting doesn’t show up too well in the photographs taken from farther away, but I hope you can see well enough in the close ups to get the idea.

 French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

 French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

 French Country Secretary/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL.wordpress.com

It’s amazing how changing the color of this piece from black to white brightens up the space. I also re-painted an armoire from black to white at the same time I painted the secretary, but haven’t jazzed it up just yet. More about that one later…

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Journeyman Painter and Certified Home Stager/Redesigner. If you enjoy gardening, you may want to pay a visit to her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.Wordpress.com.

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4 thoughts on “Fresh Look for a French Country Secretary

  1. bexoxo says:

    I’m thinking about repainting my dinning room table, but haven’t decided on the color yet. How did you prep for going from an extreme dark to white? Did you sand? Did you prime? How many coats of the white did you have to do?

    Like

    • Tracy Evans says:

      I only sanded if I saw lumps or bumps I didn’t like, and used one coat of a quality primer and two coats of finish paint. It’s very important to let your paint dry completely in between coats–read your label for that information and stick to it, even if your paint feels dry to the touch. And NO TOPCOAT! If you use a good quality paint, there’s no need to put poly or any other kind of top coat over it in my opinion. If you try to put poly over white paint, it will turn it yellow. If you are painting the top of a kitchen table that will be used everyday, I would go to a paint store (not a box store that sells paint) with a knowledgeable staff that can help you pick out a paint that is meant for high-usage type pieces like a kitchen table. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

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