renovating an old secretary

My parents recently gave me this antique piece that’s been in my family for decades. Would you call this a hutch or a secretary? We’ve always called it the secretary, but maybe that’s a regional thing.

At any rate, I absolutely love this piece and the memories it carries, but I wanted to lighten it up a bit.

I used Jolie Paint (fantastic paint for furniture!) in Palace White. This paint is sort of a cross between milk paint and chalk paint, and you have a lot of control over the final look. (I’ve used it to create a dappled, textured look and a flat look. This paint is really responsive to brush strokes.) The best part: I didn’t have to use primer!

Removing and polishing the drawer pulls made a big difference here. Those handles were dirty after decades of use!

After the paint dried, my adorable helper applied grasscloth wallpaper (she even helped put on the paste and book it!).

I hung some treasured kids’ art on the wall and slid a desk chair into the space between the secretary and the wall. I can pull the chair around when I want to use the secretary as a desk, plus the chair legs hide the house modem and accompanying cords.

Decorating the shelves was fun! I looked around the house for some of the most meaningful tchotchkes and arranged them in a way that made me happy. I decided to display a copy of our wedding invitation, a photo of my parents, a photo of our wedding location, cards from the kids, and some books I’ve been meaning to read.

I’m really happy with how it turned out! Here’s hoping this setup helps me concentrate during these long days of working remotely . . .

Cheers to the long weekend!


  1. A cozy, light-filled living room - Charming Cozy Home | 10th Mar 22

    […] side of the fireplace. I think it would be lovely to cover the back with grasscloth like I did in this post, and it would be handy to have doors on the bottom of the bookcase to hide stacks of games or […]

  2. Our work-from-home space - Charming Cozy Home | 15th Mar 22

    […] room also holds our secretary (see the refinishing process here). On the open shelves, I display a few things that make me happy: our wedding invitation, dried […]

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